Tag Archive: Mark J Shuster


 

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Four Missouri police officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the assault of a fellow officer who was working undercover.  Officers Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Myers with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are accused of beating the undercover officer with a riot baton and tampering with witnesses to cover up the incident, according to the Department of Justice. Myers was also charged with destroying evidence. Officer Bailey Colletta was indicted on a charge of providing false statements to a federal grand jury in connection with the incident.

The indictment charges officers Dustin Boone, 35, Bailey Colletta, 25, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, with various felonies, including deprivation of constitutional rights, conspiracy to obstruct justice, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice.  One of the charges carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The other three carry a maximum of 20 years. All four counts have a maximum of $250,000 in fines.  All four officers have been placed on administrative leave without pay.

In September 2017, the officers were assigned to a Civil Disobedience Team, which conducts crowd control, in anticipation of a protest against the acquittal of Officer Jason Stockley in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.  Protests broke out in St. Louis and a 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department — referred to in the indictment as L.H. — was in the crowd working undercover as a protester to document crimes among the demonstrators so law enforcement could make arrests, according to the indictment.

The indictment claims the three officers believed Hall was a protester and assaulted him “while he was compliant and not posing a physical threat to anyone.”   The indictment alleges that Boone, Hays and Myers threw Luther Hall to the ground without probable cause and began to kick him and strike him with a riot baton.  Once Myers, Boone and Hays learned that Hall was a police officer, the indictment says, they made false statements justifying the assault, contacted Hall to dissuade him from taking legal action and contacted witnesses to try to influence their testimony.  Myers also destroyed Hall’s cellphone “with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation,” according to the indictment.

The indictment also details text messages between Myers, Boone and Hays prior to the incident.  “We really need these f**kers to start acting up so we can have some fun,” Boone texted, after they determined they were going to be on the same team.  “A lot of cops getting hurt, but it’s still a blast beating people that deserve it,” said another text from Boone.  He also remarked that he would be working with a black officer and referred to him as “a thug that’s on our side.”  Hayes also texted Boone “Remember we are in south city. They support us but also cameras. So make sure you have an old white dude as a witness.”

According to the indictment, Officer Colletta — who was in a romantic relationship at the time with Hays,  was on the team that night and offered inconsistent explanations as to why they arrested L.H.  Initially, Colletta said she had never come into contact with Hall that night. Then, she claimed that she witnessed the arrest and saw Hall taken to the ground “very gently.”  Colletta also said the group had “veered off” to arrest Hall, according to the indictment. The next day, she said she learned from her sergeant that they had stopped Hall because he fit the description of a radio dispatch yet in a later statement, she claimed she didn’t recall anyone saying that.

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Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has stepped down from plans to host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, following public outcry over his past homophobic tweets and comedy routines. The Academy named Hart host of the Oscars and less than 24 hours later, Hart was discovered to be rapidly deleting his past anti-gay social media posts amid a growing uproar. Hart initially refused to apologize over the comments, before offering his resignation from the Oscars ceremony with an apology.

Soon after Hart announced he would be hosting the Academy Awards, the actor began to delete a series of old tweets after twitter users began retweeting his past homophobic comments.  One Twitter user wrote, alongside screenshots of Kevin’s past tweets, “I wonder when Kevin Hart is gonna start deleting all his old tweets.”   One of the controversial tweets from 2011 read: “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay’.”  Hart made a similar comment about wanting his son to be heterosexual in a stand-up special in 2010.

Another Twitter sleuth went to the great lengths of searching every time Kevin used the words “Fag,” “homo” or “gay.”  They realized the comedian “seems to have basically stopped tweeting those words after 2011 — i.e. the year his first stand-up movie became a hit.”  While Hart has adamantly denied being homophobic, prior statements about his feelings seem conflicting to some. In a 2015 profile for Rolling Stone, he once said one of his “biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”  “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic… Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” he previously explained.

After the initial backlash, Hart shared an Instagram video where he said, “Stop looking for reasons to be negative…stop searching for reasons to be angry…I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people… there is nothing that you can do to change that….NOTHING. I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all…with that being said. If you want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I ‘m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming,” he continued. “You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU GROW & YOU MATURE. I live to Love…. Please take your negative energy and put it into something constructive. Please…What’s understood should never have to be said. I LOVE EVERYBODY..ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY. If you choose to not believe me then that’s on you…Have a beautiful day.”

The actor and comedian later announced that he’s dropping out of his scheduled hosting gig at the Oscars rather than issue a formal apology for the series of homophobic, years-old tweets.  “So I just got a call from the Academy, and that call basically said, ‘Kevin, apologize for your tweets of old, or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,’ talking about the tweets from 2009, 2010,” Hart said in a video he posted to Instagram on Thursday night, in which he appeared to be referencing tweets in which he used homophobic slurs. “I chose to pass. I passed on the apology. The reason I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.”

After the Instagram confession, Hart eventually issued an apology on Twitter stating that he’s sorry for hurting anyone and that he’s “evolving.” He then said, “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”

 

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The trial has begun for James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi charged with killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.  Twenty-one-year-old Fields is standing trial for first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident in connection with a car attack on Aug. 12, 2017.  He has entered a not guilty plea and faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of first degree murder.

Fields is accused of ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.  Video of the incident shows Field’s Dodge Challenger stopping a short distance from those marching in the area reversing, but then accelerating forward into them.  Witnesses say Fields slowly backed up his car in a downtown street then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, hitting numerous individuals including Heather Heyer before ramming into a sedan.  The impact sent people flying through the air.  A few seconds after the initial impact, Fields drove in reverse at a high rate of speed for several blocks- hitting more people.  Pedestrians who had avoided the attack chased Fields along Fourth Street until he turned left and sped off down Market Street.

A Virginia State Police Bell 407 helicopter followed the car and relayed its route to ground units.  A deputy stopped and arrested Fields about a mile from the attack.  Charlottesville Police Det. Steven Young, who arrived at the scene of Field’s arrest, testified that Fields appeared  shocked and repeatedly apologized while sobbing when he was told a woman had been killed.  Young said that the Dodge had holes in the rear window—made by counter-protesters after the initial impact and heavy front-end damage. Young said that the car was “splattered” with blood and flesh with a pair of blue sunglasses stuck in the spoiler on the car’s trunk.   Young also testified that footage from the Unite the Right rally earlier in the day shows Fields chanting homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs as he marched with others.  A short time later, the helicopter footage shows his car driving into the crowd.

Testimony in the trial has largely featured first-hand accounts from people who were injured by the car attack on Fourth Street, by the intersection with Water Street.  Survivors of the deadly crash testified that the mood among counter-protesters was upbeat and celebratory before Fields slammed his Dodge Challenger into another car, triggering a chain reaction that hurled people in different directions.   Witnesses recounted the chaotic scene and testified to a litany of injuries they suffered in the crash, some of which they are still recovering from.

Ryan Kelly, a photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for a photo he took that captured the moment Field’s car made impact with the crowd, also testified in the trial.  He testified that he saw the Challenger slowly backing up the hill. “I thought it was trying to get out of the way,” Kelly testified.  Then, he said he heard tires screech and saw the car speed past him on 4th Street.  “I saw the car accelerate the whole way into the protestors,” he said. “It was going fast into the crowd.”  Survivor and witness Star Peterson is also expected to testify in the trial.  Her right leg was crushed by Fields’ car resulting in her having five surgeries.  She still uses a wheelchair and cane.

Separately, a Virginia grand jury has charged Fields with 30 federal hate crime charges, some of which could result in the death penalty.  He has pled not guilty in those charges as well and no trial date has been set.

 

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Twelve people are dead after a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.  Police identified the gunman as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a Marine veteran who had deployed to Afghanistan and had a history of mental health issues.  Long was found dead inside the kitchen area of the bar when the SWAT team entered the building.  Most of the victims were college students attending country music night.  Authorities said as many as 22 people had been injured and taken to the hospital.  Nine men and three women were killed in the shooting including a 27-year-old Navy veteran who survived the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting during the Route 91 Harvest festival.

Police say that at around 11:20 p.m., Long shot security guard Sean Adler, 48, just outside the bar with a legally purchased .45-caliber Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol with a banned high-capacity magazine.  Long entered the bar and began throwing smoke bombs before firing approximately 30 rounds into the crowd of more than 150 people.  Patrons dropped to the ground, dashed under tables, hid in the bathroom and ran for exits, stepping over bodies sprawled across the floor.

Three minutes after the first 911 calls, 54 year old Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer arrived at the scene.  The officers heard gunshots coming from the building.  Helus ran inside and was immediately shot by the gunman.   The Highway Patrol Officer dragged Helus outside to safety but died from his injuries hours later.  The other victims included Cody Coffman, 22; Alaina Housley, 18; Justin Meek, 23; Daniel Manrique, 33; Noel Sparks, 21; Jake Dunham, 21; Blake Dingman, 21; Kristina Morisette, 20; Marky Meza Jr., 20 and Telemachus Orfanos, 27.  Orfanos’s family said he had survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival that left 58 people dead.

In fact, many regular patrons of the Borderline Bar & Grill were survivors of the Route 91 mass shooting.    A regular patron, Brendan Kelly, 22, was among those who survived both the Vegas massacre and the shooting at the Borderline.  “It was our home for the probably 30 or 45 of us who are from the greater Ventura County area who were in Vegas. That was our safe place where we went to the following week, three nights in a row just so we could be with each other.”

Police say that Long frequented the Borderline Bar & Grill and had previous run-ins with the law, including a disturbance in April at Long’s home where he lived with his mother.  Police say he was irate and acting irrationally.  He was evaluated by mental health professionals but was cleared by the specialists.  Long served in the Marine Corps and was on active duty from August 2008 to March 2013, according to Defense Department records.  Long had been married in 2009 in Honolulu, Hawaii, but was divorced in April 2013 in Ventura County, California.

Friends of Long described him as a loner but said he was stable and didn’t show any signs of aggression.  Neighbors tell a different story, with some saying they’d frequently heard him arguing with his mother at all hours and others keeping their distance because he seemed troubled.  Police have not disclosed a motive in the shooting.

 

 

 

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A 24-year-old woman is facing 3 counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of disregarding a stop sign and causing injury after the pickup truck she was driving struck and killed three siblings who were crossing the road to get to their school bus in rural Rochester, Indiana.  Six-year-old twin brothers Xzavier Ingle and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, died at the scene Tuesday morning.  The children’s classmate and neighbor, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was also hit.  He was airlifted to the hospital and remains hospitalized in critical condition.  The children were crossing State Route 25 to get to their school bus when they were hit at about 7:15 a.m. in front of the Meiser mobile home park where they lived.

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. bus had stopped on the two lane road, lowered its stop-arm and had the emergency lighting activated just before the northbound Toyota Tacoma pickup truck slammed into the children as they crossed the southbound lane.  Alyssa L. Shepherd, of Rochester, was arrested at her workplace, was charged and released on a $15,000 bond.  Shepard told an Indiana State Police detective that she saw flashing emergency lights on the rural highway but didn’t realize it was a school bus picking up the children until it was too late.  By the time she realized a bus was stopped, the children were already in front of her vehicle.  Their father rushed out of their home and identified them after police arrived to investigate, officials said.  State Police Detective Michelle Jumper testified at a probable cause hearing into charges against Alyssa Shepherd, the bus driver told investigators he saw the oncoming truck’s headlights. The bus driver stated that because the truck was far back and had plenty of time to slow, the driver waved to the children, telling them to cross.  The bus driver honked the horn when it was clear the truck wasn’t stopping.  Jumper testified that Shepherd told her she typically did not drive on the route where the crash occurred and that she had three children in the back seat of her truck when she allegedly struck and killed the three siblings.

A witness driving behind Shepherd said she and Shepherd were traveling 45 mph. The witness said the truck’s headlights illuminated the children as they were crossing the road and she said she started to freak out as she realized ‘I’m slowing down, but that truck in front of me is not slowing.”  Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash, cooperating with investigators. She was given a blood test as is standard in all fatal crashes, but police said they do not think alcohol or drugs were a factor.  Shepard who works as children’s director at Faith Outreach, a Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester then went to work to pray.

Parents who live in the mobile home park had previously asked the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation to change the bus route so the children didn’t have to cross State Route 25 to catch the bus. Parents complained that it was dangerous for children to cross a highway where vehicles routinely travel at 50 to 60 mph.  Elgin Ingle, the uncle of the children who died said “There’s plenty of room for the school bus to pull into the mobile home park and pick up these kids.  This school has been warned that this is an issue.  My brother is torn apart, he didn’t lose one kid, he lost all his kids,” Ingle said. “How do you tell your little brother it’ll get better? You can’t. My brother, the most loving man in the world and the best father I’ve ever known, now is a father to no one.”  Blaine Conley, superintendent of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, released a statement that stating that the bus stop will be relocated from State Road 25 into the mobile home park where the children lived.

 

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After weeks of denials and shifting narratives on the whereabouts of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the government of Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that Khashoggi is dead.  Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and was never seen again. Saudi officials now say Khashoggi was killed in a “fistfight” inside the consulate and that 18 Saudis had been arrested in connection with the death.

Turkish officials still maintain that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered by a squad of 15 Saudi hit men shortly after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  They claim that audio and video recordings show Saudi officials used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s body.  They maintain that it was a premeditated hit carried out by a squad of hit men and that one of the men was a forensic specialist specifically brought in to conceal the crime.

CNN aired CCTV footage obtained from the Turkish authorities, showing the Saudi agent Mustafa Mohammed Madani, a member of the 15-man team, leaving the consulate by the back door.  Madani was dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes, aside for mismatched shoes.  He had also put on a fake beard that resembled Khashoggi’s facial hair, his glasses and his Apple Watch.  Madani, who was of similar age, height, and build to Khashoggi, left the consulate from its back door and was later seen at Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, where he went to a public bathroom and changed back to his own clothes and discarded Khashoggi’s clothes.

The body double footage bolstered Turkish claims that the Saudis always intended either to kill Khashoggi or move him back to Saudi Arabia.  Anonymous Turkish officials believe that Madani was brought to Istanbul to act as a body double and that “You don’t need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation. Our assessment has not changed since October 6.  This was a premeditated murder, and the body was moved out of the consulate.”

An anonymous Saudi official claims Khashoggi had been threatened with kidnapping by Maher Mutreb and when he resisted, he was restrained with a chokehold, which killed him.  Madani then left the consulate through the back door dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes.  Khashoggi’s body was rolled up in a carpet and given to a “local cooperator” for disposal.  The official claims it was Mutreb who overstepped by threatening a kidnapping and accidental killing.  The team then filed a false report indicating they let Khashoggi leave after he warned of Turkish police interference.  The official provided Saudi documents indicating the operation was part of a wider initiative to bring expatriate dissidents home and the original plan was to keep Khashoggi in an Istanbul safe house for a period where he would be persuaded to return home or eventually released.  Many have been skeptical of their claims and still believe the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the hit.

Saudi officials again changed their story after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said that evidence shared by Turkish officials suggests that the killing was premeditated.  They now admit that the killing was premeditated and carried out by a rogue team, still maintaining that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no prior knowledge of the killing.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has directly accused Saudi Arabia of the premeditated murder, calling it a political killing orchestrated by Saudi officials.  Erdogan urged Saudi Arabia to disclose who ordered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the identity of a “local cooperator” involved in the murder plot.  He also called for the Saudi suspects to be tried in Turkey.  Erdogan said Turkey has more information about the case than it has shared so far, suggesting he could release more details if the Saudis refuse to reveal vital information.

 

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Federal authorities have made an arrest in the pipe bomb mailings four days after the investigation began.  Cesar Sayoc, a 56 year old DJ and former stripper, is accused of sending 13 pipe bombs through the mail to a range of Democrats and critics of the president.  Authorities say Sayoc left a trail of forensic and digital evidence behind that authorities used to track him down and arrest him.  Prosecutors charged Sayoc with five federal crimes and he faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Sayoc, who has a long criminal history, was arrested in Florida after investigators linking DNA found on two bomb packages to a sample that was previously collected by the state of Florida.  They also matched his fingerprints to one from a separate pipe bomb mailing he sent.  Authorities say  he had previously filed for bankruptcy and appeared to be living in his van, showering on the beach or at a local fitness center.

Authorities launched an investigation after packages containing homemade pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats.  The packages were sent to Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Soros, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Congress member Maxine Waters and former CIA Director John Brennan.  Investigators say the devices may have originated in southern Florida and were sent through the U.S. Postal Service. The 10 packages being examined had a return address for Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and on some of the packages, her last name was misspelled.

CNN had to evacuate its New York office in Manhattan after it received what police described as a “live explosive device.”  The package was delivered by courier to CNN’s offices at the Time Warner Center in New York and was addressed to the former CIA director John Brennan.  The package also contained an envelope containing white powder.   Police are also investigating a suspicious package found early this morning that was mailed to actor Robert De Niro’s restaurant in New York. De Niro has frequently publicly criticized the president.  Two additional packages were intercepted Thursday, headed for former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware.  Authorities discovered the two packages at post offices in Delaware addressed to the former vice president.  At least one of them had been misaddressed and returned to sender.  No one was hurt in any of the cases.

Authorities say the devices sent to Soros, Brennan and the Democratic officials appeared to be pipe bombs that were rudimentary but functional.  All the explosive devices had similar construction, had timer devices and at least one contained projectiles, including shards of glass.  Sources say the bombs were unstable and could have been set off by handling.  The FBI said all the packages were in manila envelopes with bubble-wrap interior and had six American flag Forever stamps on the envelopes.

Investigators are analyzing the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply cause fear before the Midterm Election.  Law enforcement officials said that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged to explode upon opening. They are uncertain whether the devices were just poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.

 

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A 14-year-long oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico is set to become one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history. The leak is releasing between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day off the coast of Louisiana.  The spill started in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan battered the area resulting in a mudslide that sank an oil production platform.  The platform is owned by Taylor Energy and the oil wells have not been capped and continue to spill into the Gulf.

Taylor Energy kept the spill a secret for six years until environmental groups discovered it while monitoring the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill just a few miles away.  In 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that 16,000 gallons were flowing from the well into the surrounding water each day.  Just last month, the Department of Justice submitted an independent study that claims previous evaluations of the damage, submitted by the platform’s owner Taylor Energy Co. and compiled by the US Coast Guard, significantly underestimated the amount of oil being leaked.  The study gave a new estimate of between 10,000 and 30,000 gallons of oil leaking from wells around the platform each day.

In the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 176 million gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf, contaminating 1,300 miles of shoreline and killed thousands of marine mammals and contaminated their habitats.  The spill lasted 87 days and a range of protected species were exposed to oil during the spill.  If the estimates of the Taylor Energy spill are correct then between 81 and 153 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over the last 14 years.  With no plan to stop the flow of oil, the Taylor Energy spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever offshore oil spill in US history.

Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008.  In 2015, Taylor Energy settled a lawsuit with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).  A complaint filed in relation to the suit, Taylor Energy claimed the sheen at the site of the Taylor spill was “residual” and “there is no evidence to suggest” an ongoing leak. The company also claimed it had been fully compliant with US Coast Guard regulations regarding the spill.

The Taylor Energy oil spill has been well-known to people in the area for years but has never maintained national conversation because it isn’t as “in your face” as the Deepwater Horizon spill.  This leak has managed to fall through the cracks for over a decade and is set to potentially become the worst leak in US history because its effects are not immediately seen and because of flawed estimates when it was discovered.  Companies responsible for significant spills report them to the National Response Center operated by the Coast Guard.  Mandatory reports from the company are then submitted containing regular aerial measurements showing the iridescent sheen on the water that appears to the naked eye.  Estimates of spills are calculated by calculating those measurements with the estimated minimum thickness the oil needs to be to cast such a sheen.

The initial estimates when the leak was discovered in 2010 are based on the reporting from Taylor Energy.  The Department of Justice findings are based on estimates of satellite imagery.  Some of the resulting measurements of the oil leakage were 17 times larger than Taylor Energy’s initial estimates.  The numbers show the volume of the spill is much higher but the environmental impact remains unknown.  There hasn’t been enough public or political pressure for research to figure out the damage of a long-term, chronic leak.

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Thousands of Central American undocumented migrants are heading toward the United States as they flee rampant violence and economic deprivation.  The caravan of about 4,000 Honduran migrants has reportedly grown to around 7,000 as their journey continues toward the U.S. border.  The US President has threatened to cut foreign aid to Central American countries, nullify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal if Mexico doesn’t stop the migrants, and even deploy troops to “close” the border.

The Mexican government had ordered the migrants to submit to processing by the immigration authorities at a legal border crossing but many said they feared being deported and the group kept moving north.  The Mexican authorities warned as the migrants approached that only travelers with valid documents and visas, or with claims for asylum or other forms of protection, would be allowed into Mexico. They threatened deportation for those who tried to enter illegally and said they would process the migrants one by one.

Mexican officials said they received more than 1,000 asylum requests from caravan members at the border. Some migrants were taken to a local fairground that had been converted into a temporary government shelter. Many others remained on a bridge spanning the Suchiate River, waiting to be processed by Mexican officials.  The vast majority of the caravan’s members have refused to apply for refuge in Mexico, worried that the process could lead to their detention or deportation.

Mexican officials have said migrants seeking asylum are under no legal obligation to apply in Mexico.  Under a proposed bilateral agreement, United States border officials would be able to legally turn back asylum seekers who first pass through Mexico, forcing them to seek protection south of the border.  Mexican officials encouraged the migrants to apply for asylum but made little effort to halt the massive group that stretched along this city’s main highway for more than a half-mile.  Federal police officers were present on the road, monitoring the procession, and a police helicopter circled overhead, but the authorities allowed the procession to carry on unimpeded.

The caravan is part of a tradition of mass migrations, often organized by advocacy groups, meant to provide safety in numbers to migrants, who face many threats to their safety along the perilous migrant trail.  These caravans usually number in the hundreds, passing through unnoticed, but the current caravan, which continues to grow, is by far the largest on record.

Many of the migrants have previously lived in the United States, for years or even decades, before being deported.  Many say they joined the caravan to reunite with their children, or to resume old jobs and seem undeterred by the American authorities who had apprehended them and promised to keep them out.  Some say they returned to their home countries voluntarily when their visas expired but have longed for a better life.  Some members of the caravan plan to apply for political asylum, citing the threats they’ve received from gangs in Honduras or, in Nicaragua, the government’s assaults on the political opposition.

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Russian officials say the gunmen who killed 21 people and wounded 53 more before killing himself at a vocational school in Crimea was an 18 year old student of the school.  The shooter, identified as Vladislav Roslyakov, described as a shy loner, also set off an explosive device.  He committed suicide in the library after the assault at Kerch Polytechnic College.  Officials are still investigating a motive in the attack which is the deadliest instance of school violence in the region since the 2004 Beslan terror attack, which killed 333 people, most of them children.

At first, officials reported a gas explosion at the school but later said an explosive device had ripped through the cafeteria during lunchtime in a suspected terrorist attack.  Eventually, the attack was classified as a mass murder attack at the school carried out by one person.  The Investigative Committee said the homemade explosive device rigged with shrapnel went off in the school lunchroom and a second explosive device was later found and destroyed.

Guns are tightly restricted in Russia. Civilians can own only hunting rifles and smooth-bore shotguns and must undergo significant background checks.  Local officials said Roslyakov had only recently received a permit to own a shotgun which he bought on September 8th.    Officials say Roslyakov bought 150 rounds of ammunition at a gun shop on October 13.  Just four days later on October 17th, he entered the school grounds at about 11:46 a.m. and began his attack.  Several witnesses described the gunman walking up and down the halls at Kerch Polytechnic College and firing randomly at classmates and teachers. He also fired at computer monitors, locked doors and fire extinguishers.  A survivor of the attack said the shooting lasted about 15 minutes.

Security footage at the school shows Roslyakov enter the technical college carrying a sports bag and bypassing security.  He then entered the school’s lunchroom with a rucksack and leaving without it.  The footage captures him going up to the school’s first floor empty-handed just before a fire ball and a massive explosion blows out windows and doors on the ground floor.  Roslyakov is then shown walking towards a female teacher in a corridor and gunning her down, before shooting an approaching student.  A security camera image carried by Russian media showed Roslyakov, calmly walking down the stairs of the school with the shotgun in his gloved hand while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Hate.”

A video taken by an unknown survivor of the attack shows a terrified group of students and staff running through a hallway as gunshots and screaming can be heard nearby.  The group talk in whispers as they search for safety, not knowing where the gunmen is.  The video shows them briefly in a classroom and then another hallway.  They approach a stairwell and see a body on the stairs below before turning back down the hall and down another stairwell.  Terrified, they cautiously look down the stairs before making a run through a doorway and to an outside exit.

If you’re thinking some details in this story sound very familiar you are correct.  His outfit resembled that of Eric Harris, one of the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.  The Columbine attackers also tried but ultimately failed to detonate an explosive device in the cafeteria.  Similar to Columbine, Roslyakov also retreated to the school library to commit suicide after the attack.  A friend of the shooter said he had an interest in the Columbine school shooting in the US.  Also leading to speculation that the massacre was a copycat crime is the fact that some Russian news outlets have reported that Roslyakov belonged to a fan club on social media for the columbine shooters.  Russian news outlets have dubbed the shooting the “Russian Columbine,” because of the similarities.