Tag Archive: mark j shuster insurance


 

 

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Over 13 years after Hurricane Katrina, a man who shot three black men as they were evacuating Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans has pleaded guilty to a hate crime.  Roland Bourgeois Jr., 55, abandoned his previous not-guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors, rather than face a trial that was set for Nov. 26.  The case is one of several high-profile, racism-fueled crimes that took place in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane.

Roland Bourgeois admitted he shot the men because of their race and reportedly told his neighbor, “Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.”  He was indicted five years after Katrina on allegations that he fired a shotgun at three black men in Algiers Point during the immediate aftermath of the storm.  His case has dragged on for years, being delayed over a dozen times amid questions about his physical and mental health.

Federal prosecutors allege that in the days after the storm ravaged the city, Bourgeois and his friends banded together to protect the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans from “outsiders” after the storm.  Within days, a band of 15 to 30 locals had taken up weapons, barricaded the streets with debri and regularly patrolled the neighborhood.  Residents say they were trying to keep their homes from being overrun by thieves and outlaws.  Bourgeois was quoted as saying he wanted to stop people “from tearing up the city” and using a racial slur. Bourgeois reportedly said he would shoot anyone who was “darker than a brown paper bag” and came close to his home on Vallette Street.

When three black men who were headed to the Algiers Point ferry landing, where authorities had set up an evacuation point, walked by his home, Bourgeois fired his shotgun at them.  He struck all three at least once and then bragged that he “got” one of the men following the shooting and displayed the bloodied baseball cap that fell from the wounded man’s head, according to prosecutors.  All three men survived the unprovoked attack including the one most seriously wounded, Donnell Herrington.

Herrington says he was walking to the terminal with his 17 year old cousin, Marcel Alexander, and a friend, Chris Collins when a white man pointed a shotgun at them and fired without saying a word.  The first shotgun blast ripped into his throat, torso and arms.  Somehow, Herrington got to his feet and began running.  He remembers two more armed men joining the first gunman and then he was shot in the back as he tried to escape.  Herrington staggered to the home of an African-American couple who drove him to West Jefferson Medical Center.  Doctors discovered buckshot in his arms, chest, abdomen and back.  A cluster of pellets had torn open the internal jugular vein along the right side of his throat and he underwent emergency surgery to repair the shredded vein.  Both Alexander and Collins witnessed the shooting and also suffered minor gunshot wounds.

Bourgeois pleaded guilty under terms of a deal struck between Bourgeois and federal prosecutors.  The plea agreement states that Bourgeois pleads guilty to two charges and the government will dismiss the original indictments involving hate crimes and firearms charges.  The first charge alleges that he willfully injured, intimidated and interfered with the three men including the use of a dangerous weapon. The second says he knowingly possessed, carried and used the shotgun during the acts listed in count one.

The deal proposes that Bourgeois’ sentence must be more than 5 years, but less than 10 years.  The government announced they will pursue the maximum sentence.  If the judge accepts the agreement, Bourgeois would forfeit his right to appeal his convictions and sentencing will move forward.  His sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2019.  If the deal is rejected, Bourgeois has the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial.

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NY Limo Crash Leaves 20 Dead

 

 

 

 

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On October 6th, a deadly limo crash in upstate New York killed 20 people, making it the deadliest transportation accident in the U.S. since 2009.  The crash occurred just before 2pm on Saturday in the town of Schoharie, about 25 miles west of Albany.  All 18 people inside the limo, including the driver and 2 pedestrians were killed.

The limousine, a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran a stop sign and crossed the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A, traveling at about 50 mph. The limo struck an unoccupied Toyota Highlander in a parking lot of a local country store, which then hit and killed the two pedestrians.  The limo then barreled through the parking lot before landing in a shallow ravine beyond the road.

The occupants, a group of 17 family and friends, had just set out to celebrate one of the victims, Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday and were headed to a brewery in Cooperstown.  Among the dead were Amy Steenburg and her husband of four months Axel Steenburg, and her brother-in-law Rich Steenburg who is survived by a 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson.  Amy’s three sisters and two of their husbands were also killed in the limo crash.  Mary Dyson, 33, one of Amy’s sisters, along with her husband, Rob Dyson, 34.  Amy’s sister Abigail Jackson, 34, and her husband Adam Jackson, 34, left behind two daughters, Archer and Elle, ages 4 and 1.  Amy’s other sister Allison King, 31, was also killed.

Also in the group were newlyweds Erin McGowan, 34 and Shane McGowan, 30; Amanda Halse, 26, and her boyfriend Patrick Cushing, Amanda Rivenburg, Rachael Cavosie, Michael Ukaj, a marine who served in Iraq and Matthew Coons and girlfriend Savannah Bursese.  The limo driver, Scott Lisinicchia, 53 and two pedestrians; 46-year-old assistant professor Brian Hough and his 71 year old father-in-law James Schnurr were also killed.  Hough and Schnurr were standing in the store parking lot talking when they were killed.

The limo involved in the crash, which was owned by Prestige Limousine, had failed a Sept. 4 safety inspection in part due to an Anti-lock braking system (ABS) malfunction indicators for the hydraulic brake system.  The driver, Scott Lisincchia also did not have the appropriate driver’s license required to drive a vehicle that can hold more than 15 people.  Joseph Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “The assertion that the limousine was cleared to be on the road following the September inspection is categorically false.  The vehicle was subject to inspections and the owner was warned not to operate the vehicle; the vehicle was placed out of service.”

Just days after the deadly crash, the operator of the limo company, Nauman Hussain, 28, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.  Hussain’s car was packed with luggage when he was stopped Wednesday on a highway near Albany.  Police say he was charged because he put a defective vehicle back on the road and hired a driver whom he knew was not properly licensed to drive the vehicle.  Hussain pled not guilty was released after posting $150,000 bond that same day.

Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client only handled marketing duties and phone calls, while his father, Shahed Hussain, is the owner of Prestige Limousine, and the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of the limo company.  Shahed Hussain is currently in Pakistan.  Police say Nauman Hussain is the one who put the vehicle back on the road despite it failing inspections and hired the driver who did not have proper licensing to operate the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, 40, was convicted of second degree murder in the 2014 shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald.  Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in about 50 years. Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years, especially for someone with no criminal history but probation is also an option. Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet.

The second-degree verdict reflected the jury’s finding that Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but that the belief was unreasonable. The jury also had the option of first degree-murder, which required finding that the shooting was unnecessary and unreasonable.  Legal experts say Van Dyke will likely be sentenced to no more than 6 years but that because he is an officer, it will likely be in isolation.

The verdict was the latest chapter in a story that shook Chicago residents soon after a judge ordered the release of the video in November 2015.  Protests erupted and continued, demanding accountability for the shooting.  The city’s police superintendent and the county’s top prosecutor both lost their jobs — one fired by the mayor and the other ousted by voters. It also led to a Justice Department investigation that found a “pervasive cover-up culture” and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.

The city had been preparing for possible demonstrations in a case that already sparked protests with many downtown businesses and City Hall closing early in anticipation of protests.  Groups of demonstrators took to the streets for several hours after the verdict, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated,” and “Sixteen shots and a cover up.”

Prosecutors in Van Dyke’s trial called on multiple officers who were there that night in an effort to penetrate the “blue wall of silence” long associated with the city’s police force and other law enforcement agencies across the country.  Three officers, including Van Dyke’s partner, have been charged with conspiring to cover up and lie about what happened to protect Van Dyke. They have all pleaded not guilty.

According to testimony, on the night of the shooting, officers were waiting for someone with a stun gun to use on the teenager when Van Dyke arrived.  Former Police Officer Joseph Walsh, Van Dyke’s partner the night of the shooting, testified that Van Dyke said to him “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot that guy,” before arriving at the scene.  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.

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.  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.  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.

Assistant special prosecutor Jody Gleason told the jury that Van Dyke contemplated shooting McDonald before he even encountered the young man, referring to testimony about what Van Dyke told his partner before arriving at the scene.  “It wasn’t the knife in Laquan’s hand that made the defendant kill him that night. It was his indifference to the value of Laquan’s life.”   Van Dyke was taken into custody moments after the verdict was read.  He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on October 31.

 

 

 

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Turkish officials believe Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has written columns critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, entered the Saudi consulate around 1pm on Oct. 2nd and has not been seen since. Khashoggi was there to pick up paperwork he needed for his upcoming wedding to Hatice Cengiz that he had requested the week before.  Centgiz says she watched him enter the consulate but did not see him re-emerge.  Saudi officials have claimed he left the consulate shortly after visiting.

Khashoggi, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists and a leading critic of Saudi Arabia’s current leadership, wrote columns for The Washington Post and has been a thorn in the side of the crown prince, for some time.  He had been living in self-imposed exile in Virginia after leaving Saudi Arabia last year.  He told friends and reporters that the space for freedom of speech under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shrinking and he feared for his safety.

A half an hour before Khashoggi arrived for his appointment, Turkish national staff working in the building were told to take the rest of the day off.  Since mobile phones are not allowed inside the diplomatic building, Khashoggi left his iPhone with his fiancée, who was to wait for him outside, and told her to raise the alarm if he did not emerge after more than four hours. He kept his Apple watch on him which was synced to his phone.  Cengiz waited outside until about 1am for Khashoggi to return before contacting Turkish authorities.

During the initial investigation into his disappearance, U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted Saudi communications regarding a plot to detain Khashoggi and that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was directly involved – ordering an operation to “lure” Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there.  CNN later reported that they saw a cleaning crew enter the main consulate building a day before Turkish officials, including a forensics team, arrived to begin their investigation.

Attention has been focused on what officials believe was a hit squad, a 15 person team of Saudi special forces officers, intelligence officials, national guards and a forensics expert that flew in and out of Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared.  The details of the alleged hit squad were listed on flight manifests leaked to the press.  The Saudi team is said to have arrived at Atatürk airport on Tuesday last week on two planes, one of which landed in the pre-dawn hours and the second in the early afternoon. The officials checked in to two hotels near the Saudi consulate.

Turkish intelligence believe that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate on Oct. 2nd.  News sources say Turkish officials have an audio recording of the alleged killing from the Apple Watch he wore when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  The audio recording is described as showing there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate as well as the moment that Khashoggi was killed.  Authorities recovered the audio from Khashoggi’s iPhone and his iCloud account.  News sources also alleged Saudi officials tried to delete the recordings by incorrectly guessing Khashoggi’s PIN on the watch.

 

 

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Federal prosecutors in Virginia have charged four white supremacists from California with conspiracy and inciting rioting at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017.   Last year’s protest left activist Heather Heyer dead after white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters.

Benjamin Daley, Thomas Gillen, Michael Miselis and Cole White are all members of a militant white supremacist group from California known as the Rise Above Movement, which espouses anti-Semitic views and meets regularly in public parks to train in boxing and other fighting techniques, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent.  According to The Anti-Defamation League, the Rise Above Movement members believe they are fighting against a “modern world” corrupted by the “destructive cultural influences” of liberals, Jews, Muslims and non-white immigrants. Members refer to themselves as the mixed martial arts club of the “alt-right” fringe movement, a loose mix of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other far-right extremists.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said each defendant faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted on the two counts they each face: traveling to incite riots and conspiracy to riot.  The affidavit alleges the four men were “among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville” in August of last year during a torch-lit march on the University of Virginia campus and a larger rally in downtown the following day. It says photos and video footage shows they attacked counter-protesters, “which in some cases resulted in serious injuries.”  The men have also taken part in “acts of violence” at political rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California, and other places, the affidavit alleges.

Cullen said that the men also engaged in acts of violence in their home state of California at a series of political rallies, dubbing them “serial rioters.”  At a news briefing, Cullen said “This is a group that essentially subscribes to an anti-Semitic, racist ideology, and then organizes, trains, and deploys to various political rallies, not only to espouse this particular ideology but also to engage in acts of violence against folks who are taking a contrary point of view.”

A Los Angeles judge denied bail for Michael Miselis, finding that he posed a risk to the community.  Miselis’ attorney argued for his release, detailing how his client got his master’s at UCLA and worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman for five years before being dismissed after his connection to Charlottesville became public.  Prosecutor David Ryan argued against bail for Miselis, saying agents found smoke bombs, flares, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, mostly for assault weapons, in his home, where he had a wall hanging that said “88,” a common abbreviation for “Heil Hitler.”  Ryan also said said Miselis, Daley and other members of their group also traveled to Germany and the Ukraine earlier this year and met with members of well-known violent white supremacy groups.

Cullen said investigators sifted through “an incredible volume” of video and still photographs to review the movements of the four men and determine whether they could claim they were only defending themselves after being attacked by others at the rally. He said prosecutors believe there was “no provocation” for them to engage in violence that day.  The four men, he said, made their way to the rally with their hands taped, “ready to do street battle.”  Then they engaged in punching, kicking, head-butting and pushing, assaulting an African-American man, two women and a minister who was wearing a clerical collar, Cullen said.  Cullen also said a significant aspect of the case was that the four men had “extensive and robust” social media profiles and used social media to further their purposes.

 

Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

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Bloomberg revealed a probe was started in 2015 regarding data center equipment run by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Apple may have been subject to surveillance from the Chinese government via a tiny microchip inserted during the equipment manufacturing process at factories run by subcontractors in China.  The chips were used for gathering intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies and may have been introduced by a Silicon Valley company called Super Micro.    Though Apple, AWS and Super Micro deny knowledge of the claims or investigation, a probe that started 3 years ago is still open.

In early 2015, Amazon was looking to expand their web streaming services and began working with Elemental Technologies, based in Oregan.  Elemental, which has government contracts, made software for compressing massive video files and formatting them for different devices. Its technology has been used to communicate with the International Space Station and funnel drone footage to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The chips were discovered after AWS hired a third-party security company to scrutinize Elemental’s products.  The company examined the servers that customers installed in their networks to handle the video compression.  Testers found tiny microchips, not much bigger than a grain of rice, nested on the servers’ motherboards that weren’t part of the boards’ original design.  Amazon reported the findings to the US authorities.  These servers were assembled for Elemental by Super Micro, who has their servers assembled by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

During the top-secret probe, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a doorway into any network that included the altered machines. This kind of tampering is especially hard to accomplish because it means developing a deep understanding of a product’s design, manipulating components at the factory, and ensuring that the doctored devices made it through the global logistics chain to the desired location.

Investigators found that the tampered products eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and Apple Inc.  Apple had planned to order more than 30,000 of its servers in two years for a new global network of data centers.  Three senior insiders at Apple say that they also found malicious chips on Super Micro motherboards.  Apple severed ties with Super Micro in 2016 for what they officially described as unrelated reasons.

Amazon, Apple and Super Micro deny any knowledge of planted chips though six current and former senior national security officials have detailed the discovery of the chips and the government’s investigation.  One government official says China’s goal was long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks. No consumer data is known to have been stolen.

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Amazon Raises Wages To $15

 

 

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Online retail giant Amazon says it’s raising its company-wide minimum wage to $15 per hour for all of its U.S. employees.  The announcement comes amid mounting complaints over labor conditions at the company’s warehouses.  The new minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees — including part-time and temporary employees — and 100,000 seasonal employees.  Some employees who already make $15 per hour will also see a pay increase.

Employees will lose a perk known as VCP, through which employees are eligible to earn up to 8 percent of their monthly take-home pay.  The average worker can earn between $1,800 and $3,000 a year through VCP, depending on the season, hours worked and the fulfillment center’s volume.  Warehouse workers will also experience a change in their stock options. As a key attractor for prospective Amazon employees, full-time hourly workers usually receive two to three shares a year after a two-year vesting period.  This program will no longer be offered.

Amazon said the effect of the higher pay will be reflected in its forward-looking quarterly guidance.  The company also said it would lobby in Washington for an increase in the federal minimum wage and urge other competitors to raise wages.  “We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago,” said Jay Carney, senior vice president of Amazon global corporate affairs.  Other large retailers like Target Corp raised its minimum hourly wage last year to $11 and promised to raise it to $15 an hour by the end of 2020.  Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour earlier this year.

The company and CEO Jeff Bezos have been facing criticism for its pay disparity.  Amazon’s starting pay varies by location with some paying $10 an hour and others paying $13.50 an hour but the national average pay for an Amazon employee is $11 an hour.  For 2017, the average annual pay for an Amazon employee was just under $28,500, according to company filings, while Bezos earned $1.7 million.

Last month Amazon became the second company to cross $1 trillion market value.  The company is led by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man with a net worth of nearly $150 billion, according to Forbes.  Amazon’s pay increase will cost the company $1 billion or less annually and the recent $20 price increase for Prime memberships will generate enough to offset the wage hike.

What do you think of Amazon’s wage increase?  Hit the comments section and let us know!

 

 

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Students at Portland State University in Oregon are calling on administrators to disarm campus police, three months after a pair of officers fatally shot 45-year-old Jason Washington.  The shooting was the first campus officer-involved shooting at PSU.  Washington was shot in June as he tried to break up a bar fight on campus. Portland State University’s Board of Trustees voted in 2015 to arm campus police officers and PSU students are once again demanding they reverse the policy.

The Portland State University Student Union held a rally and a march on campus to demand the disarming of campus police officers. Members followed the march by announcing an occupation for Jason Washington outside the PSU public safety offices.  In 2015, the student union led a year-long campaign that asked the school to reverse its 2015 decision to arm campus police officers.  After a grand jury decided not to charge the officers, the student union said they believe school officials are now open to the idea of disarming officers.  The PSU Board of Trustees released a statement after the ruling that reads, “The board wrestled with the decision to arm campus police in 2014, and we are prepared to wrestle with it again — with open minds — to determine whether the current policy should be continued or changed.”

Police body cam video of the killing shows campus police officers Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey opening fire on Washington, after a handgun Washington was wearing on his hip fell from its holster during a scuffle.  The gun belonged to Washington’s friend, Jeremy Wilkinson, who asked him to hold it just before the fight.  A grand jury declined to indict the officers over the killing after determining the fatal shooting was a lawful act of self-defense and/or the defense of a third person.

Washington, a Navy veteran and postal worker, had met two friends at the Cheerful Tortoise on the afternoon of Thursday, June 28.  Ryan Pratt, one of the friends out with Washington, told officers he met up with Wilkinson at his apartment at 2 p.m. that afternoon and the two of them took an Uber to the Cheerful Tortoise to meet Washington.  After a few drinks, the trio walked to Buffalo Wild Wings and each had 2 shots and a couple beers before heading to the pool hall and betting lounge Rialto at around 7:30pm where they had “one or two beers,” according to Pratt.

Derrial Peterson, the security guard at Rialto, told investigators that Washington appeared to be less intoxicated than Wilkinson and Washington told him that he needs to keep his wits about him because he never knows what is going to happen with Jeremy Wilkinson.  Peterson said he asked the men to leave and overheard Washington chastising his friend about always getting them in trouble and asking why he couldn’t just keep his mouth shut.  The trio returned to the Cheerful Tortoise where they began arguing with people which continued outside.  At this point, Washington took possession of Wilkinson’s gun, holstering it to his hip. Wilkinson said he then began to fight with men outside the bar.  Body camera footage shows the two officers arriving in the midst of the drunken brawl early on June 29.  Washington can be seen with his arms extended, attempting to stop several men from brawling.  As the fight escalates someone can be heard saying “He’s got a gun.” “Drop the gun!” an officer yells several times. “We’ll shoot you!”  One second after that warning, Officer McKenzie shoots.

After the shooting, Wilkinson can be seen in the video, lying next to Washington’s body saying “Holy sh** Michelle’s going to kill me,” referring to Washington’s wife.  Fewer than 30 seconds elapsed between the time Portland State University Police got out of their vehicle and the moment Jason Washington was shot and killed.  The police report shows Washington had sustained gunshot wounds in right knee, his back, left chest, the right side of his neck and left cheek.

 

 

 

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A Texas Supervisory Border Patrol agent has been arrested for murder after authorities say he confessed to killing four women.  Agent Juan David Ortiz is being held on $2.5 million bond, accused in the killing of at least four women and of injuring a fifth who managed to escape. Ortiz, 35, has worked as a Border Patrol agent for 10 years and is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Investigators have called the case a two week string of violence with the Customs and Border Patrol intel supervisor continuing to go to work as usual throughout that time.  Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Saturday that investigators “consider this to be a serial killer” whose victims were believed to be prostitutes.  Ortiz is being held in Laredo on four counts of murder along with charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint.

On Sept. 4th of the body of 29-year-old Melissa Ramirez, a mother of two, was found on a rural road.  Ramirez had been shot in the head.  Days later, 42-year-old Claudine Anne Luera, a mother of five, was found shot and left in the road.  Badly injured but still alive, Luera was rushed to the hospital but died later that day.

On September 14th, at around 9 p.m. Ortiz picked up a woman named Erika Pena. She told police she struggled with Ortiz inside his truck after he pointed a gun at her but that she was able to flee.  She ran to a gas station where she found a state trooper and asked for help.  Police were on the lookout for Ortiz when officers approached him after he stopped for gas around 1 a.m.  He left his gun in his truck and fled on foot. He was captured at 2:30 a.m., when police found him hiding in a hotel parking garage, where he unsuccessfully attempted to draw the gunfire of the arresting officers.

According to the affidavit, Ortiz told investigators that after Pena ran off, Ortiz returned home to load several firearms in anticipation of a confrontation with police.  He then picked up a woman in Laredo, drove her outside of town and shot her in a remote area of the county.  He returned to Laredo, picked up another victim and repeated the process.  The identities of his last two victims have not yet been released by authorities.

Police said the dead are believed to have been prostitutes and that one of them was a transgender woman. At least two were U.S. citizens; the nationalities of the others were not known.  Police say Ortiz has a a “dislike” of the sex-worker community and appears to have targeted his victims deliberately after gaining their trust.  He shot all four execution-style in the head after forcing them out of his truck in rural parts of Webb County, outside the city limits of Laredo.  Investigators believe Ortiz acted alone and are still working to determine a motive.

 

 

 

 

 

A Texas Supervisory Border Patrol agent has been arrested for murder after authorities say he confessed to killing four women.  Agent Juan David Ortiz is being held on $2.5 million bond, accused in the killing of at least four women and of injuring a fifth who managed to escape. Ortiz, 35, has worked as a Border Patrol agent for 10 years and is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Investigators have called the case a two week string of violence with the Customs and Border Patrol intel supervisor continuing to go to work as usual throughout that time.  Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Saturday that investigators “consider this to be a serial killer” whose victims were believed to be prostitutes.  Ortiz is being held in Laredo on four counts of murder along with charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint.

On Sept. 4th of the body of 29-year-old Melissa Ramirez, a mother of two, was found on a rural road.  Ramirez had been shot in the head.  Days later, 42-year-old Claudine Anne Luera, a mother of five, was found shot and left in the road.  Badly injured but still alive, Luera was rushed to the hospital but died later that day.

On September 14th, at around 9 p.m. Ortiz picked up a woman named Erika Pena. She told police she struggled with Ortiz inside his truck after he pointed a gun at her but that she was able to flee.  She ran to a gas station where she found a state trooper and asked for help.  Police were on the lookout for Ortiz when officers approached him after he stopped for gas around 1 a.m.  He left his gun in his truck and fled on foot. He was captured at 2:30 a.m., when police found him hiding in a hotel parking garage, where he unsuccessfully attempted to draw the gunfire of the arresting officers.

According to the affidavit, Ortiz told investigators that after Pena ran off, Ortiz returned home to load several firearms in anticipation of a confrontation with police.  He then picked up a woman in Laredo, drove her outside of town and shot her in a remote area of the county.  He returned to Laredo, picked up another victim and repeated the process.  The identities of his last two victims have not yet been released by authorities.

Police said the dead are believed to have been prostitutes and that one of them was a transgender woman. At least two were U.S. citizens; the nationalities of the others were not known.  Police say Ortiz has a a “dislike” of the sex-worker community and appears to have targeted his victims deliberately after gaining their trust.  He shot all four execution-style in the head after forcing them out of his truck in rural parts of Webb County, outside the city limits of Laredo.  Investigators believe Ortiz acted alone and are still working to determine a motive.

 

Let us know what you think of this story in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.