29 Dead in Tai Mass Shooting

 

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Residents of the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima are grieving after Thailand suffered its worst mass shooting. A soldier went on a 18 hour rampage, killing at least 29 people and injuring scores more.  The gunman began his shooting spree on a military base before taking to the streets, then attacking shoppers at a mall. He was eventually shot and killed after a shootout with Thai forces. The shooter posted videos of the attack on Facebook Live; the videos and his account were later removed.

It was around 3pm Saturday, February 8, when Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, a sergeant and expert marksman in the Thai armed forces, began his rampage. He first shot and killed his commanding officer, Colonel Anantharot Krasae over a real estate deal gone bad.  Then he raided an unprotected weapons bunker at a nearby army base before advancing to Terminal 21 where he began to shoot civilians indiscriminately.

The attack carried on through the night as Thomma went from floor to floor, executing anyone he found hiding in the center.  He then stole a Humvee and wounded the driver. The gunman escaped the base and opened fire on two police officers and two civilians, wounding them. The officers sustained multiple gunshot wounds in their legs and backs.  After escaping, the gunman started shooting in the street: he stopped outside Wat Pa Sattha Ruam, a Buddhist temple and killed eight civilians and a police officer. He then arrived at the Terminal 21 Korat shopping mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, where he left the vehicle and began shooting indiscriminately at people outside the mall, before detonating a cooking-gas cylinder, killing 12 civilians.

He then entered the mall, killing two people and taking sixteen hostages inside the mall on the fourth floor. The gunman live-streamed on Facebook Live during the siege and shared photos and memes on his profile page, although his account was eventually taken down by Facebook.  Police officers and soldiers stormed the mall and demanded the gunman’s surrender, to which he responded by opening fire, killing two policemen and a soldier and wounding at least three others. He remained inside for several hours, during which his mother was brought by authorities to try to convince him to surrender. Finally, in the early hours of Sunday, authorities dispatched the country’s top team of special forces to clear the complex. After about 18 hours of carnage, Thomma was finally shot dead. 

The prime minister, Mr. Prayuth, who met Sunday with some of the 58 injured victims, said that the gunman had been enraged over a “land problem.” He said it was a conflict that could have been resolved peacefully.  The dispute that preceded the massacre involved the gunman’s superior officer, Col. Anantharot Krasae, and a business operated by the colonel’s family that sold homes and helped soldiers borrow money from a military lending program.  A friend of Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said that the sergeant major had expected to receive about $13,000 in cash back from a loan they had arranged — a significant sum — but the money had disappeared.

According to his friend, he asked repeatedly for the money but did not receive it and had lost hope.  On Saturday, the sergeant major met with Col. Anantharot, Ms. Anong and a property

Outrage Over Warehouse Full of Unused Emergency Supplies From 2017 Discovered in Puerto Rico

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In Puerto Rico, protesters took to the streets calling for the resignation of Governor Wanda Vázquez, after a video was posted showing undistributed emergency supplies sitting in a warehouse in the city of Ponce.   Many are still reeling after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island earlier this month, forcing thousands to leave their homes. Some of the supplies, which include cots, emergency radios, bottled water, baby diapers and propane gas, date back to 2017 and were reportedly intended as emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Maria.  Vázquez is also under fire over her handling of the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed one person and left thousands homeless.  

The warehouse filled with unused emergency supplies was discovered when desperate residents broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from the earthquake.  After the video went viral, Governor Vázquez ordered an investigation and fired three members of her Cabinet as public outrage mounted. Vazquez ordered the dismissal of Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management days after the video emerged.  She then ordered the dismissal of two more cabinet members — her secretaries of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat. The dismissals mean Vázquez fired three members of her cabinet in a little over 24 hours.  

Vázquez said inaction by the fired official, Carlos Acevedo, was unacceptable.  During a news conference, Vazquez said, “Under my administration nobody can come to me with lies. I have a commitment [with the people of Puerto Rico. Public officials serving with me have to have the same commitment.”  Acevedo has denied allegations that his office mishandled the supplies saying the agency continued to distribute them, including during the time Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened the territory. Some of the pallets of water that remained in the warehouse had expired, he said.  He said no residents had been denied the supplies in the warehouse, including food, diapers, baby formula and cots.

Vázquez announced that Nino Correa will be the new chief of operations for Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Office, replacing Acevedo.  The governor had previously said that Secretary of State Elmer Román will now coordinate emergency aid and Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard José Reyes will be in charge of the Office of Emergency Management.  

 

 

Michigan State Police Settle With Family of Damon Grimes

 

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The family of Damon Grimes, a teenager who died in 2017 after a Michigan state trooper stunned him with a Taser has reached a $12 million settlement with the Michigan State Police. Fifteen-year-old Grimes was riding an ATV in a residential area of Detroit, when a police officer tased him for not pulling over fast enough. The teen then crashed into the back of a parked truck and died quickly after. 

This is the Michigan State Police Department’s largest-ever settlement for a single incident.  The Grimes family, including Damon’s mother Monique Grimes and his sisters Dezjanai and Dezanique Grimes, are to get about $8 million of the settlement. Most of the remaining $4 million is to go to the family’s lawyers at the Fieger law firm.

The family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Bessner, fellow trooper Ethan Berger and Michigan State Police Sgt. Jacob Liss said “I’m very thankful that the attorney general recognized the grave injury that occurred in this case, and the intolerable circumstances, and therefore accepted responsibility and allowed justice to be done.”  Fieger added Grimes’ family is “very pleased” with the settlement.

“The facts of this case are so horrendous, and it was difficult dealing with the bureaucracy of the state of Michigan and dealing with the police agencies, but having cut through all that, the attorney general did the right thing and settled the case, and didn’t subject the state to a trial that could have resulted in a much larger verdict,” Fieger said.

The now-former Michigan State Police trooper who used the taser, Mark Bessner, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. It is a violation of Michigan State Police policy to deploy a Taser from a moving vehicle. The State Police revised its chase policy for ATVs in the aftermath of Damon’s death and stopped doing chases in Detroit involving traffic or misdemeanor violations. That new policy was later adopted statewide.

The settlement will end a federal lawsuit filed by Damon’s family in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Bessner and two other troopers, Ethan Berger and Sgt. Jacob Liss, a supervisor. Berger, who was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the Taser, has since resigned from the agency.  A State Police internal affairs report in 2018 accused Berger and Liss of attempting to cover up details of the ATV incident, such as the use of the Taser. Neither were charged in relation to the incident. The Michigan State Police internal affairs investigation had been critical of Liss, the supervisor at the crash scene, for omitting key details from his incident report, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did not pursue criminal charges.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said in a written statement: “The Michigan State Police extends its continued condolences to the Grimes family, friends and supporters. Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former Michigan State Police trooper.

Wisconsin Teen Facing 1st Degree Murder

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A  Wisconsin teenager, Crystul Kizer, is facing life in prison after she confessed to killing 34-year-old Randall Volar at his home last year after she says he raped her, according to her attorneys.  The killing incident occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, in June 2018. Kizer allegedly shot Volar twice in the head, set his home on fire and then stole his luxury vehicle.  Randy Volar began sexually abusing Chrystul Kizer when she was 16 years old, filmed the abuse and allegedly trafficked her for sex. 

Kizer says she connected with Volar through the now-defunct Backpage.com, which was shut down last year for its involvement in human trafficking. Kizer reportedly told Volar she was 19 at the time, but she was actually 16 when he allegedly began paying her for sex and eventually selling her to other men.  She admits to initially lying about her age but says Volar knew she was a minor because they had celebrated her 17th birthday together.

The teen said she eventually tried to distance herself from Volar, because she wanted to get more serious with her boyfriend, Delane Nelson, who is three years older than her. Volar allegedly threatened to kill Kizer when she told Volar about her decision. Kizer didn’t report the threats to police, as she was convinced they would not help her.  In June 2018, Kizer said she had reached out to Volar after getting into a fight with Nelson. The teen claims she was afraid her boyfriend would hurt her, so she asked Volar if she could come to his house until things cooled down. 

Months before his death, in February 2018, Volar was arrested on charges of child sexual assault.  He was taken into custody shortly after a 15-year-old girl called the police from his house, claiming Volar had given her drugs and was going to kill her.  In a search of his home, they confiscated computers and other electronics, along with women’s bikini bottoms and underwear.

Although police found evidence Volar was abusing dozens of underage girls, he was released without bail.  At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography — and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with.  In June 2018, Chrystul killed him after she says he attacked her when she refused to have sex with him. At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography —  and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with.

When confronted by police, Kizer, who was 17 at the time, allegedly confessed to killing him because she was tired of him sexually assaulting her. She also alleged that he sold her to other men for sex, which is why her attorneys say she should be protected under sex trafficking victim laws.  Kizer faces multiple felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a firearm and arson, court records show. She is currently being held on $1 million bail and faces life in prison if convicted.

District Attorney Michael Graveley built a first-degree homicide case against her and wrangled with the public defenders about whether they had the right to review the case against Volar and the accompanying video, photographic, and financial evidence.  Eventually Kizer’s lawyers were granted access to evidence that clearly showed Kizer had been trafficked. Federal law dictates that any child under the age of 18 who has been bought or sold for sex is a sex-trafficking victim, regardless of circumstance.  Prosecutors say the law that protects those who are sex trafficked doesn’t apply wholly in this case. They said they do not believe she was engaged in prostitution at the time of the crime and they don’t believe her life was in danger at the moment. Prosecutors also said they have evidence, including communications with Kizer’s boyfriend and others, indicating that she plotted and planned the murder ahead of time.

 

Ring Data Leak

 

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Amazon is facing backlash over its Ring home security camera and “smart home” product after a data leak exposed the personal information of over 3,000 users. The data breach included emails, passwords and other sensitive information that would allow hackers to access live camera footage from inside every room of people’s homes. This leak could potentially provide criminals and stalkers with access to view live video feeds from inside and around thousands of Ring customers’ homes, see archived videos, and get the precise location of all Ring devices attached to the compromised account by studying the orientation of the footage and location information attached to each camera.
Using the log-in email and password, an intruder could access a Ring customer’s home
address, telephone number, and payment information, including the kind of card they have, and its last four digits and security code. An intruder could also access live camera footage from all active Ring cameras associated with an account, as well as a 30- to 60-day video history, depending on the user’s cloud storage plan.
Ring has claimed that this attack was the result of credential stuffing, a technique where
attackers gather usernames and passwords compromised in another data breach and try them on other websites. “Ring has not had a data breach. Our security team has investigated these incidents and we have no evidence of an unauthorized intrusion or compromise of Ring’s systems or network,” the spokesperson said. “It is not uncommon for bad actors to harvest data from other company’s data breaches and create lists like this so that other bad actors can attempt to gain access to other services.”
The Ring spokesperson added that the company will notify customers who were affected and require them to reset their passwords. Ring does not alert users of attempted log-in from an unknown IP address, or tell users how many others are logged into an account at one time. Because of this, there is no obvious way to know whether any bad actors have logged into people’s compromised Ring accounts without their consent.
This data leak is the latest in a string of incidents involving compromised Ring accounts. The home surveillance camera company was acquired by Amazon in 2018 and has been targeted by hackers who used the cameras to harass children and families while documenting their actions on podcast livestreams. In November, cybersecurity company BitDefender published a white paper describing a now-resolved vulnerability that allowed hackers to physically intercept communications between Ring Video Doorbell Pros and a person’s Wi-Fi network.
The company has also received criticism when it was revealed that over 700 police departments in the US have signed contracts with Ring. These contracts give police access the company’s law enforcement portal, which allows police to request camera footage from residents without receiving a warrant. In exchange, Ring often gives police free cameras, and it offers police more free cameras if they convince enough people to download its neighborhood watch app, Neighbors. In October, a group of 30 civil rights groups published a joint letter demanding that law makers stop the police partnership, calling it a threat to civil right sand liberties.

Harvey Weinstein Reaches Tentative Settlement

 

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Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the board of his now-bankrupt company have reached a tentative $25 million settlement with the dozens of women who have accused him of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.  The deal would not require Weinstein to admit any wrongdoing, nor would Weinstein have to pay any of his own money to the dozens of actresses and female employees who have accused him of serial rape and sexual harassment.

The women who have brought civil suits against him would instead split a pool of money paid by insurance companies representing The Weinstein Company, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018, as a result of the scandal.  Eighteen of Weinstein’s accusers would reportedly share $6.2 million, with none of the women receiving more than $500,000.  Another $18.5 million would be split between accusers who are part of a class action lawsuit against Weinstein, the New York attorney general’s case, and future claimants.

The deal is far from complete since an official agreement must be drawn up and approved by a judge in federal court in Delaware, which is handling The Weinstein Company bankruptcy proceedings, and a judge in federal court in New York. Several accusers refused to go along with the agreement and could challenge it in court.  Rebecca Goldman, Chief Operating Officer of the Time’s Up Foundation, said in a statement “This settlement is more than a math problem – it’s a symptom of a problematic, broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors.  While this settlement is flawed, we know it represents the hard work of several survivors of Harvey Weinstein. We hope it brings them, and perhaps others, some small measure of justice and relief that is long overdue.”

Accusers who are not part of the settlement can still bring suits against him, including actress Ashley Judd. In January, a judge dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim against Weinstein, but stated she could continue with her defamation case against the disgraced producer.   Weinstein is also facing criminal sexual assault charges in New York and is scheduled to go on trial for rape in Manhattan Supreme Court on January 6th.  He has been charged with five counts of predatory sexual assault, criminal sex act and rape. He faces life in prison if convicted.  Weinstein was accused of forcibly performing oral sex on a woman in 2006 and raping another woman in 2013.   A judge recently increased Weinstein’s bail from $1 million to $5 million following allegations he had tampered with his electronic ankle monitor.

The disgraced Hollywood producer, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than 80 women, complained in an interview that the allegations have made him “a forgotten man.”   While recovering from spinal surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Weinstein said “My work has been forgotten.”

Shortly after the interview was made public, the “Silence Breakers,” including actresses Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Rosanna Arquette, posted their response to the official Time’s Up Twitter account.  The statement said “Harvey Weinstein is trying to gaslight society again. He says in a new interview he doesn’t want to be forgotten. Well, he won’t be. He will be remembered as a sexual predator and an unrepentant abuser who took everything and deserves nothing.  He will be remembered by the collective will of countless women who stood up and said enough. We refuse to let this predator rewrite his legacy of abuse.”

 

Correctional Officers Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

 

 

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Four Rikers Island correctional officers were suspended for allegedly waiting several minutes to rescue an inmate who had tried to hang himself in a cell, authorities and law-enforcement sources said.  Surveillance The video showed the officers stood by for seven minutes while a teenager attempted to hang himself. Video shows one officer even walked up to the holding pen where the teenager was hanging, opened the door, then closed the door and walked away without intervening. The city’s Department of Investigation opened an inquiry into the incident.

The guards — three correction officers and one captain — are accused of inaction during the near-fatal incident when Nicholas Feliciano, 18, allegedly attempted to hang himself at the George R. Vierno Center at about 12 a.m. on Nov. 28.  The captain had witnessed the incident on surveillance footage and went to the inmate to cut him down, sources said.  Feliciano was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition with no brain activity and remains in a medically induced coma.  The 18-year-old had been jailed in Rikers since November 19th when he was arrested on a parole violation.  Feliciano had been in an altercation at the jail earlier in the day of suicide attempt and had been moved from general population into a holding cell by himself.

Video footage of the suicide attempt described to the Times shows him wrap one end of a piece of clothing around his neck and another to a pipe on the ceiling of the cell. He then stepped off a wall that separates the toilet from the rest of the cell and hangs from his neck.  At one point during the attempt, Feliciano appeared to have second thoughts and struggled to get his feet back on the wall. He hung from the pipe for about seven minutes before he was rescued.  The area of the attempted suicide was in view of a guard desk where officers can monitor activity through video feeds. The actions of the officers were recorded by a separate camera.

Rikers Island has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality.  The jail complex saw hundreds of stabbings every year during the 1980s and early 1990s.  In 2014, an Associated Press investigation detailed dozens of inmate deaths including that of a homeless ex-Marine who essentially baked to death in a hot cell.  In 2016, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a lack of adequate training and a rising mentally ill population have made an already bad situation in the jail worse.  New York City lawmakers voted in October to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which has become synonymous with violence and neglect, and replace it with four smaller jails in separate boroughs by 2026.  The plan has been met with pushback from communities where the new jails would be located.