Father of Atatiana Jefferson Dies of Heart Attack

 

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The father of Atatiana Jefferson has died, less than one month after a police officer killed his 28-year-old daughter by shooting through the bedroom window of her own home.  Atatiana’s father, , 59,  died after suffering a heart attack. The family spokesman said, “I can only sum it up as a broken heart.” Atatiana was his only child and she was killed exactly one month ago, on October 12, by police officer Aaron Dean.  The spokesman, Bruce Carter, said Jefferson had been under a lot of stress since his daughter was killed and was also battling Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which makes breathing difficult.

Jefferson had been embroiled in a family dispute involving his daughter’s funeral and burial arrangements, which were controlled by her aunt, Bonita Body. He argued that as the surviving parent of Atatiana, he should have control of her burial, and was granted a temporary restraining order to postpone the funeral. The service eventually took place on October 24.  “He was battling to be a part of her life to the end,” Bruce Carter, the family’s spokesperson, said. “I think it just got the best of him.”

Lee Merritt, attorney for Atatiana Jefferson’s family, said in a statement they were saddened to learn the news about Marquis Jefferson and “of course” the loss his daughter factored into his death.  “Her death rocked the nation but no one felt it more than the people that were directly tied to her in life,” Merritt said. “Those people haven’t had a chance to grieve like normal families. They have been thrust into a very public, very emotional, very draining fight for justice.”

On October 12, at around 2:30 a.m., Dean had arrived at Atatiana’s Forth Worth residence with another officer in response to a non-emergency “wellness check” called in by a neighbor who noticed Atatiana had left her front door open.  Atatiana was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when she heard noises outside of her home.  According to her nephew, she took her handgun from her purse and pointed it “toward the window” just before getting shot by Dean.  The two men did not identify themselves as police when they approached the window where Atatiana stood.

Body camera footage showed Dean looked inside a window using a flashlight, spotted someone inside standing near a window and said, “Put your hands up — show me your hands.” He shot seconds later.  At no point did he identify himself as an officer and he did not appear to have knocked on the door.  Dean resigned from the police department shortly afterward, and was arrested and charged for Atatiana’s murder. He is currently out on a $200,000 bond.

Dean completed police training at the Fort Worth Police Academy in March 2018 and at the time of the shooting, had been with the department for 18 months. Prior to the shooting, the only entry in his Fort Worth police personnel file was about a traffic collision.  Dean’s training records from his first year on the job note concerns from supervisors which included that he had “tunnel vision” and “needs improvement on communicating with the public and fellow officers.” Dean’s most recent performance evaluation was made in spring 2019, where he received high marks from a supervisor.

UAW Striker Killed in Tennessee

 

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As the GM strike continues, picketers received some bad news from Tennessee.  A striking United Auto Worker union member was hit by a car and killed outside the General Motors plant in Spring Hill where workers were maintaining an active picket line. The UAW said in a statement that 55-year-old union member Roy McCombs “tragically lost his life today on a picket line standing up for a better life for himself and his coworkers.”

McCombs was hit on a bridge outside the GM plant as he was crossing the road to get to the picket line around 6 am.  McCombs was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead in the emergency room, said Lt. Jeremy Haywood of the Columbia police department in Columbia, Tennessee.  The driver who hit McCombs was cooperating with investigators.

Local 1853 Chairman Mike Herron said, “Sergeant Orlando Cox from the Columbia Police Dept. will be releasing a statement shortly that will describe this event as an innocent tragic accident. He has asked that everyone refrain from going to the South Gate for safety reasons. He requested that any vigils be held at our union hall and not in the vicinity of this accident — to ensure the safety of the participants.”

Herron said the UAW local sends thoughts and prayers to McCombs’ family as well as the driver, “who was on her way to drop off her kids at the day care center located at the south exit when this tragic accident occurred.”  All strike activity has ended at the South Gate of the plant and no pickets will be set up there in the future, Herron said. Also, the UAW crisis team has been called in and will meet personally with UAW members that were on the South Gate at the time of the accident as well as McCombs’ coworkers on the third shift.

UAW members at Spring Hill have taken part in picketing as part of the union’s nationwide strike against GM since Sept. 16 though it’s been contentious from the start.  Maury County sheriff’s deputies in Tennessee had arrested nine protesters on Sept. 18 when they refused to stop blocking the south entrance to the plant. A 10th arrest came when someone drove recklessly through plant’s entrance, sheriff’s officials said.

A court in Tennessee granted GM’s request to prevent UAW picketers from blocking the entrance to the factory.  The order was in effect until Oct. 8. It followed several arrests at the plant since GM’s 46,000 UAW workers went on strike.  “After dialogue failed to stop the incidents of harassment, violence and vandalism by a few people, we had to take necessary actions to protect everyone involved,” GM said at the time.  The order barred the UAW and its members from blocking entrances, detaining vehicles, creating obstructions on roadways or “assaulting, intimidating, falsely imprisoning, harassing or destroying the property of GM employees” and others at the plant.

 

 

 

Investigation Launched After Epstein Suicide

 

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Federal investigators are probing the death of 66-year-old accused serial sex abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein after he was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell of an apparent suicide by hanging around 6:30 AM.  Epstein’s death came less than 24 hours after hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed with testimonies from former employees and new details of sexual abuse committed by Epstein, which also implicated a number of well-known politicians and others in the public eye.  Epstein was facing sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which carried jail sentences of up to 45 years.

Others implicated include former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor; Prince Andrew; and “a well-known Prime Minister.”  Many have denied the allegations.  Prosecutors say he lured dozens of underage girls into giving him erotic massages and engaging in other sexual acts in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.  The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters and, once recruited, were asked to return to his homes several times, where they were abused again, the indictment against him said.

Epstein was reportedly unsupervised in his cell despite being put on suicide watch on July 23rd after he was found unconscious with marks on his neck.  Six days later, prison officials determined he was no longer a threat to himself and returned him to a cell in a special housing unit known as 9 South.  He was supposed to have been housed with a cellmate and to have been monitored every half-hour by the two guards who patrolled the wing.

The night before he was found dead, however, he had been left alone after his cellmate was transferred. The two employees assigned to guard him had not checked on him for about three hours before he was discovered.  The two prison guards were suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned from MCC amid widespread reports that 30-minute checks, required within Epstein’s unit, were not carried out properly.  Officials said the employees, who have been placed on leave, were sleeping for some or all of that time.  One guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime shifts, it was reported, while another was forced to work mandatory overtime that night.

Guards at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center had been forced to work overtime to make up for the staffing shortages, according to the union representing the prison guards.  Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals said in a statement that a hiring freeze has left thousands of staff vacancies across the Bureau of Prisons, creating “dangerous conditions” for both staff and inmates.  The remaining officers are regularly forced to work 70- and 80-hour work weeks, Mr. Young said.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into how Epstein was able to die in New York’s highly secure Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).  Attorney General William Barr said officials have uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail, which has housed other high-profile detainees such as Mexican drug baron El Chapo and fraudster Bernie Madoff.  Barr has also promised that Epstein will continue to be investigated in order to bring to justice any other possible conspirators.

Man Charged In Murder of Civil Rights Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph

 

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Police in Louisiana are releasing new details about the man accused of killing popular Baton Rouge civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph.  Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, was arrested on one charge of first degree murder.  According to police, Bell was her tenant and owed her about $1,200 in rent.  Both circumstantial and physical evidence led to his arrest after her body was found in the trunk of her car outside a vacant home about 3 miles away from her home last week. According to the arrest report, Bell admitted to being in the area where her car was abandoned, surveillance cameras place him in the area and his DNA was found on her body.

The death of Roberts-Joseph shocked and saddened the community and sparked a swift and coordinated investigation.  Baton Rouge police credited both the community and detectives in helping find Roberts-Joseph’s accused killer. Police say Bell suffocated the 75-year-old on Friday and then placed her body in the trunk of her own car. According to the East Baton Rouge district attorney, Bell was previously arrested after being accused of raping an 8-year-old girl in 2004. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery and served seven years in prison. He was not on probation or parole but was under indefinite supervision as a sex offender.  Officials say they do not believe Roberts-Joseph knew of Bell’s sex offender status.

Bell was already in jail when he was identified as a suspect in Roberts-Joseph’s murder, for violating sex offender registration requirements.  Bell was booked into jail Monday for not paying the $60 annual registration fee required of all sex offenders. He was then rebooked on Tuesday on the murder charges.  Bell told investigators that the activist had allowed him to stay in the home he was renting as long as he paid her something.  However, in the affidavit, investigators noted that Roberts-Joseph’s own notes suggested that she ” intended to contact the defendant on the day of her murder … in regards to the back payments.”

Roberts-Joseph was considered a local icon in Baton Rouge, where she founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum and hosted the annual celebration of Juneteenth, which she fought to have recognized as a state and national holiday.  She also started the Community Against Drugs and Violence (CADAV), a nonprofit to empower people to combat drugs and street violence in order to create a safer environment for children.

Hundreds gathered in the Louisiana heat at the African American history museum Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded nearly two decades ago to mourn the loss.  Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said “Having known her for decades, she was one of the standout matriarchs of Baton Rouge. She was a part of the fabric of Baton Rouge and we will make her legacy a priority in Baton Rouge because of what she gave to so many here.”

Roberts-Joseph’s daughter, Angela Machen, said that although this experience has been heartbreaking and “heinous,” there has been solace in seeing the community unite to solve her mother’s killing and honor who she was as a person.  “All my mother ever wanted was for this community to come together,” she said. “It’s ironic that this happened in death. What she wanted to happen in life came to fruition in death. We will see to it that her legacy continues.”

 

James Fields Sentenced In Federal Court

 

 

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James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi who killed activist Heather Heyer at an anti-hate rally in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison. Fields plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville at a counter-protest of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally.  Lawyers for Fields, 22, had pleaded for mercy, citing his difficult childhood and mental health problems.  “I’d like to apologize,” Mr. Fields told the judge before his sentencing Friday, according to one of his lawyers. “I apologize to my mother for putting her through all of this. Every day I think about my actions and how this could have gone differently. I’m sorry.”

 

Mr. Fields had previously admitted he intentionally targeted the counter-protesters.  The sentencing came nearly two years after Fields’ attack killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who was demonstrating against the hundreds of white nationalists who took to the streets that day.  Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, asked for a life sentence but said she hoped Mr. Fields “can heal someday and help others heal.”

Fields was among hundreds of white supremacists who swarmed Charlottesville in August 2017 for the rally, in which they shouted anti-Semitic phrases, marched with tiki torches and attacked a racially diverse group of counter-protesters. The rally appeared to be winding down when Mr. Fields drove his car into a crowd of those counter-protesters.  Fields’s lawyers had asked the judge for a sentence that would allow him to eventually be released from prison. Mr. Fields had been trying to leave the rally to return home to Ohio, his lawyers said, but found the street blocked by counter-protesters and made the split-second decision to drive through them.  The incident followed violent clashes that erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Attorneys for Fields had asked the federal authorities to be more lenient than jurors in his state-court murder trial had been late last year when he was sentenced to life plus 419 years.  Mr. Fields pleaded guilty to 29 federal charges earlier this year, including a hate crime for Ms. Heyer’s death. Federal prosecutors dropped another charge that could have led to the death penalty.  Prosecutors had argued that Mr. Fields’s racist, anti-Semitic beliefs motivated his decision to attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and to attack counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others.

“This was calculated, it was coldblooded, it was motivated by this deep-seated racial animus,” Thomas T. Cullen, the United States attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said after the sentence was announced. He said the case set a precedent for future instances of domestic terrorism.  The incident was immortalized in a photo that shows Mr. Fields’ car ramming into the crowd and those hit flying into the air. In addition to killing Ms. Heyer, the attack hurt more than 30 people, whose injuries ranged from fractured skulls to damaged organs to broken arms, Mr. Cullen said Friday.

 

Estranged Husband of Missing CT Mother Released After Posting Bail

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The estranged husband of missing CT mother Jennifer Dulos and his girlfriend have both been released after posting their $500,000 bails.  Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend Michelle Troconis, 44, were charged with tampering or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution on June 1st.  Jennifer Dulos, who was last seen May 24th, had filed for divorce from Fotis Dulos in 2017 and had sole physical custody of their five children with their father seeing them every other weekend.  They had been embroiled in a contentious divorce and child custody case for the past two years.

Jennifer was last seen May 24th driving a 2017 black Chevrolet Suburban, as she dropped her kids off at school.  Her friends reported her missing around 7 p.m. that day after they had not heard from her for about 10 hours and she had missed multiple appointments that day.  Their children, who range in age from 8 to 13 and include two sets of twins, have been living with their 85-year-old grandmother under armed guard in NYC since Dulos went missing.

Court documents filed in the divorce case say Jennifer Dulos feared Fotis Dulos would harm her in some way in retaliation for her filing for divorce, and she noted he had a gun.  Jennifer Dulos had accused her husband of having revenge fantasies, exhibiting “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior” and saying he would abscond with their five children to another country, according to her custody petition.  Jennifer Dulos lived in a mansion in Farmington, Connecticut, with her husband and family until two years ago. In court documents, she said Fotis Dulos moved his girlfriend and the woman’s daughter into their Farmington house, and Jennifer Dulos moved out in 2017 to a home in New Canaan and filed for divorce, court records show.

Fotis Dulos and Troconis were arrested based on surveillance video that allegedly shows a man and a woman matching both of their descriptions in a vehicle where a man can be seen depositing around 30 trash bags into multiple trash receptacles.  The man can also be seen discarding items that appeared to be stained with a substance that is consistent with the appearance of blood.  Detectives later recovered clothing and household goods from trash receptacles with Jennifer Dulos’ blood on it.

Investigators looking into the woman’s disappearance discovered stains that tested positive for human blood on her garage floor, as well as evidence of attempts to clean up the scene.  Police also found blood spatter and evidence that a “serious physical assault” occurred in her New Canaan home.  State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr., a prosecutor in the case, said that Jennifer Dulos’ blood was also found mixed with her estranged husband’s DNA in the kitchen sink faucet at her New Canaan home.  Fotis Dulos has never lived at that house. He has remained at the couple’s former home in Farmington, Connecticut.

 

US And Mexico Make Immigration Deal Ahead of Pending Tariffs

 

 

 

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Mexico’s government says it will send 6,000 troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a crackdown on the unprecedented surge of Central American migrants hoping to seek asylum in the US. The announcement came ahead of a threat by President Trump to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports starting June 10th unless Mexico further tightens controls on immigration.  The deal was reached at the end of three days of negotiations which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.

The initial announcement of tariffs  warned that if Mexico did not do more to curb the current immigration issue, tariffs would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September and reach a permanent level of 25% by October.  According to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrants taken into custody reached a 13 year high in May, with more than 144,000 migrants taken into custody after crossing the Southern border.  The threat of tariffs which would have hurt the US economy, would have been more damaging to Mexico’s economy.  According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, US imports of goods from Mexico totaled $346.5 billion in 2018 and includes cars and machinery as well as agricultural products.  If the tariffs had gone into effect any US companies will have to decide whether to eat the cost or pass them on to American consumers.

Mexican officials have reportedly reached a deal with the White House that would require asylum seekers to seek refuge in the countries they first cross into.  Under a joint agreement released by State Department officials, Mexico will assist the United States in curbing migration across the border by deploying its National Guard troops through the country, especially its southern border.  The deal also imposes a new program called Migrant Protection Protocols, allowing U.S. immigration enforcement officials to send Central American migrants to Mexico as their asylum claims are pending.

Mexico says those migrants will be offered jobs, health care and education, though critics question how safe migrants will be as they await the conclusion of their claims.  The agreement says Mexican authorities will work to dismantle human smuggling operations as well.  Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the National Guard deployment would start on Monday, June 10th– the same day the proposed tariffs were set to begin. The National Guard force was recently established and has not gotten up and running, with estimates of full operations to be underway by 2021.

In a joint declaration released by the US state department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented steps” to curb irregular migration and human trafficking.  The US did not get one of its reported key demands, which would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil.  Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “coordinated actions” and information sharing.

Mexican authorities have dramatically stepped up law enforcement pressure against Central American migrants in recent days in an effort to stave off a trade war with the United States.  Mexican military police intercepted about 600 Central American migrants walking north on a highway in southern Mexico.  Mexican officials also announced federal charges against two prominent migrant activists and financial penalties against more than two dozen people suspected of helping migrants.

Mexico’s finance ministry announced it had blocked the bank accounts of 26 people who had participated “in the trafficking of migrants and the illegal organization of migrant caravans.”  The efforts are a part of a broad crackdown on illegal immigrants, with detentions and deportations of Central American migrants in recent months up significantly compared with the same period last year.