TIME Crime

2 New York Police Officers Die in Ambush Shooting

Brooklyn New York Police Shooting Bed Stuy
The skyline of Manhattan is seen in the background as investigators work at the scene where two NYPD officers were shot in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Dec. 20, 2014 John Minchillo—AP

Gunman fatally shoots two officers before turning weapon on himself

(NEW YORK) — A gunman who announced online that he was planning to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight Saturday before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities said.

The suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” officials said. He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown.

Police said he approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire, striking Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in the head. The New York Police Department officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

“They were, quite simply, assassinated — targeted for their uniform,” said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who looked pale and shaken at a hospital news conference.

Brinsley took off running as officers pursued him down to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Bratton said.

“This may be my final post,” Brinsley wrote in the Instagram post that included an image of a silver handgun. The post had more than 200 likes.

Bratton confirmed that the suspect made very serious “anti-police” statements online but did not get into specifics of the posts. He said they were trying to figure out why Brinsley had chosen to kill the officers. Two city officials with direct knowledge of the case confirmed the posts to The Associated Press. The officials, a senior city official and a law enforcement official, were not authorized to speak publicly on the topic and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The shootings come at a tense time; Police in New York and nationwide are being criticized for their tactics, following the July death of Garner, who was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Amateur video captured an officer wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck and wrestling him to the ground. Garner was heard gasping, “I can’t breathe” before he lost consciousness and later died.

Demonstrators around the country have staged die-ins and other protests since a grand jury decided Dec. 3 not to indict the officer in Garner’s death, a decision that closely followed a Missouri grand jury’s refusal to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Bratton said they were investigating whether the suspect had attended any rallies or demonstrations.

Brinsley was black; the officers were Asian and Hispanic, police said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Garner’s family had no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence.

“Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,” Sharpton said.

Brown’s family also released a statement condemning the shooting. “We must work together to bring peace to our communities,” the statement says. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers’ families during this incredibly difficult time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the killing of the officers in the nation’s largest department strikes at the heart of the city.

“Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy,” said de Blasio, who spoke softly with moist eyes. “It is an attack on all of us.”

Scores of officers in uniform lined up three rows deep lined the hospital driveway and stretched into the street, their hands raised in a silent salute, as two ambulances bore the slain officers’ bodies away. The mayor ordered flags at half-staff.

In a statement Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting deaths as senseless and “an unspeakable act of barbarism.” President Barack Obama was also briefed on the shooting, and White House officials were monitoring the situation closely, the White House said.

Early Saturday, Bratton said, Brinsley went to the home of a former girlfriend in the Baltimore area and shot and wounded her. Police there said they noticed Brinsley posting to the woman’s Instagram account about a threat to New York officers. Baltimore-area officials sent a warning to New York City police, who received it around the time of the shooting, Bratton said.

Criminal records show Brinsley has a history of arrests on various charges in Georgia, including robbery, shoplifting, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Bratton said his last-known address was Georgia, but he had some ties in Brooklyn.

A block from the shooting site, a line of about eight police officers stood with a German shepherd blocking the taped-off street. Officer Ramos was married with a 13-year-old son, police said. He had been on the job since 2012. Liu had been on the job for seven years and got married two months ago, Bratton said.

“Both officers paid the ultimate sacrifice today while protecting the communities they serve,” he said.

Rosie Orengo, a friend of Ramos, said he was heavily involved in their church and encouraged others in their marriages.

“He was an amazing man. He was the best father and husband and friend,” she said. “Our peace is knowing that he’s OK, and we’ll see him in heaven.”

The president of the police officers union, Patrick Lynch, and de Blasio have been locked in a public battle over treatment of officers following the grand jury’s decision. Just days ago, Lynch suggested police officers sign a petition that demanded the mayor not attend their funerals should they die on the job. On Saturday, some officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he walked into the hospital. At a news conference, Lynch said there is “blood on many hands” tonight, explicitly blaming the mayor and protesters.

The last shooting death of an NYPD officer came in December 2011, when 22-year veteran Peter Figoski was shot in the face while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment. The triggerman, Lamont Pride, was convicted of murder and sentenced in 2013 to 45 years to life in prison.

___

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Tom McElroy in New York and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore contributed to this report.

TIME Automobiles

Red Light Cams Linked to Increased Rear-End Collisions in Chicago

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 7:   Speed cameras capture motorists on I
Speed cameras capture motorists on I-395 near 2nd Street NW in Washington, DC on June 7, 2012. Daniel Britt—Washington Post/Getty Images

New study casts doubts on the claims that cameras improve road safety

A new Chicago-focused study links red light cameras to a coinciding rise in rear-end collisions, casting doubts on claims that the mounted cameras improve safety at intersections.

The study’s findings, published by the Chicago Tribune Friday, found that while traffic cameras appeared to reduce injuries by 15% for collisions at right angles, where one car crashes head-on into the side of another car, those improvements were overshadowed by a 22% increase in injuries from rear-end accidents. Taken together, the study shows a statistically insignificant increase of injuries by 5%.

The results come amid Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s push to mount cameras on traffic lights city wide. The programs have attracted a growing backlash from critics who question its safety benefits and worry the program will lead to a swelling of ticket payments.

TIME cities

NYC Considers Pushing a Quieter Jackhammer on Construction Crews

Jackhammer
A worker uses a pneumatic jackhammer to drill rock at the foundation for the World Trade Center's transportation hub, Nov. 10, 2011 in New York. Mark Lennihan—AP

Construction workers question the efficacy of electric models

New York City is considering a clampdown on one of its most enduring public nuisances, the jackhammer, by requiring construction crews to switch to a quieter, electric model.

The quieter models can shave roughly 10 decibels off of the noise level, cutting it in half, the New York Times reports. Manufacturers of electric jackhammers say their models, which have been on the market since at least 2011, can break through concrete as effectively as any pneumatic jackhammer, which runs on an ear-shattering technology that dates back to the 1800s.

A spokesperson for the General Contractors Association disputed those claims, telling the New York Times that the models could slow down heavy construction work and increase costs for developers.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME White House

President Obama Confuses James Franco, Joe Flacco in Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 19, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The confusion creates a parody Twitter account @JamesFlacco

President Obama addressed the nation Friday regarding Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview following repeated cyber-attacks on the studio, but when he spoke about the film’s stars he accidentally conflated James Franco and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco into “James Flacco.”

Only moments after the slip up occurred someone had already snatched up the Twitter handle James Flacco and started a parody account.

The slip of the tongue was so talked about that even the Ravens quarterback got in on the fun, tweeting a quick correction to the President, and reaching out to Franco.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Media

Sony Chief Says ‘We Have Not Caved’ on The Interview

"We have not given up," Michael Lynton said after his studio cancelled the movie under pressure

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton defended his company’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview on Friday, even as the company refused to rule out releasing the movie in other ways.

Lynton said Sony’s decision was prompted by movie theaters opting not to show the film after hackers, who U.S. officials believe are linked to North Korea and who have wreaked havoc on the studio by disclosing emails and other company information, threatened 9/11-style attacks. Moments earlier, President Barack Obama had called the move to cancel the Christmas Day release a “mistake.”

“The unfortunate part is in this instance the President, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said on CNN. “When it came to the crucial moment… the movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time. We were completely surprised by it.”

Read more: You can’t see The Interview, but TIME’s film critic did

Sony said in a statement later Friday that its decision was only about the Christmas Day release.

“After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform,” the studio said. “It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.”

Obama told reporters he wished Sony had reached out to him before canceling the film’s Christmas day release. It depicts a fictional assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said. “Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone who’s sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

Lynton denied the studio had given into the hackers’ threats.

“We have not caved. We have not given up,” he said. “We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”

Read next: Obama Says Sony “Made a Mistake” Pulling ‘The Interview’

TIME Law Enforcement

FBI Inquiry Finds Rampant Mishandling of Evidence

An internal probe found the bureau is holding two tons more drugs than records showed

An internal review of the FBI’s evidence handling procedures found a system rife with serious errors, according to a new report, including evidence mislabeled, mishandled or lost altogether, and in every region of the United States.

The survey of more than 41,000 pieces of evidence found the FBI holding less money but more guns and drugs than records indicated, the New York Times reports. Officials say most problems are the result of the FBI’s move in 2012 from a paper-based to a digital accounting system. The review could complicate criminal prosecutions throughout the U.S.

Read more at the Times

TIME White House

Obama Says Sony ‘Made a Mistake’ Pulling The Interview

"That’s not who we are," Obama said

President Barack Obama said Friday that Sony “made a mistake” in pulling its film The Interview from distribution following a cyberattack that American officials have linked to North Korea.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama confirmed the FBI’s assessment that North Korea was behind the attack. He said he wished the studio had reached out to him before canceling the film’s release, and that he fears it sets a bad precedent for the nation.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. “Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone who’s sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

“That’s not who we are,” Obama added, noting that the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing did not deter runners from running this year. “That’s not what America’s about.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, appearing on CNN shortly after Obama spoke, defended the studio. “We have not caved,” he said. “We have not given up. We have persevered and we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”

Obama promised that the United States would respond “proportionally” to the attack, but would not detail those actions publicly.

“We will respond,” he said. We will respond proportionally, and we will respond at a place and time that we choose.”

Read more: The 7 most outrageous things we learned from the Sony hack

TIME Crime

20-Day-Old Baby Reunited With Mother After Carjacking

The baby appears to be fine, but would undergo a precautionary medical check-up

A 20-day-old baby who was in a car that was stolen from a Kentucky gas station Thursday night was reunited with his mother after the vehicle was found hours later about seven miles away, police said.

An Amber Alert had been issued for the infant, Henry Flores, after his mother’s Volkswagen was stolen while he was in the backseat, Florence police said in a statement. The alert was canceled after two women who had received text message notifications about the stolen vehicle spotted it at a different gas station. The pair found the sleeping baby in the backseat of the…

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

TIME society

Why Pro Athletes Won’t Stay Silent Anymore

Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 8, 2014. Jason Szenes—EPA

“I knew it would be coming sooner or later,” says Olympian John Carlos

For nearly 50 years, John Carlos, the American sprinter who raised his arm and clenched his fist at the 1968 Olympics to protest racial inequality, has waited for a group of athletes to follow his example. To stand for something more than scoring points and pushing products.

His wait is finally over. In the weeks since grand juries returned non-indictments of police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, dozens of professional and college athletes have abandoned the safety of the sidelines to lend support for the protests over their killings. “I knew it would be coming sooner or later,” says Carlos, whose “black power” salute with teammate Tommie Smith has become an iconic image. “I’m extremely proud of these athletes. I think they have a brave heart. I think they have a vision. And I think they would like to see these issues resolved.”

Some of the biggest names in sports are leading the charge. LeBron James wore an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt before a Dec. 8 game to support the family of Garner, the New York City man whose last words — captured on video as police wrestled him to the ground — have become a slogan of the emerging movement. Even President Obama took note of James’ decision. “You know, I think LeBron did the right thing,” Obama told People in an interview published Thursday. “We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness.”

Those athletes represented the peak of socially-conscious sports stars. Since then, most have followed the disengaged template perfected by Michael Jordan. In the early 1990s, Jordan refused to endorse an African-American Senate candidate trying to unseat right-winger Jesse Helms in Jordan’s home state of North Carolina. Though he might not have actually uttered the famous excuse for staying neutral that’s been attributed to him –“Republicans buy sneakers too” — Jordan followed this philosophy, and turned it into a marketing blueprint: Play nice, don’t offend, grow your personal brand. And whatever you do, stay out of politics.

James, the modern-day Jordan and Nike’s premium pitchman, and Derrick Rose, Adidas’ biggest name baller who was the first NBA star to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt, have rewritten the rules. “We went through a long stretch there where [with] well-paid athletes the notion was: just be quiet and get your endorsements and don’t make waves,” Obama told People. “LeBron is an example of a young man who has, in his own way and in a respectful way, tried to say, ‘I’m part of this society, too’ and focus attention.”

For these players, the lack of consequences shows that they can take certain stances without sacrificing corporate clout. “Companies are a now little more willing to allow endorsers speak their mind,” says Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. When asked about LeBron’s gesture, Nike said in a statement that “we respect everyone’s right to share and express different points of view.” Adidas says it supports the position of NBA commissioner Adam Silver; he appreciates free expression, but prefers that players stick to the pre-game dress code.

In Jordan’s day, brands could control what their athletes were saying. Nike, Adidas, and other companies now realize that since so many athletes interact with social media, where the protests played on a 24-hour loop, they’re bound to join the conversation. “It’s kind of an undercurrent that pulls you in,” says TNT analyst Kenny Smith, a former NBA player in the 1980s and 1990s.

For the athletes, it’s easier to speak if you know you’ll be heard — and supported. Social media offers a ready platform to spread a message. “When you have a million Twitter followers,” says Etan Thomas, who played in the NBA from 2001-2011 and was known as one of the more outspoken pro athletes of his era, “there’s tremendous power in that.”

And don’t discount the emotional element. A majority of NFL and NBA players are African-American, and many have had personal experiences of being profiled by cops. “Today’s athletes are starting to reflect outside of themselves,” says Carlos, who briefly played pro football before becoming a counselor and track coach at Palm Springs (Calif.) High School. “We wanted to unify ourselves to make a statement to society — enough is enough. I think that 46 years later, that cry is still out there. Enough is enough.”

TIME Healthcare

Nonprofit Hospitals Seize Low-Income Patients’ Wages

An investigation reveals the ongoing struggles of people too poor to afford health insurance but no poor enough to qualify for Medicaid

Many hospitals in the U.S. receive tax breaks in exchange for the community service of providing care to those who cannot afford to pay. But hospitals in at least five states employ aggressive debt collectors to garnish the wages of low-income patients with unpaid debts, a ProPublica/NPR investigation revealed Friday.

Hospitals in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Missouri pass debts along to for-profit collection agencies. People affected tend to be those who earn too much to qualify for assistance in states that rejected the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s health care law, but not enough to purchase health care on their own. The cost of health care services for the uninsured tend to be significantly higher than for people with health insurance.

Read more at ProPublica

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