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Fatal shooting of Florida teen turned over to state attorney
Vivian Kuo Mar-14-2012 1510 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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Sasha Goldstein Nov-26-2014 175 0
A 911 dispatcher never told police officers responding to a Saturday call about an armed person in a Cleveland park that the man who called in the threat believed the pistol was fake.

Moments later, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by rookie police Officer Thomas Loehmann.

The boy, who was wielding a realistic-looking airsoft handgun, died Sunday at a local hospital.

The entire video of the shooting, along with the 911 call and police dispatch communications, was released Wednesday afternoon by the Cleveland department after increasing calls from a concerned community over the police killing of the baby-faced boy.

“We have conferred with the family and their representative and considered their wishes as to the path we have taken as to the release of the video and audio evidence,” Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters Wednesday at a news conference.

Officer Thomas Loehmann opened fire on the boy, who had been sitting on a bench in the gazebo, after telling him three times to show his hands, police said.

It was just before 3:30 p.m. Saturday when a man called 911 from Cudell Park and recreation center on the city’s northwest side to report a guy, “probably a juvenile,” pulling a pistol out of his waistband.

“It’s probably fake but he’s scaring the s--- out of me,” the caller told a dispatcher.

The man again says he suspects the gun is fake, but when the dispatcher radios a patrol car, she never mentions that detail or the suspect’s age.

Video taken from the park shows Tamir walking aimlessly around the park, at times pulling the gun, which fires plastic pellets, from his waistband.

He’s seen pointing it and pulling back the slide to cock the facsimile gun. At another point, he is talking on his cell phone, throwing a snowball and sitting on a park bench in a gazebo.

It’s unclear if he ever fires the pistol.

Eventually, the surveillance video shows a Cleveland police cruiser pull into the picture, driving on the grass, and coming to a stop feet away from the boy.

Tamir is seen with his hand in his waistband as the 26-year-old Lohman exits the patrol car and immediately fires the fatal shots in what police said was under two seconds. Both Tamir and the gun tumble to the ground as the officers secure the scene.

“Shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20, black handgun,” one of the officers can be heard frantically saying on police radio. “Send EMS this way, and a roadblock.”

Loehmann joined the force on March 3, while his partner, 46-year-old Officer Frank Garmback, has been with the department for nearly seven years.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

Loehmann gave three commands of ”show your hands” in a matter of two seconds after arriving on scene, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told reporters.

This Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 photo provided by the Cleveland Police Department shows a replica gun taken from a 12-year old who was fatally shot by Cleveland police.

It’s unclear whether Tamir said anything to the officers before he was shot, Tomba said.

Every aspect of the incident is under investigation, Tomba said, including why the dispatcher never told officers that the gun could be fake, and why Officer Garmback pulled the cruiser up so close to the armed boy.

Police said the distance between Loehmann and Tamir was under 10 feet when shots were fired, though the medical examiner will be able to give an exact distance. On Monday, the medical examiner ruled Tamir’s death a homicide and said his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the torso with injuries to major vessels, intestines and pelvis.

The replica gun the boy was carrying was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the muzzle, according to Tomba.

Tamir’s family saw the video and consented to it’s release, even though it is evidence in the investigation, Tomba said.

“The release of the video is by no means an effort to explain the actions of the division of police or the young man,” Tomba said. “It was released in the spirit of being open and fair with our community.”

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Alexis Stevens Nov-26-2014 124 0
It hasn’t been an easy seven months for the Fulton County assistant district attorney shot multiple times by her estranged husband. But April McConnell continues to progress, get stronger and amaze her family and friends.

This holiday season is a stark reminder of just how close those who love her came to losing McConnell, her father said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

“Our family has special reason to be thankful during this 2014 Thanksgiving season; April McConnell will be celebrating with us,” Kevin Ross, an Atlanta lawyer, said of his daughter. “Last year, we would have taken her presence for granted; this year we do not.”

On April 25, two days after filing for divorce, McConnell and a co-worker were sitting in a car parked in southwest Atlanta when they were shot by Tranard McConnell, the estranged husband of the prosecutor.

Tranard McConnell shot April in the arm, face and back and shot Levon Hailey six times before killing himself. Tranard’s body was found hours later in a south Fulton cemetery.

Hailey’s injuries were not as severe. But during the week after the assault, April McConnell underwent six surgeries. After weeks at Grady Memorial Hospital, she was transferred to Shepherd Center for continued recovery, her father told the AJC in May.

In July, McConnell said she didn’t remember her husband shooting her, and learned at the hospital he killed himself the same day he shot her.

“That was surreal,” she said about the news of her husband’s suicide. After a long pause she continued, “For so many reasons, it didn’t have to end this way.”

McConnell graduated from the in-patient program at the Shepherd Center in late July, her father said. From August through October, she continued her physical therapy, and earlier this month, she was admitted to a day program at Shepherd, Ross said. It’s likely McConnell will never walk again, but she says she won’t stop trying.

It hasn’t been all work for McConnell, her father said. Her social life has been busy, too. She’s been to concerts, a museum exhibit, church events

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Nov-26-2014 174 0
The tension here got thicker with every tick of the clock Tuesday night. But in the end, Ferguson was spared the kind of damage inflicted on it a day earlier.

There were fewer arrests and fewer instances of vandalism. And while there was plenty of anger among its residents, it was channeled in chants and not chaos.

"We were perhaps not optimistic but we were at least hopeful we would have a better night than we had," said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

To be sure, there were some ugly incidents.
Elsewhere, vandals broke windows and trashed businesses, and St. Louis County police said protesters hurled bottles of "what appears to be urine" at them.

A car was set ablaze at a parking lot near Brown's memorial, but sporadic gunfire in the area stopped officers from responding, Belmar said.

Officers said they seized a Molotov cocktail and 44 arrests -- far fewer than Monday night when anger and dismay over a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black teen led to violence unseen in the city since the initial shooting last summer.

"A day before we were kind of on different pages," Missouri State Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. "But what what I'm hearing from this community is that we are all on the same page to make our community whole and make sure it stays whole."

Nationwide protests

Like Ferguson, outrage over the grand jury's decision escalated from coast to coast, with protests in about 170 cities nationwide.

From New York to Los Angeles and dozens and dozens of cities in between, protesters flooded the streets to denounce the grand jury's decision. Some demonstrations blocked bridges, tunnels and major highways. But the protests were largely peaceful.

"They have given us no justice! We will give them no peace," protesters chanted as they massed in front of the Underground Atlanta shopping mall.

In the New York area, they briefly blocked one of the entrances to the Lincoln Tunnel.

"We are on the side of Michael Brown to fight for what is right," the Rev. Al Sharpton said in front of Brown's family. "We may have lost round one, but the fight is not over."

Darren Wilson speaks out

Meanwhile, in his first interview since the fatal shooting, police Officer Darren Wilson maintained that he killed Brown, 18, out of fear for his life during their encounter on August 9.

In the interview with ABC News, he said his response had nothing to do with race.

"I know I did my job right," he said.






Watch this video


The big guns of small-town cops

Repeating what he told a grand jury investigating the shooting, Wilson said Brown reached into his police vehicle and grabbed for his gun.

"I just felt the immense power that he had. And then the way I've described it is, it was like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That's just how big this man was," Wilson said. "He was very large, very powerful man."

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Nina Golgowski Nov-26-2014 188 0
A Tennessee dad reportedly armed himself with a baseball bat while attacking a man he suspected of pimping out his 12-year-old daughter.

The ferocious father's intended punching bag, identified as Brian Jones, ended up calling Memphis police himself after winding up locked in the back of a van Sunday, WMC reported.

Before officers arrived at the scene they were flagged down by the child's father who accused Jones of holding his daughter against her will to perform sexual acts on several men.

Jones, 33, admitted to allowing someone to bring the 12-year-old girl into his apartment, police said.

He also allegedly admitted to knowing that she was involved in sexual activity in one of his bedrooms.

"It's shocking though, when I heard he did that," Jones' nextdoor neighbor, Curtis Nelson Jr., told WMC. "He was a person always trying to demand women around and stuff, but I didn't know he was that type of person, but I guess you can't trust nobody out here."

As of Tuesday, none of the men involved in the sex acts with the child have been arrested, WMC reported.

Jones is being held on $200,000 bond while facing charges of trafficking for sexual servitude and two counts of raping a child.

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Nov-26-2014 145 0
Bill Cosby’s reputation has been wrecked by accusations that he sexually assaulted a dozen women over the years, but he’s still No. 1 with the ladies at Spelman College.

Cosby remains a beloved benefactor to the historically black, liberal arts women's college in Atlanta.

But when asked whether the rape accusations might sour Spelman on Cosby, school spokeswoman Andrey Arthur said, “I can’t comment on the allegations.”

Cosby and his wife, Camille, gave Spelman a $20 million gift and the grateful school named one of their buildings the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby EdD Academic Center.

The school also has a long-running William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professorship Program.
And Cosby gave the commencement address at Spelman in 2006.

Spelman is also the alma mater of Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Cosby’s youngest daughter Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”

But other institutions with which Cosby has been associated are now keeping the comedian at arm’s length.

High Point University in North Carolina removed Cosby from its national board of advisors just four months after it called him “one of the most influential performers of our time” when it announced his appointment in July.

In Boston, the Berklee College of Music told WCVB5-TV it was “no longer awarding an online scholarship in Mr. Cosby’s name.”

Cosby, however, remains the honorary co-chair of University of Massachusetts in Amherst’s $300 million fund-raising campaign. He was awarded a doctorate by the school.

The comedian also remains a trustee at his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia.

A Canadian woman who was working for Temple accused Cosby of drugging and fondling her in January 2004. Patrick O’Connor, the lawyer who settled the lawsuit in 2008, is the chairman of Temple’s board of trustees.

Cosby, 77, has — via his lawyers — called the allegations that he is a serial sexual predator “innuendos.”

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Nov-25-2014 160 0
Attorneys for Michael Brown's family on Tuesday vowed to push for federal charges against the Ferguson police officer who killed the unarmed 18-year-old, and they renewed their calls for peace following a night of violent protests in which several businesses were burned to the ground.

The attorneys said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear the white officer, Darren Wilson, in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown, who was black. And they criticized everything from the types of evidence St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch presented to the jury to the way it was presented and the timing of the grand jury's decision. They also said they hope that a federal civil rights investigation will result in charges against Wilson.

"We said from the very beginning that the decision of this grand jury was going to be the direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence by the prosecutor's office," said attorney Anthony Gray, who suggested McCulloch presented some testimony, including from witnesses who did not see the shooting, to discredit the process.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered hundreds of more National Guardsmen into Ferguson to help local law enforcement keep order in the St. Louis suburb. Twelve commercial buildings in Ferguson were burned down during the protests that erupted after the grand jury's decision was announced Monday night, and firefighters responded to blazes at eight others, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Fair said. Other businesses were looted, and 12 vehicles also were torched.

There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing, and 21 in St. Louis, where protesters broke some store windows along South Grand Avenue.

Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said that unless his agency could bring in 10,000 officers, "I don't think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community."

At least 18 people were injured and sought treatment at area hospitals, including someone who was shot and was recovering Tuesday at SSM DePaul Health Center. The hospital didn't give any details about the shooting. Two other people were admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for undisclosed injuries. Everyone else was treated and released.

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Nov-25-2014 258 0
Tuesday, everyone is talking about racism, violence, justice — and what a ding-a-ling CNN's Don Lemon is.

As Ferguson erupted into anger, bullets and flames Monday night, Lemon ham-handedly drew tear gas into his own gas mask, whined for water and a device to contact his producers, and then made a culturally insensitive comment about protesters smoking pot.

Tuesday Lemon was further blasted by critics online for imitating the “St. Louis accent” and for retreating to a “safe room” while other CNN reporters stayed out on the scene.

But it was his useless observation that he smelled drugs in the air that polarized critics.

"Maybe a minute, two minutes ago we heard a gunshot and watched people scattering," Lemon said. "And we're watching people on the roofs of cars, on the tops of cars and, er,… Obviously there's a smell of marijuana here as well."

The latest dose of sour Lemon-aide came just after the anchor was raked over the coals for insinuating that one of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assault victims should have bitten the comic instead of performing oral sex.

He later had to apologize.

Another recent Lemon gem included suggesting that the missing Malaysian airliner, flight 370, might have disappeared into a black hole.

As buildings were torched, gunshots sent protesters scattering through the streets amid rampant looting. The police reacted with more violence, firing rubber bullets at protesters and emptying canisters of tear gas.

The violence was at a full pitch when CNN's Chris Cuomo tried to turn the broadcast over to Lemon who was wearing a gas mask on his forehead. Lemon then trapped gas in his own mask, began coughing and asked for water. Moments later, Cuomo tried Lemon again, but this time the anchor heard on air saying, "I need IFB (a device to communicate with producers). Someone make a phone call."

Lemon was blasted for his on air behavior on Twitter - most specifically his observation that protesters smelled like marijuana — but also for his general incompetence.

“Don lemon ‘obviously I smell Marijuana’ wtf” wrote hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

"At what instance is the stench of marijuana being in the air pertinent information don lemon sheesh smh," tweeted Erik Kynard.

"This from the guy who blamed Cosby rape victim for her assault. #idiot," added Peter Grosz.

"Don Lemon is a disgrace," summarized Shanel Stockman. “He doesn’t speak for me and I think he needs to be pulled from CNN.”

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Corinne Lestch Nov-25-2014 190 0
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office has refused to release information about the death of the 12-year-old Cleveland boy carrying a BB gun who was fatally shot by police.

Numerous requests were made by reporters at Cleveland.com to release information about 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot Saturday by an unidentified rookie police officer.

The two police officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

But the website reported that spokesman Chris Harris never returned calls.

The Medical Examiner on Monday ruled Tamir’s death a homicide and said his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the torso with injuries to major vessels, intestines and pelvis.

He died on a local hospital on Sunday, a day after the shooting at the Cudell Recreation Center.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and other city officials are planning to host a community-police relations forum Tuesday night at the scene of the tragic incident, and will take questions from the public.

Police shot Tamir after responding to a call of a “man” pointing a gun at people. An officer fired twice after the boy pulled the fake gun from his waistband after being told to put his hands in the air, but had not pointed it at the cops, according to reports.

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Nov-25-2014 202 0
Three Dallas police officers accused of crimes have been fired by the department.

The three officers are Jesus Martinez, Casarae Womble and Julian Harris.

Martinez was arrested after his hearing Monday, accused of using excessive force against a panhandler in June.

The incident was caught on video.

DPD has been investigating this internally since June, and the police union says it expected Officer Jesus Martinez to be fired Monday, but calls him leaving the hearing in handcuffs excessive.

The lawyer of the man who filed the complaint against Martinez says it's justice.

For months, the video from someone passing Martinez and the panhandler was a big part of the decision between right or wrong.

It was recorded on June 8 in downtown Dallas.

On the ground, handcuffed and screaming in agonizing pain was 57-year-old Joe Wesson, a known transient with an extensive criminal history.

In the video, Martinez has Wesson pinned down after tackling the panhandler for swinging at Martinez and ripping his uniform.

The video shows Officer Martinez pulling on Wesson's hands and elbow, jerking them upward several times, and at one point, Wesson is held in that position for 40 seconds.

Even after backup arrives on scene, Officer Martinez stays on top him.

After a complaint and an internal investigation found Martinez used unnecessary or inappropriate force, he was fired, then arrested on charges of official oppression -- a misdemeanor.

“They take your badge, your gun and your freedom because you were out doing the job that they ordered you to do,” said Richard Todd, Fraternal Order of Police President. "…It's going to send a message to our officers that we're not going to back you when you do your job.”

The union is furious over the findings, citing Martinez's 16 commendations in his eight years of service, compared to Wesson's 12 arrests from assault, burglary to resisting arrest.

“In essence, what they're trying to say is well he deserves to be beaten,” said Wesson's attorney, Daryl Washington. “No matter what a person has been charged of, it does not give a police officer the right to abuse someone.”

The union also claims Martinez was blinded by pepper spray he used on Wesson, and pinned him down for his own safety.

“Not one time if you look at the video, not one time did he try to rub his eye or look like he was in any type of pain, so he clearly knew what he was doing at all times and I guess he had to come up with some type of excuse,” said Washington. “...We want to see this officer convicted.”

Martinez has the right to appeal his termination, but not until after the criminal investigation, which is now against him.

A hearing for that is expected to happen sometime next year.

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