Tag Archive: Mark Shuster Olmsted County


 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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A Kentucky man was charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment for killing two African-American customers at a Kroger grocery store. He is being held in jail with bail set at $5 million. Police say 51-year-old Gregory Bush was captured on a surveillance camera trying to force open the doors of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown for several minutes, before turning his attention to a nearby Kroger supermarket. He was charged with killing Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, at the supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., a suburb of Louisville.

Bush allegedly walked into the Kroger, pulled a gun and shot Stallard in the back of the head, then shot him several more times. Then he went outside and killed Jones, who also died from multiple gunshot wounds.  Bush exchanged gunfire in the parking lot with an armed bystander who saw him shoot Jones.  Another armed bystander, Louisville resident Ed Harrell told reporters that as he crouched in the Kroger parking lot clutching his own revolver, the gunman walked by him and said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Prosecutors are investigating the murders as a “possible hate crime” because Bush had no known connection to either victim, or to the store, and had tried and failed to enter a nearby black church moments earlier.  Any charges related to hate crimes would be federal charges and separate from the state charges against Bush.  Officials have said they believe the crimes may fit that definition. Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as a traditional criminal offense but with an added element of bias.

Gregory Bush has a history of mental illness and of making racist slurs.  He also has a long rap sheet of misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence, for punching his father in the face and lifting his mother by her neck.   Records show he attempted suicide in 2001 and convictions for menacing and making terroristic threats.  In 2009, a judge ordered Bush to surrender his guns and undergo mental health treatment, after his parents claimed Bush threatened to shoot them in the head. Bush’s father said his son “carries a gun wherever he goes.” It’s not clear whether Bush’s guns were returned when the court order expired in 2011.

Jeffersontown residents gathered to honor the victims of the senseless shooting.  Maurice Stallard had served in the Air Force and married his high school sweetheart.  He worked in the security department of GE Appliances.  He is survived by his wife, a son and daughter and four grandchildren.

Vickie Lee Jones was a regular churchgoer and breast cancer survivor who had retired from a veteran’s administration hospital to help care for her ailing mother.   She is survived by her mother, four children, 11 grandchildren and 5 siblings.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NY Limo Crash Leaves 20 Dead

 

 

 

 

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On October 6th, a deadly limo crash in upstate New York killed 20 people, making it the deadliest transportation accident in the U.S. since 2009.  The crash occurred just before 2pm on Saturday in the town of Schoharie, about 25 miles west of Albany.  All 18 people inside the limo, including the driver and 2 pedestrians were killed.

The limousine, a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran a stop sign and crossed the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A, traveling at about 50 mph. The limo struck an unoccupied Toyota Highlander in a parking lot of a local country store, which then hit and killed the two pedestrians.  The limo then barreled through the parking lot before landing in a shallow ravine beyond the road.

The occupants, a group of 17 family and friends, had just set out to celebrate one of the victims, Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday and were headed to a brewery in Cooperstown.  Among the dead were Amy Steenburg and her husband of four months Axel Steenburg, and her brother-in-law Rich Steenburg who is survived by a 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson.  Amy’s three sisters and two of their husbands were also killed in the limo crash.  Mary Dyson, 33, one of Amy’s sisters, along with her husband, Rob Dyson, 34.  Amy’s sister Abigail Jackson, 34, and her husband Adam Jackson, 34, left behind two daughters, Archer and Elle, ages 4 and 1.  Amy’s other sister Allison King, 31, was also killed.

Also in the group were newlyweds Erin McGowan, 34 and Shane McGowan, 30; Amanda Halse, 26, and her boyfriend Patrick Cushing, Amanda Rivenburg, Rachael Cavosie, Michael Ukaj, a marine who served in Iraq and Matthew Coons and girlfriend Savannah Bursese.  The limo driver, Scott Lisinicchia, 53 and two pedestrians; 46-year-old assistant professor Brian Hough and his 71 year old father-in-law James Schnurr were also killed.  Hough and Schnurr were standing in the store parking lot talking when they were killed.

The limo involved in the crash, which was owned by Prestige Limousine, had failed a Sept. 4 safety inspection in part due to an Anti-lock braking system (ABS) malfunction indicators for the hydraulic brake system.  The driver, Scott Lisincchia also did not have the appropriate driver’s license required to drive a vehicle that can hold more than 15 people.  Joseph Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “The assertion that the limousine was cleared to be on the road following the September inspection is categorically false.  The vehicle was subject to inspections and the owner was warned not to operate the vehicle; the vehicle was placed out of service.”

Just days after the deadly crash, the operator of the limo company, Nauman Hussain, 28, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.  Hussain’s car was packed with luggage when he was stopped Wednesday on a highway near Albany.  Police say he was charged because he put a defective vehicle back on the road and hired a driver whom he knew was not properly licensed to drive the vehicle.  Hussain pled not guilty was released after posting $150,000 bond that same day.

Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client only handled marketing duties and phone calls, while his father, Shahed Hussain, is the owner of Prestige Limousine, and the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of the limo company.  Shahed Hussain is currently in Pakistan.  Police say Nauman Hussain is the one who put the vehicle back on the road despite it failing inspections and hired the driver who did not have proper licensing to operate the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, 40, was convicted of second degree murder in the 2014 shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald.  Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in about 50 years. Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years, especially for someone with no criminal history but probation is also an option. Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet.

The second-degree verdict reflected the jury’s finding that Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but that the belief was unreasonable. The jury also had the option of first degree-murder, which required finding that the shooting was unnecessary and unreasonable.  Legal experts say Van Dyke will likely be sentenced to no more than 6 years but that because he is an officer, it will likely be in isolation.

The verdict was the latest chapter in a story that shook Chicago residents soon after a judge ordered the release of the video in November 2015.  Protests erupted and continued, demanding accountability for the shooting.  The city’s police superintendent and the county’s top prosecutor both lost their jobs — one fired by the mayor and the other ousted by voters. It also led to a Justice Department investigation that found a “pervasive cover-up culture” and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.

The city had been preparing for possible demonstrations in a case that already sparked protests with many downtown businesses and City Hall closing early in anticipation of protests.  Groups of demonstrators took to the streets for several hours after the verdict, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated,” and “Sixteen shots and a cover up.”

Prosecutors in Van Dyke’s trial called on multiple officers who were there that night in an effort to penetrate the “blue wall of silence” long associated with the city’s police force and other law enforcement agencies across the country.  Three officers, including Van Dyke’s partner, have been charged with conspiring to cover up and lie about what happened to protect Van Dyke. They have all pleaded not guilty.

According to testimony, on the night of the shooting, officers were waiting for someone with a stun gun to use on the teenager when Van Dyke arrived.  Former Police Officer Joseph Walsh, Van Dyke’s partner the night of the shooting, testified that Van Dyke said to him “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot that guy,” before arriving at the scene.  Van Dyke was on scene for less than 30 seconds before opening fire and the first shot he fired was 6 seconds after he exited his patrol car.

The first responding officer said that he did not see the need to use force and none of the at least eight other officers on the scene fired their weapons.  Video of the shooting shows that Officer Van Dyke was advancing on McDonald, while McDonald was walking away from him when the first shot was fired.  McDonald was shot 16 times in 14–15 seconds and 9 of those shots hit his back as he lay on the ground.  Toxicology reports later revealed that McDonald had PCP in his blood and urine.

Assistant special prosecutor Jody Gleason told the jury that Van Dyke contemplated shooting McDonald before he even encountered the young man, referring to testimony about what Van Dyke told his partner before arriving at the scene.  “It wasn’t the knife in Laquan’s hand that made the defendant kill him that night. It was his indifference to the value of Laquan’s life.”   Van Dyke was taken into custody moments after the verdict was read.  He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on October 31.

 

 

 

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Turkish officials believe Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has written columns critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, entered the Saudi consulate around 1pm on Oct. 2nd and has not been seen since. Khashoggi was there to pick up paperwork he needed for his upcoming wedding to Hatice Cengiz that he had requested the week before.  Centgiz says she watched him enter the consulate but did not see him re-emerge.  Saudi officials have claimed he left the consulate shortly after visiting.

Khashoggi, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists and a leading critic of Saudi Arabia’s current leadership, wrote columns for The Washington Post and has been a thorn in the side of the crown prince, for some time.  He had been living in self-imposed exile in Virginia after leaving Saudi Arabia last year.  He told friends and reporters that the space for freedom of speech under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shrinking and he feared for his safety.

A half an hour before Khashoggi arrived for his appointment, Turkish national staff working in the building were told to take the rest of the day off.  Since mobile phones are not allowed inside the diplomatic building, Khashoggi left his iPhone with his fiancée, who was to wait for him outside, and told her to raise the alarm if he did not emerge after more than four hours. He kept his Apple watch on him which was synced to his phone.  Cengiz waited outside until about 1am for Khashoggi to return before contacting Turkish authorities.

During the initial investigation into his disappearance, U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted Saudi communications regarding a plot to detain Khashoggi and that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was directly involved – ordering an operation to “lure” Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there.  CNN later reported that they saw a cleaning crew enter the main consulate building a day before Turkish officials, including a forensics team, arrived to begin their investigation.

Attention has been focused on what officials believe was a hit squad, a 15 person team of Saudi special forces officers, intelligence officials, national guards and a forensics expert that flew in and out of Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared.  The details of the alleged hit squad were listed on flight manifests leaked to the press.  The Saudi team is said to have arrived at Atatürk airport on Tuesday last week on two planes, one of which landed in the pre-dawn hours and the second in the early afternoon. The officials checked in to two hotels near the Saudi consulate.

Turkish intelligence believe that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate on Oct. 2nd.  News sources say Turkish officials have an audio recording of the alleged killing from the Apple Watch he wore when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  The audio recording is described as showing there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate as well as the moment that Khashoggi was killed.  Authorities recovered the audio from Khashoggi’s iPhone and his iCloud account.  News sources also alleged Saudi officials tried to delete the recordings by incorrectly guessing Khashoggi’s PIN on the watch.

 

 

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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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