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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

3 Dead In UPS Shooting

 

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The gunman who killed three men at a UPS facility in San Francisco and then killed himself has been identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lam.  The victims were Wayne Chan, 56, and Benson Louie, 50, both of San Francisco; and 46-year-old Michael Lefiti of Hercules, California.  Two others were shot but survived the Wednesday morning shooting at the UPS San Francisco Customer Center.

Officers responded to a report of an active shooter about 8:55 a.m. local time at the UPS package sorting and delivery facility.  When officers entered the building, they found the suspect armed with an assault pistol.  The suspect immediately killed himself and no officers fired their weapons during the incident.

Lam, had worked as a driver for the Potrero Hill facility which employs 350 people.  He was wearing his uniform during the shooting spree and opened fire on coworkers during a morning meeting for UPS drivers.  Joseph Cilia, with a local Teamsters union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco has stated that Lam filed an internal grievance in March saying he was working excessive overtime.  Cilia told the Associated Press that Lam did not seem angry when he filed the grievance.

A police official said it appears that Lam felt disrespected by co-workers, but it’s not clear if that was the motivation for the bloodshed.  Lam appears to have targeted the three drivers he fatally shot.  Shaun Vu, a senior UPS driver, has said Lam also struggled with personal issues and was depressed a few years ago. Vu said that Lam had shown improvement but seemed troubled a few weeks ago-which was around the time he filed the grievance.

Another UPS driver Leopold Parker, who witnessed the shooting, said that he was standing a few feet behind Benson Louie during the morning meeting when Lam walked up and shot Louie in the head.  Lam then glanced at Parker but walked the other way so Parker jumped into the cab of his truck and later ran to the roof of the building.

Parker said drivers at the warehouse generally got along and didn’t mind working there. If they did have a problem with colleagues, they would talk to them or ignore them. He also stressed that drivers spent much of their time alone in their trucks, so they had limited interaction with their colleagues.  He recalls that Lam sometimes complained about the workload but he never suspected that he would turn violent.

Other witnesses said that Mike “Big Mike” Lefiti was fleeing from the building as Lam followed him into the street and shot him.  Mike McDonald, an area resident was walking home from work when he found Lefiti face down, bleeding profusely from the back.  McDonald stayed with him and tried to comfort him until help arrived.  McDonald said that in his final moments, Lefiti spoke lovingly about his three children.  “He said he loves his family, he loves his children and that he didn’t do anything to this man.”

Portland Train Stabbing

Two men died and a third is recovering after being stabbed on an Oregon train while defending two teenage girls from harassment.    Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, first-degree assault, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of intimidation.

According to witness accounts and the arrest affidavit, Christian boarded a MAX light rail train on Friday, May 26, at 4:19 p.m. at the Rose Quarter stop.  He then went on an anti-Islam tirade directed at two African-American teenagers on board — one who was wearing a traditional Muslim hijab. Christian shouted for the teens to get out of his country and to go home.

After making several threatening comments about “decapitating heads,” several men stepped in to diffuse the situation.  Frightened, the two teens moved to the back of the train while other passengers told him he couldn’t treat people that way.

Videos from the train camera and a passenger’s phone showed Christian “making a sudden move” toward one of the victims, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland. Namkai-Meche responded by standing up as Christian shouted into his face “Do something!”  Another passenger, 21-year-old Portland State University student, Micah Fletcher stood up as well and Christian shouted “Do something!” as he shoved Fletcher in the chest.

This is when Christian appears to pull a folded knife from his pocket that he concealed in his hand, the affidavit said.  Fletcher shoved Christian so hard the suspect lost his balance. Fletcher told Christian to get off the train and Christian shouted “hit me again”.

Video shows Christian swinging his arm and stabbing Fletcher in the neck.  He then  stabbed Namkai-Meche twice in the neck.  Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley moved forward to intervene and was stabbed in the neck.  Namkai-Meche had sat down to try to stop the bleeding from his wound when  Christian pushed Best into him and stabbed both men again.

When the train came to a stop Fletcher who was clutching his neck, exited the train as passengers on the platform tried to help him.  He was treated for his injuries and released by the hospital. Fletcher said in an interview that his injuries missed being fatal by one millimeter.

Ricky Best fell to the floor and two men rushed over to start CPR but the veteran and father of four, died at the scene.  Namkai-Meche lay on the floor as passengers-including one of the teens he defended-reassured him and tried to stop the bleeding.  He later died at the hospital.

The train video showed Christian grabbing his belongings and a bag dropped by the Muslim teenager and leaving the train while waving his knife as he got off the train.  He threatened several people on the platform with his knife and tossed the teen’s bag onto the freeway as he exited.  Several witnesses followed Christian and directed responding police officers to his whereabouts.

After his arrest, Christian admitted to drinking Sangria before and while on the train.  He has what appears to be an extremist ideology with an affinity for Nazis and political violence, according to his social media postings.

Twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured after a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert held in the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.  The explosion occurred as people were exiting the arena after the show ended.  Concert-goers and parents waiting to pick up their children were in the arena’s foyer when the bomb went off.  The dead included ten people under the age of 20, the youngest an eight-year-old girl.  Days later, 75 people remained hospitalized, 23 of them, including five children, in critical condition.

The sold out show was part of Ariana Grande’s 2017 Dangerous Woman Tour where up to 21,000 attended.  As news of the explosion quickly spread, residents and taxi companies in Manchester offered free transport or accommodation to those left stranded at the concert.   Nearby hotel became a shelter for children separated from parents in the aftermath of the explosion.  Many local temples, businesses and homeowners offered immediate shelter to victims as they waited for news of missing loved ones.

The day after the attack, Prime Minister Theresa May raised the terror threat level from severe to critical. A critical threat level means that it is believed another attack is imminent.  It also means members of the British military will be deployed throughout the country to supplement its police forces.  Nearly 4,000 soldiers were deployed nationwide in the wake of the bombing.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing which is the 13th deadly terrorist attack in Western Europe since the beginning of 2015.

The bomber was identified as 22 year old Salman Ramadan Abedi, a British Muslim who was born in Manchester to Libyan-born refugees.  Abedi was allegedly reported to authorities about his extremism, by as many as five people, including community leaders, neighbors and possibly family members.

Authorities had investigated him but did not consider him high risk at the time.  Authorities have revealed that Abedi had returned to the UK from Turkey four days prior to the attack.  French interior minister Gérard Collomb said that Abedi may have been to Syria, and had “proven” links with ISIS.  Manchester police believe Abedi used student loans to finance the plot, including travel overseas to learn bomb-making.

Police have conducted several raids and detained a total of eight people in connection to the attack and said they were investigating a “network” as the probe intensified.  Authorities have confirmed that Abedi’s father and younger brother have been arrested in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.  The brother was suspected of planning an attack in Libya and was said to be in regular touch with Salman.  Investigators believe his brother was aware of the plan to bomb the Manchester Arena, but not the date.  According to a Libyan official, the brothers spoke on the phone about 15 minutes before the attack was carried out in Manchester.

Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi was born in Libya but fled under fear of arrest by the brutal regime of Moammar Gadhafi in 1993. He won asylum in Britain, where his sons were born. Abedi later returned to Libya and works as an administrator for the government, which has been in disarray since Gadhafi was toppled in 2011.

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate President Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban on all refugees and citizens of six majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States.  The Justice Department has vowed to challenge the appeals court ruling and take it to the Supreme Court.

The court ruled 10-3 to uphold a ruling from a district court judge in Maryland that blocked a portion of the order that temporarily banned travel to the United States by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  In the majority decision, Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote that Trump’s executive order uses “vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

Judge Gregory listed televised interviews and numerous statements made at political rallies that, in the court’s view, indicated the true intentions of the order.  He cited a rally statement in which Trump called the second order a “watered down version” of the first order as well as a televised interview with Rudy Giuliani who said that Trump had asked him to devise an immigration ban within the bounds of legality.

The judge wrote that a reasonable observer would likely conclude the order’s “primary purpose is to exclude persons from the United States on the basis of their religious beliefs”.  The government argued that Trump’s comments on the campaign trail should not be taken into account since they occurred before he took office on Jan 20. The appeals court rejected that view, saying they provide a window into the motivations for Trump’s action in government.

The appeals court questioned a government argument that the president has wide authority to halt the entry of people to the United States.  They were reviewing a March ruling by Maryland-based federal judge Theodore Chuang that blocked part of Trump’s March 6 executive order barring people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days while the government put in place stricter visa screening. A similar ruling against Trump’s policy from a Hawaii-based federal judge is still in place. The Hawaii judge’s ruling also blocked a section of the travel ban that also suspended refugee admissions for four months. The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is still reviewing that decision.

The Trump administration has argued that the temporary travel ban is a national security measure aimed at preventing Islamist militant attacks. “That’s why it’s not a Muslim ban”.  The countries were not chosen because they are predominantly Muslim but because they present terrorism risks, the administration has said.

After the 4th Circuit Court ruling, Attorney-general Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the government would seek a review of the case at the Supreme Court.    White House spokesperson Michael Short said “These clearly are very dangerous times and we need every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence,” adding that the White House was confident the order would ultimately be upheld by the judiciary.

Members of the Trump administration and Pentagon officials are pushing for the deployment 3,000 to 5,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  Officials are also looking for the relaxation of restrictions on launching airstrikes.  The recommendation comes after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, warned the war has reached a stalemate. Trump is expected to decide whether to approve the deployment of additional troops later this month.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Kabul to speak with Nicholson just days after an attack by a Taliban-affiliated militants killed 140 Afghan troops, most of whom were unarmed in a mosque praying at their base.  The Pentagon’s proposal is aimed at countering the resilient Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan by adding thousands more troops closer to combat and bombarding the Taliban with airstrikes.  Army General John Nicholson told the Senate the security situation had deteriorated.  If approved, the decision would allow U.S. troops to partner with Afghan forces closer to the fight rather than just playing an advisory role.

The Pentagon had been focused on ending its presence in Afghanistan since 2001 but after the September 11th attacks, U.S. forces, with 100,000 troops deployed-helped topple the Taliban government that had given shelter to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

With the end of the combat mission “Enduring Freedom” and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the United States had pulled out most its troops in late 2014.  The Obama administration decided to leave a force of about 13,000 troops in place after responding to pleas from U.S. Commanders.  The 13,000 includes all active duty service personnel from all branches (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force), National Guard and Reserve as well as civilian employees of the Department of Defense and civilian contractors (APF) – which make up the smallest group.

There have been restrictions in place regarding how close Americans could accompany Afghan forces in combat and on bombing Taliban targets. Those rules were eased last year, and the Pentagon’s recent proposal would grant added authority for air strikes.    The current NATO-led operation in Afghanistan is called “Resolute Support” and aims to train and advise the Afghan security forces. Sporadic combat operations are left to Special Forces.  The U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan is America’s longest war and the Pentagon’s proposal means it won’t be ending any time soon.

 

 

Steve Stephens, the Cleveland killer who uploaded a video of himself shooting an elderly man on Easter Sunday-has killed himself after a police chase in Pennsylvania.  Stephens was on the run for two days after uploading a video of the senseless murder, as well as two other videos explaining why he committed the crime.  In a video made prior to the shooting, Stephens explains that he just snapped and that his ex-girlfriend Joy Lane was to blame for what he was about to do.  He mentions that he had lost everything he had to gambling debts and that he has tried to talk about his problems with friends and family but that they act like his problems aren’t that serious.

In the video of the killing, Stephens approaches Robert Godwin, a 74 year old grandfather of 14, as he is walking down the street.  Stephens asks Godwin if he knows Joy Lane and then makes the man repeat the name saying “Joy Lane is the reason this is about to happen to you”.  Godwin replies “Joy Lane, I don’t know any Joy Lane” as he raises his arms to protect himself-before being shot dead.  Godwin, 74, was shot while walking home from an Easter meal with his children in Cleveland.

After uploading the video on Facebook, Stephens posted a Facebook live video of himself driving in his car while talking on the phone and dubbing his crime spree “The Joy Lane Easter Massacre” while claiming to have already killed a dozen other people.  He claimed he would keep killing at random until Joy Lane or his mother called him.

Joy Lane, Stephens on again-off again girlfriend of a few years, told several news agencies that she tried to reach him shortly after the video surfaced but he did not pick up his phone.  She said she was overwhelmed by the tragedy and apologized for what had happened-wishing for prayers for the victim’s family.

After the video surfaced, Cleveland residents were left reeling in fear that an active shooter was still in the area killing innocent people at random.  For two days, authorities across the country scrambled to find Stephens, believing he may have headed east to family in New York.  On Sunday, Stephens’ cell phone pinged a cell tower 100 miles east of Cleveland, in Erie, Pennslyvania.

The manhunt came to an end shortly after an employee spotted Stephens’ white Ford Fusion in the drive-thru of a McDonald’s near Erie and called authorities.  The franchise owner said Stephens ordered chicken nuggets and fries at the McDonald’s drive-thru window in Harborcreek Township when employees recognized him.  Stephens was two cars behind in the drive-thru lane to pick up food as police were on their way.

The McDonalds employee’s tried to give police more time to arrive by telling Stephens the fries were not ready but he took the nuggets and left.  Authorities spotted him as he fled the area and gave chase.  Police said that an officer performed a “PIT” maneuver, a strategic way of ramming a car to disable it.  As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head.

Authorities were uncertain how long Stephens was in the area and don’t believe he had any accomplices.  No other victims have been confirmed.

Belgian prosecutors say they have arrested 16 people in raids, after the city of Brussels spent four days in a row on high alert. Twenty-two raids were conducted mostly in Brussels with several south of the city. No explosives or firearms were recovered in the arrests and fugitive Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks, was not among those arrested.

The Belgian capital has been essentially shut down after authorities said they received “concrete information” of a terrorist plot. Authorities fear that terrorists may be planning a Paris-style attack in Brussels. The country’s Crisis Center said the latest intelligence still points to a “serious and immediate threat.” After officials met, they decided to close schools and universities.

Europe’s capital was on the four-day lockdown of the city that eased Wednesday, returning children to school, opening many closed metro stations and allowing workers to go about their day. Authorities have been looking for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old who lived in Brussels and is suspected of taking part in the massacre. On Tuesday, Belgian authorities released the name of a second man they have been hunting, Mohamed Abrini, who was seen with Mr. Abdeslam in the days before the attacks with the same car used during the Paris assault.

The hunt continued for two men tied to the Paris attacks, and signs of further tensions between investigators in Belgium and France emerged. Belgium and France have traded barbs accusing each other of intelligence failures since the attacks. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that the French and Belgian intelligence services “collect information, but share very little.”

Appearing on Canal+, a French television network, he brushed off criticism that Belgium had failed to stop the main plotter of the Paris attacks and at least three of the accomplices, who all grew up in a Brussels district. This week, new signs emerged that suggested the two countries haven’t been fully cooperating with each other in the probe.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor has so far charged five individuals over the past week. A 39-year old Moroccan, Mr. Abraimi grew up in Molenbeek, the same neighborhood where at least three of the Paris attackers had lived, including the primary fugitive, Mr. Abdeslam. Mr. Abraimi is accused of having picked up Mr. Abdeslam, after he was brought back from Paris by two of his friends on the night of the attacks.

Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou, both in custody and charged with participation in a terrorist group, have admitted to having picked up Mr. Abdeslam, but say they knew nothing of his involvement in the terrorist attacks.