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Manhunt expanded for suspect in Facebook video killing
AP Apr-17-2017 130 0


Authorities in several states were on the lookout Monday for a man police say shot a Cleveland retiree collecting aluminum cans and then posted video of the apparently random killing on Facebook.

"He could be nearby. He could be far away or anywhere in between," FBI agent Stephen Anthony said on Day 2 of the manhunt for Steve Stephens, a 37-year-old job counselor for teens and young

Police said Stephens killed Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old former foundry worker, on Sunday.

Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite the suspect's claim in a separate video on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.

Officers searched dozens of places around the city and spoke with the suspect by cellphone, police said.

Police Chief Calvin Williams warned residents to be careful as the go about their day.

Authorities also warned people in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be alert for Stephens, who was wanted on a charge of aggravated murder.

"We're going to make this individual's world very, very small," said U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott.

Godwin apparently was shot while out picking up cans in a plastic shopping bag, his daughter said.

"Not because he needed the money, it was just something he did," said 52-year-old Debbie Godwin. "That's all he was doing. He wasn't harming anyone."

She said her father, who had 10 children, was a gentle man with nothing mean about him. "We called him the junk man," she said. "He'd pick up things off the street and fix them. He picked up bikes and he fixed them."

The motive for the shooting wasn't entirely clear from the shaky video, in which Stephens told Godwin a woman's name and said, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." Godwin did not seem to recognize the woman's name.

The suspect then pointed a gun at Godwin, who shielded his face with the plastic bag.

The woman Stephens mentioned, Joy Lane, said in a text to CBS that "we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened."

She also said Stephens was "a nice guy" who was generous to everyone and was "kind and loving" to her and her children.

Facebook said the video was posted after the killing but wasn't broadcast on Facebook Live as police initially indicated. The suspect did go live on the social media site at another point Sunday.

The video of the killing was on Facebook for about three hours before it was taken down. Stephens' Facebook page also was eventually removed.

"This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook," the company said. "We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety."

In the separate video, Stephens said: "I killed 13, so I'm working on 14 as we speak."

Police said they have not verified any other shootings or deaths.

Stephens worked at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency headquartered in Pepper Pike, near Cleveland. He helped young people develop job skills and find employment, said Beech Brook spokeswoman Nancy Kortemeyer.

An extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome, she said.

"We just hope Mr. Stephens is apprehended as quickly as possible so that no one else is injured," she said.

In one of the videos, Stephens could be seen holding up his employee identification and said: "I'm killing with my Beech Brook badge on, too."

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Maya Chung Aug-22-2017 16 0
Community members are banding together to help a North Carolina man accused of leaving his five children home alone while he went to work.

Victor King, 30, told ABCNews that a kind stranger, who saw his story, bailed him out after he was arrested on Tuesday and he is now back at work.

King was charged with child abuse for allegedly leaving the kids, all under age 8, while he went to work to help pay for his sick wife’s medical bills. 

King reportedly told a judge on Wednesday that his wife was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer and that he had to work to support her and his children. King claims he left them in the care of a neighbor, who then left the children alone. He works at a nearby Chipotle, reports said. 

A woman who called 911 to report that the children were home alone for a second day said she had offered King help finding a babysitter and he refused it, according to the station.

The judge kept King’s bail at $25,000 after a prosecutor reportedly cited a prior conviction for child cruelty in 2011.

Many have still donated to a GoFundMe started for the family started by a local teacher. It has raised more than $7,000.

“We just need to help support this man who is working so hard. As a divorced single parent, it's beyond tough managing home and work,” Rikki Hilliard wrote on the fundraiser. “It takes a village to raise a child. Please let this man know that his efforts are not in vain.”

Hilliard told ABCNews in these contentious times it's uplifting to see people from all walks of life reaching out to a family they don't know.

"After Charlottesville, I was really saddened and I felt really bad about the world and I wanted to create some good. And my heart is definitely warmed by the thought of that many people across the country who've been touched by helping this family out," Hilliard said. 
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William Douglas Aug-22-2017 18 0
The Congressional Black Caucus, a formidable bloc of lawmakers with a big say in the fate of President Donald Trump and his legislation, Monday sent him a terse, clear message: We don’t think you understand us at all.

The caucus’ chairman Monday urged cancellation of next month’s highly anticipated meeting between White House officials and leaders of the nation’s historically black colleges. And he plans to have the 49-member caucus meet when Congress returns in two weeks to discuss whether to back Democratic-led efforts to impeach Trump.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., the caucus chairman, said the president’s remarks after the deadly Aug. 12 protest in Charlottesville show he has no commitment to the schools or the African American community.

Richmond said the caucus was outraged by Trump’s assertion of “blame on both sides” for the violent rally dominated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

“You can make an argument based on pure competency and fitness to serve, and that’s the conversation the caucus will have,” Richmond told reporters in a conference call Monday. The caucus includes 46 House Democrats, Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah.

“Am I concerned about high crimes and misdemeanors?” Richmond asked. “Absolutely. Am I concerned about this president’s fitness to serve? Absolutely.”

Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and 240 of the House’s 435 seats, and there’s been no GOP talk of impeachment.

Trump has received heavy criticism both inside and outside of government for not forcefully condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the immediate aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville.

He disbanded two business advisory panels after several of its members, CEOs of top American companies, quit the panels resigned because of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest.
Richmond said what does not need to wait for a group discussion is Trump scrap a National HBCU Week Conference that administration officials planned for Sept. 17 to 19 in Washington.

The event is scheduled as a follow-up of sorts to Trump’s HBCU Initiative, a plan he announced with great fanfare in February.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump signed an executive order for the initiative with more than six dozen black college presidents surrounding him. Its chief aim was to move responsibilities for HBCUs out of the Department of Education and into the White House with an executive director in charge.

Six months later, most of the HBCU portfolio remains in the Education Department and an executive director has not been named.

“Not only do I think it should be postponed, it shouldn’t have been happening in the first place,” Richmond said. “This White House isn’t serious about improving our HBCUs. They brought all those HBCU presidents to town, they took a picture in the Oval Office, and then they did nothing.”

Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., was the first lawmaker to call for next month’s meeting to be postponed.
She said last week that because of Trump’s handling of the events in Charlottesville and “zero progress on any of (the HBCUs’) priorities, it would be highly unproductive to ask HBCU presidents to come back to Washington.”

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an HBCU advocacy group that has been supportive of Trump’s outreach toward the schools, agreed.

“There is pretty strong consensus that the White House should consider postponing” next month’s meeting, Marshall College Fund President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., wrote in a letter Friday to Omarosa Manigault-Newman, director for communications for the White House’s Office of Public Liaison.

Taylor said the ability of HBCU leaders to engage with representatives from federal agencies could be “overshadowed” by “concerns related to recent national events, ultimately making the conference counterproductive.”

Richmond criticized Manigault-Newman, questioning the value of dealing with the former reality television show celebrity who has served as Trump’s liaison to the African-American community since the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Omarosa is still pretending to have influence with this president,” he said. “I’m just surprised that she’s there as an African-American woman after his latest comments.”

Richmond’s comment reflects the terse relationship between the CBC and Trump. The caucus met with Trump in March. Afterward, Richmond said the CBC and the president shared similar goals but strongly disagreed on “the route to get there.”

The caucus rejected an invitation by Manigault-Newman for a follow-up meeting with Trump in June because “we have seen no evidence that your administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt black communities,” Richmond wrote in a letter.

At least three CBC members, Reps. Al Green, D-Texas., Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Gwen Moore, D-Wis., have called for Trump’s impeachment.

Green said in June that Trump obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating alleged Russian meddling in last year’s election. Moore last week cited Trump’s response to Charlottesville as proof he’s unfit for the Oval Office.

“For the sake of the soul of our country,” we must come together to restore our national dignity that has been robbed by Donald Trump’s presence in the White House,” she said last week. “My Republican friends, I implore you to work with us within our capacity as elected officials to remove this man as our commander-in-chief and help us move forward from this dark period in our nation’s history.”
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Dee Thompson Aug-17-2017 223 0
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals at Dallas ruled that Erykah Badu’s comments on social media about former manager Paul Levatino were protected free speech, however the case is going back to the trial court for further rulings.

Paul Levatino worked for Erykah Badu (real name Erica Wright) for 8 years as the general manager of her business interests. His duties included merchandising, concert and event management, and marketing. He was paid through her company Apple Tree Cafe Touring.

On May 27, 2014, Badu terminated the employment of Levatino. She said on May 29, 2014, on social media that Levatino was never her manager and she had never had a manager, according to the court's opinion. She also alleged he had shut down her Facebook fan page.

In October 2014, Badu received a letter from Levatino’s lawyer Joseph H. Gillespie of Gillespie Sanford LLP stating she had defamed Levatino, and asking for a public retraction and compensation. 

On Oct. 31, 2014, Badu filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, saying that Levatino had never been her talent manager and was not owed any compensation. Badu next filed an amendment to the petition alleging fraud, conversion and theft by deception.

In response to the petition, Levatino filed a counterclaim “...asserting Badu’s Facebook and Twitter posts were defamatory and have caused Levatino to suffer actual damages in the form of lost compensation and earning capacity, and non-pecuniary damages.” Additionally, “Levatino asserts Apple Tree is liable for the statements and omissions made by Badu,” according to the court of appeals' Aug. 3 order.

Levatino moved for dismissal of Badu’s claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) and asserted that his pre-suit demand letters were protected activity under the TCPA. 
To be considered an exercise of the right of association under the TCPA, communication must happen “between individuals who join together to collectively express, promote, pursue or defend common interests,” according to the court's opinion.

In his petition, Levantino claimed “Attorney-client communications that culminate in a demand letter to opposing counsel expressing the common interests of the attorney and client are protected under the right of association and it was error to hold otherwise.” 

His petition also stated, “The court of appeals decision also contravenes the broadly written and liberally construed purpose of the act because instead of limiting frivolous anti-SLAPP suits, it instead incentivizes such suits by protecting parties that rush to the courthouse to file strategic retaliatory suits in response to pre-suit demand letters.”

The trial court, appellate court and Texas Supreme Court all denied his petition for review.
In its Aug. 3, ruling, the Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas ruled that the issue of attorney’s fees was remanded back to the trial court to decide. It also ruled that Badu’s comments on social media were exercises of her right of association. 

Additionally, the Court of Appeals 5th District of Texas ruled that because Badu’s comments on social media were damaging to his reputation, and it was commonly known in the music industry that he was her manager, that Levatino presented a prima facie case of defamation. According to the Wex Legal Dictionary, a "prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party."

The Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas concluded that “We reverse, in part, that portion of the trial court’s order awarding Levatino attorney’s fees and cost, and remand the attorney’s fees and cost issue to the trial court to determine whether appellants’ motion was frivolous or solely intended to delay. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s order.”
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Thomas Tracy Aug-13-2017 110 0
A deranged Long Island man, left on the street since his mom evicted him, returned home Saturday to execute her, his sister and a third woman in a hammer-swinging bloodbath.

Bobby Vanderhall, 34, was sleeping peacefully inside a parked car when he was arrested about 2 miles away from the Hempstead home where police say he carved a late-night trail of terror.

The hulking Long Island man bashed all three women to death with a framing hammer, wreaking havoc in the suburban two-story home where he lived until Lynn Vanderhall gave her only son the boot.

“He came to kill mom and the sister . . . because his mother had kicked him out,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, head of the Nassau County Police Homicide Bureau.

The third victim, identified as a friend of his sister, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — as was a fourth woman who escaped after watching the 6-foot, 234-pound Vanderhall smash his sister Melissa in the head with the oversized hammer.

In addition to Lynn Vanderhall, 59, and daughter Melissa, 29, police identified the other victim as Janel Simpson, 29. Janel and Melissa were best friends since childhood.
Relatives of the dead wept and howled in anguish outside the home at 125 Perry St., where bloody handprints were visible from outside.

“That’s the most beautiful memory of my daughter — her smile, her laugh,” said distraught mom Wendy Simpson. “I’m not saying it should be anybody else’s child. But why me?”

According to police, the slain mother had an order of protection against her mentally-troubled son — who now faces three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

The order did not bar him from the home, only from harassing his mom.

Neighbor Earl Sykes, 38, was driving home from the movies around 1:20 a.m. when the surviving victim sprinted between cars, barefoot and screaming, to jump on the hood of his vehicle.

“She was covered in blood,” said Sykes, who called 911. “She kept saying, ‘He’s trying to kill us! He’s trying to kill us!’

“She kept saying his whole name. She kept saying over and over again, “Help me please.’ When the officer asked, ‘Did he take his medication?’ she was saying, ‘He was supposed to.’”

The surviving woman, identified as Candace Murray, was in stable condition at a Long Island hospital with a fractured wrist and contusions.

The killing spree started shortly after Bobby returned to the house in the middle of the night, only to find he was locked out.

“The doors were secured and he became enraged,” said Fitzpatrick. “He went to the garage, he obtained a large hammer. . . . With this hammer, he broke through the basement door.”

Once upstairs, he fatally bludgeoned his mother in the living room before heading toward the second floor. He was climbing the stairs when his sister and Murray appeared, rushing down to help Melissa’s mom, police said.

Bobby began bashing his sister as Murray fled for her life. Janel Simpson was by herself in another room, where Bobby Vanderhall killed her last, cops said.

Lynn Vanderhall threw her son out of the house at some point after a March 2017 incident where he was accused of slapping and physically harassing her, police said.

“His behavior became more unruly, more violent,” said Fitzpatrick. “His mother had enough.”

He was twice hospitalized for emotional issues, and had a rap sheet that included a 2003 DWI arrest and 2015 bust for forcibly touching a woman.


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Aug-12-2017 413 0
The death of a federal prosecutor whose body was found on Hollywood Beach in May has been ruled a suicide, the Hollywood Police Department said Thursday.

James Beranton Whisenant Jr., a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to detectives and the medical examiner’s office. The body of the 37-year-old man was discovered on the edge of the water near Magnolia Terrace on May 24, 2017.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office family is deeply saddened by his death. He was a wonderful lawyer and great colleague," the office said in a statement after his death. "We will miss him deeply. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family."

Whisenant's LinkedIn profile said he has been an assistant U.S. attorney since January 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Florida in 2004 and had been a partner at Foley & Mansfield, PLLP, before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Whisenant was also an adjunct instructor at the University of Miami Paralegal Program.

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AP Aug-12-2017 391 0
The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been ordered to pay $300,000 in legal fees for the people they accused of killing their son and covering up his death.

The ruling by Lowndes County Superior Court Judge Richard Porter is related to a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit filed by Johnson’s parents against brothers Brian and Branden Bell, who they say murdered their son.

–Kendrick Johnson surveillance video raises questions about whether teen was alone–

Johnson was found dead rolled up in a gym mat in June of 2013, and while investigators concluded that he had died from asphyxiation while reaching for a pair of sneakers, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson insisted that it was no accident.

They claimed that Brian and Branden’s father, FBI agent Rick Bell, along with a school superintendent and former sheriff, had rolled Johnson’s body in the mat and enlisted the superintendent’s daughters to “discover” the body.

“Judge Porter has now put those false accusations to rest and determined that the Johnsons’ and their lawyer’s accusations were substantially frivolous, groundless and vexatious,” said attorney Jim Elliott, who represents former Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine. “All of those who have been falsely accused have been vindicated. Truth prevails. Justice has been done.”

In addition to the Johnsons, their attorney, Chevene King, was also ordered to reimburse the almost two dozen defendants from that initial lawsuit.
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RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA Aug-11-2017 416 0
Last month, before voting to release O.J. Simpson from prison after nine years, the Nevada parole board discussed in detail the robbery that put him behind bars and his conduct as an inmate. But one piece of Mr. Simpson’s record escaped the notice of the board, the news media, and most of the millions of people watching on television and online.

During the hearing on July 20, members of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners said that before his 2008 conviction for the robbery in a hotel in Las Vegas, Mr. Simpson had no history of a criminal conviction. That was incorrect.

As the world knows, Mr. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, in the most-watched trial in American history. But in 1989, he pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to misdemeanor battery of Ms. Simpson, who was then his wife.
The Nevada parole board did not have that information, officials with that agency said this week, so the 1989 conviction was not considered when a four-member panel voted unanimously to release him in October.

When states weigh the risk posed by an inmate, they routinely look through their own records, and also check with the National Crime Information Center, a set of enormous databases of records run by the F.B.I. Mr. Simpson’s 1989 conviction “did not appear in the N.C.I.C. history” when Nevada officials prepared a pre-sentencing report after his 2008 conviction, said David M. Smith, hearings examiner for the parole board.

He said the parole commissioners relied in part on the information in that 2008 report in assessing whether Mr. Simpson should be released. Mr. Smith’s response came in a written statement in response to questions from The New York Times, which began inquiring about Mr. Simpson’s record after a reader noted the 1989 case.

To see if it had made an error, the parole board checked the N.C.I.C. again after the inquiry by The Times. “This most recent report also makes no mention of the 1989 California court record,” Mr. Smith said.

The parole commissioners declined to be interviewed. Mr. Smith said it was impossible to tell whether knowing of the misdemeanor conviction would have influenced their decision on Mr. Simpson, who is 70, and who has had no disciplinary record from his time in prison. The decision is not subject to review unless Mr. Simpson violates the terms of his release.

Though a jury in Los Angeles found Mr. Simpson not guilty of killing Mr. Goldman and Ms. Simpson, a civil jury later found him responsible for their deaths. The killings have cast an inescapable shadow over every aspect of his life since then. Because he was acquitted of the murders, the Nevada parole board legally could not take that case into account in making its decision.

It is not clear why the 1989 case failed to turn up in the federal system, and California court officials said they did not have an explanation. But the omission highlights a frequent problem: There are major gaps in the databases, which rely primarily on accurate and complete reporting by local and state agencies.

The Justice Department has reported, for example, that states fail to transmit most of their active arrest warrants from their own databases into the federal system and often neglect to update records to show whether cases resulted in convictions. Some states still rely on paper files, making it likelier that they will not end up in the federal electronic records database, and that is even more of a problem with older records.

Gaps in the federal databases have often been noted in the context of background checks for gun purchasers, whose names are checked against those files, but far less attention has gone to the effect they have on other aspects of law enforcement, like sentencing and parole.

The F.B.I. said it could not comment on a specific case or the practices of individual agencies, but noted in a statement that participation “from our state and local partners is voluntary, not compulsory.”

Nevada officials noted that misdemeanor cases were sometimes expunged from the record years later, for defendants who stay out of trouble, and that records could be sealed by court order.
But the 1989 case appears, unsealed, in California’s database, where The Times was able to find it, and a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County courts confirmed that the conviction was never expunged, remaining a part of Mr. Simpson’s record. Under California law, a no-contest plea is a conviction.

Mr. Simpson’s lawyer at the parole hearing, Malcolm P. LaVergne, said he was aware of the earlier case, but did not know why California would not have submitted it to the federal database.
“I’m not a California lawyer,” he said. “There are questions here I can’t answer for you.”

In 2007, Mr. Simpson and a group of other men, two of them carrying guns, went to the Las Vegas hotel room of a sports memorabilia dealer and took hundreds of items from him. Mr. Simpson said he was merely reclaiming property that had been stolen from him, but he was convicted in 2008 of robbery, kidnapping and other charges.

A judge sentenced him to nine to 33 years in prison, but did not take the 1989 conviction into account because it was not in the pre-sentencing report. Mr. Simpson became eligible for parole for the first time this year.

At his parole hearing, Mr. Simpson said, “I basically have spent a conflict-free life” and “I’ve always been a guy that got along with everybody,” though Ms. Simpson and others had said he beat her multiple times.

The 1989 case was reported by news media at the time, and received a fresh round of attention after Mr. Simpson became a suspect in the murders.

In that case, prosecutors charged that early on New Year’s Day, at the Simpson home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Mr. Simpson punched, kicked and slapped his wife while yelling “I’ll kill you.” He first denied the accusations, but a few months later, he pleaded no contest to one count of spousal battery.

The charge carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail, but a judge opted not to incarcerate Mr. Simpson, instead ordering him to perform community service and receive counseling.
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Peter Sblendorio Aug-08-2017 89 0
An Atlanta rapper who called himself "bulletproof" after he was shot 10 times and survived was killed by an unidentified gunman Sunday evening in DeKalb County, Ga., according to officials.

Yung Mazi — who had collaborated with big-name artists such as Rich Homie Quan and Yung Thug — was gunned down in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office said.

The shooting occurred at around 8:55 p.m. when the rapper, 31, appeared to be leaving the Urban Pie pizza restaurant.

Atlanta Police did not disclose his identity in their police report, but confirmed a 31-year-old male died in the area after sustaining multiple gun wounds. Authorities responded to the scene after hearing gunshots outside the the department's Zone 6 precinct, which is located nearby.

Officials said no suspects are in custody, and the investigation for the rapper's shooter is ongoing.

Yung Mazi, whose real name was Jabril Abdur-Rahman, claimed in a video last year that he had survived 10 gunshots during his lifetime. He tweeted last December that "God made me bulletproof" following a shooting at a Waffle House in Buckhead, Ga.

The rapper's brother, Luqman Abdur-Rahman, asked for privacy in a short phone conversation with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"We're praying for him and all involved," he told the newspaper.

Yung Mazi's colleague Rich Homie Quan, meanwhile, paid tribute to the artist by sharing an Instagram photo of his late collaborator counting money.

"Rest easy Mazi," he captioned the picture.
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Ian Cummings Aug-03-2017 64 0
NAACP officials say their recent travel advisory for Missouri is the first that the civil rights group has issued for any state.

But the warning follows a recent trend of similar alerts issued by other groups for vulnerable people around the United States.

The travel advisory, circulated in June by the Missouri NAACP and recently taken up by the national organization, comes after travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings in the U.S. and ahead of immigration legislation in Texas and Arizona.

The Missouri travel advisory is the first time an NAACP conference has ever made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday.

Missouri became the first because of recent legislation making discrimination lawsuits harder to win, and in response to longtime racial disparities in traffic enforcement and a spate of incidents cited as examples of harm coming to minority residents and visitors, say state NAACP leaders.

Those incidents included racial slurs against black students at the University of Missouri and the death earlier this year of 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while traveling and died in a southeast Missouri jail even though he hadn’t been accused of a crime.

“How do you come to Missouri, run out of gas and find yourself dead in a jail cell when you haven’t broken any laws?” asked Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP.

“You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed,” Chapel said. “We are hearing complaints at a rate we haven’t heard before.”

At the same time, Chapel said, the state government is throwing up barriers to people seeking justice in the courts for discrimination. The travel advisory cites legislation signed by Gov. Eric Greitens that will make it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination.

Asked about the travel advisory on Friday in Kansas City, Greitens said he hadn’t seen it yet. His office did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

The new law on discrimination lawsuits takes effect Aug. 28, and Chapel urged people to file any complaints they have before then.

Chapel, who was silenced by a Missouri House committee chairman while speaking against the legislation earlier this year, said he was especially alarmed that the University of Missouri System backed an earlier version of the bill.

The NAACP’s advisory also cites the most recent attorney general’s report showing black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites. Those reports have been showing the disparity since the attorney general began releasing the data in 2000.

In May, the owner of a Blue Springs barbershop found his shop windows stained with racial slurs. The same two words appeared on three separate windows in black paint: “Die (N-word).”

“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”

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