Tag Archive: Mark J Shuster Olmsted County


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A Kansas City, KS toddler who was abducted while sleeping in the back seat of a car has been found safe.  On July 12th, 2017, a man left his girlfriend’s car running while he went inside a Kansas City gas station to get her three-year-old daughter a drink. The little girl remained in the backseat, asleep.  Police say that’s when Tyler Letzig, 28, and Karri Reich, 29, took the car with the girl inside.

Police cordoned off the Valero gas station at 7th and Riverview and quickly released surveillance of the two suspects to the media.  The video shows the suspects — a man in a green T-shirt and a woman in a blue one-piece short set — enter the gas station separately on more than one occasion and later converse near a gas pump.

The woman re-enters the store while the car with the child pulls up beside an older model white utility van the suspects allegedly drove.  The man in green can be seen on video canvassing a silver 2016 Ford Focus as the driver exits the vehicle.  The driver of the Ford enters the store, and the woman in the blue short set exits. The woman briefly speaks with the male suspect then jumps in the Ford and drives away.

Within an hour of the abduction, investigators say the boyfriend’s cell phone pinged several miles away in Leavenworth County. Officers from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputies, troopers from the Kansas Highway Patrol, and federal agents all aided in the search.  When the pinging stopped in the area of Interstate 70 and 206th Street, police requested help from other law enforcement agencies with an aircraft but none were immediately available.

The little girl, 3 year old Amaya Vestor was found safe near the abandoned vehicle around 8pm in a rural area of Tonganoxie after a local television station’s helicopter spotted the stolen car in Leavenworth County.  Responding to the initial reports of a child abduction and stolen vehicle, SkyTracker headed to Leavenworth County to track down the location from the cell phone ping.  SkyTracker pilot Captain Gregg Bourdon and photographer James Moore scanned the area and noticed an abandoned, silver vehicle matching the description of the car stolen.  A quick call back to the station to update the newsroom, and 41 Action News Assignment Editor Steve Kaut alerted law enforcement.

A sheriff deputy came right under the helicopter and made his way down the road until he could see the child get out of the car.   SkyTracker captured the reunion from 2,000 feet in the air.  The male suspect, Tyler Letzig-reportedly was apprehended Thursday by authorities in Leavenworth County. The female suspect, Karri Reich-is still on the run.  Tyler Letzig and Karri Anne Reich were each charged Friday with one count of kidnapping, child endangerment and theft.

Update:  Karri Reich turned herself in and was booked into the Wyandotte County Jail Tuesday morning.

 

 

 

 

 

16 servicemen killed.jpgSixteen service members were killed after a military transport plane that was being used on a training flight crashed in Mississippi, prompting an urgent rescue effort in one of the South’s most rural regions, the authorities said.  A Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon, Capt. Sarah Burns, said that one of the service’s KC-130 aircraft had “experienced a mishap.” The Marines use KC-130s for aerial refueling.

The cause of the crash, in an unincorporated part of Leflore County, was not immediately clear.  The plane crashed along County Road 547, a dirt road that connects acres of farmland between Itta Bena and Moorhead.  Military aircraft are a common sight in the skies of rural Mississippi.  Witnesses described the plane as disintegrating in the air as it neared the ground, leaving a debris field about five miles in diameter.  Many speculate that the plane experienced an explosion mid-air because of the large debris field.

The air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and was on its way from a Marine installation at Cherry Point, North Carolina, to a naval air field at El Centro, California, when it went down, officials said.  The planes final destination was Yuma, AZ.  The plane vanished from air traffic control radar somewhere over Mississippi before the crash that killed all fifteen marines and a navy corpsman on board.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C.. Nine were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.  The service members were identified as Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20; Staff Sgt. Robert Cox; 28, Capt. Sean Elliott; 30, Maj. Caine Goyette; 41, Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins; 34, Sgt. Chad Jenson,; 25, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson; 46, Sgt. Julian Kevianne; 31, Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat; 33, Sgt. Talon Leach; 27, Sgt. Owen Lennon,; 26, Sgt. Joseph Murray; 26, Cpl. Collin Schaaff;  22, Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman; 26, Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden; 31 and Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey, 30.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud bloom around 4pm  and then the plane began spinning down to the ground.  Eyewitnesses recall hearing ammunition exploding after the crash.  The Marine Corps acknowledged that ammunition was on board the flight without specifying what kind. Due to the presence of the ammunition, restrictions were placed on who could initially approach the scene of the crash, officials said.

The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane and witnesses said there were bodies across a highway, more than a mile from the crash site.  Firefighters tried to put out the fire but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fierce blaze produced black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours later.  The fire department used about 9,000 gallons of foam to extinguish the blaze.

Marine Corps officials are being aided in their investigation by a number of different agencies, including the Mississippi Management Association, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

 

 

In Chicago, a wave of violence over the long holiday weekend left 102 people shot—with 15 people killed and 86 others injured by gunfire.  Nearly half were shot in a spate of violence as the weekend closed out between 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

Violence in Chicago has become the standard as the city is plagued with gang activity.  The Chicago Police Department says that it has become standard procedure during long holiday warm weather weekends to put more than 1,300 extra officers on the street.  A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. The violence this year was largely concentrated in the city’s south and west sides, including districts where the Chicago Police Department have deployed extra resources including hundreds of officers on overtime.

The Chicago Police Department expressed frustrations over the violent long weekend.  They said they are conducting “a very comprehensive review” after experiencing one of its most violent Fourth of July weekends in recent history.  Chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said “It’s perplexing, the mood here is frustration.”  “We deployed some very successful tactics over the Memorial Day weekend.” Yet those same tactics did not seem to work as well over the Fourth holiday.”

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over “petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun.”  He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening. He said a “handful” of shootings were “retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating … It’s just enormously frustrating.”

As part of its review of what happened over the weekend, the department is looking at how amateur fireworks may have interfered with the ShotSpotter system, a relatively new technology the department hopes to expand.  The spotters register a shooting and deploy cameras in the direction of the shots while officers are deployed.  Analysts at the district station look at the data in real time to decide what steps to take next.  Guglielmi called it “micro-deployment.”

The violent weekend brings the total number of people shot in Chicago so far in 2017 to more than 1,800, according to data maintained by the Tribune, still below the 2,035 recorded at this time last year.

 

 

 

 

Popular craft chain store Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of artifacts smuggled from Iraq.  Hobby Lobby’s owners are conservative Christians who plan to open a Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., this fall.

Federal prosecutors say Hobby Lobby spent over $1.5 million in December 2010 to purchase more than 5,000 Iraqi artifacts from a dealer based in the United Arab Emirates. The sales violated a ban on the sale of Iraqi cultural artifacts in place since 2004.

According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby began collecting a range of historically significant manuscripts and other antiquities in 2009. The following July, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green traveled with a consultant to the United Arab Emirates, where they inspected a large cache of cuneiform tablets and other artifacts.

Two Israeli antiquities dealers and one from the United Arab Emirates attended the July 2010 inspection with Hobby Lobby’s president and consultant. At the meeting, the complaint says, the artifacts were displayed informally, “spread on the floor, arranged in layers on a coffee table, and packed loosely in cardboard boxes, in many instances with little or no protective material between them.”

The dealers claimed the items were from the family collection of a third dealer who was not present, according to the complaint. They later sent Hobby Lobby a provenance statement — a guarantee of authenticity — indicating that the artifacts were legally acquired in the 1960s from local markets.

After returning to the United States, the complaint says, Hobby Lobby’s president and in-house lawyer spoke with an expert on cultural property law who warned them that antiquities from ancient Iraq may have been looted from archaeological sites. In a memo, the expert told them that any items of Iraqi origin that were not properly declared could be seized by customs officials.  Hobby Lobby proceeded with the sale despite the numerous “red flags”, buying hundreds of cuneiform tablets and thousands of other artifacts.  According to a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the deal was “was fraught with red flags” and was consistent with a “clandestine” operation.  According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby got conflicting information about where the artifacts had been stored and never met or communicated with the dealer selling them. When it came time to pay, the company wired money to seven separate bank accounts.

A dealer based in the United Arab Emirates shipped packages containing the artifacts to three different corporate addresses in Oklahoma City. Five shipments that were intercepted by federal customs officials bore shipping labels that falsely declared that the artifacts’ country of origin was Turkey.  In September 2011, a package containing about 1,000 clay bullae, an ancient form of inscribed identification, was received by Hobby Lobby from an Israeli dealer and accompanied by a false declaration stating that its country of origin was Israel. The packages bore shipping labels that described their contents as “ceramic tiles,” the complaint said.

 

 

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A senior cardinal and top adviser to Pope Francis will return to Australia to face charges of sexual assault. Cardinal George Pell is the third-highest-ranking official in the Roman Catholic Church.  Pell was charged in his native Australia with multiple counts of sexual assault from years ago.

The charges against Pell were announced in Melbourne by Victoria State Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton.  Pell was ordered to appear in court July 26 to face multiple counts of “historical sexual assault offenses”.  Patton said there are multiple complainants against Pell, but he gave no other details.

It is unclear what the criminal charges against Pell involve, but two men, now in their 40s, have said that Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s, when Pell was a senior priest in Melbourne.

In 2014, the Vatican admitted nearly 850 priests have been dismissed and more than 2,500 have been disciplined in a sprawling sexual abuse scandal dating back decades.  Cardinal Pell said Pope Francis granted him a leave of absence to return to Australia to defend himself.  The 76-year-old Pell — the highest-ranking Vatican official ever implicated in the scandal and has forcefully denied the accusations.

In a statement read to the press, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Vatican respected Australia’s justice system but recalled that the cardinal had “openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable” acts of sexual abuse against minors.  He noted Pell’s cooperation with Australia’s Royal Commission investigation of sex abuse and that as a bishop in Australia, he worked to protect children and compensate victims.

Pell’s actions as archbishop came under scrutiny in recent years by a government-authorized investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children. The Royal Commission revealed that 7 percent of priests were accused of sexually abusing children in the past several decades.

Last year, Pell testified to the commission that the church had made “enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests. He conceded that he, too, had erred by often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse. He vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued church abuse victims in his hometown of Ballarat.

It was unclear if Pell would face a church trial stemming from the accusations. The Vatican has clear guidelines about initiating a canonical investigation if there is a semblance of truth to sex abuse accusations against a cleric. In the case of a cardinal, it would fall to Francis himself to judge. Penalties for a guilty verdict in a church trial include defrocking.

 

Cholera-outbreak-in-Yemen.-806x450-640x357.jpgThe United Nations says Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 200,000 people in Yemen are infected with cholera and that number is growing by 5,000 a day, they say.  “In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every (part) of this war-torn country,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a joint statement.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 1,310 people have already died, a quarter of them children.  A UN report has said children account for half of the registered cases to date.  Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water. If left untreated, it can cause severe dehydration and can be fatal within hours.

Rarely seen in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, it primarily affects developing areas that lack adequate water treatment or sanitation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Cholera is preventable and easily treatable but the collapsing infrastructure in Yemen has cut off an estimated 14.5 million people (about half the country’s population) from regular access to clean water, increasing the likelihood for the disease to spread. There are reportedly 7.3 million people on the brink of famine.

The outbreak began last year but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last two months.  UNICEF and WHO have attributed the outbreak to malnutrition, collapsing sanitation and clean water systems due to the country’s ongoing conflict.  April’s cholera resurgence began ten days after Sana’a’s sewer system stopped working.

The impact of the outbreak has been exacerbated by many factors including the collapse of the Yemeni health services, where many health workers have remained unpaid for months. Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are still functional. Hospitals are lacking medical equipment, rehydration solutions and medicine while still receiving patients from all over the country.  They are also dealing with a shortage of doctors and nurses so they have been working round the clock to deal with the crisis.

philando-castile-mother.jpgThe city of St. Anthony, Minnesota will pay nearly $3 million to the family of Philando Castile to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on manslaughter charges for killing Castile during a 2016 traffic stop.  Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed.

The settlement is to be paid to Castile’s mother Valerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee.  The $2.995 million settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court.

Attorney Robert Bennett, who is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

The settlement will help benefit the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.  Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation hopes to continue to award an annual $5000 scholarship.  Through donations and part of the settlement, organizers hope to establish a permanent endowment to fund the annual $5,000 scholarship.  In May, 18-year-old Marques Watson was announced as the first recipient.

Watson intends to study mechanical engineering. He’ll take advantage of a tuition-free offer at St. Paul College this fall and hopes to complete his four-year degree at a historically black college or university.  Watson has participated in AVID, a school-based program that prepares underrepresented students for college, since seventh grade. He said he’ll be the first in his extended family to attend college.

Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who witnessed the shooting and posted video seconds after, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim.

A claims manager with the League of Minnesota Cities, said St. Anthony’s insurance coverage is $3 million per occurrence. If Reynolds were to file and win a claim, the city’s remaining $5,000 in coverage would be paid to her and St. Anthony would have to cover any additional money awarded.

 

 

 

 

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A Tennessee man accused of planning to attack a Muslim community in New York has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court convicted Christian minister Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The FBI began investigating Doggart in February 2015, when agents became aware of a threatening Facebook post by Doggart in which he wrote that Islamberg needed to be “utterly destroyed.”  After an investigation that included wiretaps Doggart was arrested on April 10 by federal marshals and charged with solicitation, intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property and interstate communication of threats, court documents show.

FBI agents discovered Doggart was stockpiling weapons and plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, Doggart saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god.

The investigation showed that he spoke with numerous individuals across the country to plan an attack.  Doggart also traveled to South Carolina, where he met with individuals from an unidentified militia group.

Prosecutors said Doggart made threats against Islamberg near Hancock, N.Y., in phone conversations with supporters in South Carolina and Texas. Jurors listened to many phone calls in which Doggart talked about burning down Islamberg’s mosque with explosives and shooting anyone who opposed his team with assault rifles.

Defense attorneys countered that Doggart exaggerated a number of facts, never had a consistent plan in place, was goaded by a confidential informant into carrying out the attack and only wanted to conduct peaceful recon on Islamberg. Defense attorney Jonathan Turner told jurors in his closing arguments that Doggart was convinced Islamberg’s residents wanted to carry out a terror attack on New York City, in part because of Fox News broadcasts.

Since his arrest in April 2015, Doggart has spent most of the time out on bond until his recent conviction.  After that verdict, Doggart’s defense attorneys had asked Judge Collier to let him stay on house arrest before his May 31 sentencing hearing, citing medical problems.  Collier denied the request saying Doggart appeared obsessed with the community of Islamberg and should stay in custody until sentencing.

 

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It’s been estimated that hundreds of tower blocks in England could be covered in similar cladding to Glenfell Tower.  So far tests have revealed that combustible cladding has been found on at least three tower blocks across the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May had ordered inspections of 600 high-rise buildings across Britain, after a massive fire in Grenfell Tower left at least 79 people dead and over 70 injured.  Dozens more are missing and presumed dead.  Workers were seen removing highly flammable cladding from a tower in North London.  The materials are similar to those used in the Grenfell high-rise, despite the fact the cladding is banned in the U.S. and Europe.

The June 14th fire started in the 24-storey, 220-foot high tower block of public housing flats in North Kensington, west London.  The tower contained 127 flats, with 227 bedrooms.    The fire started in a faulty fridge-freezer in a fourth-floor flat. The building’s recently added exterior cladding is believed to have played a role in the speed at which the fire spread.

Documents show that aluminium composite material (ACM) was used in Grenfell Tower’s rainscreen cladding. ACM is essentially a sandwich of two aluminium sheets with materials for insulation inside.  ACM panels often have a polyethylene core, which can be highly flammable. It is not yet clear whether this material was used in Grenfell Tower’s cladding.

Hundreds of firefighters and 45 fire engines were involved in efforts to control the fire which burned for 60 hours until it was finally extinguished.  Many firefighters continued to attempt to control pockets of fire on the higher floors after most of the rest of the building had been gutted. Residents of surrounding buildings were evacuated due to concerns that the tower could collapse, though the building was later determined to be structurally sound.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced a $5 million fund for victims of the fire; all those made homeless were to receive an initial down payment of $5,500, with each household to be given at least $500 in cash and $5,000 paid into an account. On June 21st, the government announced that 68 new flats in the same borough as Grenfell Tower are to be made available to survivors of the fire.

 

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After five days of deliberations, a jury has acquitted the Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all charges in shooting death of Philando Castile.  Officer Yanez, an officer for the suburb of St. Anthony, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting.  Yanez and the 12 jurors were quickly led out of the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

In July 2016, Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and was shot within 62 seconds of his encounter with Officer Yanez.  Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat, began Facebook livestreaming less than a minute after the shooting as her 4 year old daughter hid in the backseat and Castile slumped over dying.

Dash cam footage shows Officer Yanez approach the vehicle and exchange greetings with Castile and informing him of a brake light problem. He asks for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance.  Castile who had a concealed carry license hands the officer his insurance card and says “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Officer Yanez replies, “Okay” and places his right hand on the holster of his gun and says “Okay, don’t reach for it.” Castile responds “I’m not pulling it out,” as Officer Yanez continues to yell “Don’t pull it out.”  Yanez pulled his gun and fired seven shots in the direction of Castile.  Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!”  Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it”, which were his last words.

Reynolds started live-streaming onto Facebook about 40 seconds after the last shot.  In a shaky voice she explains that the officer has just killed her boyfriend and that he was licensed to carry.  Yanez can be heard shouting “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off of it.” Reynolds replies “He had, you told him to get his ID, sir, and his driver’s license. Oh my God. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.”

Officer Yanez’s recollection of the events was that Castile told him he had a gun at the same time he reached down between his right leg and the center console of the vehicle.  Yanez stated “He put his hand around something,” and said Castile’s hand took a C-shape, “like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”  Yanez said he then lost view of Castile’s hand.  “I know he had an object and it was dark,” he said. “And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”  Yanez said he thought Castile had the gun in his right hand and he had “no option” but to shoot.

Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., released a statement saying that Yanez will not return to the police department after the trial. They said they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”  “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”

Shortly after the verdict was announced, several hundred protesters amassed around the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul.  Police said about 500 activists later moved to Interstate 94, one of the main highways in the Twin Cities area. A few dozen people briefly moved onto the road itself while facing police in riot gear, but most of the protesters soon dispersed.