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Fatal shooting of Florida teen turned over to state attorney
Vivian Kuo Mar-14-2012 1605 5


A case involving the fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teen, which has sparked outrage and calls for justice, is in the hands of the state attorney's office.

Police say Trayvon Martin, 17, was returning from the convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, around sunset on February 26.

A neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, 28, saw the teen and called 911 to report a suspicious man, authorities said.

The 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman not to confront Martin, but by the time police arrived, the teenager lay dead with a gunshot wound in the chest, said Bill Lee, the Sanford police chief. He was carrying a small amount of cash, some candy and an iced tea.

Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self defense, authorities said.

"When you add it up, it just doesn't even make sense," said Ben Crump, the Martin family's attorney. "Trayvon Martin, a kid, has a bag of Skittles. (Zimmerman) had a 9 mm gun. Trayvon Martin didn't approach George Zimmerman, George Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin. So how can he now assert self defense?"

A gunshot can be heard on the 911 calls recorded that night, police said.

The Martin family has sought to make the tapes available, but State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said Tuesday the calls will not be made public until the investigation is complete.

"Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a through, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process," Wolfinger's office said in a statement. "We intend to honor that commitment."

The shooting has sparked an outrage in the community, with some accusing Zimmerman, who is white, of profiling the black teenager.

Numerous attempts to contact Zimmerman were unsuccessful, and it is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

Police said they have not charged him because there are no grounds to disprove his story of what happened.

"The evidence and testimony we have so far does not establish that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self defense. We don't have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense, at this point, with the evidence and testimony that we have," Lee said.

Lee said the 911 directions asking Zimmerman not to confront the teenager are not mandatory instructions.

"That is a call taker making a recommendation to him. He's not under a legal obligation to do that, so that is not something we can charge him with," he said. " But it would have been a good outcome ... if Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman never came in contact with one another."

In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP expressed doubt in the Sanford Police Department and asked the Department of Justice to review the case.

"The NAACP has no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation. We therefore call upon you to detail personnel to Sanford immediately to review the facts, ensure that the Sanford Police Department conducts an impartial, thorough and prompt investigation of the circumstances involving the death of this unarmed teen, and ensure that the responsible person is held accountable if a crime was committed," the letter said.

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Nicole Hensley Feb-10-2016 76 0
David Joseph, a 17-year-old high school student shot and killed by a Texas police officer, was unarmed and naked when a cop gunned him down in an Austin suburb.

The shooting death boggled his friends, family and local civil rights activists who learned David was both unarmed and nude when Officer Geoffrey Freeman encountered the former football player in a residential street 10 miles north of the city’s downtown.

The teen’s family was notified of the his death Tuesday afternoon, who later demanded an investigation into what led to David's death at 9 a.m. Monday.

“We are shocked and saddened,” wrote David's family, issuing their only public statement Tuesday. “He was taken from us in an unexpected and violent way and (we) are struggling to understand how our child was stolen from us by the police.”

David, a senior at John B. Connally High School, “had a life full of possibilities in front of him,” his family wrote.

He would have graduated this spring He dreamed of going to college this fall. He loved music, played soccer and football. He was a varsity offensive linebacker with the Connally Cougars.

His classmates recalled their fallen friend as intelligent and funny.

“I don’t understand why he was naked and they felt the need to shoot him,” his friend, Samone Morales, 19, told KXAN-TV. "He could have been Tased maybe, something other than being shot. He didn’t deserve to be shot.”

A criminal and internal investigation will probe Freeman’s encounter with the teen, who was found naked in a street near the 12000 block of Nature’s Bend.

Freeman, a 10-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, had just spoken to residents claiming the black teen had chased a man around a nearby apartment complex.

The officer’s dash cam captured the initial encounter with the doomed teen, but it failed to record the moment he allegedly charged at Freeman after ignoring repeated commands to stop. Instead of using a Taser, the officer, who is also black, opened fire, killing David.
“We can tell you today, Mr. Joseph was not armed,” Assistant Austin Police Chief Brian Manley revealed at a press conference Tuesday.

Manley would not comment on Joseph's mental health. An autopsy and toxicology report will determine whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

“We do value the sanctity of all life here at the department — both our officers and the communities,” Manley added.

Manley expressed his condolences to Joseph’s family, whose only public statement said, “David should not have been taken away from us.”

“No family should have to suffer like we are today,” Joseph’s relatives said.

The Travis County District Attorney will be present its findings to a grand jury.


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Nicole Hensley Feb-10-2016 72 0
An uncle cried “I love my nephew” after a gun he owned was mistakenly used to kill a 13-year-old boy at a Florida home.

The shooter was a teen relative who brandished the firearm he found in a bathroom. He mistakenly opened fire after losing his balance on a hoverboard at around 1 p.m. Sunday.

The stray bullet struck Lavardo Fisher in the neck while he was hanging out with his brother and two cousins, according to WKMG-TV.

It’s unclear which relative, two of whom were 18-years-old, pulled the trigger.

Fisher was critically wounded, but he later died at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children on Tuesday.

“I think it’s a case of kids goofing off and playing with guns, not knowing what can happen,” said Tony Snelling, a neighbor who heard the gunshot.

The victim’s uncle, Walter Morame, 35, was not home at the time of the shooting, but he was handcuffed by Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies outside his home for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

News of the shooting devastated the victim’s father, who rushed to the home to be with his son.

“I saw him running down the street,” Snellings told the TV station. “He was pretty messed up about it.”

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Meg Wagner Feb-09-2016 63 0
A Black Lives Matter activist killed himself on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse, authorities said.

MarShawn McCarrel's family said his emotionally draining work may well have taken a toll on him. The 23-yearold shot himself in front of the Columbus building Monday night, Lt. Craig Cvetan of the State Highway Patrol told the Columbus Dispatch.

“My demons won today. I'm sorry,” the activist, who recently attended the NAACP Image Awards, posted on his Facebook page about 3 p.m., just hours before his body was found near the Statehouse.

His last tweet read: “Let the record show that I pissed on the state house before I left.”

No one witnessed the shooting, Cvetan said. McCarrel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His mother Leatha Wellington and twin brother MarQuan McCarrel later told the Dispatch he put his causes before himself.

They suspect the never-ending and disturbing nature of his activist and charity work left him mentally and physically exhausted in a way they didn't realize, they said.

"He impacted so many people, touched so many lives," Wellington said.

"He was just so creative," said McCarrel. "He just wanted to serve people."

McCarrel, who had recently worked with Black Lives Matter, helped organize protests in Ohio after a Missouri cop shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in 2014.

He also founded youth mentorship program Pursuing Our Dreams, which launched Feed the Streets, a project to help Ohio's homeless.

He attended the NAACP’s Image Awards on Friday, Pursuing Our Dreams wrote on its Facebook.

The 23-year-old community organizer was named one of Radio One’s Hometown Champions, an award for community activists and volunteers, earlier this year and earned a trip to the California awards show. He took his mom to the Friday night ceremony.

"He is selfless and will give his last in order to make sure others don't go without,” read a nomination page for the Hometown Champions Award. “MarShawn has come so far in life and has inspired so many people to help others”

McCarrel was homeless for three months after he graduated from high school — an experience that inspired him to help others, according to his nomination.

“When MarShawn got back on his feet, he felt the need to give back because so many people helped him when he was down,” it read. “MarShawn stresses the importance of having conversations with the people we feed because they'll get hungry in 2 hours but a good conversation will carry them over for a lifetime.”

“All everyone needs is love,” he told 614 Columbus in 2014, referring to his work with the Feed the Streets. “That’s a human being. That’s a pulse. We’re feeding everyone, we’re sending the message — today I got you; tomorrow, I could be right there.”



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Jon Herskovitz Feb-09-2016 74 0
A police officer in Texas fatally shot a naked man on Monday who charged at officers and had been reported acting aggressively toward people in a neighborhood of Austin, police said.

The officer who shot the black male of about 18 years of age is a veteran of more than 10 years on the Austin force.

The race of the officer was not given but the killing comes as protesters in San Antonio are questioning if race was at play in the fatal shooting by police in the city to the southwest of Austin last week of an unarmed black man.

Austin police said they received multiple phone calls of the man acting suspiciously and aggressively. Officers arrived on the scene and confronted the man, a police official said.

"This subject did not comply with the commands that the officer was giving and instead charged at the officer," Brian Manley, chief of staff for the Austin Police Department, told reporters.

"The subject was struck by the gunfire," he said adding he died later at an area hospital.

Part of the incident was recorded on police video camera. The shooting was not on camera but there is audio available, he said.

Manley did not say if the man had a weapon. He added officers did not deploy Tasers on the suspect.

Several incidents nationwide in the past several months where unarmed minorities have been fatally shot by police have raised questions about the role of race in U.S. policing and spawned numerous protests.

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MITCH SMITH Feb-08-2016 70 0
The Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old and an unarmed bystander in December has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million in damages from the teenager’s estate, an unusual legal approach based on a claim that the young man’s actions leading up to the gunfire were “atrocious” and have caused the officer “extreme emotional trauma.”

The lawsuit provides the first public explanation by the officer, Robert Rialmo, of what happened on Dec. 26 when he confronted Quintonio LeGrier, a college student who Officer Rialmo said was wielding a baseball bat. Mr. LeGrier and his neighbor Bettie Jones, 55, who the police said was an innocent bystander, both died after Officer Rialmo fired several shots.

The shooting, which is under investigation, further strained relations between the Chicago Police Department and African-American residents just weeks after another Chicago officer was charged with murder and as the Justice Department was beginning a broad review of Chicago police practices.

Basileios J. Foutris, a lawyer for Mr. LeGrier’s estate, called the lawsuit “nonsense” and said Officer Rialmo’s account of what had happened was “pure fantasy.”

“It’s a new low for the Chicago Police Department,” Mr. Foutris said. “First you shoot them, then you sue them. It’s outrageous. I can’t believe that this police officer has the temerity to turn around and sue the estate of the person who he killed.”

Officer Rialmo’s lawsuit, filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, was a counterclaim to a wrongful death case brought weeks ago by Mr. LeGrier’s estate. The estate’s lawsuit claimed that Officer Rialmo acted improperly and that Mr. LeGrier “never posed a danger or threat of harm to any Chicago police officer.”

Joel A. Brodsky, a lawyer for Officer Rialmo, said that his client had responded appropriately after Mr. LeGrier confronted him with a baseball bat, but that the officer felt terrible that Ms. Jones had also been killed.

“He just wants to stress he did not see her. He did not know she was there,” Mr. Brodsky said. “When I say he feels extremely horrible about her death, that’s an understatement. But the bottom line is that it was Quintonio LeGrier who forced him to shoot.”

Mr. Brodsky acknowledged that it was rare for a police officer to sue the estate of a person he killed, but said Officer Rialmo was entitled to do so. “There is no question that he suffered very extreme emotional trauma and stress as a result of what Quintonio LeGrier did,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Officer Rialmo’s account of the shooting provides far more detail than the city’s official statements, which acknowledged that Ms. Jones was accidentally struck but provided few details about what happened before the gunfire. According to the officer’s counterclaim, Mr. LeGrier charged down a staircase and swung a baseball bat twice at Officer Rialmo. Though the officer was not struck, the lawsuit said, one swing came “close enough for Officer Rialmo to feel the movement of air as the bat passed in front of his face.”

The lawsuit said Mr. LeGrier, who before officers were dispatched had called 911 and been hung up on, continued advancing toward Officer Rialmo with the bat after those two swings. At that point, the counterclaim said, Officer Rialmo feared for his life and fired his gun from a few feet away.

Mr. Foutris said the officer’s account was contrary to the evidence he had seen so far, and he questioned the contention that Mr. LeGrier threatened the officer with a bat.

“Why would a kid that called three times asking for police help ever swing a bat at a cop?” Mr. Foutris said.

Mr. Brodsky said Officer Rialmo is a white Chicago native in his 20s from a family with several police officers and firefighters. He said Officer Rialmo, who remains on desk duty, joined the department about three years ago after serving in the military.

Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, said Sunday that the counterclaim was “not a department lawsuit” and declined to comment further.

Mr. LeGrier and Ms. Jones were killed about a month after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, who was 17 and black. Video footage of that shooting showed Officer Van Dyke continuing to fire his gun after Mr. McDonald, who was carrying a knife but veering away from police officers, fell to the ground, seeming to contradict statements by the police.

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Jason Silverstein Feb-07-2016 78 0
A tenured professor at an Illinois Christian college will be stepping down after administration censured her defense of wearing a hijab, the school said.

Wheaton College announced Saturday night that political science professor Larycia Hawkins will “part ways” under a mutual, confidential agreement, two months after their conflict exploded into a national story.

“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Rykne said in a statement.

Ryken added in an email to faculty the decision came with “a mutual desire for God’s blessing,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hawkins, in a statement, said she has “great respect” for the evangelic school, which put her on leave and considered firing her over the controversy.

The school said it would give no further information about Hawkins’ exit until a Wednesday press conference.

Hawkins came under fire from her bosses in December, after she said on Facebook she planned to wear a hijab in public. The professor, who is Christian, said she wanted to show solidarity with Muslims amidst rising resentments after the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks.

The school did not take explicit issue with her hijab, but rather a Facebook comment Hawkins wrote in defense of it, saying Muslims and Christians “worship the same god.” Wheaton said Hawkins violated the school’s Statement of Faith, which imposes a belief of “one sovereign God” according to Christian scripture.

Wheaton initially put Hawkins on paid leave. She said the school then pressured her to resign, then considered revoking her tenure, and in January made moves to have her fired.

The pressure up top came despite the school’s Faculty Council calling for Wheaton to let Hawkins stay at the school. Students also staged several campus protests against administration and formed a Facebook group, “Support Doc Hawk,” which drew more than 800 members.

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Feb-05-2016 132 0
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley was nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to serve as a federal judge in the U.S. Western District of Louisiana, which includes Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Shreveport.

Finley, a career federal prosecutor, has been U.S. attorney for the Western District since 2010.

She was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney in the state.

The White House on Thursday also announced the nomination of Claude Kelly III to an open federal judgeship in the New Orleans-based U.S. Eastern District. Kelly has served as the chief federal public defender for the Eastern District since last year.

“Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity,” Obama said in a written statement. “Their records of public service are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench. I am honored to nominate them today.”

Finley served as an assistant U.S. attorney for 15 years, from 1995 to 2010 and as an assistant staff judge advocate in the Air Force from 1991 to 1995.

She received her law degree from Southern University in 1991 and her undergraduate degree from Grambling State University in 1988. Her nomination comes after the retirement last month of U.S. District Judge Richard Haik, whose position was up to be filled after he took senior status last year.

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AP Feb-03-2016 179 0
A federal jury awarded $23.1 million on Wednesday to a 22-year-old black man who was unarmed when he was shot and paralyzed by a sheriff's deputy, but Florida lawmakers will have to approve any award above $200,000.

The six-woman, two-man jury ruled after 3½ hours of deliberation that Palm Beach County Sheriff's Sgt. Adams Lin violated Dontrell Stephens' civil rights when he shot him in September 2013.

Lin, who had stopped Stephens for riding his bicycle into traffic, testified that he shot him four times because he reached for his waistband with his left hand and then flashed a dark object that he thought was a small handgun. Stephens testified that he was raising his hands when Lin opened fire for no reason. Video from the dashboard camera in Lin's patrol car showed Stephens' left hand was empty and a cellphone was in his right hand.

An appeal is expected.

Stephens had been seeking more than $5 million to cover medical treatment and future care, but his attorney Darryl Lewis told a federal jury in his closing arguments Wednesday that the man should get at least $24 million. Lewis said Stephens will have more than $6 million in medical expenses during his lifetime, and that he deserves at least $18 million for his pain and suffering.

The jury apparently rejected Lin's claim that he had made an "objectively reasonable mistake" when he shot Stephens.

The case is among several nationwide that have sparked debate about the deaths of unarmed black males following encounters with law enforcement officers. Federal Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer had instructed jurors that they could consider only the specific circumstances of Stephens' shooting and no other. Lin, an Asian-American, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by sheriff's investigators and local prosecutors and was later promoted to sergeant.

Lin, 38 and a 12-year veteran of the sheriff's office, testified that he stopped Stephens for riding his bicycle into traffic and because he didn't recognize him from the neighborhood. Stephens had been riding back to a friend's house where he had been staying after a trip to a convenience store.

In the dashcam video, Lin speeds up his patrol car to catch Stephens as he pedals down a West Palm Beach residential street. Stephens sees Lin and turns into the parking lot of a duplex, hops off his bike and puts it down, his right hand holding his cellphone. Stephens moves behind a car and both men are now outside the camera's view.

Attorneys for both men say Lin told Stephens to put up his hands, but a radio station is playing in Lin's car and no verbal exchange can be heard. The shots are fired in rapid succession after Lin exits the car. Stephens comes back into the frame, makes two quick steps, turns and falls to the ground.

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REUTERS Feb-03-2016 138 0
A lawyer for Bill Cosby said on Wednesday that he never would have allowed the comedian to give a deposition in a civil lawsuit brought by a woman accusing him of rape if he knew his client's words could be used for a criminal prosecution.

Cosby, 78, was in court for a second day in suburban Philadelphia, where he faces charges of sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade ago.

His attorneys are asking the judge to toss out the charges, contending that a deal reached with a former Montgomery County District Attorney spared their client from prosecution in exchange for a 2005 civil deposition in which he admitted giving what he said was an anti-allergy drug to his alleged victim before a sexual encounter that he described as consensual.

Andrea Constand, now 44, has said Cosby plied her with alcohol and drugs before raping her.

More than 50 women have accused the once-celebrated entertainer, whose long career was based on family-friendly comedy, of sexually assaulting them in attacks dating back to the 1960s. Many of the incidents are too old to prosecute. The Pennsylvania case is the only incident for which Cosby has been criminally charged.

The former district attorney, Bruce Castor, testified on Tuesday that he had declined to bring charges in 2005 that Cosby had assaulted Constand, a former employee at Cosby's alma mater Temple University in Philadelphia, because he did not consider her case "viable."

Defense attorneys on Tuesday presented a 2005 press release from Castor's office that they said amounted to an agreement not to prosecute Cosby.

The defense called Cosby's chief attorney, John Schmitt, as a witness on Wednesday. Schmitt testified that would not have allowed Cosby to give the deposition if he had not been sure it could not be used against his client.

On cross examination, District Attorney Kevin Steele attacked the idea that Cosby's lawyers would allow a deal that was never spelled out in a formal non-prosecution agreement.

Prosecutors on Wednesday are expected to begin making their case that there was no binding agreement not to bring charges and that the case against Cosby, who faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, should ultimately proceed to a trial.

Castor said he believed Constand's charges but thought a jury would view her as less than credible because she had waited a year to bring charges and had hired a lawyer to look into a civil suit.

He said declining to prosecute Cosby set the stage for a civil deposition in which the entertainer admitted to giving Constand the anti-allergy drug Benadryl before the sexual encounter.

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