TIME Crime

Police, Protesters Scuffle After Ferguson Apology

Protesters call for resignation of Ferguson police chief
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson begins to march with protesters before clashes led to arrests in front of the Ferguson Police Department on Sept. 25, 2014 Robert Cohen—AP

The police chief started to march with protesters at around 11 p.m. Soon after, a scuffle broke out about 20 ft. behind the chief, and one protester was arrested

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police and protesters clashed briefly in Ferguson just hours after the St. Louis suburb’s police chief issued an apology to the family of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer last month.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson appeared outside the police department in civilian clothes late Thursday to assure protesters that there would be changes in the wake of Brown’s killing, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“All those things that are causing mistrust are being evaluated and we are going to be making changes,” Jackson said.

The police chief started to march with protesters around 11 p.m. Soon after, a scuffle broke out about 20 feet behind the chief and one protester was arrested. The Post-Dispatch said at least three other protesters were arrested after another confrontation.

The Ferguson Police Department spokesman didn’t immediately return call to The Associated Press early Friday.

Earlier Thursday, Jackson released a video apology to Brown’s family and the community in which he acknowledged that Brown’s body should have been removed from the street much sooner after he was killed. Brown’s body remained on Canfield Drive, a residential street, for more than four hours while policecollected evidence.

“It was just too long and I’m truly sorry for that,” Jackson, dressed casually in a red polo shirt instead of his police uniform, said on the video. “Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African-American community or the people of Canfield (Drive). They were simply trying to do their jobs.”

To the Brown family, Jackson said: “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son.”

Brown’s parents declined comment when told about Jackson’s video during a news conference with civil rights leaders at the National Press Club. Their attorney later said they hadn’t heard about the video but would review it.

Brown was unarmed when he was fatally shot Aug. 9 during a confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson. The shooting sparked numerous protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black community. Some residents and civil rights activists have said responding police officers were overly aggressive, noting their use of tear gas and military-style vehicles and gear.

“It is clear that we have much work to do,” Jackson said in the video.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Ferguson Police Department for possible civil rights violations.

TIME Crime

Dashboard Video Shows Shooting Of Unarmed Driver

The 31-year-old former trooper is charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — A South Carolina state trooper’s dashboard video shows an unarmed driver being shot just seconds after he was stopped for a seatbelt offense — and the trooper, who was fired last week, has now been charged with assault.

As Levar Jones cried in pain waiting for an ambulance, he repeated one question: “Why did you shoot me?”

Jones’ painful groans and then-Trooper Sean Groubert’s reply — “Well you dove head first back into your car” — were captured by the camera.

Groubert’s boss, state Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, called the video “disturbing” and said “Groubert reacted to a perceived threat where there was none” as he fired the officer Friday.

The 31-year-old former trooper is charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. He was released after paying 10 percent of a $75,000 bond.

The dashboard camera video was released by prosecutors Wednesday night after they showed it at Groubert’s bond hearing.

Jones was stopped Sept. 4 as he pulled into a convenience store on a busy Columbia road. With the camera recording, Groubert pulls up without his siren on as Jones is getting out of his vehicle to go into the store.

“Can I see your license please?” Groubert asks.

As Jones turns and reaches back into his car, Groubert shouts, “Get outa the car, get outa the car.” He begins firing before he has finished the second sentence. There is a third shot as Jones staggers away, backing up with his hands raised, and then a fourth.

From the first shot to the fourth, the video clicks off three seconds.

Jones’ wallet can be seen flying out of his hands as he raises them.

Groubert’s lawyer, Barney Giese, said the shooting was justified because the trooper feared for his life and the safety of others. Police officers are rarely charged in South Carolina. In August, a prosecutor refused to file criminal charges against a York County deputy who shot a 70-year-old man after mistaking his cane for a shotgun during an after-dark traffic stop.

Groubert is white and Jones is black. Neither state police nor the FBI keep detailed statistics on the races of people in officer-involved shootings.

Much like the recent police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, the racial aspect of the South Carolina shooting bothers state Rep. Joe Neal, an African-American lawmaker who has spoken out against racism in law enforcement for years.

“You are doing exactly what the police officer asked you do to and you get shot for it?” said Neal, D-Hopkins. “That’s insane.”

Neal said he doubts the trooper would have been charged without the video. South Carolina has nearly 300 police agencies, and many smaller forces don’t have dashboard cameras.

“If it had been the trooper’s story versus his story, I’m not sure anything happens,” Neal said.

Jones is recovering after being shot in the hip. He released a statement last week saying he hopes his shooting leads to changes in how police officers treat suspects.

“I thank God every day that I am here with a story to tell and hope my situation can make a change,” Jones said.

He and his lawyer have not spoken publicly since Groubert was charged Wednesday.

Groubert first worked for the Highway Patrol from September 2005 to September 2009. After going to work for the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, he returned to the state agency in July 2012.

This isn’t the first time Groubert fired his service weapon. In August 2012, Groubert and another trooper chased a man who drove away from a traffic stop and fired at the suspect after he shot first, according to the Highway Patrol. The suspect was convicted of attempted murder and is spending 20 years in prison.

Groubert was awarded the agency’s Medal of Valor Award for his actions in protecting the public.

So far in 2014 in South Carolina, police have shot at suspects 35 times, killing 16 of them, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. The number of officer-involved shootings has been steadily increasing over the past few years, with 42 reported in 2013.

TIME shooting

2 Wounded in Mall Shooting; 2 Dead in Car Crash

(KISSIMMEE, Fla.) — Police say two people were wounded in a shooting at Florida mall, and two men in a car matching the suspects’ vehicle description were killed in a crash as they fled.

Police say the victims’ injuries aren’t life-threatening. They were shot Tuesday evening near Osceola Square Mall’s Ross Dress for Less store in Kissimmee, outside Orlando, after an argument in the store spilled outside.

Police say the gunmen got into a car and drove toward officers after the shooting. Officers heading to the scene saw a car speeding away and turned to follow it. The vehicle crashed into another car about three miles from the mall. Police say the men inside died from what appeared to be crash-related injuries.

Police say they’re not sure whether the men in the car were the gunmen.

TIME cities

Ferguson Protests Erupt Again After Fire at Michael Brown Memorial

Looting resumes in Ferguson
A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper looks inside the vandalized Beauty Town store on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson late Tuesday, Sept. 23. Robert Cohen—AP

Gunshots reported at gathering that formed after memorial was destroyed in blaze

At least two protesters were arrested Tuesday night after protests returned to Ferguson, Mo. following a fire at a memorial to the unarmed teenager shot by police there in August.

The unrest harked back to sometimes violent demonstrations that took place amid days of protests over the summer in the St. Louis suburb after a police officer shot 19-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Police Tuesday responded to a reported break-in of a beauty supply store in the area, and witnesses reported hearing gunshots, USA Today reports.

About 200 people had gathered in the area where regular demonstrations were held in the wake of the shooting, and some said they were in the streets to protest the burning of the memorial, which they said they believe was intentional.

The fire started around 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday on the street where Brown was shot. Firefighters investigating how the fire started found candles used at the memorial in the debris.

[USA Today]

TIME Crime

3 Dead After Gunman Opens Fire at Alabama UPS Warehouse

Birmingham Police Department photo of shooting suspect Kerry Joe Tesney
Joe Tesney, 45, of Trussville, Ala., is shown in this Birmingham Police Department photo released on Sept. 23, 2014 Handout—Reuters

The shooter had recently been fired from his job as a UPS driver

A sacked UPS employee shot and killed two people at warehouse near Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, according to local authorities.

The Birmingham News identified the gunman as 45-year-old Joe Tesney, who shot himself after opening fire inside a UPS customer-service and warehouse facility.

According to the Birmingham News, Tesney’s employment was terminated on Monday and he was not supposed to be at the facility, although he was found dead in a UPS uniform.

The married father of two had appealed a decision by the company to fire him last month, but lost the appeal on Monday. The cause for his termination is not yet clear.

Birmingham police lieutenant Sean Edwards told local news outlet WBRC that the two victims seemed to be known to Tesney, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a UPS driver.

“It appears that the shooter knew exactly who he wanted to target at the time,” Edwards said.

TIME South Africa

Steenkamp Family Slams Pistorius Ruling

South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on Sept. 12, 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide.
South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 12, 2014. Gianluigi Guercia—AFP/Getty Images

“Justice was not served,” said the victims mother

The family of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot and killed by South African runner Oscar Pistorius last year, slammed the judge’s decision to acquit Pistorius of murder.

“He shot through the door and I can’t believe that they believe it was an accident,” June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, told NBC News. Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide Friday but cleared of the more serious murder charge. The conviction carriers a minimum 5-year prison sentence but could be served out in the form of house arrest if at the judge’s discretion.

“I don’t really care what happens to Oscar,” June Steenkamp said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s not going to change anything because my daughter is never coming back. He’s still living and breathing and she’s gone, you know, forever.”

Pistorius will be sentenced next month.

[NBC News]

TIME Crime

Convicted Killer in Ohio School Shootings Escapes

TJ Lane
T.J. Lane smirks as he listens to the judge during his sentencing in Chardon, Ohio. March 19, 2013. Duncan Scott—AP

A search was underway in woods and a residential area near the prison and the two escapees are considered dangerous

(LIMA, OHIO) — An intensive manhunt was underway in western Ohio early Friday for the teen convicted of killing three students at a suburban Cleveland high school after his escape from prison.

Nineteen-year-old T.J. Lane escaped around 7:40 p.m. with two other inmates from Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, about 80 miles south of Toledo. One inmate was captured, said Lima police Sgt. Andy Green.

Law enforcement personnel were searching woods and a residential area near the prison, Green said. He added that Lane and the other escapee are considered dangerous.

Officials in the Chardon School District, where Lane killed the students in February 2012, announced that all schools will be closed Friday.

At an interstate truck stop about 10 miles north of the prison Thursday night, officers from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections showed motorists and truckers photos of Lane and the other escapee. Wanted posters were taped to windows. Aircraft, including a helicopter with advanced infrared detection equipment, searched the area around the prison. Homes near the prison were brightly lit — indoors and out.

Authorities said they don’t believe Lane and 45-year-old Clifford Opperud are armed. Officials have not said how the men escaped from Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution. Opperud is serving a sentence for aggravated robbery, burglary, and kidnapping.

Ian Friedman, one of Lane’s former defense attorneys, tweeted Thursday, “I’ve been asked whether he is a danger. Answer is no one ever wants to return to prison for a life sentence. Plus, case facts speak.”

Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born said in a statement that Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers, Allen County sheriff’s deputies and officers from other law enforcement agencies were involved in the search.

Lane was 18 when he pleaded guilty last year to aggravated murder in the shooting spree at Chardon High School, a rural bedroom community 30 miles east of Cleveland. Lane said he didn’t know why he shot the teens.

At sentencing, Lane unbuttoned a dress shirt to reveal a T-shirt scrawled with the word “killer.” He wore a similar shirt during the shootings. He cursed and made an obscene gesture as the judge gave him three life sentences.

Prosecutors say Lane took a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to school where he fired 10 shots, killing Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, and Russell King Jr., 17. Two other students were wounded.

Lane was waiting for a bus to take him to an alternative school for students who don’t fare well in traditional settings.

Before Lane’s case went to adult court in 2012, a juvenile court judge ruled that Lane was mentally competent to stand trial despite evidence that he suffers from hallucinations, psychosis and fantasies. At his sentencing, Lane was defiant, smiling and smirking throughout, including while four relatives of the victims spoke.

In a statement early Friday, Chardon school officials said they were closing the schools “given the profound impact of these developments on our entire community.”

Counseling will be available Friday at the high school and middle school for students, staff and members of the community.

Reached Thursday at her home in Chardon, Dina Parmertor, mother of Daniel Parmertor, said of Lane’s escape: “I’m disgusted that it happened. I’m extremely scared and panic stricken. I can’t believe it.”

TIME South Africa

Pistorius Cleared of Murder Charges

The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial said Thursday there is not enough evidence to prove the Olympic sprinter guilty of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The judge in Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial appeared to be heading for a culpable homicide finding Thursday after ruling out both premeditated murder and murder verdicts in the shooting death of the double-amputee Olympic athlete’s girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said prosecutors have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius, 27, is guilty of premeditated murder.

“Culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” the judge said, but did not deliver any formal verdicts in the shooting death of Pistorius’ 29-year-old girlfriend before calling for a lunch break in the proceedings.

Culpable homicide refers to a negligent killing. If Pistorius is acquitted of murder, he could still be sent to jail for years if it’s found he acted negligently in Steenkamp’s death. Pistorius has admitted firing the four shots that killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend, a model and budding reality TV star, for an intruder and killed her accidentally. The prosecution alleges the athlete intentionally killed her after a loud argument, which was heard by neighbors.

Masipa was explaining her reasoning behind the upcoming verdicts in the case against Pistorius, and said there were “just not enough facts” to support the finding of premeditated murder in Steenkamp’s fatal shooting.

As the judge spoke, Pistorius wept quietly, his shoulders shaking as he sat on a wooden bench.

Masipa earlier told Pistorius he could remain seated on the bench while she read her verdict out and until she asked him to stand for the judgment. She then proceeded to explain her assessment of the testimonies of some of the 37 witnesses in the trial, including Pistorius’ testimony in his own defense.

In that assessment, Masipa described Pistorius as a “very poor witness” who had lost his composure on the stand and was at times “evasive”, but she emphasized that did not mean he was guilty of murder.

Earlier, the 66-year-old judge cast doubt on witness accounts of hearing a woman’s screams, a key part of the prosecution’s case. Masipa said “none of the witnesses had ever heard the accused cry or scream, let alone when he was anxious,” apparently acknowledging the possibility of the defense’s argument that Pistorius had been the person screaming in a high-pitched voice after discovering he had fatally shot Steenkamp.

At one point, Masipa said: “I continue to explain why most witnesses got their facts wrong.”

Masipa also said she was disregarding text messages between Steenkamp and Pistorius that had been entered as evidence. Prosecutors had submitted text messages that showed tension between them while the defense submitted messages that indicated mutual affection. That evidence, the judge said, doesn’t prove anything.

“Normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable most of the time, while human beings are fickle,” she said.

Pistorius faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder for fatally shooting Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door in his home in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. He also faced years in jail if found guilty of murder without pre-planning, or of negligent killing. Pistorius could also be acquitted if Masipa believes he made a tragic error and acted reasonably.

Pistorius has said he thought there was an intruder in his home and pleaded not guilty to murder.

A key part of the prosecution’s case was its assertion that Steenkamp screamed during a late-night alleged fight with Pistorius before he killed her. But Masipa said some of those witnesses who testified to hearing a woman scream were “genuinely mistaken in what they heard, as the chronology will show.”

Masipa also cited testimony of an acoustics expert called by the defense, saying it cast “serious doubt” on whether witnesses who were hundreds of meters (yards) away in their homes — as some state witnesses were — could have differentiated between the screams of a man or a woman.

Earlier, Masipa began by outlining in detail the four charges against the Olympic runner: Murder, two counts of unlawfully firing a gun in a public place in unrelated incidents and one count of illegal possession of ammunition.

Before the session began, Pistorius hugged his brother Carl, who was seated in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in a recent car crash.

The parents of Steenkamp were also in the packed gallery. Other members of Pistorius’ family, including his father Henke, sat behind him.

If Pistorius is convicted on any charge, the case will likely be postponed until a later sentencing hearing.

There were many journalists at the courthouse, where the sensational trial has unfolded over the last six months.

TIME Crime

Man Acquitted of Charges He Shot Drunk Driver Who Killed His Sons

David Barajas
David Barajas leaves the courtroom during a break in his murder trial Aug. 20, 2014, in Angleton, Texas. B Pat Sullivan—AP

David Barajas was acquitted Wednesday over charges that he shot and killed a drunk driver who had earlier hit and killed his two sons.

Barajas was on trial for fatally shooting Jose Banda, who drove into Barajas and his 11-and-12-year-old sons while they were pushing a truck that had run out of gas. Barajas survived the incident, but his two young boys were killed. The prosecutors in the case said Barajas went home to get a gun and returned to shoot and kill Banda, the Associated Press reports.

The case was complicated, as there were no witnesses of the shooting, the murder weapon was never recovered, and gun shot residue tests on Barajas came back negative. However, ammunition and a holster for the type of gun that killed Banda were found in Barajas’ home.

The defense, however, argued that there was not enough evidence to tie Barajas to the crime. Barajas may have also had jury sympathy, since he had support from the community in his Houston-area city of Alvin.

According to the AP, both Barajas and his wife cried when the verdict was read.

[AP]

TIME Crime

Grand Jury to Probe Ferguson Teen’s Death

As city issues call for "nighttime quiet and reconciliation"

A grand jury will begin investigating the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., officials said Tuesday, an incident that has sparked more than a week of violent protests in the St. Louis suburb.

A spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor on the case told Bloomberg News that a grand jury probe would begin on Wednesday, and that grand jurors will ask Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to testify about the events that led to the shooting of Michael Brown.

Meanwhile, the city of Ferguson released a notice to residents urging them to stay indoors at night and allow “peace to settle in, and allow for the justice process to take its course.”

The city has been rocked by nighttime protests over the past 10 days, which police have responded to with volleys of tear gas.

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