7 Dead in Texas Shooting Spree

 

 

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A gunman killed seven people and injured 22 others on Saturday in the city of Odessa in western Texas.  Police have identified the gunman as 36-year-old Seth Ator and say he went on the rampage just hours after he was fired from his trucking job. Police say the massacre began after an officer pulled Ator over for failing to use a turn signal. He then reportedly opened fire using an AR-15-style weapon before speeding away. Soon after, he began shooting randomly at residents and motorists as he drove between the cities of Odessa and Midland.

During a press conference the day after the shooting, FBI special agent Christopher Combs identified the shooter and gave more details into the timeline of the shooting.  Combs said that Ator showed up to work enraged and was then fired from his job at Journey Oilfield Services.  Police say the firing led to both him and his employer calling the cops on each other because they were having a disagreement over the firing.  By the time police arrived to calm down the situation, the soon-to-be mass killer was gone.  Combs said 15 minutes later, Ator made a second call to the FBI national tip line.  “It was frankly rambling statements about some of the atrocities he felt he had gone through. He did not make a threat during that phone call. He ended that phone call. After that phone call, we initiated all of our law enforcement procedures trying to figure out who he was, where he was. Unfortunately, it was only 15 minutes before the trooper was engaged.”

The shooting spree began on Aug. 31st at 3:17 p.m. during a traffic stop on Interstate 20, where a Texas state trooper was shot while attempting to stop a Honda over a failure to signal a left turn.  Ator continued into Odessa, Texas, and shot another person on the Interstate.  In Odessa, he abandoned the Honda, hijacked a United States Postal Service truck, killing the postal worker and continued to drive and shoot people before police cornered him in a movie theater parking lot.  Ator was killed in the shootout with police in the parking lot of a Cinergy movie theater.  Ator killed seven people, ranging in age from 15 to 57.  Twenty-two others were hospitalized for injuries.  Among the injured are three police: a Texas state trooper, a Midland police officer, and an Odessa police officer. The youngest victim is a wounded 17-month-old child who is expected to recover.

The shooting spree lasted roughly an hour, with the gunmen shooting people at random as they walked through their front yards, walked through parking lots and went about their day.  Police say the gunmen drove in no particular pattern, doubling back from Odessa to Midland, spraying people with bullets as he drove.  During the frenzied hour, dispatchers and officers guided EMT to a growing number of locations as the calls kept coming in.  Ator’s vehicle switch only added to the confusion as the police in both communities scrambling to head to the scene of each call in hopes of stopping the shooter.  At one point during the chaos, officers believed they had two shooters due to the vehicle switch and multiple locations and officers requested that the Midland area be shut down immediately.

On September 1, the FBI said it was executing a search warrant at the suspect’s house, located about 20 minutes west of Odessa. Authorities say Ator lived alone, except for a small dog, in western Ector County in a metal shack that lacked electricity, plumbing, a floor and even furniture.  Police say in January 2014, Ator failed a national criminal background check when he tried to purchase a gun.  The system flagged him as ineligible because of a prior local court determination that he was mentally unfit.  According to law enforcement officials, Ator subsequently bought the gun used in the shooting via a private sale, without having to go through a background check.

A neighbor said that well before his killing spree he had yelled at her while carrying a big rifle. She also said he sometimes shot animals from his roof, about which she had complained to police, but they never responded to her complaint.  Police never visited Ator’s home because they couldn’t find the property on GPS maps.  Another neighbor said that her family had lived near Ator for the past five months and were afraid of him, due to his nighttime rabbit shooting and banging on their door early one morning.

All seven victims from the shooting have now been identified: 29-year-old Mary Granados, the postal worker who was killed when the gunman hijacked her postal truck; 57-year-old Rodolfo Arco was shot on his way home from work; 30-year-old Kameron brown was an army vet who served in Afghanistan; 40-year-old Joe Griffith, a resident in Odessa; 25-year-old Edwin Peregrino, a graduate of Perryton High School; 35-year-old Raul Garcia of El Paso and 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez who was shot outside of a car dealership.

 

 

 

 

 

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RI Corrections Officer Resigns After Driving Truck Into Protesters

 

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The Rhode Island correctional officer accused of driving his truck into a group of peaceful protesters has resigned amid an investigation into the incident that occurred during a protest outside the Wyatt Detention Center.  Captain Thomas Woodworth resigned days after the incident after after initially being placed on leave.

Woodworth was seen behind the wheel of a pickup truck that drove into a crowd of protesters.  The Jewish activist group that started the protest, Never Again Action, released a statement that they are glad Woodworth resigned.  The group also called on authorities to punish the correctional officers that used pepper spray on the crowd of protesters surrounding the truck.

The detention center, owned by a municipal quasi-public agency, has been under scrutiny for months after entering an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees while they await trial. Approximately 139 federal immigration detainees are currently being housed at Wyatt.  The protest was attended by an estimated 500 people who gathered at the facility around 7PM.  The group heard from local faith leaders and community activists, leading one another in chants and songs outside the facility.

Anticipating a shift change by guards, around 30 members of the group moved to block the main parking lot used by employees of the prison at around 9PM. Harvey says they intended to use “peaceful protest in the civil disobedience mode” to disrupt Wyatt’s operations for a few hours.  When the incident occurred, protesters were standing in front of the entrance to the facility, holding hands to form a chain. Another group of protesters sat on the ground, blocking off access to a staff parking lot.  A video showed a pickup truck, driven by Woodworth, 64, driving into the seated protesters, hitting some and sending others running. The protest group says one person has a broken leg.  The truck stopped and honked at the protesters surrounding it, before continuing to drive forward. Several officers were seen on video misting the crowd with what appears to be pepper spray after asking them to move away from the truck.

After Woodworth drove into the crowd, officers from the facility poured into the parking lot and used pepper spray against the protesters. Of the five people who were hospitalized following the incident, two were treated for injuries related to Woodworth’s attack including 64-year-old Jerry Belair, of Warren, who suffered a broken leg and internal bleeding.  Three others were treated for pepper spray-related injuries – including one woman in her 70s.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office said in a statement that it is working with Rhode Island State Police to investigate the event.  “Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans,” the attorney general’s office said. “It is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did.”  Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin said that his office is investigating the incident and looking at how the facility responds to protests.

Confessed Serial Killer May Be Linked To 2 More Louisiana Victims

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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.

Sheriff Deputy’s Son Charged In Louisiana Church Fires

 

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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.”

 

Preliminary Report In Boeing Crash Released

 

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Ethiopia released its’ preliminary findings from its investigation into last month’s fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed all 157 crew and passengers on board. Ethiopia’s transport minister said the pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet followed normal procedures but were unable to overcome a flaw in the plane’s software that automatically pushed the plane’s nose down. The preliminary report found similarities in the technical failures experienced by pilots of October’s Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which also crashed just minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board.  The report, which could change in the coming months when it’s completed, doesn’t rule out the potential for pilot error in the Ethiopian crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all 737 MAX aircraft while Boeing works on fixes to the planes’ software.  Boeing said this week that it needed more time to finish a software update and training, which will be necessary before the planes can fly again.  Lawmakers and regulators are scrutinizing Boeing and the process for certifying the 737 Max. The families of passengers and crew killed in the two crashes have hired lawyers to pursue claims against Boeing.  Boeing is working on an additional software fix for another problem which is related to aircraft flaps and other flight control hardware. These issues are reportedly classified as critical to flight safety.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg released a video apology  “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. … From the days immediately following the Lion Air accident, we’ve had teams of our top engineers and technical experts working tirelessly, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and our customers, to finalize and implement a software update that will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.”

Boeing dismissed concerns about a powerful new anti-stall system on the 737 Max for months, insisting that pilots could deal with any problems by following a checklist of emergency procedures.  The preliminary findings from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash have raised speculation of the sufficiency of those instructions.   The findings show that the pilots on the Ethiopian Airlines flight initially followed the prescribed procedures he was trained on after the anti-stall system malfunctioned. They shut off the electricity that allows the automated software to push the plane’s nose down and took manual control of the jet. They then tried to right the plane, with the captain telling his co-pilot three times to “pull up.”

Unfortunately, they could not regain control and about four minutes after the system initially activated, the plane hit the ground at high speed, killing all 157 people on board.  The report’s findings are not yet final but the initial evidence suggests that Boeing’s procedures may not have worked well when a plane was flying at a high speed.  The system, according to the investigators’ findings, appears to have forced the nose of the plane down several times in less than three minutes leaving pilots with a very short window to react before going into an irrecoverable nose dive.

Measles Outbreak in Pacific Northwest

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

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

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

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

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

Hundreds Still Missing After Dam Collapse in Brazil

 

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Police have arrested five people over the devastating dam collapse in Minas Gerais, Brazil that killed at least 65 people, with nearly 300 still missing. Three of those arrested work for Vale, the mining company that owned and operated the dam. The other two worked for a German company that carried out inspections on the dam last year.  Attorney General Andre Mendonca said Vale is responsible for the disaster, the second of its kind in three years involving the mining company.

Authorities called the 2015 Mariana dam collapse the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history. That collapse killed 19 people and wreaked havoc on the environment, leading mining company Samarco — a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton — to reach a deal in 2016 with the Brazilian government to pay up to $6.2 billion.  In a video over the weekend, Vale chief Fabio Schvartsman called the Brumadinho dam break “inexcusable” and asked the Brazilian public for forgiveness. He said the company will aid victims and noted that Vale put “immense effort” into improving its dams after the disaster in Mariana.

Soon after the most recent collapse, the state judiciary froze more than $260 million from Vale, with a presiding judge citing the company’s responsibility for the disaster. The money will be deposited into a judicial account to compensate for any costs to the state as a result of rescue operations or victim support. Minas Gerais state has fined Vale $99 million for damage caused by the dam break and said the money will be used for repairs.

The Civil Defense of Minas Gerais said 291 people were still missing and 192 people have been rescued from the area.  Authorities say 427 people were in the Córrego do Feijão mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais when the dam burst.  Hundreds of people are still missing and the collapse buried most of the mining town-Brumadinho.  The disaster shed light on potential risks at nearly 700 other mining dams in the state of Minas Gerais and drew attention to what some described as a lack of appropriate regulation.

The collapse unleashed a muddy sea of mining debris into the region and the extent of the damage is still being calculated.  Authorities temporarily halted search and rescue and placed 3,000 people under evacuation orders amid fears that another dam nearby was about to rupture. The orders were lifted after authorities determined dam VI was no longer at risk of bursting.  In an effort to find missing people, the Federal Attorney General’s Office obtained an injunction in the Federal Court of Minas Gerais ruling that mobile carriers should provide data from the cell phone signals of people who were in the region where the dam broke.

Officials say they expect to contain the sludgy mine waste known as tailings within two days. The Brazilian National Water Agency said they are monitoring the tailings and coordinating plans for supplying water to the affected region.  Officials said during a press conference that the priority now is assisting victims and their families. After that, officials said they’d focus on environmental damage and the mining process.

Several videos circulating of the disaster show the devastation of the dam collapse.  One video shows the exact moment the dam collapsed, sending a sea of mud and debris swallowing up the area as unsuspecting cars are scene, likely for the last time.   Videos of the rescue efforts show helicopters hovering feet above the ground as firefighters’ pluck people from the muck.