TIME Crime

U.S. Police Chiefs Meet to Address Rising Homicide Rates

Some cities have seen the number of murders so far in 2015 increase by more than 50 percent over last year

Police chiefs from around the U.S. met in Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss the nation’s spike in homicides.

“The goal of the summit is to identify potential gaps and propose solutions that will help us stop this escalating violence,” Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who organized this meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said in a statement.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier
Win McNamee—Getty ImagesChief of the Metropolitan Police Department Cathy Lanier speaks at a press conference at police headquarters in Washington, DC., May 21, 2015

Some cities, including Baltimore, Houston, and Milwaukee, have seen the number of murders on record in 2015 rise by at least 50% over the past year, Fox reports. Gun violence is so rampant in Milwaukee, police say, that an estimated 80% of gun shots recorded by police sensors do not result in a 911 call. Chicago has also seen 243 homicides in 2015, a 20% increase from last year.

“In the major cities, of course, you have a lot of issues with drugs and gangs and violence,” Richard Beary, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told Fox. “And then throw in the mental health, and throw in the availability of guns, and here we are.”

 

TIME Crime

Colorado Theater Shooting Jury Keeps Death Penalty as Option

James Holmes, trail
AP In this file image, made from Colorado Judicial Department video, defense attorney Tamara Brady, left, questions Robert Holmes, top right, the father of James Holmes, background left, during the sentencing phase of the Colorado theater shooting trial in Centennial, Colo, July 28, 2015

The same jury last month convicted Holmes of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial declined to rule out the death penalty Monday as they move toward sentencing James Holmes, finding his defense failed to persuade them to show him mercy.

The decision clears the way for a last plea from both sides, including what is expected to be gripping and emotional testimony from victims about the harm and suffering Holmes caused with his slaughter.

After those arguments, the jury will make its final decision on whether the 27-year-old should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life in prison.

The same jury last month convicted Holmes of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack at a suburban Denver movie theater. Jurors rejected the defense claim that mental illness had so warped his mind that he could not tell right from wrong.

In the first step of Colorado’s complicated death sentencing process, prosecutors argued Holmes sprang a terrifying and cruel ambush on hundreds of unsuspecting victims. Jurors agreed and said the crime was so heinous that the death penalty could be appropriate.

In the second step, defense lawyers pleaded with jurors to show mercy, saying it was mental illness and not free will that drove Holmes to murder. They called dozens of former teachers, family friends, and Holmes’ parents and his sister, who told jurors Holmes had been a happy, friendly child known as “Jimmy” but kept to himself in his later years.

Holmes’ parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, testified that they never suspected their son was mentally ill. But Robert Holmes acknowledged they rarely communicated with Holmes in the months before the shooting and, in his family, emotions just weren’t talked about.

A forensic psychiatrist testified that the younger Holmes was “genetically loaded” for mental illness, as Robert Holmes’ father and twin sister had been hospitalized with mental illness.

“He was not a violent person. At least not until the event,” Robert Holmes said, referring to the theater attack.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their latest decision. They found the appealing portrait of a younger, kinder Holmes didn’t outweigh the heinous nature of his methodical and calculated attack on defenseless moviegoers.

Now both sides can call witnesses and present evidence before the jury deliberates one last time to decide whether Holmes lives or dies.

Holmes was a promising student in a demanding neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado when his life went awry. He broke up with his first and only girlfriend and dropped out of school, abandoning his longtime goal of becoming a scientist.

In an eerie notebook introduced as evidence in his trial, Holmes laid out his plans of attack, diagnosed himself with a litany of mental problems and wrote that he hid the depths of his problems — and his homicidal plans — from everyone.

Shortly after midnight on July 20, 2012, he slipped into the suburban Aurora theater and opened fire with a shotgun, assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol before surrendering meekly to police outside.

TIME Crime

Amy Schumer Calls for Action on Gun Control After Trainwreck Shooting

"Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns"

Comedian and actress Amy Schumer joined her cousin, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, on Monday to make an emotional call for more intensive background checks and increased government funding for mental health care to combat mass shootings.

“Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns,” the Trainwreck star said, several days after a gunman—whose name she refused to say—killed two people and injured nine others when he opened fire during a screening of the romantic comedy.

“We need a background check system without holes and fatal flaws,” she said. “We need one with accurate information that protects us like a firewall. The critics scoff and say, ‘Well, there’s no way to stop crazy people from doing crazy things,’ but they’re wrong. There is a way to stop them. Preventing dangerous people from getting guns is very possible. We have common-sense solutions. We can toughen background checks and stop the sale of firearms to folks who have a violent history or history of mental illness.”

The Democratic senator for New York laid out proposals to incentivize states to share information on felons, domestic abusers and dangerously mentally ill, to increase funding for mental illness treatment, and to standardize involuntary commitment for the mentally ill across all 50 states.

 

 

TIME celebrities

Read the Transcript of Amy Schumer’s Emotional Speech on Gun Control

"I have thought about these victims each day since the tragedy"

Comedian and actress Amy Schumer joined her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D—N.Y.), to propose gun control measures Monday in the wake of a deadly shooting in Louisiana during a screening of her movie Trainwreck.

The New York Democrat first outlined a three-stage plan to tackle gun violence: firstly, to reward states for sharing information about felons, domestic abusers and mentally ill people, and denying funding to those who don’t; to get the Justice Dept to survey all 50 states on their standards for treating mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves and others; and to get Congress to fully fund mental health and substance abuse programs.

The younger Schumer spoke next, giving an often emotional reaction to the shooting and its aftermath. Here is her statement in full:

For me, the pain I share with so many other Americans on the issue of gun violence was made extremely personal to me on Thursday, July 23 when — I’m not even going to say his name, when this — when he sat down for my movie Trainwreck at the Grand Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Two lives were tragically lost and others injured, and I have thought about these victims each day since the tragedy. Jillian Johnson, 33, a mother, daughter, sister, and a wonderful wife. She was an artist. I think we would have been friends. And Mayci Breaux, who was 21, who planned on marrying her high school sweetheart. She was an honor student at Louisiana State University where she was studying to become a radiology technician. She was kind and loved her family very much and she always made time for them.

When I heard about this news, I was completely devastated. I wanted to go down to Louisiana, and then I was angry. My heart goes out to Jillian and Mayci, to the survivors, to the families and everyone who was tied to the tragic, senseless and horrifying actions of this man who shouldn’t have been able to put his hands on a gun in the first place.

I’m not sure why this man chose my movie to end these two beautiful lives and injure nine others, but it was very personal for me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Louisiana. It’s my favorite state, whenever I have a couple of days off I go down there and I — because I love the people there. They’re the coolest, strongest people I’ve ever met. and the thought of this community being turned around and upside down by this stings me.

Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns. We know what can happen when they do. I was heartbroken when I heard about Columbine and Sandy Hook and Aurora, and so many names of other places seared into our memories, and I was heartbroken when I heard about Lafayette and I still am.

And what Chuck said here, it deserves unanimous support. We never know why people choose to do these things but sadly we always find out how, how the shooter got their gun. It’s often something that should haven’t happened in the first place, and today’s push makes so much sense because it seeks to address the how.

We need a background check system without holes and fatal flaws. We need one with accurate information that protects us like a firewall. The critics scoff and say well, there’s no way to stop crazy people from doing crazy things but they’re wrong. There is a way to stop them. Preventing dangerous people from getting guns is very possible. We have common-sense solutions. We can toughen background checks and stop the sale of firearms to folks who have a violent history or history of mental illness. We can invest more in treating mental illness instead of slashing funding.

These are not extreme ideas and what Chuck is describing are sensible measures and restrictions and no one wants to live in a country where a felon, the mentally ill or other dangerous people can get their hands on a gun with such ease. The time is now for American people to rally for these changes.

These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence, but I can promise you they will not be my last.

TIME Crime

Nationwide Homicide Spike Hits Small Connecticut Capital City

Hartford has already seen as many murders as it did all of last year

The murder of a 25-year old Hartford man over the weekend was the Connecticut city’s 20th murder this year, making this year already more deadly than last year as homicide rates spike across the country.

The incident in Hartford could indicate that a crime uptick sweeping larger cities is hitting smaller ones, too. Hartford saw only 19 homicides last year, but that was a low point in the city’s crime rate in recent years. According to police statistics, there were 33 murders in all of 2009, 27 murders in 2011, and 23 murders in 2013.

“Our police department continues to work with State and Federal partners in an effort to identify these criminals before they act, without concern for life, with the goal of preventing these most violent crimes,” Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can within our means to identify potential correlations that may assist our policing efforts. Even with a commitment of significant resources and partnerships across all levels of government, our community needs to continue to come together as government cannot address this issue alone.”

The nationwide uptick has prompted police chiefs from all over the country—including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia—to gather Monday in Washington to discuss tactics for stemming the bloodshed.

In larger cities, murders are noticeably on the rise. Baltimore is seeing an unprecedented spike in shootings, especially since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in May.

Forty-five people were killed there in July, making it Baltimore’s deadliest month since 1972, even though the city has 275,000 fewer people than it did back then. Police say 191 people have been killed in Baltimore so far in 2015, and 116 of them were killed between May and July—the highest of any three-month period in records kept since 1970, the Baltimore Sun reports. And 2015 is also the first year that has seen two months with more than 40 killings.

Washington, D.C., is also seeing a spike in violent crime, with 84 homicides so far this year, putting 2015 on track to be the most deadly year since 2008. And in Chicago, murders and shootings have gone up, even as overall crime has gone down—there were 10 more murders in July than last year. Violent crime in Los Angeles is up more than 20%, even as the homicide rate in the city drops by almost 7%, according to the Los Angeles Times.

TIME Economy

Here’s Where a $15 Minimum Wage Would Buy the Most Stuff

Fast Food Workers Gather To Watch State's Wage Board Decision On Minimum Wage Raise
Spencer Platt—Getty Images Labor leaders, workers and activists attend a rally for a $15 minimum hourly wage on July 22, 2015 in New York City.

Sorry, New York and Hawaii

A $15 per hour minimum wage has become the common chorus for disgruntled low-wage workers across the nation, but what that pay rate means for workers’ purchasing power isn’t universal. Just how much $15 per hour is worth depends on where you live.

The Pew Research Center released analysis Monday of the real value of $15 per hour by metropolitan area. The study used regional price parities developed by the Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure the difference in local price levels of goods and services across the country, relative to the overall national price level.

Taking RPPs into account for the nation’s 381 metropolitan statistical areas, Pew found that in urban areas like New York City and Honolulu, Hawaii, $15 is worth a whole lot less—$12.26 and $12.24, respectively—than in smaller cities, where the cost of living is cheaper.

The city where $15 will can buy you the most is Beckley, West Virginia. With the lowest RPP of any metro area in the nation, $15 per hour will have purchasing power of $19.23.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 11.49.50 AM

Interestingly enough, Allentown, Pennsylvania has a RRP of exactly 100—the national average—so it’s the only metro area in the nation where $15 per hour will actually buy you $15 worth of stuff.

This analysis is notable since a wave of $15 per hour minimum wages is sweeping the country, most recently passing through New York, where the state’s wage board is enacting a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. Americans generally support higher wages, but—as Pew’s data shows—wide disparities in local living costs create practical complications.

TIME Crime

Man Shoots Defendant Waiting at Mississippi Courthouse

Mississippi Courthouse Shooting
Jeff Amy—AP Authorities investigate a shooting outside a courthouse in Canton, Miss. on Aug. 3, 2015.

The victim was expected to appear for a status conference on a case for which he'd been indicted on drug charges

(CANTON, Miss.) — A man fatally shot a defendant waiting in a small courtyard outside a criminal courthouse in Mississippi on Monday morning, and a suspect is in custody, law enforcement officials said.

The suspect has been arrested and is in jail, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said, but he declined to identify him or the victim.

Tucker and Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said they don’t know why the suspect would have shot the other man. The victim was expected to appear in court on drug charges, but he was not a witness or a suspect in other current criminal cases, Guest said.

The shooting happened outside Madison County’s criminal courthouse in Canton, a historic antebellum town known for its Christmas light festival on the town square.

The suspect got out of a car, walked up and shot the victim once with a semiautomatic handgun, Tucker said. Deputies emerged from the courthouse, and the suspect laid down the handgun and was arrested without a struggle, Tucker said.

The victim was hit once in the chest and died on the scene, Tucker said. He described the shooting as unfolding quickly.

In the courtyard, two semicircles of four benches surround a flagpole. Law enforcement officials searched with metal detectors under crepe myrtle trees, looking for the shell from the handgun. But despite an hour of sifting through pine straw, Tucker said, authorities had not yet found the shell.

There are metal detectors inside the courthouse door, but the parking lot is open to the public and unguarded. The Canton Police Department sits at the rear of the parking lot, less than 200 yards from the front door of the courthouse.

District Attorney Michael Guest said the victim had been waiting outside the courthouse with his lawyer, Rusty Willard. Guest said the victim was expected to appear for a status conference on a case for which he’d been indicted on drug charges. Prosecutors expected that the victim would reject a plea offer and the judge would then set the case for trial, Guest said.

Guest said he thought there was little that deputies could have done to prevent the shooting. “There would have been, in my opinion, no way this could have been stopped,” Guest said.

Canton is the seat of Madison County, just north of Jackson. The south end of the county is a rapidly growing suburb, while the northern half is poorer and a more traditional part of the South. Canton also is the home of a Nissan assembly plant that employs more than 6,000 people. Canton’s population is about 13,000.

The 1996 movie “A Time to Kill,” based on John Grisham’s novel, was filmed in part at the courthouse. In the movie, a father played by Samuel L. Jackson goes to court and kills two men on trial over the rape of his daughter.

TIME Crime

Texas Attorney General Charged With Securities Fraud

Ken Paxton
Eric Gay—AP In this July 29, 2015 file photo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a hearing in Austin.

Paxton will be allowed to stay on the job while his criminal case proceeds

(McKINNEY, Texas) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton turned himself in Monday to face charges that he misled investors and didn’t disclose money he made for referring financial clients as part of his private business before becoming the state’s top lawyer in January.

Paxton, a 52-year-old Republican, was fingerprinted and photographed at the Collin County jail while a throng of media waited outside. It was a frenzy reminiscent of one year ago when then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who was also still in office — was booked after being indicted on charges of abusing his power with a 2013 veto.

Neither Paxton nor his attorney commented on the matter after news of the indictment leaked over the weekend. Other top Texas Republicans have also remained silent, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who last held the attorney general job, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate and the state’s one-time solicitor general.

Just as Perry was allowed to finish his term after his indictment, Paxton can stay on the job while his criminal case proceeds.

The booking documents released Monday by the jail in Paxton’s hometown of McKinney, a Republican stronghold near Dallas, show that he faces with two counts of first-degree securities fraud and a lesser charge of failing to register with state securities regulators. Each of the fraud counts carries a punishment of five to 99 years in prison.

Questions about Paxton’s financial dealings shadowed the tea party conservative throughout his first seven months on the job. His aides have denied any wrongdoing by Paxton and described the criminal investigation led by two special prosecutors as a political smear campaign.

Among the allegations is that Paxton encouraged investment in Servergy Inc., a tech startup under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Associated Press last month reported the connections between the company and Paxton, who listed himself as a shareholder and whose name is among search terms that Servergy attorneys used to satisfy a federal subpoena.

In the middle of last year’s heated Republican primary, Paxton admitted to violating state securities law by not disclosing to regulators that he was receiving commissions for referring law clients to a financial planner. He paid a $1,000 fine and chalked it up as an administrative oversight.

Paxton joins other current or recent state attorneys general facing criminal charges.

A Pennsylvania grand jury in January recommended that state Attorney General Kathleen Kane face charges over allegations of engaging in a cover-up and lying about her role in a grand jury leak to a newspaper. Kane, a Democrat who took office in 2013, has not been charged and has denied breaking any laws. Utah’s previous two attorneys generals were also arrested last summer on charges of running pay-to-play schemes during their combined 13 years in office.

TIME Infectious Disease

What to Know About Legionnaires’ Disease

Four people in New York City have died from Legionnaires’ disease. Here's everything to know about the outbreak:

How serious is this outbreak?
The latest numbers suggest there are now around 65 cases of the disease reported in the South Bronx area of New York City, and four fatalities.

What is Legionnaires disease and how does it spread?
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial ailment classified as a type of pneumonia. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Legionnaires’ can be contracted by breathing in water mist that contains the bacteria but does not spread person-to-person.

The New York City Department of Health says the disease is generally traced to plumbing systems like hot tubs, humidifiers, cooling towers and large air conditioning systems. In this case, authorities have determined the disease has spread via five local cooling towers.

How common is it?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 8,000 to 18,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year. Those most at risk of infection are men and women over age 50, smokers, people with chronic lung disease and those with weak immune systems, according to the NIH. The New York Times reports that cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city increased to 225 in 2014 compared to 73 cases reported in 2004.

Can it be treated?
Yes. Most people recover with antibiotics, but the disease can be severe, and in some cases, fatal. The fatality rate for the disease can be as high as 30% depending on the outbreak, according to the CDC.

What’s it like to have Legionnaires’ disease?
Most people who are infected will not get sick, but those who do can experience respiratory issues like fever, cough and chills. Symptoms of the infection usually do not emerge until two to 10 days after exposure. The Health Department has warned New Yorkers who experience these symptoms to seek medical attention.

How can I protect myself?
Be wary of sources of water vapor. Hot tubs are one of the more common carriers of Legionnaires’ bacteria, and the CDC recommends hot tub owners be especially diligent about disinfecting their tub’s water. The Times reports many New Yorkers in the affected area are drinking bottled water, though the city has said tap water is safe.

TIME natural disaster

See the Devastation Wrought by Wildfire in California

12,000 people were evacuated after the fire spread to more than 84 square miles on Monday

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com