Tag Archive: mark shuster legal shield


 

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A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The jury of ten men and two women acquitted Noor on an additional count of second-degree murder in the killing.  Noor faces up to 12 and a half years for third-degree murder and four years for second-degree manslaughter. His sentencing date is set for June 7.

For each charge, the jury had to unanimously decide whether they believed Noor was guilty or not guilty. Each charge Noor faced involved causing the death of Ruszczyk, but the three counts have different elements.  Second-degree murder means killing someone intentionally, but without premeditation.  Third-degree murder includes acting with a “depraved mind” — shooting without knowing the target — and “without regard for human life” in causing someone’s death, but without intending to do so.  Second-degree manslaughter is acting in a negligent way and creating an “unreasonable risk” in actions that cause death.

Noor’s lawyer said a “perfect storm” of events led him to open fire on Ruszczyk the night of July 15, 2017, when she called 911 to report a possible assault in progress in an alley behind her Minneapolis home.  Ruszczyk called police twice that night — once to report a possible assault, then to see where officers were.  When they arrived on the scene, Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity drove down an alley in south Minneapolis with their squad car’s lights down. They drove slowly and quietly.

Then, Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Ruszczyk approached the officers on their vehicle’s driver’s side.  Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser in her pajamas.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley. But Hennepin County prosecutors said Noor overreacted and failed to properly assess the situation before firing a gunshot into Ruszczyk’s abdomen.  Ruszczyk was pronounced dead on the scene.

Sixty witnesses testified during the nearly month-long trial, including use-of-force experts, neighbors, and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity.  Harrity was behind the wheel of their squad car when Noor shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat. He testified that he was startled by a noise on the rear driver’s side door as Ruszczyk approached the vehicle.  Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.

Experts differed on whether Noor’s use of force was reasonable or justified.  The prosecution’s use of force expert said that Noor’s use of deadly force was unreasonable.  Being “startled” is different than “fearing death or great bodily harm.”  The defense’s use of force expert said Noor’s conduct was an “objectively reasonable” response to the situation.  “It’s late at night. It’s dark in the alley,” Kapelsohn said, noting Noor heard his partner say “oh Jesus.”

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New York City has declared a public health emergency over the growing measles outbreak with 285 confirmed cases in New York City since the fall.  The “epicenter” of the outbreak is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where vaccination rates among Orthodox Jews are particularly low.  The emergency order was declared in an effort to curtail the outbreak and protect others.  As part of the emergency order, all residents of four Williamsburg zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 — must be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella if they are not already.

Those found to be in violation of the order could face up to a $1,000 fine, officials said.  Under the mandatory vaccinations, members of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any individual who may have been in contact with infected patients. Those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity may be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.  New York’s MMR vaccination rate is at 91.1 percent, below the 94 percent requirement to achieve herd immunity.

The NYC Health Department recently issued an order banning all unvaccinated members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg from entering yeshivas and day care programs. Non-compliant schools could be subject to closure.  Roughly 1,800 children in Williamsburg remain unvaccinated.  The city will help unprotected individuals secure affordable and accessible vaccination, and emphasized that vaccination is safe and effective.  In February, the department increased the recommended MMR vaccine dose for children between ages 6 months and 11 months who live in Williamsburg and Borough Park. Infants are advised to get immunized prior to international travel.

The Williamsburg outbreak started when an unvaccinated child acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring.  There have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel according to the health department.  Most of the Williamsburg cases involve members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, many of whom live by the Torah teachings that followers should not cause the body any damage since it is a gift from God.

Last month, in Rockland County, NY, near the city, county health officials declared a state of emergency and barred unvaccinated children from public spaces for 30 days. The order was temporarily halted last week after a judge ruled against it.  Outside of New York City and Rockland County, measles outbreaks are underway in the Pacific Northwest, California, New Jersey and Michigan.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 465 individual cases of measles in 19 states in the past three and a half months. This outbreak has the second greatest number of infected individuals since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

An analysis published in PLOS Medicine has shown that non-medical exemptions increased in 12 out of 17 states with relaxed laws on immunization. Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah gave leeway for philosophical beliefs as a basis to refuse the vaccine.  Authorities said they are now reviewing a bill to ensure that only patients with a qualified medical history like chemotherapy or organ transplantation will be given an exemption.

 

 

 

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Three former New York City firefighters involved in the 9/11 rescue effort died last week, within 48 hours of each other.   Retired FDNY Lt. Timothy O’Neill, 60, died on April 2 and Firefighter Kevin Lennon, 54, died on April 4 from 9/11-related cancers — nearly 18 years after responding to the terror attacks.  A third retired FDNY member, Fire Marshal Michael Andreachi, died within the same time period.  His death has not been officially linked to the 9/11 illness he was suffering from.

Their deaths come as 101 survivors who either responded to, or lived and worked near Ground Zero following the terror attacks have passed away from a 9/11 illness since September.  John Feal, survivor advocate John Feal said survivors are passing away at a rate of about 12 a month — or three a week.  Between September 2017 and September 2018, 163 survivors passed away from 9/11 illnesses-which was the highest recorded number of 9/11 related deaths since the terror attacks.  Feal said that if the current rate continues, the number number deaths will exceed last years.  “9/11 is still killing,” Feal said  “Sadly, this fragile community of heroes and survivors is shrinking by the day.”

FDNY lost 343 fire fighters on the day of the attack and more than 180 FDNY employees have died of illnesses from the toxic dust at Ground Zero since the terror attack.  It’s estimated that 90,000 first responders showed up at the WTC in the aftermath of the attack. An additional 400,000 survivors lived and worked in the area at the time.  Nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.

More than 7,000 FDNY Firefighters police officers and EMTs have been treated for a 9/11 injury or illness in the 18 years after the attack.  5,400 members have been diagnosed with lower respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and less commonly emphysema, COPD, sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.  Another 5,200 members have been diagnosed with upper respiratory diseases such as chronic rhinosinusitis and/or vocal cord diseases.  5,400 members have also been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disorders.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, when the planes crashed into the towers, 24,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited a fire that spread to 100,000 tons of organic debris and 230,000 gallons of transformer, heating and diesel oils in the buildings, setting off a giant toxic plume of soot and dust from pulverized building materials, The fires continued to burn during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, and workers were exposed to chemicals like asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica and other metals and particulates.

Epidemiology studies have confirmed that 9/11 emergency responders and recovery workers have significantly higher rates of thyroid cancer and skin melanoma than found in the general population.  They also face a higher risk of bladder cancer.  Non-responders have had significantly higher rates of breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and other blood-cell disorders.  As the population of those in the area of the World Trade Center attacks increases, so will the number of cancer cases and other 9/11 illness related deaths.

The World Trade Center Health Program, a fund set up to cover healthcare costs for 9/11 first responders and survivors is set to expire in 2020.  Since so many victims have been requesting compensation, the fund is now expected to run out of money even before the deadline.  Earlier this year, lawmakers including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill to permanently fund the federal program and extend its authorization through 2090.

 

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Texas police have dropped a felony arrest warrant against 24 year old L’Daijohnique Lee, who was threatened with a gun and brutally beaten by 30-year-old Austin Shuffield in a Dallas parking lot on March 21.   Shuffield’s own charges were upgraded after video of the assault went viral.  The attack occurred after what should have been a minor traffic dispute but quickly escalated to violence.

The assault began when Lee’s car was reportedly blocking the exit the parking lot exit behind a barbershop and bar where Shuffield worked serving drinks.  The victim told police that she was driving the wrong way down a street when Shuffield stopped her, got out of his truck and told her to move out of the way because she was blocking the exit to the parking lot.  She said after she moved her car into the parking lot, Shuffield followed her and they got into an argument.  When she tried calling 911, Shuffield slapped her phone out of her hand.

Bystander video shows Shuffield confronting her with a gun in his hand.  When the victim pulled out her phone to call 911, Sheffield slapped it out of her hand.  After he slapped her phone out of her hand she hit him.   Shuffield is then seen savagely punching Lee at least five times while shouting racial slurs before attempting to kick or stomp on her phone that was still on the ground.

Initially Lee was charged with felony criminal mischief for allegedly smashing the windows of Shuffield’s truck after she was assaulted by him but those charges were later dropped.  The assault left Lee with a concussion and cranial swelling.  Shuffield was arrested minutes after the attack and charged with one count of assault and interference with an emergency call.  He was released the next day on the two misdemeanor charges

His charges were upgraded last week after video of the assault circulated on several social media outlets, sparking protests.  His upgraded charges include unlawfully carrying a weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, bodily injury, interfering with an emergency call and public-intoxication misdemeanor charges.  He has since been released from jail.  Shuffield was fired from his job as a bartender at Deep Ellum’s High and Tight Barbershop and his former employer said it was shocking to see such violent behavior from someone who was otherwise a very good employee.

L’Daijohnique Lee’s attorney Lee Merritt said that his client was “pleased” to learn that Shuffield will face more serious charges. “Ms. Lee will fully cooperate with DA John Creuzot who has indicated he would like to interview her directly in order to ensure a thorough presentation to the Grand Jury,” Merrit said in a statement. “We believe that additional details from the DA investigation will warrant hate crime enhancements as well.”

Merritt criticized the Dallas police officer who arrested Shuffield for not filing the felony charges in the first place, and credited the backlash on social media and protests in Deep Ellum with spurring the police department to take action. “Despite reviewing video evidence, independent witness statements, securing a firearm and receiving the victim statement,” Merritt wrote. “However, we are grateful that after significant community backlash and protest more serious charges were perused. The delay however has allowed a dangerous assailant to continue to roam freely among the public and had caused Ms. Lee a great deal of unrest.”

 

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight traveling from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner was carrying passengers of 35 different nationalities, including eight Americans and 21 United Nations staffers.  Sunday’s crash triggered a global grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after data suggested similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash and the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 crash in October that killed 189 people.

The pilot of the Boeing 737 jetliner that crashed Sunday immediately noticed trouble as the plane accelerated wildly after takeoff.  Within one minute of Flight 302’s departure, Captain Yared Getachew calmly reported a “flight control” problem.  “Break break, request back to home,” the captain told air traffic controllers as they scrambled to divert two other flights approaching the airport. “Request vector for landing.”

Air traffic controllers knew the plane was in trouble even before the pilot radioed in that he wanted to turn the plane around.  They noticed the plane’s speed accelerated inexplicably and it oscillated up and down by hundreds of feet.  Radar showed the aircraft’s altitude was well below what is known as the minimum safe height from the ground during a climb.  The plane appeared to stabilize and climbed to a higher altitude, but then began to speed up again in a way that is deemed unsafe.  The plane then sped up even more just before it disappeared from radar screens and crashed six minutes after takeoff.

The ill-fated flight crashed near the town of Bishoftu, about 39 miles southeast of Bole International Airport.  The plane’s crash left a large crater and debris from the Boeing 737 jet was broken into hundreds of small pieces, making the task of recovering each part complex. The largest engine piece on the site was around the size of a small table.  Several dozen forensic investigators and Ethiopian Airlines employees slowly combed the crash site in search of any evidence, raising their hands when they come across anything significant.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders were sent to Paris where French aviation authorities will probe the heavily damaged black boxes for clues to the tragedy.  Preliminary conclusions will take several days and aircraft accident investigations can often take years to complete.  Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley said investigators will look into the MAX 8’s autopilot functions and the training of the pilots who flew the plane, as well as a mechanical part of the control system that alters the up-and-down movement of the plane’s nose.  The mechanism, called a “jackscrew,” is a threaded rod in the tail section of the aircraft that affects the plane’s stability.

Data from the “black boxes,” devices will provide further guidance for investigators as well as some answers for the families of the victims. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent U.S. agency that investigates transportation accidents and issues widely-respected safety recommendations, also sent three additional investigators to assist in the analysis.

Many speculate whether the software in the plane’s autopilot system might have played a role in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, as it seemed to have done in the fatal crash of an Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX 8.  In the October 2018 Lion Air crash, it appears the pilots failed to disengage the autopilot when the plane’s nose began pitching up and down.  It’s possible they were unaware of how to do so since some pilots have complained that the information to disengage autopilot was not readily available, and others have raised concerns about the adequacy of the training process.

 

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The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that makeup products from two popular brands of cosmetics contain the carcinogenic substance asbestos.  FDA tests of three powdered makeup products from Claire’s, and one from the brand Justice, tested positive for asbestos, which can cause cancer.   Both retailers market their products to young girls and teens.

Asbestos is believed to cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer affecting the lining of the chest and abdomen, and is linked to an increased risk of other forms of cancer and lung disease.  The FDA released a safety alert about the products and called for more expansive authority to regulate cosmetics, saying the law about its role has not been updated since it first entered into force in 1938.  Americans spend some $60 billion a year on cosmetics, though the industry is largely unregulated.

“The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers,” it said, adding that total responsibility for the safety of these products now rests with the companies that make them.  “To be clear, there are currently no legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer marketing products to American consumers to test their products for safety,” the FDA said.   Because of the lack of regulation, the agency says that in this case, it did not have the authority to force Claire’s to pull the potentially dangerous products off store shelves.  The F.D.A. called on the industry to be more forthcoming about its safety procedures, especially in relation to how it sources and tests talc. The agency said it had used the most sensitive methods available to test 34 cosmetic products from four talc suppliers in 2010 and found no traces of asbestos.

The FDA said the Justice product, a shimmer powder, had already been recalled from the market in 2017.  Claire’s says that “out of an abundance of caution,” it has removed the three products — eye shadows, compact powder and contour powder — from stores and is also removing any remaining talc based cosmetic products (talc sometimes contains asbestos).  Claire’s disputes the test results, saying they “show significant errors” and claims its “products are safe.”  The retailer says the tests “have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos.”

Independent testers dispute Claire’s claim that these products are safe. Consumer advocacy group, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, released results last March that said its testing showed that the same three Claire’s products contained asbestos.  After the U.S. PIRG report, the Dutch government said they also found asbestos in two of Claire’s products.

Regulators are trying to keep a closer eye on companies after the New York Times and Reuters reported late last year that Johnson & Johnson had known for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its popular baby powder and other talc-based body powders, but tried to keep negative information from reaching the public. The company received subpoenas for more information last month from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

 

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R&B singer R. Kelly’s legal troubles seem far from over with Chicago police charging him with failure to pay more than $161,000 in child support owed to his ex-wife Andrea-for their three children.  The arrest came just two weeks after he was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault against four women and girls—three of whom were under the age of consent at the time.  Prosecutors say three of Kelly’s victims were underage girls and that Kelly abused them over a span of about a dozen years.  Kelly was once again released from custody after someone paid his bail three days after his arrest.

His second arrest came just hours after an interview with Gayle King where he became visibly upset and was screaming and cursing.  During the interview, which broadcast on ”CBS This Morning,” Kelly again denied the allegations that have followed him for years as well as the more recent allegations that he is holding several young women in what has been described as a sex cult.  The 52 year old singer went from tears to yelling throughout the interview as he claims that the accusations are lies.  During the tense interview, at times, Kelly jumped from his seat, standing over King as he yelled and pounded on his chest.

  1. Kelly: “I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my [bleep] life! Y’all are killing me with this [bleep]! I gave y’all 30 years of my [bleep] career!”

Gayle King: “Robert.”

  1. Kelly: “Thirty years of my career, and y’all are trying to kill me!”

During the interview, when asked about whether he pays child support to his ex-wife, he claimed to only have about $350,000 left in his bank account.

Kelly has faced scrutiny for more than a decade, through you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record sales over the years.  He is notably known for his music as much as the allegations involving underage girls.  It’s been well-known that Kelly settled four cases involving underage girls before his 2002 indictment.  During the six years it took that case to go to trial, Kelly churned out hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,”  “I Wish” and “Fiesta”.  He was eventually found not guilty and though the allegations were well known, they faded from the publics’ mind as his record sales soared.

Attention to the allegations were reignited in January after the six-part Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” aired.  It featured interviews with seven accusers and former members of his inner circle. They all said Kelly preys on vulnerable women and young girls.  All of the girls were willing involved with him but were underage at the time.  They claim that at the time, they loved him and began their relationships believing they had a special connection but began to realize that he had a sickness.

Gayle King also asked King about the two women that currently live with Kelly, whose parents both claim he has isolated them- abusing and brainwashing their daughters.  Aspiring singer Jocelyn Savage, 23, met Kelly when she was just 17 years old and has been living with Kelly since she was 19.  She broke off contact with her parents soon after she began living with him.  Another aspiring singer, Azriel Clary, 20, also met Kelly when she was 17 years old and she broke off contact soon after moving in with him.  In an interview with Gayle King, Clary and Jocelyn defended R. Kelly saying, that their parents are just after money and that they were happy being his girlfriends and living with him.  R.Kelly was in the room during the interview.

 

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An active-duty Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested on gun and drug charges, allegedly wanted to conduct a mass killing.  Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, of Silver Spring, Maryland, reportedly had a stockpile of 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Federal investigators uncovered a domestic terror plot to kill high-profile liberal figures including Democratic lawmakers, media personalities and judges.  He was ordered held without bail on drug and gun charges while prosecutors gather evidence to support more serious charges involving what they portrayed as a domestic terror plot.

Hasson’s “hit list” included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights pioneer Angela Davis, freshman Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, MSNBC host Chris Hayes and Democratic presidential hopefuls Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, among others.  Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, was reportedly inspired by the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who in 2011 killed 77 people in a bomb attack and a mass shooting.

Court documents say Hasson holds extremist and white supremacist views and allege that he relied on the manifesto of Anders Breivik.  In a draft email obtained by prosecutors, Hasson wrote, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.” Court documents also revealed he wanted to “establish a white homeland”.  Court records show Hasson also stockpiled steroids and human growth hormone “to increase his ability to conduct attacks,” consistent with the directions in Breivik’s manifesto.

Spokesman for US Coast Guard Headquarters, Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane said in a statement that the arrest was part of an investigation led by the Coast Guard.  “An active duty Coast Guard member, stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges as a result of an ongoing investigation led by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, in cooperation with the FBI and Department of Justice. Because this is an open investigation, the Coast Guard has no further details at this time,” Lane said.

Hasson served as an aircraft mechanic in the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and was then on active duty with the Army National Guard for approximately two years. He has been in the Coast Guard for more than twenty years and has held his current position since 2016.  Hasson is married with two children, one of whom is in the Marine Corps.  Prosecutors allege that Hasson had been amassing guns and ammunition since 2017 in preparation for his plot to assassinate high-profile Democratic and left-leaning politicians and media figures.

Hasson used work computers to plan the attack during his job as a Coast Guard Lieutenant and studying the manifestos of various mass shooters.  He created a spreadsheet with a list of journalists, Democratic politicians, and socialist figures and organizations.  He also attempted to find out where Democratic politicians and media figures lived.  Federal prosecutors say “The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. He must be detained pending trial” and: “The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life” as well as his charges being the “proverbial tip of the iceberg”

 

 

 

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In Aurora, Illinois, 45-year-old Gary Martin, used a Smith & Wesson handgun, in a 90 minute workplace shooting spree.  Martin killed five of his coworkers and wounded six others, including five police officers before being killed by police gun fire.  Martin had worked at the water valve manufacturer Henry Pratt Co. for 15 years and opened fire on his coworkers during a meeting, after learning of his termination.

Police said Martin, 45, likely brought his handgun to work because he knew he was being fired from his job.  Three of the victims were killed inside the meeting room and two others were killed nearby.  The victims were identified as Clayton Parks, a human resources manager who began working at Henry Pratt in November; Trevor Wehner, 21, a human resources intern on his first day with the company; Russell Beyer, a union chairman who worked at Henry Pratt for more than 20 years; Vicente Juarez, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator who had been with the company since 2006 and Josh Pinkard, a plant manager who had worked with the company for 13 years in Alabama before transferring to Aurora last year.

A sixth employee and five Aurora police officers were also shot and expected to survive.  Responding officers arrived at the shooting scene four minutes after the first 911 calls were placed.  Martin shot and wounded five officers during initial exchanges of gunfire. He then retreated into the 29,000 square foot building, where police found him roughly 90 minutes later. He again fired at officers and was fatally shot.

The five officers shot include a 39-year-old man with 13 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 25 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 24 years of service, a 53-year-old man with 30 years of service     and a 24-year-old man with almost four years of service.  A sixth officer, a 23-year-old man with two years on the job, was treated a knee injury sustained during the incident.

In 1995, Martin was convicted of felony aggravated assault in Mississippi and served less than two years in prison for a violent assault against a former girlfriend that included hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife.  Martin had previously been arrested by Aurora police officers on six different occasions, including for domestic violence and traffic incidents. His last arrest in Aurora was for violating an order of protection in 2008.  Martin was not legally allowed to possess a gun in Illinois because of his prior felony conviction in Mississippi.

However, in 2014, he successfully applied for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and bought a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun. When Martin tried to procure a concealed carry license that same year, the Mississippi conviction came up during a background check. Martin was denied a concealed carry license, his FOID card was revoked and he was notified to forfeit his firearm to local law enforcement.  Authorities never confiscated his gun.  His most recent arrest was in 2017 in Oswego, Ill., for disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.

City officials in Aurora have started a GoFundMe account to help families who lost loved ones in the tragic shooting.  https://www.gofundme.com/f/aurora-strong-community-fund  The GoFundMe has a goal of raising $50,000 to “relieve the extreme financial burdens families are experiencing during this difficult time,” according to the city.

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As the measles outbreak continues into 2019, the World Health Organization has said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat.  More than 270 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the highly contagious and sometimes deadly pathogen since last fall with 100 of those cases being confirmed since the start of 2019.  Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year and the virus had been eliminated in the US by the year 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine but as the Anti-Vax movement has grown, the disease has resurfaced in the US.

Many are blaming policy failure and calling for a re-examination of laws that allow people to opt out of the vaccines on behalf of their children.  Every state allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients.  While all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations.

Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines.  Eighteen states grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs.  Mississippi, California, and West Virginia have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.  Right now, in 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up on vaccination records.

In Washington State, where at least 55 cases were confirmed since the start of 2019, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws.  Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.

In Oregon, where the Portland area has experienced a recent outbreak, the percentage of children unvaccinated for measles varies widely from school to school.  Most schools are at or near the 93% threshold protection levels that epidemiologists say keep the virus at bay.   Still, at some Portland schools, 10 to 20 percent or more of their students are unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons.  Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country.  At least seven schools in the Portland area have measles vaccination rates below 80 percent, lower than some developing countries like Guatemala.  The rate of unvaccinated children is even higher in specialty and private schools with some having a low rate of only 40% of students vaccinated.  Oregon lawmakers are working on legislation that would eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.