Tag Archive: mark shuster insurance


 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill Cosby Sentenced

 

 

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Comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago.  Cosby, 81, will be eligible for parole in three years and could be released from prison and allowed to serve out the rest of his 10-year sentence under supervision in the community.

Judge Steven O’Neill said the evidence that Cosby planned the drugging and sexual assault of his victim was “overwhelming,” based on Cosby’s own words in a civil deposition.  In the deposition, provided the year after the alleged assault, as Constand pursued a civil suit against him, Cosby admitted that he procured Quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex.  Cosby also admitted that he asked a modeling agent to connect him with young women who were new in town and “financially not doing well.  Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that the 2005 testimony could be presented to the jury in his criminal trial.

Months after his depositions, Cosby settled the case with Constand and the accusations quickly faded. In October 2014, a Philadelphia magazine reporter at a Hannibal Buress show uploaded a clip of the comedian calling Bill Cosby a rapist and commenting on his Teflon image.  The clip went viral and soon after many accusers stepped forward.  More than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault or harassment, stretching back to the 1960’s but Constand’s case was the only one that led to criminal charges against the comedian.  During interviews, all of the women gave similar accounts of blacking out after having a drink supplied by Cosby and later waking up during or after a sexual assault.  Most said they stayed quiet because they never thought anyone would believe them since Cosby was wealthy and at the height of his career.

On April 26, he was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for the 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand. Each charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison but Judge Steven O’Neill said that the charges had been merged into one because they all stem from the same event.  Constand, a 31-year-old Temple women’s basketball official he was mentoring at the time of the assault.  She testified in detail at the trial about losing control of her limbs after taking pills given to her by Cosby, who served on Temple’s board of trustees and was the public face of the university. The pills, Constand said, left her unable to stop him from violating her at his suburban Philadelphia estate.

At the sentencing hearing, O’Neill aid, “No one is above the law, and no one should be treated differently or disproportionally.”  “This was a serious crime,” O’Neill added. “Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come, the time has come.”  Cosby was also ordered to pay a fine of $25,000 plus the costs of prosecution — a total of $43,611 — as part of the sentence.  Cosby’s attorneys have repeatedly said they plan to file an appeal in the criminal case.

 

 

 

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Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger, who fatally shot 26-year-old Botham Jean in his Cedars apartment, was fired just days after Police Chief U. Renee Hall said doing so would compromise the criminal investigation.  A news release stated that Hall fired Guyger after an internal investigation found the officer had engaged in “adverse conduct” when she was charged with manslaughter three days after the shooting.

Guyger shot Jean, her upstairs neighbor, the night of Sept. 6. Jean, an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, lived on the fourth floor in apartment 1478 of the South Side Flats. Guyger, an officer for four years, was his immediate downstairs neighbor.  After entering his apartment that she mistook for her own.  She entered the dark apartment after a long shift and believed Jean, who was unarmed, was a burglar.

After she shot him, Guyger called 911 in tears, “I thought it was my apartment,” she said repeatedly and apologized to Jean, “I’m so sorry.”  Police arrived within four minutes of her call, and paramedics rushed Jean to Baylor University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.  Guyger was charged with manslaughter three days after the shooting and has been on administrative leave since the shooting.  She’s currently free on a $300,000 bond while she awaits trial.

There was widespread calls for action and protests demanding that Guyger be terminated.  Chief Hall said that she couldn’t fire Guyger before an internal investigation was completed because of federal, state and local laws but she didn’t specify to which laws she was referring.   Hall released a statement saying she didn’t want to risk interfering with a criminal investigation by making a decision about Guyger’s employment.

The Dallas Police Department turned over the investigation to the Texas Rangers shortly after the shooting. The Dallas County District Attorney’s office is also conducting its own investigation.  Those investigations aren’t complete, but Hall said police were notified that a “critical portion” of the criminal investigation — the part that could have been compromised by an internal investigation — had been concluded over the weekend.

Guyger’s firing was supported by Mayor Mike Rawlings, who called it “the right decision in the interest of justice”.  A statement from the mayor read “I have heard the calls for this action from many, including the Jean family, and I agree that this is the right decision in the interest of justice for Botham Jean and the citizens of Dallas.  The swift termination of any officer who engages in misconduct that leads to the loss of innocent life is essential if the Dallas Police Department is to gain and maintain the public trust.”

Guyger’s attorney Robert Rogers said in a written statement that Hall “bowed to pressure from anti-police groups and took action before all of the facts had been gathered and due process was afforded.”  Rogers said his client is “completely devastated by what happened.” The shooting, he said, was “a tragic mistake and words can never express our sorrow for the pain being suffered by those who knew and loved Botham Jean.”

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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The Dallas Mavericks and the basketball team’s owner Mark Cuban were sanctioned by the NBA after an independent investigation substantiated a number of allegations against men within the organization. The findings include improper conduct in the workplace and domestic violence. Mark Cuban publicly apologized and said he will pay $10 million to women’s organizations as part of an agreement with the NBA.  Cuban agreed to the $10 million payment as well as staffing and leadership changes.

The sanction came after a months-long investigation into accusations against several employees, including the former team president and chief executive, Terdema Ussery.  The investigation arose from an article in Sports Illustrated in February that exposed a workplace filled with problems for female employees.  The article said Ussery had engaged in “various acts of inappropriate conduct toward women,” and that Earl Sneed, a former writer for the team’s official website, had faced numerous allegations of domestic violence.

Although Cuban did not face accusations of misconduct, the employees who were mistreated suggested the harassment had gone on for years and that he must have known about it and had done little to prevent it.  The investigation included information gathered from more than 200 interviews with current and former Mavericks employees. Ussery was found to have engaged in improper workplace conduct toward 15 female employees, including touching them and making inappropriate comments.  Sneed had committed two acts of domestic violence, including one against a co-worker. Cuban was made aware of the episode but did not fire him.  Ussery had already resigned from the team in 2015 to take a position with Under Amour.  Shortly after the Sports Illustrated article, Sneed announced he would be leaving the team and then deleted his Twitter account.

The investigation also found that Chris Hyde, a longtime senior account executive, had made inappropriate comments toward women, viewed pornography on his workplace computer and made unsolicited sexual advances toward co-workers. Even after Cuban warned Hyde about looking at pornography at the office, Hyde’s inappropriate behavior continued for years.

In a statement, the league announced that the money from Cuban would be donated to a variety of organizations chosen by an advisory council of Mavericks executives, including Cuban, as well as several N.B.A. officials. The inquiry, conducted by independent investigators overseen by the league, also recommended that the Mavericks hire more women, including in leadership positions, and create a formal process for employees to report misconduct.  The N.B.A. ordered the Mavericks to file quarterly reports on its progress in those areas, and to begin workplace training for all staff members, including Cuban, 60, who acquired a majority stake of the Mavericks in 2000.

“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking,” Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “and no employee in the N.B.A., or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report.”

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Many are outraged after a Dallas police officer has only been charged with manslaughter after shooting and killing 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment.  Police Officer Amber Guyger, who was off-duty at the time of the shooting, says she thought she was in her own apartment and fired after thinking she was confronting an intruder in the dark apartment.  She turned herself in and was released on $300,000 bond.  Investigators have taken a blood sample from the officer to test for drugs and alcohol but the results have not been released.

As more details of what happened that night are released, the incident seems more and more confusing, adding to the mystery of the case.  According to Guyger’s account, she arrived home around 10pm after working a 15-hour shift to the South Side Flats apartments on September 6th.  She didn’t realize she had parked her car on the wrong level of the parking garage and entered the wrong floor of her building.  Guyger lives on the fourth floor while Jean lived on the third floor.  Once she entered what she thought was her own apartment, she says she saw a “large silhouette” in the dark apartment and she thought she had walked in on a burglary.  She fired, hitting Jean in the chest, ultimately killing him and only realized that the apartment was not hers when she turned on the lights in the apartment.  She then called 911 and checked the apartment number outside the door as she explained what occurred to the dispatcher.

Details of a September 9 arrest affidavit filed after Guyger turned herself in only add to the confusion.  The affidavit, which was written after an interview with Guyger, states that Jean was actually shot farther into his apartment.  In that account, after Guyger returned home and entered the wrong floor of the building, she attempted to use an electronic key to open the apartment front door. However, the door was slightly ajar and the force of using her key pushed the door open, despite the fact that her key did not open the lock.  Guyger then entered the apartment and after seeing a “large silhouette” issued verbal commands and then fired twice.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family, said they are skeptical that Jean would have left the door to his apartment ajar, saying the PricewaterhouseCoopers worker was a “meticulous” person who would have made sure his door was locked for his own safety.  Merritt also said that two sisters who live in the building had come forward giving details that contradict the affidavit.  The sisters claim that before the shooting, they heard knocking followed by a woman’s voice saying, “Let me in. Let me in.” Then they heard gunshots, followed by a man’s voice saying, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”  One of the women also took a video after the shooting, which shows what appears to be Guyger pacing outside the apartment as emergency responders arrive.

The case is still under investigation by the Texas Rangers and separately by the district attorney’s office– and will be presented to a grand jury.  A grand jury will decide whether to indict Guyger on a different charge than manslaughter or not to indict her at all.  Jean’s family and community members have raised a number of concerns about the pace of the investigation and how it is being handled.  They argue that Guyger is receiving deferential treatment that a civilian suspect would not receive, noting that she was charged with manslaughter rather than murder and that the charge did not come until three days after the shooting.

We want to hear from you!  Do you think this officer received special treatment in the handling of this case? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Jacksonville Landing Shooting

 

 

 

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In Jacksonville, Florida, authorities say a man opened fire at a restaurant hosting a Madden 19 video game tournament, killing two people and wounding 10 before killing himself.  One person was also injured while trying to escape.  The shooter has been identified as David Katz, a 24-year-old gamer from Baltimore, Maryland.  Katz’s motive in the shooting remains under investigation, police said.

Katz, like many other gamers, was in town for the tournament at GLHF Game Bar at the Jacksonville Landing, a downtown shopping and dining complex.   Witnesses said he had been eliminated from the tournament the day before when two other players beat him.  Dennis Alston, one of the gamers who beat Katz, said that he tried to shake the shooter’s hand after the game but that Katz refused his hand and stared at him blankly.  Alston said that he noticed Katz had returned to the tournament the following day wearing the same clothes.

Katz went by the gaming naming “Bread” and previously won Madden tournaments in 2017.  Authorities say Katz walked past patrons in other parts of the restaurant and then opened fire on his fellow competitive gamers before killing himself.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Eli Clayton, 22, and Taylor Robertson, 28. Both were competitive Madden players, and Robertson had won the Madden Classic.  Authorities said Katz had legally purchased two weapons in Baltimore over the past month and one of the weapons had a laser sight that attached to the gun.

Gunshots and piercing screams echoed through the Twitch live stream of the tournament in real time, leaving millions of helpless online viewers shocked before the live stream was cutoff.   Shortly after 1:30 p.m., 911 calls started pouring in about a shooting and officers were on the scene within two minutes.  About a dozen firefighters with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department were training in the structure just north of the Landing when the gunfire rang out.

They treated the “walking wounded” outside the restaurant, then made their way inside to find flipped tables and broken dishes scattered across the floor.   They made their way through the restaurant and found the three deceased in the gaming room: Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia; Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California; and the shooter, later identified as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore.

Both Elizabeth and Richard Katz are cooperating with investigators and have told authorities that their son had mental health issues.  Katz underwent treatment for psychological and emotional issues during his parents’ divorce and highly contentious custody battle in 2006.  He was once placed on an antipsychotic medicine used to treat schizophrenia. The alleged gunman was also placed on two antidepressants.

 

 

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Michigan’s state health director Nick Lyons is facing trial for involuntary manslaughter over the deaths of two men amid an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in an attempt to save money.  The Flint region’s 2014-2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened another 79 people.  Michigan has admitted 12 people died in the outbreak, but a recent report by PBS “Frontline” has found the death toll from the water crisis in Flint may be higher than Michigan officials have acknowledged.

Judge David Goggins issued a ruling sending Nick Lyon’s criminal case to a full trial, meaning the judge believes there is enough valid evidence for a jury to consider.  The ruling came at the end of a 10-month preliminary hearing that started in September and wrapped up in early July after more than 25 days of testimony.  Lyons is the highest-ranking state official to face charges so far over Flint’s water-poisoning crisis.  He’s also being charged with willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office for the deaths of John Snyder and Robert Skidmore.  The involuntary manslaughter charge is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Lyon’s felony misconduct in office charge is for allegedly obstructing academic researchers from studying the outbreak, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Both men allegedly died from Legionnaires’ disease caused by Flint switching its drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.  They did not ensure that the water was properly treated to prevent corrosion in old plumbing. This caused lead and other metals to leach into the water, exposing residents and risking permanent neurological damage to local children.  The improper water treatment also interfered with disinfectants and caused the release of iron and other bacterial nutrients into the water, which can spur the spread and growth of Legionella bacteria. When those germs are aerosolized and inhaled from sources such as hot showers, humidifiers, and water coolers, they can cause a deadly form of pneumonia called Legionnaire’s disease.

Flint experienced a surge in Legionnaire’s disease after the water switch, with cases totaling around 100 and leading to at least 12 deaths, including Skidmore and Snyder’s. Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetically linked the bacteria infecting patients to those found in the city’s water.  Prosecutors argued Lyon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, waited too long to alert the public to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint during the water crisis. He allegedly knew about the outbreak in early 2015 but waited nearly a full year before alerting the public.  Both men were said to be healthy and active prior to their hospitalizations.   Lyon’s defense attorneys argued he was not negligent in the men’s deaths and that prosecuting a public official who did his best amid a wide-ranging crisis would have a chilling effect on other public employees doing their duties.  They pointed out Skidmore and Snyder “would have received the same medical treatment” even if Lyon had made an announcement sooner.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Governor Rick Snyder praised Lyon’s work during the Flint water crisis and said Lyon would remain on the job as Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director during the trial.  An additional 14 current or former state and local officials have been criminally charged in connection with the water issues.

State officials now say that the city’s water meets federal standards for lead and other contaminants but the water can still pick up toxic ingredients from contaminated pipes. For now, residents need to continue drinking bottled or filtered water until the city’s plumbing is replaced, which the city is working to do by 2020.