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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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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.

We want to hear from you!  Do you think this officer received special treatment in the handling of this case? Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

 

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Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who’s charged in the killing of 17-year-old in October 2014. The killing was captured on a police dash cam video released under court order, which contradicted police claims about the shooting. The video shows the teenager posing no threat and walking away from the officers before Van Dyke opened fire 16 times.

On October 20, 2014, just before 10pm, police responded to reports of someone breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard at 41st and Kildare Avenue.  Initial reports said McDonald had been behaving erratically while walking down the street while holding a folding knife with a three-inch blade. When officers confronted McDonald, he used a knife with a 3-inch blade to slice the tire on a patrol vehicle and damage its windshield.  McDonald walked away from police after numerous verbal instructions from officers to drop the knife, at which point responding officers requested Taser backup.

Video of the shooting shows that Officer Van Dyke was advancing on McDonald, while McDonald was walking away from him when the first shot was fired. The first shot hit McDonald, who spun and fell to the ground.  As McDonald lay on the ground, still holding the knife, Van Dyke fired more shots into him from about 10 feet away, expending the maximum capacity of his 9mm semi-automatic firearm. Van Dyke was on scene for less than 30 seconds before opening fire and the first shot he fired was 6 seconds after he exited his patrol car.  McDonald was shot 16 times in 14–15 seconds and 9 of those shots hit his back as he lay on the ground.  Toxicology reports later revealed that McDonald had PCP in his blood and urine.

The first responding officer said that he did not see the need to use force and none of the at least eight other officers on the scene fired their weapons.  Even though McDonald’s death was ruled a homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds, initial police statements of the incident prompted police supervisors to rule the case a justifiable homicide and within the bounds of the department’s use of force guidelines.  The reports did not say how many times McDonald was shot and said McDonald was acting “crazed” and lunged at officers after refusing to drop his knife.  After the shooting a police union representative told reporters that Van Dyke had acted in self-defense after McDonald lunged at him and his partner.

On November 24, 2015, shortly after dashcam video of the incident was released to the public, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder and he turned himself in to authorities.  He was initially held without bail at Cook County Jail for six days.  On November 30, he was granted bail, set at $1,500,000. He posted $150,000—ten percent of the bail—and was released from jail.  On December 16, Van Dyke was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct.  On December 29, 2015, Van Dyke pled not guilty to the charges.  If convicted of first-degree murder, Van Dyke faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life.

On June 27, 2017, three Chicago police officers were indicted for charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct for allegedly attempting to cover up the events surrounding the shooting.

 

 

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In Cincinnati, a gunman opened fire at a downtown bank, killing three people and injuring two others before he was shot and killed by police. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the gunman, who they believe acted alone, fired more than a dozen shots from a legally purchased 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol.  Authorities have identified the gunman as Omar Perez, though a motive for the shooting is still under investigation.  The gun used in the shooting was recovered at the scene along with multiple magazines and around 200 rounds of ammunition.

Police say Perez, 29, of Northbend, Ohio, has no known connection to the bank and it is unclear how he got to Fountain Square but that he entered multiple businesses before going to the bank. He opened fire in the building’s loading dock before continuing into the lobby area and firing more shots.  Officers responded to a 911 call around 9:10 a.m. local time about an “active shooter” at the bank.  Multiple officers then “engaged” the suspect, who was fatally shot multiple times.

Five people were shot, some multiple times, including three who died from their injuries.  One person died at the scene and two victims died at the hospital.  Those killed in the shooting were a grandfather, a father and a son.  Richard Newcomer, 64, a father of 3 and grandfather of 8, who was supervising a construction project on the building’s third floor was shot as he entered the building.  Luis Calderón, 48, a father to a 13 year old and 16 year old, was also killed as he arrived to work.  He had moved to Cincinnati last year to work for the bank and provide a better life for his children.  The third victim was identified as Prudhvi Raj Kandepi, 25, a programmer and consultant for Fifth Third who was described by family as someone who would give everything he could to friends and family.

Police have released security footage of the gunman “firing shots at anyone he sees” while inside the lobby of the building.  The security footage shows Omar Enrique Santa Perez walking in the lobby with his gun held up and carrying a briefcase containing hundreds of rounds of ammunition over his shoulder. A security officer was seen helping people get to a safe location as the gunman was randomly firing shots at anyone he sees. Perez then turns toward the windows and fires shots at approaching officers.   The body camera footage shows officers approaching the gunman and shooting through the glass of the lobby.  The officers on the scene engaged the shooter within three and a half minutes of the first 911 call and fired 11 shots, taking out the gunman.  Police later found that Perez’s gun had jammed during the four-minute rampage.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley praised the officers for ending the shooting quickly.  “You could see in the video … the guy is shooting at the cops, you can see them not being afraid and engaging and ending it.”  “If he had gotten on the elevator, gone up to a floor, if he had been there earlier or a little bit longer, many more people would have been killed.”

Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati but has locations across 10 states.  The company released a statement via Twitter.  “Earlier today, an active shooter entered our headquarters building in downtown Cincinnati. The situation is contained and the shooter is no longer a threat. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in this terrible event. We continue to work with law enforcement as we ensure the safety of our employees and customers. We are grateful for the support and concerns from our neighbors throughout Cincinnati and the country.”

 

 

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The father of murdered Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts is demanding politicians and white supremacists stop using his daughter’s death to promote hate against immigrants.  In an article for The Des Moines Register, Rob Tibbetts wrote, “Do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family.  The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people.  To suggest otherwise is a lie.  Sadly, others have ignored our request, they have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed.”

Tibbetts doesn’t want to see his daughter used as a “pawn in others’ debate,” he said.  “She may not be able to speak for herself, but I can and will. Please leave us out of your debate. Allow us to grieve in privacy and with dignity. At long last, show some decency. On behalf of my family and Mollie’s memory, I’m imploring you to stop.”

Rob Tibbetts also addressed animosity towards immigrants at his daughter’s funeral when he said “the Hispanic community are Iowans, they have the same values as Iowans. As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”  “To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology.  That you’ve been beset by the circumstances of Mollie’s death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody.”

Before she went missing, Tibbetts’ brother dropped her off at her boyfriend’s house so she could dog-sit.  Her family reported her missing the next day after she did not show up for work.  The last time anyone saw Tibbetts, 20, was around 7:30 p.m. on July 18th as she was jogging in Brooklyn, a community of 1,500 people in eastern Iowa.  According to her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, Tibbetts had sent him a message saying she was heading out for some exercise as part of her typical routine.  A massive ground search involving more than 200 people broken up into 37 teams was conducted on July 20 encompassing the farmlands and fields within a five-mile radius of Brooklyn, with helicopters hovering above, according to authorities.  Investigators had received more than 1,500 tips and conducted more than 500 interviews in the case.

The investigation led to 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera of rural Poweshiek County, an undocumented farmworker from Mexico who has been charged with first-degree murder for her death.  Investigators say their search led to Rivera after they acquired surveillance camera footage that showed Mollie running, as well as the travel patterns of a vehicle believed to belong to Rivera. After reviewing the video, they determined that Rivera was one of the last people to see her running.

During the police interview, Rivera said that he had seen Tibbitts before and when he saw her running on July 18th, he began following her.  He parked his car and began running alongside and behind her.  At some point, Mollie took out her phone and told him “You need to leave me alone. I’m going to call the police” and then she took off running.   Rivera told police that he got angry and chased her down but that he blacked out and woke up at an intersection in rural Poweshiek County.  He told investigators he realized he had put the woman in the trunk of his car and when he took her out, he saw blood on the side of her head.  He then drove to a rural cornfield and left the body in the field, covering it with corn leaves.   Investigators said that after the interview, Rivera led investigators to her body.

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello raised the island’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975, making the September 2017 storm one of the deadliest in U.S. history.  The announcement came following the release of an independent study ordered by the Rossello administration that found the number of people who succumbed in the months after the storm had been severely undercounted.

The new estimate of nearly 3,000 dead in the six months after Maria devastated the island and knocked out the entire electrical grid was made by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.  While Puerto Rico is now putting the death toll at 2,975, other studies show the actual death toll from Hurricane Maria may be considerably higher. In May, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found the death toll to be at least 4,645—and perhaps as high as 5,740.

The George Washington researchers said the official count from the Sept. 20 hurricane was low in part because doctors were not trained in how to classify deaths after a disaster.  Researchers reported that physicians and others told them that Puerto Rico’s government did not notify them about federal guidelines on how to document deaths related to a major disaster.

The number of deaths from September 2017 to February 2018 was 22 percent higher than the same period in previous years.  Researchers said they counted deaths over the span of six months — a much longer period than usual — because so many people were without power during that time.  Their reasoning is that the loss of power for such an extended period of time and severe devastation forced people to exert themselves physically or were exposed to intense heat without fans or air conditioning.

There is no national standard for how to count disaster-related deaths. While the National Hurricane Center reports only direct deaths, such as those caused by flying debris or drowning, some local governments may include indirect deaths from such things as heart attacks and house fires.

Puerto Rico’s government released data in June showing increases in several illnesses in 2017 that could have been linked to the storm: Cases of sepsis, a serious bloodstream infection usually caused by bacteria, rose from 708 in 2016 to 835 last year. Deaths from diabetes went from 3,151 to 3,250, and deaths from heart illnesses increased from 5,417 to 5,586.

The study also found that government emergency plans in place when Maria hit were not designed for hurricanes greater than a Category 1. Maria was a Category 4 with 154 mph winds and the damage was estimated at more than $100 billion.  Researchers made several recommendations, including more emergency planning and government training for doctors on filling out death certificates.  They also said the public health system needs to be strengthened.  It remains to be seen whether Puerto Rico can adopt any of the recommendations since the island is trying to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt amid a 12-year recession.

 

 

 

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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.