TIME Law Enforcement

Family of Homeless Man Killed in L.A. Police Shooting Files $20 Million Claim

Heleine Tchayou
Tami Abdollah—AP Heleine Tchayou, second from right, the mother of Charly Leundeu Keunang, a homeless man who was shot and killed during a confrontation on Skid Row by Los Angeles police, speaks at a news conference outside LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 30, 2015. The family of Keunang has filed a $20 million claim against the city. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

"He did not have to die!"

The family of a homeless man who was shot and killed during a scuffle with Los Angeles police in March is suing the city, attorneys said Thursday, and seeking a $20 million for wrongful death.

“He did not have to die!” said Heleine Tchayou, mother of 43-year-old Charly Keunang, through a French translator, Reuters reports. “Charly was a thoughtful and caring son.” Keunang, originally from Cameroon, was shot and killed on March 1 after police say he reached for an officer’s gun as they tried to arrest him for suspected robbery.

The family’s claim labeled Keunang’s death “a cop-created killing in which six heavily-armed, highly-trained law enforcement officers initiated a conflict with an unarmed homeless man and then less than three minutes later, shot him six times in the chest, killing him as they held him down on the sidewalk.”

The incident, which was caught on video, came amid greater scrutiny of police tactics nationwide and sparked protests in Los Angeles.

[Reuters]

TIME Drugs

Emerging Drug Flakka Causing More Naked Rage and Paranoia Incidents

The new drug causes body temperature to spike dangerously

Flakka, a new designer drug popular in Florida, is continuing to generate bizarre incidents of naked rage and paranoia among users — but officials say it’s no laughing matter.

The synthetic drug has spawned a number of tales including how one Florida man believed he was Thor, and ran naked through a neighborhood and then tried to have sex with a tree, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Another flakka user ran nude down a busy city street, convinced he was being chased by a pack of German shepherds.

Flakka, which is similar to bath salts and usually smoked via electronic cigarettes, causes the naked incidents because it causes a spike in body temperature of up to 106 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Like amphetamines, flakka users seek the high of the drug’s stimulation but may also become prone to violent outbursts, paranoia and hallucinations.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told AP. “They still want to try it because it’s so cheap.”

Flakka has spread to other states besides Florida, where most incidents have been reported, including Ohio, Texas and Tennessee, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read next: See Which State Has the Highest Daily Use of Mood-Altering Drugs

[AP]

TIME U.S.

Here’s Where It’s Legal for Women to Go Topless in the U.S.

A guide to patchwork and confusing laws on taking it off

Local officials in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles voiced support this week for allowing women to sunbathe topless, calling the move “a serious equality issue” and citing the city’s Italian namesake as one of many European regions where toplessness is socially acceptable. But topless sunbathing is illegal in the city and county of Los Angeles, and the local disagreement is just the skin of a patchwork of nudity laws and customs that vary by state and municipality across the country.

The vast majority of states actually have laws on the books making clear that women can’t be arrested under state law solely for being topless in settings where it’s OK for men. But many local ordinances ban the practice anyway. And there’s plenty of grey area for police officers to make their own interpretations and make arrests for “public indecency” or “disorderly conduct.”

Celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Miley Cyrus have been public critics of what they call a double-standard that women face when it comes to going shirtless, and have tried to get Instagram to stop taking down photos of breasts, garnering some support with the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Scout Willis, daughter of the actor Bruce Willis, recently illustrated the point that women are technically permitted to walk the streets of New York City topless—but not to post topless photos on Instagram—by posting shirtless photos of herself on city sidewalks to Twitter.

GoTopless.org

So how to keep track of it all? The organization GoTopless, which advocates for “toplessness equality” in the U.S., has put together the map above illustrating the different laws in different states. Though green states indicate there is some degree of “topless freedom,” that does not mean it’s legal for women to go shirtless throughout the state. Local ordinances may ban or allow the practice in opposition to state law, and California is listed green despite the fight in Venice Beach. Orange states have “ambiguous laws;” in red states, female toplessness is illegal.

Even in areas with topless freedom, police officers may still arrest citizens for disorderly conduct. In in New York City, where it’s technically allowed, police officers have needed reminders that they cannot arrest women simply for going shirtless in locations where it would be permissible for men to do the same, the New York Times reports. “Simply exposing their breasts in public,” police were warned in 2013, doesn’t amount to a crime.

TIME States

Indiana Politicians Want to Drug Test People on Welfare

A similar measure failed to gain legislative approval last year

Lawmakers in Indiana are weighing a measure that would require some welfare recipients to undergo drug testing and risk losing their benefits if they failed.

Democratic State Rep. Terry Goodin proposed the drug testing requirement as an amendment to a bill currently before Indiana’s House, based on his concerns over intravenous drug use causing a spike in HIV cases. The Republican-majority House voted 79-15 on Tuesday to approve Goodin’s amendment to the bill, which will be considered in a final vote Wednesday.

The proposed change would require welfare recipients considered high-risk for drug abuse to be tested, as well as those who had previously been charged with a drug-related crime.

If recipients failed a drug test, they’d receive counseling that they would have to pay for themselves. If they repeatedly failed the tests, they’d be taken off welfare for at least three months. They would also be responsible for the cost of any positive drug tests.

Republicans pushed a similar proposal in 2014 but it failed to pass in the Senate. Civil liberties organizations have criticized measures like this in the past.

[The Indianapolis Star]

TIME Law

Pizza Shop That Backed Indiana Religious Freedom Law Reopens

Many customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened for business ON April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind.
Tom Coyne–AP Many customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened for business ON April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind.

Shop closed after owner said his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to cater a gay wedding

(WALKERTON, Ind.) — A northern Indiana pizzeria that closed after its owner said his religious beliefs wouldn’t allow him to cater a gay wedding opened Thursday to a full house of friends, regulars and people wanting to show their support.

“It’s a relief to get going again and try to get back to normal,” said Kevin O’Connor, owner of Memories Pizza.

O’Connor closed the shop for eight days after comments by him and his daughter, Crystal, to a local television station supporting a new religious objections law. The law, which has since been revised, sparked a boycott of Indiana.

O’Connor said the criticism hasn’t changed his beliefs. He said gays are welcome in his restaurant in the small, one-traffic-light town of Walkerton, 20 miles southwest of South Bend, but that he would decline to cater a same-sex wedding because it would conflict with his Christian beliefs.

“I’d do the same thing again. It’s my belief. It’s our belief. It’s what we grew up on,” he said. “I’m just sorry it comes to this because neither one of us dislike any of those people. I don’t hold any grudges.”

A crowdfunding campaign started by supporters raised more than $842,000 with donations from 29,160 contributors in 48 hours. O’Connor said he hasn’t received the money yet, but said he plans to give some to charity and use some money to make improvements to the restaurant.

The 61-year-old father of eight who has owned the restaurant for nine years said he never thought about taking the money and retiring.

“I enjoy it. I don’t want to leave here,” he said. “I want this to be something that my daughter can enjoy.”

Crystal O’Connor said the amount of money was overwhelming.

“We were like, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!'” she said.

“It was really making us uncomfortable,” her father said.

The restaurant reopened about 4 p.m. Thursday. He says that within an hour, all eight tables were filled and six people were waiting for carryout orders. There were no protests as of 7 p.m.

Jeanne and Ken Gumm from outside LaPorte, about 20 miles northwest of Walkerton, said they had been waiting for the pizzeria to reopen so they could show their support.

“We couldn’t wait to get down here,” said Ken Gumm, 66, a tank truck driver. “To us this whole thing isn’t about gay marriage. It’s mostly about freedom of religion.”

Read next: Why Religious Freedom Bills Could Be Great for Gay Rights

TIME Crime

South Carolina Officer Faces Murder Charge After Video Shows Man’s Shooting Death

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott called the death of Walter Scott “senseless"

A white police officer in South Carolina was charged with murder Tuesday after a grisly video emerged showing him repeatedly shoot an apparently unarmed black man who was running away, sparking an outraged reaction from local residents, advocates and officials, and a promise that the local police department supply officers with body cameras.

In the April 4 footage captured by a bystander, and posted below, North Charleston police officer Michael Thomas Slager, 33 is seen firing eight shots at a man identified by authorities as Walter Scott, 50. The officer claimed he feared for his life after Scott took his stun gun during a confrontation following a traffic stop over a broken taillight, according to police documents cited by the New York Times.

Slager was booked on the murder charge Tuesday by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, shortly after the video emerged, and he was fired.

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Mayor Keith Summey said of the decision to charge the officer, in an early evening news conference, The Post and Courier reports. “When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision.”

On Wednesday, Summey announced that he had a grant to purchase 101 body cameras for the city’s police force but that he had decided to purchase additional cameras as well.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating the shooting, as will the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

On Wednesday morning, protesters raising signs and wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts flocked to the North Charleston’s City Hall to slam what they saw as violence in law enforcement, in an echo of similar protests following the police shooting deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in New York City.

The graphic video footage of Scott’s death, originally reported by The Post and Courier and the Times, also prompted a strong reaction from South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who called it “senseless” on Twitter and said Scott’s death was “absolutely unnecessary and avoidable.” He added that he will be “watching this case closely.”

MORE: South Carolina Police Shooting Renews Calls for Body Cameras

At the beginning of the video showing the shooting, Scott can be seen running from Slager, who rapidly fires seven shots. Following a slight pause, the officer fires an eighth, after which Scott falls to the ground. The officer is then heard yelling, “Put your hands behind your back!” before handcuffing Scott, who is lying face-down on the ground.

The officer is then shown running several yards away and appears to bend down and lift an object from the ground as another officer arrives on the scene. The second officer then requests that “someone grab [him] a kit” over his radio as he approaches Scott. When the first officer returns to Scott shortly afterward, he appears to drop an object—suspected to be the stun gun—next to Scott’s body.

The second officer can be heard reporting Scott’s injury while kneeling and examining his back as the officer, appearing to be Slager, observes. An additional clip, which the Times labeled as having “captured the scene moments later,” shows two officers applying gauze to Scott’s back while two more officers talk behind them.

Slager was previously accused of excessive force in a 2013 encounter where he also used a stun gun, but he was cleared in that case, NBC reports. He joined the police force five years ago, after serving in the Coast Guard, according to the Times. Information about his lawyer was not immediately available.

Scott may have been fleeing police because he knew he owed child support for his four kids, his lawyer L. Chris Stewart told the Times. Scott had been arrested about 10 times, mostly for failing to pay child support, but he also had an assault charge from 1987, The Post and Courier reports

Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott, told reporters in a televised news conference Tuesday evening that he’s hoping for “justice.”

“From the beginning, when it happened the first day, all we wanted was the truth,” he said. “We can’t get my brother back and my family is in deep mourning of that, but through the process justice has been served.”

Anthony Scott added he doesn’t consider Slager a representation of law enforcement officers. “I don’t think that all police officers are bad cops,” he said. “But there are some bad ones out there and I don’t want to see anyone get shot down the way that my brother got shot down.”

MORE: How Body Cams on Cops Brought a Murder Charge in New Mexico

Stewart, the family’s lawyer, praised the bystander who captured the deadly incident on video and came forward with the footage.

“What happened today doesn’t happen all the time,” Stewart said. “What if there was no video? What if there was no witness—or hero as I call him—to come forward?” he added, as a woman next to him wept. “Then this wouldn’t have happened.”

Justin Bamberg, another family attorney, called it “an example of what can happen when people are willing to step up and do the right thing for the right reasons.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also noted the importance of video evidence in the case, adding that the Obama administration has issued a community policing grant for $75 million to help agencies implement policies related to body cameras.

“I do think that it is an example of how body cameras worn by police officers could have a positive impact in terms of building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Earnest said.

“I don’t think that anyone thinks that this this is a panacea—it certainly isn’t—but it certainly, at least in this situation, is an indication of how it can help.”

With reporting by Maya Rhodan and Justin Worland

TIME States

Colorado Says Baker Didn’t Discriminate in Refusing to Make Anti-Gay Cake

Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.
Ivan Moreno—AP Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.

Colorado Civil Rights Division said she was within legal rights to deny cake orders featuring "derogatory language and imagery"

A Colorado government agency has ruled that a baker who refused to make cakes featuring anti-gay messages did not discriminate against the man who requested them.

Last year, William Jack asked Denver’s Azucar Bakery for two bible-shaped cakes featuring images of groomsmen crossed out with a red “X” and phrases like “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18.2,” local ABC station NEWS7 Denver reports. The bakery’s owner, Marjorie Silva, told Jack she would make the bible-shaped cakes and provide icing for him to add his own message, but she wouldn’t apply such “hateful and offensive” messages because her bakery “does not discriminate.”

Jack complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, accusing Silva of denying him goods or services based on his religion. But the agency recently ruled that Silva’s refusal to make the cakes was motivated by the “derogatory language and imagery,” and not because of religious discrimination. “In the same manner [she] would not accept [an order from] anyone wanting to make a discriminatory cake against Christians, [she] will not make one that discriminates against gays,” the ruling stated. Last year, the agency ruled that another bakery in the state could not refuse a gay couple’s request for a wedding cake.

Silva, who is Catholic and whose bakery in the past has made cakes for Christian holidays that featured religious imagery, said she was pleased to learn she was “not [only] morally right but also legally right.”

Jack told 7NEWS that he plans to appeal the decision. “I find it offensive that the Colorado Civil Rights Division considers the baker’s claims that Bible verses were discriminatory as the reason for denying my claim,” he said.

[ABC 7NEWS]

TIME Environment

California Governor Defends Water Restrictions That Largely Spare Farms

California Drought Reveals Uneven Water Usage
Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images Aerial view overlooking landscaping on April 4, 2015 in Ramona, Calif.

"I can tell you from California, climate change is not a hoax"

Governor Jerry Brown defended his state’s new mandatory water restrictions on Sunday as critics claim they largely spare some farms that consume much of California’s water.

The state’s farms account for 80% of its water consumption but only 2% of its economy, according to the think tank Public Policy Institute of California. But Brown asserted in an ABC News interview taking water away from farmers could create a number of problems, including displacing hundreds of thousands of people and cutting off a region that provides a significant fraction of the country’s food supply.

“They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” he said. “They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America and a significant part of the world.”

At the end of the interview, the Democratic governor reiterated a broad warning after four years of drought. “I can tell you from California, climate change is not a hoax,” he said. “We’re dealing with it, and it’s damn serious.”

[ABC News]

Read next: California’s Water Crisis by the Numbers

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME States

Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘Furious’ About Indiana Law

Arnold Schwarzenegger Attends The Queensland Real Estate Agents' Summit
Tara Croser—Newspix/Getty Images Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the Queensland Real Estate Agents' Summit 2015 at RNA Convention Centre on March 17, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

The former California governor says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is bad for the GOP

Arnold Schwarzenegger says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sparked outrage from critics concerned it could lead to discrimination against LGBT people in Indiana, is a “distracting, divisive law” that is “bad for the country” and bad for his Republican Party.

The former California governor wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that American politicians (and Republicans in particular) should be focusing on solutions to real problems that affect Americans’ health and wallets, like pollution and traffic. To attract and retain young voters, he writes, “We must be the party of limited government, not the party that legislates love.”

Read more at the Washington Post.

TIME States

New Kansas Law Will Allow Concealed Carry Without Gun Permit or Training

“It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right"

A bill signed Thursday by Gov. Sam Brownback will allow residents in Kansas to carry concealed firearms without a permit or training.

Kansans aged 21 or older will be permitted to carry concealed guns starting July 1 when the law takes effect, even if they’re not trained or don’t have a permit, the Kansas City Star reports. That will make the state one of six to allow “constitutional carry.”

Anyone who would like to carry a concealed gun in any of the three dozen states that accept Kansas permits must go through training, a requirement that Brownback emphasized. But even with regard to Kansans, who won’t be required to go through training, he acknowledged that his youngest son had “got a lot out of” a hunter safety course recently and urged others “to take advantage of that.”

“We’re saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don’t have to get the permission slip from the government,” Brownback said. “It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right.”

The Kansas State Rifle Association was supportive of the bill. A statement on its website reads: “the right to keep and bear arms is a natural, unalienable right protected by the Second Amendment and citizens should not have to go through burdensome and expensive hoops to exercise that right.”

[Kansas City Star]

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