TIME Crime

Colorado Triathlon Canceled in the Wake of Multiple Shootings and Sniper Fears

Bicyclist Fatally Shot
Jason Pohl — AP Windsor Police investigate the area where a cyclist was fatally shot in Windsor, Colo.

Federal agents join investigation into possible serial shooter

A popular triathlon in northern Colorado has been canceled following a rash of shootings near the small town of Windsor, which has left one person dead and another injured.

John Jacoby, 48, was shot dead earlier this week while cycling along a stretch of road just outside of Windsor, reports ABC News. The incident occurred in close proximity to an earlier shooting late last month, when a 20-year-old woman survived being shot in the neck while driving along Interstate 25 outside of nearby Fort Collins.

Local officials are working in tandem with federal investigators, who are scrambling to see if the two events are connected. In the wake of the shootings, organizers of Pelican Fest Sprint Triathlon have canceled the race slated for this weekend because of security concerns.

“My decision was based on the overall safety of all the athletes, volunteers, traffic control personnel, spectators and vendors,” wrote Dennis Vanderheiden, the race’s director, in a post published online. “The proximity of the shooting death and the bike course gave me real concerns.”

TIME Crime

See Dozens of Mugshots From the Waco Shootout in One Image

A composite image of the men and women arrested and charged with crimes stemming from a large shootout and fight between biker gangs outside the Twin Peaks bar and restaurant at the Central Texas Marketplace in Waco, Texas on May 17, 2015.
Mclennan County Sheriff's Department/EPA Headshots of the men and women arrested and charged with crimes stemming from a large shootout and fight between biker gangs outside the Twin Peaks bar and restaurant at the Central Texas Marketplace in Waco, Texas on May 17, 2015.

Some 170 bikers were arrested and charged in connection with Sunday's shooting

This composite frame of mug shots shows some of the about 170 bikers who were arrested and charged in connection with Sunday’s fatal shooting in Waco, Texas, that left nine dead and 18 others wounded.

The shooting was thought to have arisen from a dispute after five rival gangs gathered for a meeting at a Twin Peaks restaurant. Authorities said Tuesday that a man’s injury in the parking lot—a vehicle rolled over his foot—led to a dispute that carried into the restaurant, where a knife and gun battle erupted before spilling back outdoors.

Police said the interior of the restaurant was littered with shell casings, bodies and pools of blood after the brawl, but added that no innocent civilians were hurt.

TIME Crime

Teen Shoots, Kills Friend Trying to Wake Him by Throwing Pebbles at Window

Billings police are on the scene of a shooting with one person dead, Sunday, May 17, 2015. A Montana boy startled at being awakened in the middle of the night fired a shot through his bedroom window and killed the 15-year-old friend who had been knocking and throwing pebbles at his window, police said Monday.
Larry Mayer—AP Billings police are on the scene of a shooting with one person dead, Sunday, May 17, 2015

No arrests have been made but investigators are deciding whether to press charges

A 15-year-old boy in Billings, Mont., died early Sunday morning after he tried to wake his friend by throwing rocks at his bedroom window but was shot in response.

Mackeon Schulte died from a bullet wound to the head at about 2:30 a.m. Another boy escaped without injury, according to the Billings Gazette.

Police have ruled the death an accident.

Schulte and his friend were apparently at a sleepover when they decided to visit the shooter’s house. In an attempt to wake the sleeping teen, the two boys knocked on his window and threw pebbles at his room. But he reportedly became frightened by the noise, grabbed a revolver and fired through the window.

No arrests have been made but investigators will be meeting with Schulte’s family and local officials to determine if charges will be filed.

“It’s a tragedy. We have to investigate at this point for what it is, but it’s a tragedy all around,” said police captain John Bedford.

[Billings Gazette]

TIME Crime

Texas Warned of Increased Gang Violence Before Waco Shooting

Nine people were killed on May 17

6 p.m. (CDT)

Texas authorities issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies earlier this month warning of increasing violence between two motorcycle gangs.

The May 1 bulletin obtained by Dallas television station WFAA (http://bit.ly/1HqTbze) says there had been skirmishes and talk of war between the Bandidos and Cossacks for months.

Nine gang members were killed Sunday when a melee broke out at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.

The bulletin was issued by the Texas Joint Information Center run by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It said the conflict might stem from Cossacks refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for wearing the Texas patch on their vests without the Bandidos’ approval.

Department of Texas spokesman Tom Vinger would not confirm or deny the authenticity of the bulletin, citing agency policy.

4:30 p.m. (CDT)

A restaurant shootout among rival biker gangs in Waco has become a last-ditch rallying cry for opponents of legalizing openly carried handguns in Texas.

The shootout that left nine people dead and 18 wounded happened with only two weeks remaining for the Texas Legislature.

Police chiefs and opponents invoked the chaos in Waco as they made a final protest to a state Senate committee Monday. After an hour of testimony, the committee advanced the legislation to the full Senate.

Austin Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said “open carry would or could have provided more confusion” in Waco.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is all but certain to soon sign the bill into law. He said concerns that open carry may have exacerbated Sunday’s shootout were off the mark.

Texas allows concealed carry but is one of only six states that don’t allow some form of open carry.

12:40 p.m. (CDT)

Twin Peaks has revoked the franchise rights for a restaurant in Waco, Texas, that was the scene of a shootout involving rival motorcycle gangs that left nine bikers dead and 18 injured.

Company spokesman Rick Van Warner confirmed Monday that the Waco venue’s franchise agreement will be terminated.

The restaurant only opened last August and Waco police say it has since been the scene of several biker gang gatherings. Police say restaurant managers did not cooperate when authorities expressed concern about those gatherings.

Van Warner said in a statement that the management team chose to ignore warnings and advice from the company, and did not establish the “high security standards” that the company requires.

About 170 gang members were arrested in the aftermath of Sunday’s shooting.

12:05 p.m. (CDT)

About 170 motorcycle gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond in the wake of a deadly shootout in Texas, and authorities say capital murder charges are expected.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson set the bond Monday for each suspect and described the amount as “appropriate” given the level of violence that occurred a day earlier at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.

Peterson also performed inquests on the nine dead bikers but declined to identify them pending notification of family. Peterson says all nine were from Texas.

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says while capital murder charges are likely, it’s too early to determine how many motorcycle gang members will face the charge.

10:55 a.m. (CDT)

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the violence that unfolded in Waco when rival motorcycle gangs opened fire on each other in a restaurant parking lot is unprecedented.

DPS Director Steve McCraw, a former FBI agent, said Monday that the shootout Sunday was the first time “we’ve seen this type of violence in broad daylight.”

McCraw’s agency sent Texas Rangers to process the crime scene and special agents who target motorcycle gangs.

He wouldn’t reveal details about what prompted the melee that killed nine bikers. Waco police say a dispute that began in a Twin Peaks restaurant bathroom spilled into the parking lot.

McCraw says DPS is constantly monitoring biker gangs and that motorcycle gang violence dates back to at least the 1970s.

7:45 a.m. (CDT)

About 170 people have been arrested and a restaurant has been closed after a shootout among rival motorcycle gangs left nine bikers dead.

Waco police on Monday announced the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission closed Twin Peaks for a week amid safety concerns.

Police say the deadly gunfire broke out Sunday following a dispute in a bathroom that moved into the parking lot. Police say 18 bikers were wounded.

Police initially said 192 people were being booked on charges of engaging in organized crime, but revised that number downward Monday.

Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says law enforcement will continue to guard the town after receiving threats overnight from various biker groups. The Texas commission, responsible for alcohol regulations and compliance, then closed Twin Peaks for seven days.

TIME Religion

Young Muslims Are Inviting You to Draw Muhammad

The campaign is a creative response to Islamophobia

Did you know that Muhammad is the most common name in the world? The chances are you know a Muhammad or know somebody who knows one.

Muslim American activist Amani al-Khatahtbeh, who runs the popular blog MuslimGirl.net, is fighting Islamaphobia by inviting people to draw a picture of their friends who are called Muhammad.

The campaign is in response to the inflammatory Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest organized by Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) in Garland, Texas, on Sunday night. Participants there were invited to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad, which Muslims consider offensive.

The event resulted in violence after two Islamist gunmen, identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, opened fire outside the building, injuring a security officer. The suspects were both shot and killed by police.

Geller is known for her anti-Muslim stance and the AFDI is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Al-Khatahtbeh vigorously condemned the gunmen’s actions as “inexcusable.” But in response to Geller’s event, she came up with her own campaign, ‘Let’s help Pam draw Muhammad.’

People are asked to draw their friend Muhammad as a celebration of the human connections people have to “Muhammad,” it being such a common name.

“Chances are that all know a Muhammad. So, let’s draw Muhammad. Let’s honor his diversity. Let’s celebrate his many different faces. Let’s elevate his humanity,” she writes on MuslimGirl.net.

And using the hashtag #DM2015, people are taking to Twitter to draw a Muhammad in their lives.

TIME Crime

FBI Had Investigated Accused Texas Gunman for Years

Prophet Cartoon Contest Shooting
Ross D. Franklin—AP This photo shows the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix on May 4, 2015

Simpson was arrested in 2010 but the government prosecuted him on only one minor charge — lying to a federal agent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Since 2006, the FBI had been investigating Elton Simpson — one of the men suspected in the Texas shootings outside a contest featuring cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Agents recorded the young man from Phoenix talking about fighting nonbelievers for Allah. About plans to travel to South Africa and link up with “brothers” in Somalia. About using school as a cover story for traveling overseas.

Simpson was arrested in 2010, one day before authorities say he planned to leave for South Africa. But despite more than 1,500 hours of recorded conversations, the government prosecuted him on only one minor charge — lying to a federal agent. Years spent investigating Simpson for terrorism ties resulted in three years of probation and $600 in fines and court fees.

Then, on Sunday, two men whom authorities identified as Simpson and Nadir Soofi opened fire in a Dallas suburb on an unarmed security officer stationed outside the contest. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation by name.

The deliberately provocative contest had been expected to draw outrage from the Muslim community. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous, and drawings similar to those featured at the Texas event have sparked violence around the world.

Simpson and Soofi were wearing body armor, and one shot the security officer in the leg. Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said Monday that a single Garland police officer subdued the two gunmen but that after his initial shots, SWAT officers nearby also fired at the two men. Harn said police don’t know who fired the lethal shots.

The security officer was treated for his injury at a hospital and released.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Monday that law enforcement authorities are investigating the men’s motives and all circumstances surrounding the attack.

“While all the facts are not in yet, last night’s attack serves as a reminder that free and protected speech, no matter how offensive to some, never justifies violence of any sort,” Johnson said.

Simpson, described as quiet and devout, had been on the radar of law enforcement because of his social media presence, but authorities did not have an indication that he was plotting an attack, said one federal official familiar with the investigation.

In a statement released late Monday by Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon, Simpson’s family said it is “struggling to understand” how the incident happened.

“We are sure many people in this country are curious to know if we had any idea of Elton’s plans,” the statement says. “To that we say, without question, we did not.”

The statement, which does not identify the relatives, also says the family is “heartbroken and in a state of deep shock” and sends prayers to everyone affected by this “act of senseless violence,” especially the security guard who was injured.

Simpson had worshipped at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix for about a decade, but he quit showing up over the past two or three months, the president of the mosque told The Associated Press.

A convert to Islam, Simpson first attracted the FBI’s attention in 2006 because of his ties to Hassan Abu Jihaad, a former U.S. Navy sailor who had been arrested in Phoenix and was ultimately convicted of terrorism-related charges, according to court records. Jihaad was accused of leaking details about his ship’s movements to operators of a website in London that openly espoused violent jihad against the U.S.

In the fall of that year, the FBI asked one of its informants, Dabla Deng, a Sudanese immigrant, to befriend Simpson and ask for advice about Islam. Deng had been working as an FBI informant since 2005 and was instructed to tell Simpson he was a recent convert to the religion.

Over the next few years, Deng would tape his conversations with Simpson with a hidden recording device accumulating more than 1,500 hours of conversations, according to court records.

“I’m telling you, man, we can make it to the battlefield,” Simpson is recorded saying on May 29, 2009. “It’s time to roll.”

In court, prosecutors presented only 17 minutes and 31 seconds during Simpson’s trial, according to court documents.

“I have to say that I felt like these charges were completely trumped up, that they were just trying to cover up what had been a very long and expensive investigation and they just couldn’t leave without some sort of charges,” Simpson’s attorney, Kristina Sitton, said.

Sitton described Simpson as so devout that he wouldn’t even shake her hand and would sometimes interrupt their legal meetings so he could pray. She said she had no indication that he was capable of violence and assumed he just “snapped.”

Less was known about Soofi, who appeared to have never been prosecuted in federal court, according to a search of court records.

Sharon Soofi, his mother, who now lives in a small town southwest of Houston, told The Dallas Morning News that she had no idea that he would turn to violence.

She said her son was “raised in a normal American fashion” and “was very politically involved with the Middle East. Just aware of what’s going on.”

“I don’t know if something snapped,” she said.

She said the last time she had communicated with her son was last month, sending a text to wish her grandson a happy birthday.

“He put his son above everything, I thought,” she told the newspaper. “The hard thing is to comprehend is why he would do this and leave an eight-year-old son behind.”

A message left on Sharon Soofi’s voicemail by The Associated Press was not returned Monday.

On Monday, federal agents spent hours at a Phoenix apartment complex where the men apparently lived. Bob Kieckhaver, one of a number of residents who were evacuated for about nine hours from units near the men’s apartment, said one of them had a beard and wore an Islamic version of a prayer cap. He was quiet but the second man was more open and would greet others at the mailboxes. Both men were seen feeding stray cats, he said.

Simpson was quiet, never angry and a regular on the basketball court playing with young members of the mosque, said Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix where Simpson worshipped for years. He asked questions about prayer and marriage, Shami said. And he was rattled by the FBI investigation into him years earlier. Shami said most people at the mosque knew Deng was an informant because he showed such little interest in learning about Islam.

“I’ve never seen him angry,” Shami said of Simpson. “That’s the honest truth. He was always having a grin.”

TIME Crime

Grand Jury Clears Dallas Cops in Deadly Shooting of Man Wielding Screwdriver

A federal civil rights case is still pending

A grand jury has decided not to indict two Dallas police officers in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man brandishing a screwdriver.

A Dallas County grand jury on Thursday found that John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins, two officers with the Dallas Police Department, did not act unlawfully in June when they shot 38-year-old Jason Harrison, who family members said was schizophrenic and bipolar but was not taking his medication.

Police were responding to a 911 call from Harrison’s mother requesting help getting him to the hospital. Video from a police body camera shows Harrison, who was black, in the doorway of his home holding a screwdriver, which officers demanded he drop.

The police shot Harrison and later said he was moving toward them aggressively, but Harrison’s lawyer said there is no evidence to substantiate those claims.

“Our view of the evidence is the film didn’t show any lunging, didn’t show any jabbing, didn’t show any thrusting,” Geoff Henley, an attorney for Harrison’s family, said. A federal civil rights lawsuit is still pending.

[Dallas Morning News]

 

TIME Crime

Oklahoma Deputy Robert Bates Says He Had ‘No Desire to Take Anyone’s Life’

Robert Bates. The 73-year-old Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy, who authorities said fatally shot a suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun, was booked into the county jail on a manslaughter charge in Tulsa, Okla. on April 14, 2015.
Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office /AP Robert Bates. The 73-year-old Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy, who authorities said fatally shot a suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun, was booked into the county jail on a manslaughter charge in Tulsa, Okla. on April 14, 2015.

Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris

The Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy who says he mistook his gun for a Taser offered an apology on Friday to the family of the unarmed man he shot and killed last week.

“I rate this as No. 1 on my list of things in my life that I regret,” the reserve deputy, Robert Bates, told TODAY in his first public remarks since the deadly encounter April 2.

Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris, who bolted from a car after he allegedly tried to sell a semiautomatic pistol to an undercover cop during a sting…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

New Audio Depicts South Carolina Cop Moments After Fatal Shooting

The former officer's adrenaline was "pumping," as he interjected with a nervous laugh

Dash-cam video captured two conversations Officer Michael Slager had after he fatally shot Walter Scott — one in which he appeared to tell his wife “everything’s OK” and one with a fellow cop in which he admitted his adrenaline was “pumping” and laughed nervously.

Slager cannot be seen on the video, but he can be heard answering a call — apparently from his pregnant wife — and giving her his version of the April 4 confrontation with Scott following a traffic stop in North Charleston.

“Hey, everything’s OK, OK? I just shot somebody. Yeah, everything’s OK,” he said.

“He grabbed my…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

Driver Shot and Killed After a Car Accident Leaves a 2-Year-Old Dead

A 15-year-old was also injured during the shooting

A Milwaukee man was shot to death Sunday evening after he hit and killed a 2-year-old child who had run into the street.

In a statement, Police Captain Timothy Heier said a 15-year-old was also injured in the shooting, which occurred at 5:10 p.m., according to the Associated Press.

The driver, 41, was at the scene of the accident when the shooting occurred. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and the 15-year-old was taken to the hospital to treat injuries.

It is unclear if the teenager was a passenger in the car.

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