7 Dead in Texas Shooting Spree

 

 

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A gunman killed seven people and injured 22 others on Saturday in the city of Odessa in western Texas.  Police have identified the gunman as 36-year-old Seth Ator and say he went on the rampage just hours after he was fired from his trucking job. Police say the massacre began after an officer pulled Ator over for failing to use a turn signal. He then reportedly opened fire using an AR-15-style weapon before speeding away. Soon after, he began shooting randomly at residents and motorists as he drove between the cities of Odessa and Midland.

During a press conference the day after the shooting, FBI special agent Christopher Combs identified the shooter and gave more details into the timeline of the shooting.  Combs said that Ator showed up to work enraged and was then fired from his job at Journey Oilfield Services.  Police say the firing led to both him and his employer calling the cops on each other because they were having a disagreement over the firing.  By the time police arrived to calm down the situation, the soon-to-be mass killer was gone.  Combs said 15 minutes later, Ator made a second call to the FBI national tip line.  “It was frankly rambling statements about some of the atrocities he felt he had gone through. He did not make a threat during that phone call. He ended that phone call. After that phone call, we initiated all of our law enforcement procedures trying to figure out who he was, where he was. Unfortunately, it was only 15 minutes before the trooper was engaged.”

The shooting spree began on Aug. 31st at 3:17 p.m. during a traffic stop on Interstate 20, where a Texas state trooper was shot while attempting to stop a Honda over a failure to signal a left turn.  Ator continued into Odessa, Texas, and shot another person on the Interstate.  In Odessa, he abandoned the Honda, hijacked a United States Postal Service truck, killing the postal worker and continued to drive and shoot people before police cornered him in a movie theater parking lot.  Ator was killed in the shootout with police in the parking lot of a Cinergy movie theater.  Ator killed seven people, ranging in age from 15 to 57.  Twenty-two others were hospitalized for injuries.  Among the injured are three police: a Texas state trooper, a Midland police officer, and an Odessa police officer. The youngest victim is a wounded 17-month-old child who is expected to recover.

The shooting spree lasted roughly an hour, with the gunmen shooting people at random as they walked through their front yards, walked through parking lots and went about their day.  Police say the gunmen drove in no particular pattern, doubling back from Odessa to Midland, spraying people with bullets as he drove.  During the frenzied hour, dispatchers and officers guided EMT to a growing number of locations as the calls kept coming in.  Ator’s vehicle switch only added to the confusion as the police in both communities scrambling to head to the scene of each call in hopes of stopping the shooter.  At one point during the chaos, officers believed they had two shooters due to the vehicle switch and multiple locations and officers requested that the Midland area be shut down immediately.

On September 1, the FBI said it was executing a search warrant at the suspect’s house, located about 20 minutes west of Odessa. Authorities say Ator lived alone, except for a small dog, in western Ector County in a metal shack that lacked electricity, plumbing, a floor and even furniture.  Police say in January 2014, Ator failed a national criminal background check when he tried to purchase a gun.  The system flagged him as ineligible because of a prior local court determination that he was mentally unfit.  According to law enforcement officials, Ator subsequently bought the gun used in the shooting via a private sale, without having to go through a background check.

A neighbor said that well before his killing spree he had yelled at her while carrying a big rifle. She also said he sometimes shot animals from his roof, about which she had complained to police, but they never responded to her complaint.  Police never visited Ator’s home because they couldn’t find the property on GPS maps.  Another neighbor said that her family had lived near Ator for the past five months and were afraid of him, due to his nighttime rabbit shooting and banging on their door early one morning.

All seven victims from the shooting have now been identified: 29-year-old Mary Granados, the postal worker who was killed when the gunman hijacked her postal truck; 57-year-old Rodolfo Arco was shot on his way home from work; 30-year-old Kameron brown was an army vet who served in Afghanistan; 40-year-old Joe Griffith, a resident in Odessa; 25-year-old Edwin Peregrino, a graduate of Perryton High School; 35-year-old Raul Garcia of El Paso and 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez who was shot outside of a car dealership.

 

 

 

 

 

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5th Death Linked to Vaping

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Five deaths in the US have been linked to vaping as health officials continue to grapple with the dangers of e-cigarette use and the exact cause of the deaths.  All five died after developing a severe lung illness that is believed to be linked to vaping.  The exact cause of the deaths and the dangers of vaping still remain unclear but are being investigated on both the federal and state level.

More than 450 possible cases of respiratory illnesses have been reported in 33 states after use of e-cigarette products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The average age of those with the illness is 19, which is not surprising considering of the almost 10 million vapers in the US, nearly half of those are under 35, with 18-24-year-olds the most regular users.

Those who have suffered from the lung illness reported experiencing coughing, chest pain or shortness of breath before their health deteriorated to the point of respiratory failure and they needed to be hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory failure is where your body either can’t break down oxygen, produce carbon dioxide, or both. The result is that your lungs stop working and breathing becomes difficult.  Other reported symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss. Many victims have ended up with acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs and prevents the oxygen people’s bodies need to function from circulating in the bloodstream.

Those affected used a number of different devices from vaporizers to smaller e-cigarettes and a variety of different brands of liquids and cartridges.  Health officials recently said many cases involved products that contained THC, the mind-altering substance in marijuana.  The FDA has now collected over 120 samples to test for different chemicals, including nicotine, cannabinoids, additives and pesticides.

They also recently identified a common contaminant in some of the cannabis products used by patients across the country — an oil derived from vitamin E.  It remains unclear whether this is the cause or one of the causes of the illnesses.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement that advised against using electronic cigarettes while it investigates the issue.   The agency also said people should stop buying vaporizers, cartridges and liquids off the street or modifying vaping products bought legally.

New York Health officials have focusing their investigation on Vitamin E acetate after they found high levels of it in nearly all of the cannabis-containing vapes tested.  At least one vape containing both cannabis and vitamin E has been linked to every patient who submitted products for testing, the New York health department said.  Vitamin E isn’t known to be harmful if ingested as a vitamin supplement, but it could be dangerous if inhaled because of its “oil-like” properties. It has not been approved as an additive for New York’s medical marijuana program.

Federal health officials are warning that vitamin E is likely only one piece of the puzzle. The CDC is running its own tests on more than 100 samples for vitamin E, pesticides, opioids, poisons and other toxins.  “No one substance or compound, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all the samples tested,” Zeller said. “The samples we’re continuing to evaluate show a mix of results.”

Judge Orders Johnson & Johnson To Pay $572 Million In Opioid Crisis

 

 

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Oklahoma Judge Thad Balkman has found that Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis, and ordered the pharma giant to pay over half a billion dollars — $572 million. It’s the first major ruling against a drug company as part of the opioid epidemic, which has led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths around the country.  The decision is the first to hold a drugmaker culpable for the fallout of the liberal opioid dispensing that began in the late 1990s which led to a nationwide epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction.

More than 400,000 people in the US have died of overdoses from painkillers, heroin and illegal fentanyl since 1999.  In Oklahoma, more than 6,000 people have died of painkiller overdoses since 2000, the state charged in court papers, as the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies reached 479 every hour in 2017.  Johnson & Johnson’s products — a prescription opioid pill and a fentanyl skin patch sold by its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, were a small part of the painkillers consumed in Oklahoma.  Two other companies it owned had grown, processed and supplied 60 percent of the ingredients in painkillers sold by most drug companies in the US.

The decision has been hailed as a victory but the damages are much lower than the $17 billion Oklahoma had sought in the case.  Balkman did not give the state everything it sought, the state attorneys asked for $17.5 billion over 30 years for treatment, emergency care, law enforcement, social services and other addiction-related needs.  Judge Balkman concluded it would cost $572 million to address the crisis in the first year based on the state’s plan. He said the state did not provide “sufficient evidence” of the time and money needed to respond after that.

There are about 2,000 lawsuits in 40 other states against opioid manufacturers and distributors that are pending around the country.  A massive federal lawsuit brought by almost 2,000 cities, counties and Native American tribes is scheduled to begin in October.  The ruling in the first state case to go to trial could influence both sides’ strategies in the months and years to come.

Moments after the judge ruled, Johnson & Johnson, which has denied wrongdoing, said it would appeal. Company attorney Sabrina Strong said at a news conference, “We are disappointed and disagree with the judge’s decision. We believe it is flawed.  We have sympathy for those who suffer from opioid use disorder but Johnson & Johnson did not cause the opioid abuse crisis here in Oklahoma or anywhere in this country.”

Oklahoma settled in March with Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, accepting $270 million from the company and its owners, the Sackler family, who were not named as defendants in the lawsuit. Most of that will go to a treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University, although the federal government is seeking a portion of the money. In May, two days before the trial began, the state settled with Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-based manufacturer of generic drugs, for $85 million.  The Sackler family has also offered to settle the more than 2,000 lawsuits against them for their role in the opioid crisis for $10 billion to $12 billion which includes $3 billion from the Sackler family fortune. The deal was reportedly discussed last week by Purdue’s lawyers and includes a plan for Purdue to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring into a for-profit “public benefit trust” that would allegedly serve the many plaintiffs suing the company. The Sackler family would also relinquish ownership of Purdue under the deal.

RI Corrections Officer Resigns After Driving Truck Into Protesters

 

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The Rhode Island correctional officer accused of driving his truck into a group of peaceful protesters has resigned amid an investigation into the incident that occurred during a protest outside the Wyatt Detention Center.  Captain Thomas Woodworth resigned days after the incident after after initially being placed on leave.

Woodworth was seen behind the wheel of a pickup truck that drove into a crowd of protesters.  The Jewish activist group that started the protest, Never Again Action, released a statement that they are glad Woodworth resigned.  The group also called on authorities to punish the correctional officers that used pepper spray on the crowd of protesters surrounding the truck.

The detention center, owned by a municipal quasi-public agency, has been under scrutiny for months after entering an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees while they await trial. Approximately 139 federal immigration detainees are currently being housed at Wyatt.  The protest was attended by an estimated 500 people who gathered at the facility around 7PM.  The group heard from local faith leaders and community activists, leading one another in chants and songs outside the facility.

Anticipating a shift change by guards, around 30 members of the group moved to block the main parking lot used by employees of the prison at around 9PM. Harvey says they intended to use “peaceful protest in the civil disobedience mode” to disrupt Wyatt’s operations for a few hours.  When the incident occurred, protesters were standing in front of the entrance to the facility, holding hands to form a chain. Another group of protesters sat on the ground, blocking off access to a staff parking lot.  A video showed a pickup truck, driven by Woodworth, 64, driving into the seated protesters, hitting some and sending others running. The protest group says one person has a broken leg.  The truck stopped and honked at the protesters surrounding it, before continuing to drive forward. Several officers were seen on video misting the crowd with what appears to be pepper spray after asking them to move away from the truck.

After Woodworth drove into the crowd, officers from the facility poured into the parking lot and used pepper spray against the protesters. Of the five people who were hospitalized following the incident, two were treated for injuries related to Woodworth’s attack including 64-year-old Jerry Belair, of Warren, who suffered a broken leg and internal bleeding.  Three others were treated for pepper spray-related injuries – including one woman in her 70s.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office said in a statement that it is working with Rhode Island State Police to investigate the event.  “Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans,” the attorney general’s office said. “It is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did.”  Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin said that his office is investigating the incident and looking at how the facility responds to protests.

Authorities In 3 States Make Arrests After Threats of Mass Shootings

 

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Authorities in three states say they made arrests that prevented three mass shootings.  In the wake of the latest mass shootings in California and Texas, authorities are on high alert to any potential threats of violence and have been diligently investigating any reports of potential shooters.  The arrests have been made after authorities received tips, prompting investigations and ultimately, the arrests of three men in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio.

In Connecticut, 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol was arrested after authorities said he had expressed interest in committing a mass shooting on Facebook, according to a statement from the FBI and the Norwalk Police Department.  He faces four charges of illegal possession of large capacity magazines and is being held on a $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court September 6.  According to the statement, authorities received a tip that Wagshol was trying to buy large capacity rifle magazines from out of state.  As the FBI and the Norwalk Police Department were investigating the tip, they discovered Wagshol was trying to build his own rifle and had allegedly posted on Facebook about his interest in committing a mass shooting, the statement said.

Authorities executed a search warrant at his home and found multiple weapons, including a handgun, a rifle and rifle scope with a laser, numerous rounds of ammunition, body armor, a ballistic helmet and other tactical gear.  Police say some of the weapons were registered to Wagshol’s father but he had access to them.

In Daytona Beach, FL, Tristan Scott Wix, 25, was arrested after his ex-girlfriend alerted authorities that he sent her a series of disturbing texts in which he allegedly threatened to commit a mass shooting, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.   In the messages, Wix said he wanted to open fire on a large crowd of people.  One message allegedly read “A good 100 kills would be nice.”  According to the sheriff’s office, Wix already had a location in mind, “A school is a weak target.. I’d be more likely to open fire on a large crowd of people from over 3 miles away.. I’d wanna break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever,” another message read, according to the sheriff’s office.  Wix wrote that he wanted to die and “have fun doing it,” authorities said.  Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood said they had recovered a .22-caliber hunting rifle and 400 rounds of ammo in Wix’s apartment. Wix had initially told investigators he did not own any firearms but that he was fascinated with mass shootings, the sheriff’s office said.  Wix was being held without bond Sunday at the Volusia County Branch Jail.

In Ohio, 20-year-old James Patrick Reardon was arrested for allegedly threatening to carry out a shooting at a Youngstown Jewish community center.  An Instagram account belonging to Reardon shared a video that showed a man firing a gun.  The post — which was shown to an officer out on an unrelated call — tagged the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown.  It’s unclear whether the man shooting the gun was Reardon or someone else.  A search warrant was executed and authorities found a cache of weapons and ammunition.  Reardon was arrested without incident and booked into the Mahoning County Jail on one count of telecommunications harassment and one count of aggravated menacing.

Newark NJ Water Crisis

 

 

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Newark, New Jersey’s water crisis is growing worse as authorities temporarily halted their distribution of bottled water to families whose tap water is contaminated with lead.  The Environmental Protection Agency told city officials to distribute bottled water “as soon as possible,” after it determined that water filters were ineffective at safely filtering lead from the water supply of thousands of homes. State and local officials began offering free bottled water to 15,000 Newark households, and hundreds of people queued in long lines in the summer heat for their allotment.  Officials stopped handing out the water after discovering many of the bottles had exceeded their best-by date.

The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States.  City and state officials have been violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in several ways, such as failing to treat its water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ drinking water and neglecting to notify people about the elevated levels and the health risks.  For years, the city has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned children in New Jersey. This likely stems from a variety of exposures to lead, including from contaminated tap water and other sources.

One way lead particles get into water is through corrosion in pipes and it’s believed to be the cause in Newark.  The metal in lead service plumbing lines starts to tear away and mix with the water passing through. This is often apparent in older pipes; in some affected Newark neighborhoods, pipes are over 100 years old.  Citywide tests conducted in June 2017 showed that more than 10% of homes across Newark had twice the amount of lead that is considered safe according to federal law.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental and health advocacy group, sent a letter to officials in Newark later that year saying that they had failed to address the lead contamination issue.  After the city failed two more citywide lead tests in December 2017 and June 2018, the city announced in October that year that it would provide over 40,000 water filters to residents.  After the city then failed a fourth consecutive lead test in December 2018, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wrote an open letter to the President asking for federal help to fix the water system in the city.

The city failed another lead test in June 2019 and in August, after testing three homes that were using water filters provided by the city, officials found that two of those homes still had elevated levels of lead in them.  After the results of their water filter tests, city officials have begun handing out packages of bottled water to Newark residents, in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

There is no safe level of lead exposure and pregnant women and children are most at risk.  Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.newark.jpeg

Investigation Launched After Epstein Suicide

 

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Federal investigators are probing the death of 66-year-old accused serial sex abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein after he was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell of an apparent suicide by hanging around 6:30 AM.  Epstein’s death came less than 24 hours after hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed with testimonies from former employees and new details of sexual abuse committed by Epstein, which also implicated a number of well-known politicians and others in the public eye.  Epstein was facing sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which carried jail sentences of up to 45 years.

Others implicated include former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor; Prince Andrew; and “a well-known Prime Minister.”  Many have denied the allegations.  Prosecutors say he lured dozens of underage girls into giving him erotic massages and engaging in other sexual acts in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.  The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters and, once recruited, were asked to return to his homes several times, where they were abused again, the indictment against him said.

Epstein was reportedly unsupervised in his cell despite being put on suicide watch on July 23rd after he was found unconscious with marks on his neck.  Six days later, prison officials determined he was no longer a threat to himself and returned him to a cell in a special housing unit known as 9 South.  He was supposed to have been housed with a cellmate and to have been monitored every half-hour by the two guards who patrolled the wing.

The night before he was found dead, however, he had been left alone after his cellmate was transferred. The two employees assigned to guard him had not checked on him for about three hours before he was discovered.  The two prison guards were suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned from MCC amid widespread reports that 30-minute checks, required within Epstein’s unit, were not carried out properly.  Officials said the employees, who have been placed on leave, were sleeping for some or all of that time.  One guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime shifts, it was reported, while another was forced to work mandatory overtime that night.

Guards at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center had been forced to work overtime to make up for the staffing shortages, according to the union representing the prison guards.  Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals said in a statement that a hiring freeze has left thousands of staff vacancies across the Bureau of Prisons, creating “dangerous conditions” for both staff and inmates.  The remaining officers are regularly forced to work 70- and 80-hour work weeks, Mr. Young said.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into how Epstein was able to die in New York’s highly secure Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).  Attorney General William Barr said officials have uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail, which has housed other high-profile detainees such as Mexican drug baron El Chapo and fraudster Bernie Madoff.  Barr has also promised that Epstein will continue to be investigated in order to bring to justice any other possible conspirators.