Tag Archive: Mark Shuster


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Louisiana investigators say confessed serial killer Samuel Little from Lorain, may be linked to two more unidentified cold case victims in the state.  Little has drawn haunting portraits from memory of women the FBI believes he murdered.  The FBI has released the pictures in hopes some of the victims can be identified.  Little, 78, says he killed 94 women from 1970 to 2005.  Police have confirmed more than 36 cases so far, a tally that puts Little among the deadliest serial killers.  He pled guilty to a Texas woman’s death in January and has been convicted in the deaths of three women from California.

Little was arrested on September 5, 2012, at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, after authorities used DNA testing to establish that he was involved in the murder of Carol Elford, killed on July 13, 1987; Guadalupe Apodaca, killed on September 3, 1987; and Audrey Nelson, killed on August 14, 1989.  All three of their bodies were found dumped in the streets of LA.  He was extradited to Los Angeles, where he was charged on January 7, 2013.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in September 2014.

Months later, police said that Little was being investigated for involvement in dozens of murders committed across 14 states between 1970 and 2005.    On November 9, 2018, Little confessed to the 1996 fatal strangulation of Melissa Thomas.  In December 2018, Little pled guilty to the 1994 murder of Denise Christie.  confessed to the 1979 murder of 23-year-old Brenda Alexander whose body was found in Phenix City.  Little also confessed to the 1977 murder of an unidentified woman and the 1982 strangling murder of 18-year-old Fredonia Smith.

According to authorities, he also confessed to the 1982 murder of 55-year-old Dorothy Richards, the 1996 murder of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire, the 1978 murder of 36-year-old Julia Critchfield, the 1978 murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Weston, the 1982 murder of 20-year-old Rosie Hill and the 2005 murder of 46-year-old Nancy Carol Stevens.  Police have linked him to the 1981 murder of 23 year old Linda Sue Boards.  He has also been linked to two murder victims who remain unidentified.

Little confessed to strangling all his victims and dumping their bodies in wooded areas. Without a gunshot or knife wound, many of the deaths were blamed on overdoses or accidents and murder investigations were never opened. The victims were often involved in prostitution or addicted to drugs and their bodies sometimes went unidentified.  According to the FBI, Little remembers his victims and the killings in great detail.   He remembers where he was and what car he was driving but is less reliable with remembering dates.

Little began making the confessions in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles County prison in which he was being held.  The FBI says Little is in very poor health and will stay in prison until his death.  He uses a wheelchair, and suffers from diabetes and a heart condition.  Little has confessed to dozens of murders and has drawn 26 portraits of some of his alleged victims.  One of his victims has been identified from the portraits so far.  Martha Cunningham of Knox County, Tennessee who was 34 years old when Little murdered her in 1975.   The agency is releasing these photos now to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases.  If you have any information that can help, call 800-634-4097.

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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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A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy.  Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.

They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.

The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label.  Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.

Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”

Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.  Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.

Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.

The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States.  The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

 

 

john-singleton-2.jpgFilmmaker John Singleton, 51, died after suffering a stroke.  The director had been in a coma since suffering the stroke on April 17.  “John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends,” Singleton’s family said. “We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time.”

On April 17, 2019, Singleton reportedly began to experience weakness in his legs after returning to the United States from a trip to Costa Rica.  He suffered a stroke and was placed under intensive care.  On April 25, it was reported that he was in a coma and on April 29, Singleton was removed from life support and died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  He is survived by his mother, Sheila Ward, his father, Danny Singleton and his children Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven.

A slew of actors and musicians paid tribute to him, including Devon Aoki, Tyra Banks, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Morris Chestnut, Snoop Dogg, Omar Epps, Tyrese Gibson, Omar Gooding, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Isaacs, Janet Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Taylor Lautner, Nia Long, Ludacris, Lori Petty, Q-Tip, Michael Rapaport, Busta Rhymes, Kristy Swanson, Mark Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright.  Rapper and actor Ice Cube who worked with Singleton in Boyz N The Hood and Higher Learning said “There are no words to express how sad I am to lose my brother, friend & mentor. He loved to bring the black experience to the world.

In 1992, at the age of 24, Singleton became the first African American—and the youngest person ever—to be nominated for an Oscar for best director, for “Boyz n the Hood,” a film based on his experiences growing up in South Central Los Angeles.  He wrote the screenplay while attending the cinema school at USC, winning various awards while a student that lead to his signing with Creative Artists Agency, the powerful talent agency.

Many of his most notable films, such as Poetic Justice, released in 1993 and Higher Learning, released in 1995, had themes which resonated with people.  In 1997, he directed “Rosewood,” a historical drama based on the 1923 Rosewood massacre, when a white mob killed black residents and destroyed their Florida town. He also directed the films Baby Boy, Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.   As a producer, Singleton was involved with the movies Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow.

Recently, Singleton has been active in television as both a producer and director, which included co-creating the FX series “Snowfall” — a drama about the early rise of the crack cocaine epidemic — and episodes of shows such as “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Billions” and “Empire.”  In a 2017 interview, Singleton reflected on the fact that he could have done more movies but some of his experiences with Hollywood, and its treatment of African-American movies and filmmakers, had inspired his move into television.

 

 

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The FBI has arrested the head of a vigilante militia group that has repeatedly filmed itself holding migrant border crossers at gunpoint in New Mexico.  Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), allegedly rounded up and held asylum seekers at gun point while posing as US Border Patrol Agents.  Videos posted on social media showed members of Hopkins’s militia pursuing migrants in New Mexico’s desert west of El Paso, Texas, holding them at gunpoint and coordinating their arrests with U.S. Border Patrol agents.

UCP and Hopkins claim to work alongside Border Patrol, though the agency has denied working with UCP.  A Border Patrol official released a statement that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.  Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”

Mitchell, 69, of Flora Vista in northern New Mexico, was indicted on a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.  The charge doesn’t specifically relate to Hopkins’ activities at the border but rather to a federal investigation from 2017.   According to court documents, in November 2017, FBI agents visited Hopkins Flora Vista home after learning he previously claimed the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  They found Hopkins was in possession of nine firearms and ammunition.  He had three prior felony convictions dating back to 1996, including impersonating a policee officer in the state of Oregon in 2006.  If convicted on the charge in the indictment, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

Federal officials have not commented on the timing of the charges against Hopkins for offenses committed in Nov. 2017.  NPR reporter Mallory Falk said “It’s a group of armed civilians often dressed in military fatigues. They’ve been camped out in Sunland Park, N.M., which is a small community very close to the U.S.-Mexico border. And they’ve been stopping migrant families that they’re encountering crossing the border who are trying to come into the U.S. to claim asylum. They’ve been stopping those families, telling them to sit on the ground, and then calling Border Patrol, and Border Patrol then comes in and apprehends those families.”  Falk said that Mitchell’s attorney suggested that state officials want to stop the group’s border activities and are using charges that are a year-and-a-half old to put pressure on them.

Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said that the militia group believes it is aiding an overstretched Border Patrol.  “They generally think that Border Patrol is spread too thin and that there are gaps in the system or there’s literal gaps in the fence,” said O’Connell. “They think they believe that they are helping to enforce the law of America.”  The group has had an encampment in the area since November 2018, and claims to have detained 3,000 migrants in all.

 

 

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The death toll from Easter Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches in Sri Lanka has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects.  Nearly 500 people were injured during the coordinated bombings across the island nation.  Sri Lankan officials say the attacks were a response to last month’s attacks on two mosques by a white nationalist gunman who killed 50 Muslim worshipers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Sri Lankan officials say a little-known Muslim organization called National Thowheed Jama’ath carried out the series of Easter Sunday suicide bombings with another Sri Lankan group known as the JMI.  Officials also apologized for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks.  A confidential memo which was ignored, circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies 10 days prior to the attack that warned of a possible attack and gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects.

The first round of deadly attacks hit busy Easter services at Catholic churches in the heart of Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community in and around the capital Colombo, as well as a Protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.  Bombs also exploded in three luxury hotels in Colombo, with another blast striking a hotel near a zoo south of the capital, and a final blast at a private home believed to be tied to the attackers.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena requested Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks but ath first, the police chief refused.  Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defense secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.   Fernando resigned earlier in the week and Jayasundara later resigned.  Police are looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.  “Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.  Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.

Despite the police having already detained a lot of suspects, they warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers, a leading businessman who is active in politics, has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.

 

 

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Department says it will probe the actions of officers caught on camera brutally assaulting teenagers after responding to a call about an after-school fight in a McDonald’s parking lot near their high school in Coral Springs.  Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said in a statement that the deputy shown in the viral video should be fired.  The incident between the teen and deputy was captured on cellphone video by a group of teens who had gathered at a McDonald’s parking lot after school to watch two teens fight.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said he would launch a “thorough investigation” into deputies who are shown on video pepper-spraying, tackling and punching teens near J.P. Taravella High.  “It may take some time but we will be transparent, and if folks need to be held accountable, it shall be done,” he said in a video statement.  One of the deputies involved, Christopher Krickovich, has been with the department for six years and is on restricted assignment pending the investigation.  The other deputy, Sgt. Greg LaCerra, has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 17 years and his status is unclear.

The cellphone video appears to show one deputy who responded to the scene restraining a teenager in the parking lot when another deputy pushes away a girl who appeared to grab a phone from the ground.  When another teen intervenes, the same deputy then uses pepper spray on the teen before grabbing him and taking him to the ground.  Two other deputies then jump in, one of them straddles the boy who is face down on the ground, punched him in the head repeatedly before grabbing him by the back of the neck and slamming his face into the pavement.  The victim, a 14-year-old student at J.P. Taravella High School, was left bleeding heavily and was later rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

It all began with the initial 911 call at 2:55 p.m. reporting that several students had gathered in the Tamarac McDonald’s parking lot, a popular after-school hangout.  A follow-up call at 3:08 p.m. reported that kids were fighting.  Krickovich wrote in a police report that he and LaCerra saw a fight starting but it ended before they got close enough to break it up. They also spotted a student who had been warned not to trespass at the shopping center and arrested him.  “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me.

I observed a teen wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone,” Krickovich wrote.  The teen “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists,” Krickovich wrote. At that point, one of the deputies pepper-sprayed and “quickly jumped on the male with the red tank top,” Krickovich wrote, saying he was fearing for his safety.  The teen’s “left arm was free and next to him, while he placed his right arm under his face. I struck the male in the right side of his head with a closed fist as a distractionary technique to free his right hand. This technique was successful and I was able to place him into handcuffs without further incident.”  Krickovich’s also stated in the police report that the three officers were outnumbered by about 200 students “who were yelling, threatening us and surrounding us, I had to act quickly, fearing I would get stuck or having a student potentially grab weapons off of my belt or vest.”

Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said the deputy who threw the student to the ground should be suspended at the very minimum and the deputy who punched the student and pushed his head into the ground should be removed.

 

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Colorado police say they discovered the body of a Florida teenager who had allegedly threatened to mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings with a massacre of her own. Eighteen-year-old Sol Pais was found in the mountains west of Denver, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said Pais, who was “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre, had traveled to Denver Monday, buying a gun and ammunition in Littleton, CO before making threats that the FBI called “credible” but nonspecific.

Denver area schools, including Columbine High School, increased security Tuesday after the news broke.  The threats prompted authorities to cancel Wednesday classes across 20 districts in the Denver area for more than a half-million students.  April 20th marks the 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High—in which two students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher.

On Monday, Pais, a high school senior, purchased three one-way airplane tickets to Denver for consecutive days and left her Miami home.  Her parents reported her missing to local police and investigators discovered Pais was infatuated with the Columbine shooting so they called the Miami FBI office.  She kept an online journal that included sketches of one of the killers, Dylan Klebold and of guns. Social media posts along with comments she made to others led the FBI to see her as a credible threat.  Special Agent Dean Phillips, who is in charge of the Denver office, said Pais never made a specific threat to a specific school.

As the FBI began tracking Pais’ whereabouts, agents also began informing local law enforcement that Pais was in the area and that she was armed, prompting Tuesday’s lockdown and Wednesday’s cancellations.  Authorities have said she arrived in Denver late Monday morning and then went to a gun shop near Littleton, where she purchased a pump-action shotgun and two boxes of ammunition.   Even as schools began increasing security Tuesday afternoon, authorities had evidence that she was at Mount Evans with no means to come back to the city.

Authorities say Pais was dropped off by a rideshare service, about 56 miles west of Columbine High School at a pullout on Highway 103 at the base of Mount Evans in Clear Creek County.  She told the driver that she wanted to see snow.  From that moment, the 18-year-old dressed in a black T-shirt and camouflaged pants was on foot with no tent, no sleeping bag and no coat.  Searches had begun in and around Mount Evans as law enforcement continued to view her as a credible threat until they had located her.

Law enforcement stopped the search late Tuesday but resumed Wednesday morning.  They notified the Denver school district after Pais’s body was located and classes resumed on Thursday.  Authorities said Wednesday they are continuing to look into Pais’ communication, personal connections and social media usage from the past year to investigate whether she had any other accomplices. The FBI did not directly address a website linked to Pais in which she posted a series of disorganized rants that talk mostly about her hopelessness and loneliness.

 

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A man accused of setting fire to three historically black churches in Louisiana has been charged with hate crimes.  Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff, was originally charged with two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building after being arrested last week.

Authorities arrested Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, last week on suspicion he set fires to three churches over the span of about 10 days.  The first blaze occurred at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26.  On April 2, the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas was set ablaze and then the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 4.  All three churches were in St. Landry Parish, about 30 minutes north of Lafayette.

An arrest warrant reportedly showed that officials connected Matthews to the crimes through the charred remains of a brand of gas can found at the scene of the April 4 fire.  Investigators learned that a Walmart in Opelousas was a local seller of the Scepter-branded can found at the scene.  Walmart informed investigators that two Scepter cans were purchased late on March 25 — less than three hours before the first fire — along with a 10-pack of automotive cloths and a lighter, according to the affidavit. The receipt showed the purchase was made with a debit card in the name of Holden Matthews.

Investigators also obtained surveillance photos of the purchaser and the pickup he was driving. The affidavit said a Ford pickup like the one Matthews was driving was registered to the suspect’s father, Roy.  The same color and model pickup that Matthews drives was also seen at two of the churches shortly before the fires were reported to 911, according to video footage referenced in the arrest warrant.

The affidavit said the pickup was also later captured driving by the scene of the fire and slowing down. A firefighter also reported seeing the pickup near the burning church.  During his Monday hearing, prosecutors said cellphone evidence placed Matthews at the scenes of the three fires, including photos and videos.   District Judge James Doherty said “There is a substantial amount of evidence, it appears,” before denying Matthews bond and setting a trial date for September.

Matthew’s father, Roy Matthews was unaware of his son’s alleged involvement and was not personally part of the investigation, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told reporters.  Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters “I don’t know what this young man’s motive was, I don’t know what was in his heart, but I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized.  These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value.”  Church burnings were a common occurrence in the Jim Crow era and church fires in the South — immediately bring to mind such racist attacks.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigations. The NAACP has labeled the fires “domestic terrorism,” adding that the “spike in church burnings in Southern states is a reflection of the emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country.”

 

 

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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.