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.

TIME Crime

California High Schoolers Plotted Mass Shooting, Police Say

South Pasadena police arrested two teenagers after high school officials received a "credible threat" of plot

+ READ ARTICLE

Two teenage boys in South Pasadena, Calif. have been arrested after plotting to gun down “as many students as possible” on their first day back at high school, police said Tuesday.

Police made two arrests after “learning that two South Pasadena High School students were plotting to kill three staff members and as many students as possible with firearms,” according to a statement provided by the South Pasadena Police Department (SSPD)

After school officials were informed of a “credible threat” of a potential violent act, they immediately contacted the SSPD, Superintendent Geoff Yantz told parents and students in a statement available on the PTA’s Facebook page.

Police obtained warrants to search both students’ houses and found enough evidence to prompt an arrest. While one suspect was arrested without incident, police had to force entry into the second home and capture the student after he tried to run away from officers.

Yanz assured parents that the police “have the situation under control,” and psychologists and counselors will be available to offer support to students and staff.

“This is a prime example of school officials recognizing suspicious behavior. It was this information that helped prevent a horrific tragedy,” Police Sergeant Brian Solinsky said in the statement. More information will be announced at a news conference at 10 a.m. local time.

Some students posted thanks to the SSPD on their Facebook pages. “I might have died on Thursday if it weren’t for this,” one commented on the police’s statement. “Thank you.”

Incoming freshman Owen Carlson told KTLA 5, “School starts on Thursday, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people will be talking about it.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 18

1. Providing shoes to barefoot walkers may be a basic first step to containing Ebola.

By Stephen T. Fomba in Zócalo Public Square

2. Your brain isn’t built to multitask. Give it a break.

By Michael Harris in Salon

3. U.S. intervention, while a key pillar, cannot solve the identity crisis in the Middle East.

By Steven Cook in the Washington Post

4. This arrest may be monitored: The best way to protect citizens from abuse of power is videorecording everything.

By Reihan Salam in Slate

5. To connect more people to jobs, we must build a true and equitable apprenticeship system in the United States.

By Robert Giloth and Maureen Conway in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Crime

Federal Autopsy Ordered in Missouri Teen’s Death

Police Shooting Missouri
Police in riot gear move in on protesters in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 17, 2014 Charlie Riedel—AP

As night fell on Sunday in Ferguson, Mo., another protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. The latest clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Governor Jay Nixon

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

The examination was to take as soon as possible, Fallon said, adding that the Justice Department still planned to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of its investigation.

As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a bullhorn that the protest was no longer peaceful.

A preliminary private autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.

Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, and all the bullets were fired into his front, Baden said.

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9.

A federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. attorney’s office. The move is “not that unusual,” he added.

Federal authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Weinstein said.

Back in Ferguson, the latest clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. It was not clear why officers acted ahead of the deadline for people to be off the street.

Police in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.

Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the pavement near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and gunshots rang out several blocks away.

Within two hours, most people had been cleared off West Florissant Avenue, one of the community’s main thoroughfares.

Earlier in the day, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who agency in now in charge of security in Ferguson, said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.”

“When this is over,” he told the crowd, “I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.”

Johnson added: “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton told the rally Brown’s death was a “defining moment for this country.”

Sharpton said he wants Congress to stop programs that provide military-style weaponry to police departments. He said he expects police to “smear” the slain teenager, his family and his attorneys. He also condemned the recent violence and looting in Ferguson.

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the state highway patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

“When you’re exhausted, when you’re out of resources, when you’re out of ammunition, you surrender,” Brown’s uncle, pastor Charles Ewing, told worshippers during a Sunday sermon at Jennings Mason Temple inFerguson. “He surrendered and yet he died.”

The officer who shot Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him. Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, and the department has refused to say anything about his whereabouts. Associated Press reporters have been unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.

Also Sunday, about 150 people gathered in St. Louis to show support for Wilson. The crowd protested outside a TV station because it had broadcast from in front of the officer’s home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the station, KSDK, later apologized. Other in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts.

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Eric Tucker in Brewster, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Erupts Again After Spell of Calm

Peaceful protests in the town gave way to fresh unrest after midnight, as bands of people began looting local stores

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated, Aug.16, 3:55 a.m. ET

Tensions flared anew on the main thoroughfare of Ferguson, Mo. early Saturday morning, after hundreds of protestors gathered for a day of raucous yet peaceful protests to demand justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose fatal shooting at the hands of a local police officer kindled riots earlier in the week between angry residents and an aggressive police force.

Police tried in vain to disperse a crowd of protesters who refused to clear West Florissant Avenue shortly after midnight, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch. A lengthy standoff ensued. After protesters faced off with a line of police, small bands of people broke off from the crowd and looted a few stores along the street as other protesters sought to block them, the newspaper reported. Police held their line and cordoned off all entrances to the area by 2 a.m. as they repeatedly warned the crowd to go home or be subjected to arrest. A TIME reporter returning to the scene was prevented from accessing the area.

It was a marked departure from a few hours earlier. Until that point, it had been the second night in a row that the protests went off largely without incident. Under spitting rain, protestors gathered along the street toting signs, honking horns, playing music and shouting chants, mingling with uniformed police for stretches of the evening, a drastic departure from the clashes earlier this week.

The shift was spurred in large part by the appointment of a new officer in charge, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson. After scores of residents criticized the paramilitary approach of local police, Johnson has adopted a conciliatory tack, abandoning the heavy weaponry and circulating through the crowds to discuss protesters’ concerns.

Amid the rage vented this week at what demonstrators say is rampant police brutality and profiling, it was striking to see a cop become a beloved figure. But Johnson strolled through the crowd like an A-list celebrity on the red carpet, high-fiving young men and obliging requests for selfies. The captain said that he hopes to turn tensions of the past week into a national example of how police can restore trust with an African-American-American community that says it is targeted by Ferguson’s nearly all-white police force.

“Ferguson has an opportunity to help make positive changes for communities everywhere,” Johnson told TIME Friday.

Earlier in the day, fears rose that the Ferguson police department’s release of an incident report alleging Brown had been involved in a robbery prior to his shooting would rekindle the riots. But Brown’s family and attorneys pleaded for calm, and the crowd at first heeded the advice.

For much of the night, the demonstrations resembled an outdoor festival, with protesters drumming, dancing and singing as they sought shelter from the rain under a gas-pump overhang. Protesters ordered delivery pizza by the dozens, joined their kids as they scrawled on the sidewalk with colored chalk and organized booths for causes like voter registration.

Even celebrities materialized. Jesse Jackson held a vigil, and former NFL defensive back Demetrious Johnson, who grew up in inner-city St. Louis, chatted with local police. “I like the way it is going tonight, just like last night,” Johnson said. “Before, police were making the situation worse. They violated some [protesters'] civil rights and created chaos with their intimidation.” Johnson said he would be coordinating a clean-up at the gas station on Saturday with local high-school football players. “These kids want to be a part of something,” he said. “They want to make a difference.”

Like nights past, crowds spilled into the main street, dangling out of car windows with their hands in the air. Unlike most other nights, protesters smiled and laughed with each other–and for much of the evening, the police as well. But the late escalation was a reminder that this St. Louis suburb may be a powder keg for some time.

This story was updated to reflect events that occurred after it was published.

TIME Crime

A Mix of Hope and Anger at Peaceful Ferguson Vigil

Protesters light candles as they take part in a peaceful demonstration, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 14, 2014.
Protesters light candles, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 14, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Police and a diverse group of citizens held a peaceful vigil and moment of silence for Michael Brown

At 6:20 p.m. Thursday, the crowd bowed their heads and the chants went silent. They were hundreds strong, black and white and Asian, some tattooed, some clean-cut, wearing business casual and Cardinals gear and homemade red armbands in honor of the dead. Standing under the Gateway Arch, an iconic symbol of America’s promise, they raised their hands to the sky in tribute to Michael Brown, the young black teenager whose fatal shooting Saturday in a St. Louis suburb has opened deep wounds and turned a placid suburb into a war zone.

But this scene, one of dozens of vigils organized around the U.S. on Thursday to protest police brutality, looked nothing like the apocalyptic images filtering out of Ferguson, Mo., just a short drive away. There were no clouds of tear gas and no clashes between citizens and cops, who carried no heavy weapons and stood quietly at the fringes of the crowd. The racial unrest that has exploded nearby was nowhere in evidence, as a diverse crowd — about half of them black, half of them white — gathered to pay tribute to Brown. And in Ferguson too tensions were beginning to cool following pleas for calm from President Barack Obama and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon — and in the wake of Nixon’s decision to pull the oft-criticized St. Louis County police force out of the town in favor of state troopers.

Organizers dubbed it the national moment of silence. And once the minute was over, the emotion spilled out. In speeches and interviews, residents of St. Louis and its neighboring suburbs described a poisonous relationship between police and the African-American community that boiled over after Brown’s shooting but had been bubbling for many years.

Locals said the situation was particularly bad in the northern suburbs of St. Louis County, where towns like Ferguson have seen white flight turn mixed communities into mostly African-American enclaves policed by mostly white officers.

“Racial profiling — it happens so much,” said Delancy Davis, 27, speaking quietly under a black St. Louis hat. “It’s really prevalent in the counties, more so than in the city. Young black kids don’t like going out to the county because you’re going to get stopped.”

“We go through this a lot in the suburbs,” said Kim Stauther, 38, of St. Louis. “You get pulled over, just for driving while black. The cops really don’t respect us.”

It remains to be seen if the peaceful scenes in Ferguson and St. Louis on Thursday night were a sign that the tumult may be subsiding. Through their anger, the protesters expressed hope that the police had changed their tune. Some members of the crowd had been spending long hours this week protesting in Ferguson, and said the evening’s atmosphere was proof that the riots were driven by a heavily militarized police force.

“There are more people here” than in any of the violent protests in Ferguson, said Devin Booker, a 28-year-old personal trainer from Ferguson, who recalled running from tear gas and being menaced by police dogs this week. “This is peaceful because the police don’t have army gear; they don’t look like they’re running black ops.”

Nearby, Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden stood before a bank of cameras, wearing mirrored sunglasses, a black T-shirt with an image of her son and red sandals. Her daughter Deja, Michael’s sister, leaned on her shoulder as a cousin, Eric Davis, described the family’s anger at the Ferguson police, who he said called today for the first time. (The family also received a call today from Attorney General Eric Holder, Davis said, who passed on well-wishes from Obama.)

“We’re in the dark,” said Davis, who described Brown as a quiet, soft-spoken boy. “That’s a hard thing to do when you’ve lost a child.”

As the light began to fade, the crowd toted signs, clasped shoulders and chanted the week’s chilling rallying cry: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” They congratulated each other on the peaceful protest and promised more to come. Many in the crowd expressed regret for the riots, but said that though the clashes had tainted a pure cause, drawing the nation’s attention had positive benefits nonetheless.

“This is the beginning of a big change,” said Moses Grimes, a 29-year-old counselor for troubled youth. “This will be a movement, and I think it will have an effect.”

TIME Crime

Photos Capture the Tension Between Police and Protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

Protests and riots have erupted in Ferguson, Mo. following a fatal police shooting of an 18-year-old

TIME Crime

Friend Says Cops Shot Unarmed Teen Despite Pleas to Stop

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri
A makeshift memorial sits in the middle of the street where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police Jeff Roberson—AP

Circumstances of shooting remain hotly disputed

The friend of an unarmed St. Louis-area teen who was shot dead by police last week says in a new interview that an officer held onto the victim until the moment the trigger was pulled and continued shooting despite pleas to stop.

“I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close,” Dorian Johnson, 22, told MSNBC of the shooting of Michael Brown.

The circumstances surrounding Brown’s killing remain hotly disputed and the incident has stoked outrage and protests in the town of Ferguson, Mo. Johnson said he and Brown were walking in the street when an officer told the two to get “f—k on the sidewalk.” When they didn’t, Johnson said, the officer pulled his car into reverse, opened the door into Brown’s body, and then grabbed his throat.

“Mike was trying to get away from being choked,” Johnson said. “They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt. It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’ … The whole time [the officer] was holding my friend until the gun went off.”

Johnson said Brown was shot again while running away before turning, arms up, to ask the officer to stop since he was unarmed. Johnson said the last thing Brown said to him was “Keep running, bro!'”

St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar has said Brown was shot following a “struggle over the officer’s weapon.”

[MSNBC]

TIME justice

FBI to Probe Police Shooting of Unarmed Missouri Teen

+ READ ARTICLE

Demonstrators took to the streets of a St. Louis suburb Monday to protest the fatal shooting Saturday of an unarmed black teenager by police, as officials appealed for calm after a night of riots and the FBI said it would investigate the incident.

“Ferguson police show us no respect,” Chanel Ruffin, 25, said during the protest. “They harass black people all the time.”

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Ferguson, Mo., police chief Tom Jackson said Monday on CNN as protesters marched. “Nobody wanted this to happen but what we want to do is we want to heal. We want to build trust with the community and part of that is to have a transparent, open investigation, conducted by outside party.”

The protests Monday remained mostly peaceful, in contrast to the looting that took place Sunday night. A spokesman for the family of the teenager, Michael Brown, told media outlets his family wants “justice.” A list of demands being circulated among protestors Monday was much broader, calling for, among other things, a more diverse police force and that the officer who shot Brown be identified, fired and charged with murder. In a sign of the growing national attention focused on the small town, the hacking group Anonymous hacked Ferguson’s website on Sunday night.

Jackson said he understood the concerns of demonstrators and that a full, independent probe would help the community move forward. The FBI informed Jackson on Monday that it will investigate, the Associated Press reports. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, among other officials, had called for such an investigation.

“It is vital that the facts about this case are gathered in a thorough, transparent and impartial manner, in which the public has complete confidence,” Nixon said.

Attorney General Eric Holder also released a statement saying the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will work in conjunction with local officers to conduct a thorough investigation.

“The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities,” Holder said in a statement. “At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right. “

It remains unclear—and a matter of hot dispute—what led to the shooting Saturday of Brown, 18. Police say the teenager had assaulted an officer and reached for his gun. Many in community are skeptical of that account.

In downtown historic Ferguson on Monday morning, hundreds of protestors gathered around the Ferguson Police Department demanding justice for Brown, who they called a “gentle giant.” With raised hands in the air, people shouted “Don’t shoot me.”

Some protesters were peaceful. Others got in police officers’ faces, screaming obscenities and crossing police lines. Officers shouted “cuff him” while arresting at least a half-dozen protesters. Most protesters dispersed after a couple hours.

As news of the protests spread via social media, people of all races came from the region—one more than 60 miles—for a second, impromptu anti-police protest, this time in front of a burnt and looted convenience store. Protesters said they heard about the earlier demonstrations and drove to Ferguson to support to Brown’s family and the community.

Police in riot gear stayed mostly quiet as protesters shouted “no justice, no peace” and drivers honked in support. Police were not addressing the crowds.

The shooting has come at a time of heightened scrutiny across the country over police tactics and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. But Jackson resisted comparisons to other cases.

“This case, I know it seems like it’s similar to others, but what I would really hope is that we could allow the investigation to play out,” said Jackson, who, in an indicator of how hot tensions are running, reported being shot at himself Sunday night in a local Walmart parking lot.

The riots Sunday night in Ferguson left a trail of destruction, with cars vandalized, stores looted and walls spray-painted. More than 30 rioters were arrested, and police said two of their officers were injured.

“People were acting out of emotions,” Ruffin said. “There are a lot of people hurting. I’m not saying what they did was right. … We want justice.”

Police were on hand Monday to keep order.

“We can’t have another night like last night,” Jackson said on CNN. “So we hope it doesn’t happen, but we’re prepared for the worst.

About 130 police formed a line, in riot gear, as protesters chanted “we’re not stupid. We ‘re not stupid.” Protesters formed their own line with their hands up, crying out things like “don’t shoot me” and “you got to stop killing our people.” Brice Johnson, 27, held up a sign that read: “Please do not shoot. My hands are up. RIP Mike Brown.”

Police arrested at least half-a-dozen people who did not disperse.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Jackson, the police chief, said of the shooting. “Nobody wanted this to happen, but what we want to do is we want to heal, we want to build trust with the community. And part of that is to have a transparent, open investigation, conducted by outside party.”

-Kristina Sauerwein reported from Ferguson, Mo.

 

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