Obnoxiously loud car? A traffic camera might be listening

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — After the relative quiet of the pandemic, New York City has come roaring back. Just listen: Jackhammers. Honking cars and trucks. Rumbling subway trains. Sirens. Shouting.

Cars drive through Manhattan on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in New York. After the relative quiet of the pandemic, New York City has come roaring back. Just listen: Jackhammers disrupt the peace and fleets of honking cars, trucks and buses again clog thoroughfares as millions of denizens return to the streets — their voices and clacking heels adding to the ear-splitting din. In one of the world’s noisiest cities, the cacophony has returned louder than ever. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Over the years, there have been numerous efforts to quiet the cacophony. One of the latest: traffic cameras equipped with sound meters capable of identifying souped-up cars and motorbikes emitting an illegal amount of street noise.

At least 71 drivers have gotten tickets so far for violating noise rules during a yearlong pilot program of the system. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection now has plans to expand the use of the roadside sound meters.

“Vehicles with illegally modified mufflers and tailpipes that emit extremely loud noise have been a growing problem in recent years,” said City Council member Erik Bottcher, who heralded the arrival of the radars to his district to help reduce “obnoxious” noise.

New York City already has one of the most extensive noise ordinances in the country, setting allowable levels for a host of noisemakers, such as jackhammers and vehicles.

A state law known as the Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution Act, or the SLEEP Act, that went into effect last spring raised fines for illegal modifications of mufflers and exhaust systems.

Because police officers often have other priorities, offenders have gone their merry, noisy way. The new devices record the license plates of offenders, much like how speedsters are nabbed by roadside cameras. Vehicle owners face fines of $800 for a first noise offense and a penalty of $2,625 if they ignore a third-offense hearing.

City officials declined to reveal where the radars are currently perched.

A year ago, Paris, one of Europe’s noisier cities, installed similar equipment along some streets.

Evidence is clear that noise affects not only hearing but mood and mental health, not to mention possible links to heightened risks of heart disease and elevated blood pressure.

“You listen to the noise out there, it is nonstop — the horns, the trucks, the sirens,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams bemoaned during a recent press conference that blamed an expressway for noise and illness. “Noise pollution makes it hard to sleep and increases the risk of chronic disease.”

Nearly a decade ago, one of Adams’ predecessors, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched a war on noise, releasing 45 pages of rules that covered chiming ice cream trucks and how long a canine can continuously yap (five minutes during the wee hours of the night, 10 during most of the day) before its owner gets in the doghouse.

In 1905, the New York Times had declared the metropolis “a bonfire of sound that is rapidly spreading beyond control of any ordinary extinguisher.” The article asked: “Is there any relief possible?”

A global pandemic more than a century later answered that question. For a few months in the spring of 2020, the roar of vehicles on city streets stopped as people stayed in their homes.

The silence allowed people to hear birdsong again — though it was often interrupted by wailing ambulance sirens and, at night, bursts of illegal fireworks.

“As quiet as it was during the lockdown, it was a very uncomfortable quiet. It was a scary quiet because it carried a lot of implications with it,” said Juan Pablo Bello, the lead investigator of Sounds of New York City, or SONYC, a New York University endeavor to study urban noise.

Bello and his team initially hoped to collect data on the dissonance of routine urban life but the coronavirus intervened. Instead, they monitored the acoustical rhythms of a city under lockdown.

The number of noise complaints actually grew during the pandemic, but some experts say that was a symptom of homebound people becoming hypersensitive to their uneasy environments.

Complaints over noisy neighbors nearly doubled in the first year of the pandemic. Many other complaints were attributed to cars and motorcycles with modified mufflers.

Still, some people say efforts to quiet loud vehicles go too far. Phillip Franklin, a 30-year-old Bronx car enthusiast, launched an online petition to protest the state’s noise law.

“The majority of us live here in New York City, where noise is a part of our daily lives,” said his petition, which asserted that quiet vehicles pose dangers to inattentive pedestrians.

“Fixing potholes is a lot more important than going after noisy cars,” Franklin said in an interview.

Loud noise, hitting 120 decibels, can cause immediate harm to one’s ears, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even prolonged noise above 70 decibels can eventually damage hearing. A roaring motorcycle is about 95 decibels.

Firms specializing in architectural acoustics have multiplied. Designing new buildings or retrofitting old ones with anti-noise technology is now a booming business.

At the Manhattan offices of the environmental engineering firm AKRF, the company has what it calls the “PinDrop” room — suggesting a space so quiet you might hear a pin drop — that has an audio system that simulates the erratic symphony of sounds that the city’s denizens must endure.

While architectural drawings might render the use of space, acoustical renderings depict how sound and noise might fill a space.

“So if it’s for sleeping, we want you to be able to sleep. If it’s for listening, we want you to be able to hear,” said AKRF acoustical consultant Nathaniel Fletcher.

Even with sound barriers, tight-fitting windows and noise-dampening insulation, there’s only so much that can be done about the racket. Most New Yorkers come to peace with that.

“I think people developed an appreciation for the fact that it’s a messy, noisy city,” said Bello, the NYU researcher. “We like it to be active, and we like it to be lively. And we like it to be full of jobs and activity, and not this sort of scary, quite unnerving place.”

Police: Shooting that killed 2 at youth program was targeted

By SCOTT McFETRIDGE and JOSH FUNK from the Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The killing of two students at an alternative education program designed to help at-risk teenagers in Des Moines was a targeted attack that stemmed from an ongoing gang dispute, police said, and an 18-year-old has been charged.

Law enforcement officers stand outside a school housing an educational program called Starts Right Here that is affiliated with the Des Moines school district, following a shooting Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Police say two students were killed, and an adult employee was seriously injured in the shooting at the school dedicated to helping at-risk youth. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

The teenagers killed in Monday’s shooting at the Starts Right Here program were both males, ages 18 and 16, police said. The program’s founder, 49-year-old William Holmes, was seriously wounded and underwent surgery.

Holmes, an activist and rapper who goes by the stage name Will Keeps, had left a life of gangs and violence and has been dedicated to helping youth in Des Moines, according to information from a regional community development group.

Preston Walls, 18, of Des Moines, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, police said. He is also charged with criminal gang participation, and authorities said the shooting was the result of an ongoing gang dispute. Walls was on supervised release for a weapons charge and he removed his ankle monitor 16 minutes before the shooting, police said.

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt. Paul Parizek said.

Walls entered a common area where Holmes and the two students were, police said. Walls had a 9mm handgun with an extended ammunition magazine with him, they said.

Holmes tried to escort Walls away from the area, but Walls pulled away, “pulled the handgun and began to shoot both teenage victims,” police said in a statement. Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot, and Walls ran away, police said.

Officers who responded saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area and stopped it, but Walls ran away and was arrested a short time later. Police said a 9mm handgun was found nearby. The ammunition magazine, which has a capacity of 31 rounds, contained three.

The Starts Right Here board of directors said in a statement that classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week and that grief counselors will be available.

“These actions are contrary to all that we stand for and point out more must be done,” the board said. “These two students had hope and a future that will never be realized. We can no longer say this type of violence doesn’t happen in Des Moines. Sadly, it does.”

Mayor Frank Cownie said the two other people in the vehicle with Walls are also teenagers. They were taken into custody and released without charges.

Cownie said he spoke to the victims’ family members. “But there is little one can say that will lessen their pain. Nothing that can be said to bring them back, those who were killed so senselessly,” he said.

Walls has not yet appeared in court.

Last year, Walls was charged with three counts alleging that he knowingly resisted or obstructed a West Des Moines police officer while armed with a firearm and intoxicated, court records show.

His attorney in that case, Jake Feuerhelm, said that in the incident last May, Walls was part of gathering of young people that police approached. While they were trying to sort out what was happening, Walls, who was 17 at the time, took off. Because he was armed while fleeing from police, he was charged, Feuerhelm said.

In December, he was placed under the supervision of the Department of Correction’s Youthful Offender Program, a type of diversion in which he could avoid a felony conviction if he completed the intensive supervision successfully.

Feuerhelm said he didn’t know whether Walls was part of the school program.

Starts Right Here is an educational program that helps at-risk youth in grades 9-12 and is affiliated with the Des Moines school district.

“The school is designed to pick up the slack and help the kids who need help the most,” Parizek said.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the economic and community development organization for the region, says on its website that Keeps came to Des Moines about 20 years ago from Chicago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding healing through music. He founded Starts Right Here in 2021.

The partnership said the Starts Right Here movement “seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive circumstances using the arts, entertainment, music, hip hop and other programs.” The program teaches financial literacy, along with communication and job interview skills.

The school’s website says 70% of the students it serves are members of minority groups, and it has had 28 graduates since it began. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who serves on an advisory board for Starts Right Here, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting.”

“I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families.”

The shooting was the sixth at a school in the U.S. this year in which someone was injured or killed, but the first with fatalities, according to Education Week, which tracks school shootings. The website said there were 51 school shootings last year involving injuries or deaths, and there have been 150 since 2018. In the worst school shooting last year, 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In a separate shooting outside a Des Moines high school last March, one student was killed and two other teens were badly injured. Ten people, who were all between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting, were charged afterward. Five of them have pleaded guilty to various charges.

Swift firing of police is rare, but could become more common

By STEVE LeBLANC for the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The speed with which five Memphis police officers were fired following the traffic stop of a man who later died in a hospital is unusual but could become more common, according to those studying police and criminal justice issues.

A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols was killed during a traffic stop with Memphis Police on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

The five Memphis Police Department officers were fired Friday, less than two weeks after the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, 29, Officials said the five were dismissed for excessive use of force, failure to intervene and failure to render aid.

It’s rare for a police department to act so quickly, said David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. Investigations can sometimes go on for up to a year, he said.

“It never happens this quickly,” Thomas said.

All five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith – are Black, as was Nichols. The decision to fire the officers followed a probe by the Memphis Police Department. Nichols died three days after the traffic stop.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also is looking into the force used in the arrest.

One recent turning point has been the advent of police body cameras, which can be quickly reviewed, along with cellphone video taken by passersby, said Thomas, who served 20 years as a police officer in Michigan and Florida.

“In the old days, you’d have the officer’s word. If the victim was still alive, you’d have their testimony, If someone had died, you’d have the medical examiner’s report. All of that would play a role,” he said. “With body cameras, the evidence is right there.”

Nichols was arrested after officers stopped him for reckless driving, police said. There was a confrontation when officers approached Nichols, and he ran before he was confronted again and arrested, authorities said. He complained of shortness of breath and was hospitalized.

Relatives have accused police of beating Nichols and causing him to have a heart attack. Authorities said Nichols experienced a medical emergency. Relatives have pushed for the release of police body camera footage and called for officers to be charged.

Body cameras can only tell a full story if they are on and working throughout an entire incident, Thomas said. Some officers may forget to turn them on. Others may deliberately turn them off.

“Law enforcement can no longer act with impunity,” he said. “Absolutely, officers will be let go more quickly.”

Typically before a firing, officials will determine if an officer has violated a department’s general orders, which set out the procedures and regulations officers are meant to follow, said Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University in Ohio.

“The seriousness of the job action is based on the severity of the violation,” said Oliver, who spent 28 years in law enforcement, 16 of them as a police chief, including as chief of the Cleveland Police Department.

Firing an officer is the most severe job action, Oliver said, suggesting that department officials feel confident they can support the decision.

“There is far more scrutiny of police today,” he said. “When I was in policing there was less of a likelihood that something a police officer was doing would be caught on video.”

Oliver added that many times videos will confirm police acted properly. “I would say that’s the majority of times,” he said.

While unusual, it’s not unheard of for a city to fire an officer before criminal charges are filed, but that’s not necessarily the end of the story, said Stephen Rushin, a Loyola University Chicago law school professor who has studied police contracts.

Cities often give officers the ability to appeal disciplinary action, including termination of their employment, Rushin said.

“In many agencies, the initial decision to fire an officer begins a lengthy appellate process that can take months to complete,” he said. “At the end of this process, it is not uncommon for an officer to be rehired on appeal.”

Authorities search for motive in Lunar New Year massacre

By AMY TAXIN and DAMIAN DOVARGANES from the Associated Press

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) — Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations, slayings that sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.

A body is seen on the driver’s side of a van as authorities investigate, in Torrance, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Authorities say the driver, the suspect in a California dance club shooting that left multiple people dead, shot and killed himself. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in the van that authorities say he used to flee after attempting to attack a second dance hall. The mayor of Monterey Park said Tran may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted.

The massacre was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month, and it struck one of California’s largest celebrations of a holiday observed in many Asian cultures, dealing another blow to a community that has been the target of high-profile violence in recent years.

It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Law enforcement officials said the rampage could have been even deadlier. A man whose family runs the second dance hall confronted the assailant in the lobby and wrested the gun from him, The New York Times reported.

Authorities have shared little about Tran.

“We do understand that he may have had a history of visiting this dance hall and perhaps the motivation has to do with some personal relationships. But that’s something that I think investigators are still uncovering and investigating,” said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Public records show Tran once had addresses in the city and neighboring ones.

But the mayor and LA County Sheriff Robert Luna stressed that the motive remained unclear for the attack, which also wounded 10 people. Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, Luna said all of the people killed appeared to be over 50. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.

The suspect was carrying what Luna described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second handgun was discovered in the van where Tran died.

Within three minutes of receiving the call, officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, according to Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.

There, they found carnage inside and people trying to flee through all the doors.

“When they came into the parking lot, it was chaos,” Wiese said.

About 20 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra.

Brandon Tsay was in the lobby at the time, and he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he thought he was going to die.

“Something came over me. I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him, I needed to take this weapon, disarm him or else everybody would have died,” Tsay said. “When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle.”

Once Tsay seized the gun, he pointed it at the man and shouted: “Get the hell out of here, I’ll shoot, get away, go!”

The assailant paused, but then headed back to his van, and Tsay called the police, the gun still in his hand.

While Luna told reporters on Sunday that two people wrested the weapon away from the attacker, Tsay, who works a few days a week at the dance hall his grandparents started, told The New York Times that he acted alone. Stills from security footage shown on “Good Morning America” showed only the two men struggling for the gun.

The suspect’s white van was found in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans.

After surrounding the vehicle for hours, law enforcement officials swarmed and entered it. A person’s body appeared to be slumped over the wheel and was later removed. Members of a SWAT team looked through the van’s contents before walking away.

Congresswoman Judy Chu said she still has questions about the attack but hopes residents now feel safe.

“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said Sunday at a news conference.

“What was the motive for this shooter?” she said. “Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?”

Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles and is composed mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans. The shooting happened in the heart of its downtown where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner that proclaimed “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”

The celebration in Monterey Park is one of California’s largest. Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials canceled Sunday’s events following the shooting.

An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S. shows that 2022 was one of the nation’s worst years, with 42 such attacks — the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006. The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.


Associated Press journalists Andrew Dalton, Jae C. Hong and Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from EIN Presswire | Newsmatics

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Implements Category-Leading Software Technology, eSOPH

From the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, USA, January 18, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department recently transitioned to the innovative eSOPH background investigation system by Miller Mendel, Inc. and in doing so, the agency joined the largest public safety background network in the nation.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department expects to process at least 500 applicants per year using eSOPH. In addition to taking advantage of eSOPH’s industry-leading standard functionality and one-click access to the National Decertification Index, the department will utilize eSOPH’s optional Smart Fax, integrated Social Media Screening and On-Demand Credit Reporting features.

eSOPH, which stands for electronic Statement of Personal History, has been used by city, county, and state police agencies across the nation to conduct over 100,000 pre-employment public safety background investigations. Agencies using eSOPH report saving up to 50 percent of their time per background investigation. By transitioning to eSOPH, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is now connected to over 165 agencies using the software nationwide.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is the primary provider of law enforcement services for Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. The department covers a total area of 526.1 square miles that encompasses everything from high density urban locations to rural areas. With over 1450 full-time sworn members, the department responds to more than 950,000 police calls per year on average. The Mission of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is to provide community-based police products to the public so they can experience a safe and peaceful Nashville.

Miller Mendel, Inc. (“MMI”) creates, sells, and supports its software technology solutions for local, state, and federal public safety agencies and is the holder of two patents ( U.S. Patent No. 9070098 and U.S. Patent No. 10043188 ) related to the features of its flagship product, eSOPH. Our primary focus is to turn past practices used by city, county, and state governments into efficient and cost-effective electronic solutions. MMI is known for creating category-leading systems and providing responsive, exceptional support to all our clients. We place great pride in straightforward and transparent operational practices that foster a high level of respect and praise from our government clients.

Miller Mendel, Inc

UK nurses stage new walkout as strike wave intensifies

By JILL LAWLESS from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of nurses in Britain walked out Wednesday in a new protest over pay, with no end in sight to a wave of strikes that has piled pressure on the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.

Nurses hold banners and placards as they picket during a strike over pay, outside the University College Hospital, in London, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Two 12-hour nursing strikes on Wednesday and Thursday affect about a quarter of hospitals and clinics in England. Emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed.

With more walkouts by nurses planned for next month — and ambulance workers announcing a new slate of February strikes — the Conservative government is under growing pressure to lift its opposition to substantial raises for health care staff.

“It’s a job that I love, but I need to pay my bills,” said intensive care nurse Nav Singh, on a picket line in London. “Nursing students don’t want to be nurses, experienced nurses are leaving, there will be no-one left and I don’t blame them, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs in recent months to demand higher pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Inflation in the U.K. hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs, before easing slightly to 10.5% in December.

The nurses’ union has been seeking a pay raise of 5% above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer.

Pat Cullen, head of the Royal College of Nursing union, urged health officials to “get round a table and let’s stop the strikes so we don’t have to continue this into February.”

“I would say to the prime minister this morning: If you want to continue to have strikes, then the voice of nursing will continue to speak up on behalf of their patients and that’s exactly what you will get,” she told ITV.

The British government argues that double-digit public sector pay increases will drive inflation even higher.

“Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote in the Independent newspaper.

The government also has angered unions by introducing a bill that will make it harder for key workers to strike by setting ”minimum safety levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a walkout.

The nursing union has announced two more strike days next month, when disruption across the economy looks set to intensify. Feb. 1 is shaping up to be the most disruptive day yet, with walkouts by teachers, train drivers, civil servants and university staff.

The GMB union said Wednesday that 10,000 ambulance call handlers, paramedics and other staff across most of England will strike on February 6 and 20 and March 6 and 20.

“Our message to the government is clear — talk pay now,” said GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused the government of presiding over “lethal chaos” in the state-funded National Health Service, with many patients waiting hours for ambulances in emergencies.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the health system was dealing with “unprecedented challenges,” but insisted the government was spending extra money to relieve the pressure — though he did not mention staff demands for higher pay.

“We are investing more in urgent and emergency care to create more bed capacity, we are ensuring that the flow of patients through emergency care is faster than it ever has been,” Sunak said in the House of Commons.

PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from EIN Presswire | Newsmatics

San Diego Police Foundation to Hold Women in Blue Event to Drive Awareness and Increase Gender Diversity in Policing

From the Associated Press

The LeadHER. MentHER. SupportHER Luncheon, Honors 3 on International Women’s Day March 8, 2023

“Since the inception of the Women in Blue initiative, SDPD has increased the number of females sworn in to nearly 17% and as a result, exceeds the national average of 12%,”— Sara Napoli, President, and CEO of the San Diego Police Foundation.

SAN DIEGO, CA, USA, January 17, 2023/ EINPresswire.com / — The San Diego Police Foundation will convene regional business and community leaders to honor the achievements of San Diego Police Department (SDPD) female leaders to elevate awareness of the importance of increased gender diversity in policing. The 12th annual Women in Blue luncheon: “LeadHER. MentHER. SupportHER,” will be held on March 8, 2023, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Additional event details are at www.womeninblue.org.

“Since the inception of the Women in Blue initiative, SDPD has increased the number of females sworn in to nearly 17% and as a result, exceeds the national average of 12%,” stated Sara Napoli, President, and CEO of the San Diego Police Foundation. “Yet, there is more effort and awareness needed to achieve gender parity, which is critical, as police departments operate best when they reflect the communities they serve.”
The Women in Blue initiative provides funding for training, mentoring, collaboration, and networking opportunities for aspiring female leaders in law enforcement, including grants for women in blue to attend the Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Symposium (WLLE).

“Since SDPD leads the nation in the percentage of female officers in its ranks, we strongly believe that the Women in Blue initiative has been and will continue to be critical to creating a more inclusive and diverse department,” said Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen, the highest-ranking active-duty female officer at SDPD. “Research suggests that women officers excel in areas of seeking better outcomes for crime victims, especially violence against women, facilitating community policing, and de-escalating violent confrontations; they are also less likely to use force. Bringing the strengths of men and women together makes the department a better place to work, and therefor positively impacts the communities SDPD serves.”

As part of a concerted effort to increase women in the department’s ranks, SDPD Chief David Nisleit has signed the 30×30 Pledge, a national movement to advance the representation of women in all ranks of policing, with a specific goal of achieving 30% women in recruits in training academies by 2030.

SDPD’s Chief Nisleit will keynote the luncheon. The Rita Olsen Legacy Scholarship will also be awarded to a rising SDPD female leader, and three accomplished women in policing will be honored at the event. This year’s 2023 honorees are:
1.) SDPD Captain, Julie Epperson
2.) SDPD Police Dispatch Administrator & 911 Communications Operations Manager, Mellissa Santagata
3.) SDPD Sergeant, Lorraine Tangog

About The Event:
The annual Women in Blue luncheon, now in its 12th year, elevates inclusion, leadership, and the empowerment of women and propels the advancement and representation of women in all ranks of policing. Women in Blue is a fundraiser for the San Diego Police Foundation to support SDPD by cultivating positive community engagement and helping fund vital equipment and specialized training that ensures peace and safety for all.
Proceeds from the Women in Blue luncheon supports the mission of the San Diego Police Foundation, which includes support for SDPD’s peer mentoring program, the Women’s Leadership Conference, efforts to recruit more females to the ranks of SDPD, the Women’s Recruiting Expo, as well as scholarships to empower women and inspire the next generation of women in blue.

Individual tickets for the luncheon are $150 and tables are $1,500. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Cathy Abarca at (619) 232-2130 ext. 110 or cathy@sdpolicefoundation.org. For more information on the event, please call (619) 232-2130 or visit https://womeninblue.org.

About San Diego Police Foundation:
Since 1998, the San Diego Police Foundation, a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has funded equipment, training, and outreach programs to ensure that those who protect and serve San Diego have what they need to do their jobs safely and with excellence. The Police Foundation is dedicated to preventing crime, saving lives, and making our community a safer place to live and work by providing resources not otherwise available to the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). Learn more about the San Diego Police Foundation at https://sdpolicefoundation.org/.

Cheryl Goodman
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Former police captain acquitted of tax fraud, sold firearms

From the Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former police captain in New Hampshire has been acquitted by a jury of filing a false income tax return deriving from profits earned from selling firearms.

Michael Wagner, who was with the Salem Police Department, was indicted in 2020, accused of buying 36 assault rifles using his police discount from Sig Sauer Academy in Epping in 2012 and 2013 and reselling them at a profit that was omitted from his tax return.

The sales took place shortly after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.

Prosecutors said Wagner evaded $5,000 in taxes.

He was found not guilty Friday following his trial in U.S. District Court in Concord.

Wagner’s lawyers said the verdict validated the defense’s central theme that the Internal Revenue Service investigation was disorderly and unfairly targeted Wagner because he was a police officer.

“The tax fraud charges were not supported by the evidence, and we are grateful for the jury’s decision,” his lawyer, Mark Lytle, said in a statement.

Wagner and other Salem officers were named in letters from the attorney general’s office in 2019 saying they were under investigation following a department audit. He was not charged with any other offenses.

US, Ukraine top military chiefs meet in person for 1st time

By LOLITA C. BALDOR from the Associated Press

A MILITARY BASE IN SOUTHEASTERN POLAND (AP) — The top U.S. military officer, Army Gen. Mark Milley, traveled to a site near the Ukraine-Poland border on Tuesday and talked with his Ukrainian counterpart face to face for the first time — a meeting underscoring the growing ties between the two militaries and coming at a critical time as Russia’s war with Ukraine nears the one-year mark.

In this image provided by the U.S. Army, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley meets with U.S. Army leaders responsible for the collective training of Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. At left is Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Hilbert, who is the commanding general for the 7th Army Training Command. Milley visited the training site in Germany for Ukrainian forces and met with troops and commanders.(Staff Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna/U.S. Army via AP)

Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met for a couple of hours with Ukraine’s chief military officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland. The two leaders have talked frequently about Ukraine’s military needs and the state of the war over the past year but had never met.

The meeting comes as the international community ramps up the military assistance to Ukraine, including expanded training of Ukrainian troops by the U.S. and the provision of a Patriot missile battery, tanks and increased air defense and other weapons systems by the U.S. and a coalition of European and other nations.

It also marks a key time in the war. Ukraine’s troops face fierce fighting in the eastern Donetsk province, where Russian forces — supplemented by thousands of private Wagner Group contractors — seek to turn the tide after a series of battlefield setbacks in recent months.

Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for Milley, told two reporters traveling with the chairman that the two generals felt it was important to meet in person. The reporters did not accompany Milley to the meeting and, under conditions set by the military, agreed to not identify the military base in southeastern Poland where they were located.

“These guys have been talking on a very regular basis for about a year now, and they’ve gotten to know each other,” Butler said. “They’ve talked in detail about the defense that Ukraine is trying to do against Russia’s aggression. And it’s important — when you have two military professionals looking each other in the eye and talking about very, very important topics, there’s a difference.”

Butler said there had been some hope that Zaluzhnyi would travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO and other defense chiefs this week, but when it became clear on Monday that it would not happen, they quickly decided to meet in Poland, near the border.

While a number of U.S. civilian leader s have gone into Ukraine, the Biden administration has made it clear that no uniformed military service members will go into Ukraine other than those connected to the embassy in Kyiv. Butler said only a small group — Milley and six of his senior staffers — traveled by car to the meeting.

He said that the meeting will allow Milley to relay Zaluzhnyi’s concerns and information to the other military leaders during the NATO chiefs’ meeting. Milley, he said, will be able to “describe the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs are for that, and the way he does that is one by understanding it himself but by also talking to Zaluzhnyi on a regular basis.”

Milley also will be able to describe the new training of Ukrainian forces that the U.S. is doing at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The chairman, who got his first look at the new, so-called combined arms instruction during a nearly two-hour visit there on Monday, has said it will better prepare Ukrainian troops to launch an offensive or counter any surge in Russian attacks.

More than 600 Ukrainian troops began the expanded training program at the camp just a day before Milley arrived.

Milley and Zaluzhnyi’s meeting kicks off a series of high-level gatherings of military and defense leaders this week. Milley and other chiefs of defense will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, and then the so-called Ukraine Contact Group will gather at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday and Friday. That group consists of about 50 top defense officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and they work to coordinate military contributions to Ukraine.

The meetings are expected to focus on Ukraine’s ongoing and future military needs as the hard-packed terrain of the winter months turns into muddy roads and fields in the spring.

After several months of losing territory it had captured, Russia in recent days claimed it took control of the small salt-mining town of Soledar. Ukraine asserts that its troops are still fighting, but if Moscow’s troops take control of Soledar it would allow them to inch closer to the bigger city of Bakhmut, where fighting has raged for months.

And in a barrage of airstrikes over the weekend, Russia struck Kyiv, the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the southeastern city of Dnipro, where the death toll in one apartment building rose to 44.

Western analysts point to signs that the Kremlin is digging in for a drawn-out war, and say the Russian military command is preparing for an expanded mobilization effort.

San Luis picks lieutenant to fill in as police chief

From the Associated Press

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — The border city of San Luis has named a temporary police chief until a permanent pick can be found.

The Yuma Sun reported Friday that Lt. Miguel Alvarez will fill the role.

Alvarez, 43, has been with the San Luis Police Department for 18 years. He also is a criminal justice instructor at Arizona Western College.

He has not ruled out applying for the job himself.

Chief Richard Jessup, who has been police chief since 2018, is now retired.

The San Luis City Council recently approved an ordinance that tasks the city administrator with selecting the new police chief. In the past it was the city council who did the hiring.

Mayor Nieves Riedel says the new ordinance is to prevent politics from influencing hiring decisions.

Rescuers seek survivors after storms kill 9 across South

By KIM CHANDLER and JEFF MARTIN from the Associated Press

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Rescuers raced Friday to find survivors in the aftermath of a tornado-spawning storm system that barreled across parts of Georgia and Alabama, killing at least nine people, and inflicted heavy damage on Selma, a flashpoint of the civil rights movement.

Luther Owensby looks out from the front porch of his storm-damaged home Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Jackson, Ga. Powerful storms spawned tornadoes across Georgia Thursday night. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A better picture of the damage was expected to emerge later in the day as authorities surveyed the scarred landscape. At least 35 possible tornado touchdowns were reported across several states, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The National Weather Service, which was working to confirm the twisters, said suspected tornado damage was reported in at least 14 counties in Alabama and five in Georgia.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power in both states, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide.

One tornado cut a 20-mile (32-kilometer) path across two rural Alabama communities Thursday before the worst of the weather moved across Georgia on a track south of Atlanta.

Searchers in Autauga County found a body after daybreak near a home that had been badly damaged, authorities said. That death brought the toll to seven in the county about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Selma.

At least 12 people were taken to hospitals, Ernie Baggett, Autauga County’s emergency management director, said as crews cut through downed trees looking for survivors.

About 40 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged, including several mobile homes that were launched into the air, he said.

“They weren’t just blown over,” he said. “They were blown a distance.”

In Selma, a city etched in the history of the civil rights movement, the city council met on a sidewalk using lights from cellphones and declared a state of emergency.

A 5-year-old child riding in a vehicle was killed by a falling tree in central Georgia’s Butts County, said Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director James Stallings. He said a parent who was driving suffered critical injuries.

Elsewhere, a state Department of Transportation worker also was killed while responding to storm damage, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said. He gave no further details.

Kemp surveyed some of the worst storm damage Friday by helicopter. In some areas, he said, rescue teams had to dig into collapsed homes to free trapped survivors.

“We know people that were stranded in homes where literally the whole house collapsed, and they were under the crawl space,” Kemp told reporters.

The governor said the storm inflicted damage statewide, with some of the worst around Troup County near the Georgia-Alabama line, where dozens of homes were hit and at least 12 people were treated at a hospital.

In Spalding County, south of Atlanta, the storm struck as mourners gathered for a wake at Peterson’s Funeral Home in Griffin. About 20 people scrambled for shelter in a restroom and an office when a loud boom sounded as a large tree fell on the building.

“When we came out, we were in total shock,” said Sha-Meeka Peterson-Smith, the funeral home’s chief operational officer. “We heard everything, but didn’t know how bad it actually was.”

The uprooted tree crashed straight through the front of the building, she said, destroying a viewing room, a lounge and a front office. No one was hurt.

The tornado that hit Selma cut a wide path through the downtown area, where brick buildings collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were tossed onto their sides and power lines were left dangling.

Plumes of thick, black smoke from a fire rose over the city. It wasn’t clear whether the storm caused the blaze.

Selma Mayor James Perkins said no fatalities were reported, but several people were seriously injured. Officials hoped to get an aerial view of the city Friday.

“We have a lot of downed power lines,” he said. “There is a lot of danger on the streets.”

Mattie Moore was among Selma residents who picked up boxed meals offered by a charity downtown.

“Thank God that we’re here. It’s like something you see on TV,” Moore said of the destruction.

A city of about 18,000 people, Selma is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Montgomery, the Alabama capital. It was a flashpoint of the civil rights movement where state troopers viciously attacked Black people who marched non-violently for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.

Malesha McVay took video of the giant twister, which turned black as it swept away home after home.

“It would hit a house, and black smoke would swirl up,” she said. “It was very terrifying.”

Three factors — a natural La Nina weather cycle, warming of the Gulf of Mexico likely related to climate change and a decades-long eastward shift of tornado activity — combined to make Thursday’s tornado outbreak unusual and damaging, said Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University who studies tornado trends.

La Nina, a cooling of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide, was a factor in making a wavy jet stream that brought a cold front through, Gensini said. But that’s not enough for a tornado outbreak. The other ingredient is moisture.

Normally the air in the Southeast is fairly dry this time of year, but the dew point was twice the normal level, likely because of unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, which is likely influenced by climate change, Gensini said. That moisture hit the cold front, adding up to killer storms.

In Kentucky, the weather service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.


Martin reported from Woodstock, Georgia. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Sara Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; Seth Borenstein in Denver; and photographer Butch Dill in Selma, Alabama, contributed to this report.

UK ambulance workers walk out, joining wave of strike action

By SYLVIA HUI from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Around 25,000 U.K. ambulance workers went on strike Wednesday, walking out for the second time since December in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay.

An ambulance worker take part in a strike in London, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Around 25,000 U.K. ambulance workers went on strike Wednesday, walking out for the second time since December in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The industrial action by paramedics, drivers and call handlers was the latest in a wave of strikes in recent months that has crippled the country’s rail network on some days and strained the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.

Health officials have warned that the impact of Wednesday’s strike will be worse than the one held in December because more staff, including call handlers, are walking out. People were advised to call in cases of life-threatening emergencies — such as cardiac arrest or a serious road accident — and ambulances will still respond to such situations.

But less urgent cases won’t be prioritized and some people will have to make their own way to hospitals.

Union leaders say some of the lowest-paid public health workers, including call handlers and drivers, are close to falling below the national minimum wage.

“When people accuse us of putting the public at risk, I would say it is this government that has put the public at risk by refusing consistently to talk to us. There is no offer on the table,” Christina McAnea, general secretary of the UNISON union, told striking workers outside an ambulance station in Sheffield in northern England.

Scores of other workers, including nurses, train and bus drivers and postal workers, have in recent months joined the strikes — the biggest in decades in Britain — to demand better salaries as inflation soars to the highest levels the U.K. has seen since the early 1980s. Inflation rose to 11.1% in October, before coming down slightly to 10.7% in November.

Wages, especially in the public sector, haven’t kept pace with the skyrocketing cost of living.

The strike action comes at a time of severe strain for the U.K.’s National Health Service, which has reported record demand on urgent and emergency care services this winter.

Officials have blamed the pressures on a surge of flu and other winter viruses after two years of COVID-19 restrictions. But the opposition Labour Party and many health workers say the problems run much deeper. Years of underfunding and staff shortages partly caused by a post-Brexit lack of European workers in the U.K. have combined to cause a public health crisis, they say.

Paramedics have described waiting outside hospitals on a daily basis for patients to be seen, and patients being left in hospital corridors for hours waiting to be transferred.

“People are waiting longer because we can’t get to them. It’s a lack of capacity in every department,” said Ian Grimble, an assistant ambulance practitioner.

Government officials met withtrade union leaders on Monday, but there has been no breakthrough in negotiations. Union leaders have also been angered by government plans to introduce legislation to set “minimum service levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a strike.

“No one denies the unions freedom to strike, but it is also important to balance that with people’s right to have access to lifesaving health care,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Reno hiring first female police chief in city history

From the Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The city council has confirmed Reno’s first female police chief in the city’s history.

Kathryn Nance is a 26-year veteran of the Stockton Police Department in California.

City Manager Doug Thornley nominated Nance to replace retiring Reno Police Chief Jason Soto. The city council unanimously ratified and confirmed her appointment on Wednesday. She’s expected to be sworn in next month.

“Today is a monumental day for the Biggest Little City,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said.

“With over 26 years of law enforcement experience, Chief Nance will be an invaluable member of our public safety team,” she said in a statement.

Nance said she’s been “overwhelmed by the genuine kindness and sense of community I’ve experienced in Reno thus far, and I could not be more excited to get to work.”

“I look forward to jumping right in and working with the RPD team to support the community’s needs, while also strengthening the department and providing stability for staff,” she said in a statement.

Soto spent more than 25 years with the Reno force before announcing his retirement effective later this month.

Nance most recently served as Stockton’s deputy police chief of operations, responsible for nearly 400 sworn and professional employees and a $107 million budget, Reno officials said.

She’s also served as chief of logistics, a police captain of strategic operations and a lieutenant in patrol and special investigations. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is pursuing a master’s degree in education she expects to obtain later this year.

Nurses go on strike at 2 big New York City hospitals

By JENNIFER PELTZ for the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of nurses went on strike Monday at two of New York City’s major hospitals after contract negotiations stalled over staffing and salaries nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses stage a strike in front of Mt. Sinai Hospital in the Manhattan borough of New York Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, after negotiations broke down hours earlier. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The privately owned, nonprofit hospitals were postponing nonemergency surgeries, diverting ambulances to other medical centers, pulling in temporary staffers, and assigning administrators with nursing backgrounds to work in wards in order to cope with the walkout.

As many as 3,500 nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and about 3,600 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan were off the job. Talks were set to resume Monday afternoon at Montefiore, but there was no immediate word on when bargaining might resume at Mount Sinai.

Hundreds of nurses picketed, some singing the chorus from Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” outside Mount Sinai. It was one of many New York hospitals deluged with COVID-19 patients as the virus made the city an epicenter of deaths in spring 2020.

“We were heroes only two years ago,” said Warren Urquhart, a nurse in transplant and oncology units. “We was on the front lines of the city when everything came to a stop. And now we need to come to a stop so they can understand how much we mean to this hospital and to the patients.”

The nurses union, the New York State Nurses Association, said members had to strike because chronic understaffing leaves them caring for too many patients.

Jed Basubas said he generally attends to eight to 10 patients at a time, twice the ideal number in the units where he works. Nurse practitioner Juliet Escalon said she sometimes skips bathroom breaks to attend to patients. So does Ashleigh Woodside, who said her 12-hour operating-room shifts often stretch to 14 hours because short staffing forces her and others to work overtime.

“We love our job. We want to take care of our patients. But we just want to d it safely and in a humane way, where we feel appreciated,” said Woodside, who has been a nurse for eight years.

The hospitals said they had offered the same raises — totaling 19% over three years — that the union had accepted at several other facilities where contract talks reached tentative agreements in recent days.

Montefiore said it had agreed to add 170 more nurses. Mount Sinai’s administration said the union’s focus on nurse-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we have made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global shortage of healthcare workers that is impacting hospitals across the country.”

The hospitals said Monday that they had prepared for the strike and were working to minimize the disruption.

“We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community,” Montefiore said. “This is a sad day for New York City.”

Mount Sinai called the union “reckless.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul urged the union and the hospitals late Sunday to take their dispute to binding arbitration. Montefiore’s administration had said it was willing to let an arbitrator settle the contract “as a means to reaching an equitable outcome.”

The union did not immediately accept the proposal. In a statement, it said Hochul, a Democrat, “should listen to the frontline COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally-protected labor and collective bargaining rights.”

A lineup of other city and state Democratic politicians, including Attorney General Letitia James, joined a midday union rally Monday, flanked by workers carrying signs with such messages as “Patients Over Profits” and “Will Work for Respect.”

Both hospitals had been getting ready for a walkout by transferring patients, including intensive-care newborns at Mount Sinai.

Montefiore and Mount Sinai are the last of a group of hospitals with contracts with the union that expired simultaneously. The Nurses Association had i nitially warned that it would strike at all of them at the same time — a potential calamity even in a city with as many hospitals as New York.

But one by one, the other hospitals struck agreements with the union as the deadline approached.

Nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ratified a deal Saturday that will give them raises of 7%, 6%, and 5% over the next three years while also increasing staffing levels. That deal, which covers 4,000 nurses, has been seen as a template for the negotiations with other hospital systems.

Nurses at two facilities in the Mount Sinai system also tentatively agreed to contracts Sunday. But there was no such pact at the system’s flagship hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Tennessee National Guard rescues Appalachian Trail hikers

From the Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee National Guard says it has used a military helicopter to rescue two hikers who were stranded on the Appalachian Trail.

In a news release, the Guard says the hikers were stranded on Dec. 31 due to sheer cliffs and drop-offs during early morning darkness in the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area, south of Johnson City.

The Guard says the Greene County Sheriff’s Office requested the air support after deputies were unable to reach the hikers.

The crew from the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Knoxville consisted of two pilots, a crew chief and two flight paramedics. They made the rescue that morning and administered aid during the brief flight to the hospital.

The Guard says the hikers have recovered from minor injuries.

UK govt urges unions to end strikes, vows to curb walkouts

From the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The British government on Thursday dangled the prospect of public-sector pay hikes next year in an attempt to end strikes by nurses and ambulance staff that have piled pressure on an already overburdened health system.

Trains are stored at a sidings in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, during a strike by the Aslef union in a long-running dispute over jobs and pensions. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

The government invited union leaders for talks on 2023-24 pay rates and promised a “cooperative spirit” – while also saying it will introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make it harder for key workers to walk out.

The Conservative administration said it will set ”minimum safety levels” regarding staffing for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a strike.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the new law would “restore the balance between those seeking to strike and protecting the public from disproportionate disruption.” Some Conservative lawmakers have argued for an even tougher law that would ban strikes by essential health care workers.

Unions condemned the planned law. The GMB union, which represents some ambulance staff, said its members “should have the right to stand up for themselves and the health service we all depend on.”

The government said it hopes to sit down with union leaders to discuss evidence on pay and working conditions that will be submitted to the review bodies that oversee salaries in parts of the public sector.

Britain has seen months of strikes, including a walkout by train drivers on Thursday that scuttled journeys across the country.

Rail workers, like others who work in the public sector, say wages have failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of living. Inflation in the U.K. soared to a 41-year high of 11.1% late last year, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs.

Nurses, airport baggage handlers, ambulance and bus drivers and postal workers were among those who walked off their jobs in December to demand higher pay.

Ambulance staff are set to strike again on Jan. 11 and 23, while nurses will do the same Jan. 18-19.

SC town’s police chief to resign, cites medical reasons

From the Associated Press

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina town’s police chief has submitted his resignation after serving less than four months as the head of the force.

Moncks Corner Police Chief David Brabham said unspecified medical reasons sparked the decision, town spokesperson Steve Young confirmed Wednesday to WCSC-TV.

“I’m glad I was able to end my law enforcement career where it started, with the Moncks Corner Police Department,” Brabham said in a statement. “But sometimes God has other plans, and I appreciate the trust and support I received from Mayor (Michael Lockliear) and Council. I will miss working with the men and women of the department. Their professionalism made my transition into the department easy.”

The town announced on Aug. 29 that it had hired Brabham, 48, to fill the post left vacant when Police Chief Rick Ollic retired. He was sworn in on Sept. 15.

Before serving in Moncks Corner, he had been a major with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office and had more than 27 years of law enforcement experience.

While only with the town for a few months, Young said Brabham had worked to improve officer retention and recruitment.

“We are sorry to see Chief Brabham go,” Lockliear said. “Even in his short tenure with the Town we could see that he was focused on improving the department for our community and for the officers with whom he served. This had to be a difficult decision for him, and we certainly wish him the best.”

Brabham will continue to serve as chief until a permanent or interim successor is named or until Jan. 31, whichever comes first, Young said.

Philippine police chief offers to quit over drug-linked cops

By JIM GOMEZ for the Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine national police chief said Thursday he has tendered his resignation to encourage nearly a thousand other ranking police officials to do the same to regain public trust after some enforcers were arrested due to illegal drugs, further tainting the police force’s notorious image.

Philippine Police Chief, Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., gestures during a news conference at Camp Crame police headquarters, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Metro Manila, Philippines. The Philippine national police chief said Thursday he has offered to resign to encourage nearly a thousand other top police officials to do the same to regain public trust after some enforcers were arrested due to illegal drugs and further tainted the police force’s notorious image. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Wednesday appealed to all police generals and colonels to submit their “courtesy resignations” in a drastic move to improve the police force’s image after law enforcers in the frontlines of the drug crackdown were caught engaging in drug dealing.

Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. told a televised news conference that those who would submit their “courtesy resignations” — offers to voluntarily resign from the force — would stay in their jobs unless President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decides to accept their resignation after an investigation. Azurin dispelled fears of a massive loss of leaders that could paralyze the 227,000-member force.

He also defended the police top brass, saying less than 10 of more than 100 generals were currently being investigated for alleged links to illegal drugs. He said some fellow officials opposed the move and lamented that just a few misfits were ruining the image and careers of a majority of decent officers, including hundreds of full colonels.

“Our organization is on trial here,” Azurin told a nationally televised news conference.

The call by Abalos for top police resignations sparked questions and concerns because, for years, an internal police disciplinary office along with a police commission has been investigating and helping prosecute officers accused of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, as well as those accused of crimes and corruption under the government’s anti-drug campaign.

Others said the move could demoralize police officials who carry out their work properly.

“While this process may be outside the disciplinary machinery of the Philippine National Police, this will be undertaken due to the exigency of the situation,” Azurin said.

He asked a five-member committee, which would be formed to assess possible links of police generals and colonels to the illegal drugs trade, to be fair and objective.

The national police force’s image took a blow in October, when a police sergeant was arrested for drug pushing and for helping conceal nearly a ton of methamphetamines, a powerful and prohibited stimulant in Manila. A regional chief of the country’s main antinarcotics agency and his men were implicated in a brazen drug dealing that happened in his office in December.

The alarming arrests bolstered concerns over a police force that former President Rodrigo Duterte used to enforce his brutal anti-drugs crackdown, which left more than 6,200 mostly poor suspects dead based on police estimates and sparked an International Criminal Court investigation as a possible crime against humanity.

Duterte himself had once described the police force as “rotten to the core” but still proceeded to harness law enforcers nationwide to carry out his extra tough anti-drug campaign. In 2017, he ordered the police to stop all anti-drug operations amid mounting criticisms after rogue anti-narcotics officers were accused of strangling to death a South Korean businessman in the main police camp in the capital region. He later allowed the police to resume anti-drug raids.

Human Rights Watch said the call for top police resignations could work against the government’s anti-drug campaign.

“It is a cynical ploy that allows abusers to evade accountability, especially because Abalos invoked the defects of the criminal justice and judicial systems to try to justify his idea,” said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.

Marcos Jr. had said he would continue his predecessor’s anti-drug campaign but would do it differently, including by focusing on the rehabilitation of drug users and avoiding the use of excessive force.

In an interview with The Associated Press in New York in September, Marcos redirected his criticism to law enforcers when asked if Duterte went too far with his lethal drug crackdown.

“His people went too far sometimes,” Marcos had told the AP. “We have seen many cases where policemen, other operatives, some were just shady characters that we didn’t quite know where they came from and who they were working for. But now we’ve gone after them.”

Marcos has not taken aggressive actions to prosecute his predecessors over the massive drug killings. He teamed up with Duterte’s popular daughter, now Vice President Sara Duterte, in an alliance that has been credited for helping him win the presidency in the 2022 elections.

Florida sheriff: Burglars call 911 to get help moving stuff

From the Associated Press

POINCIANA, Fla. (AP) — Two people in Florida were arrested after one of them made a 911 call to get help with moving their belongings from a home they were burglarizing, authorities said.

Deputies responded to a home Saturday after a 911 call was made but nobody spoke, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. At the home, the deputies concluded that nobody lived there, but they found a male suspect and his girlfriend inside the home after entering it through an unlocked door.

Deputies had been searching for the male suspect after identifying him from security video as a burglar at a Dollar General store in Poinciana, Florida, where several items were stolen earlier in the day, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Poinciana is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Orlando.

While talking to deputies, the female suspect told them that she had called 911 for the purpose of having law enforcement help them move their belongings from the house they were burglarizing. They also wanted to get a ride to the airport so they could spend the weekend in New York, the sheriff’s office said.

“Deputies DID help them with their belongings, and DID give them a ride, but it wasn’t to the airport … it was to the Polk Pokey,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “And they are welcome to stay there all weekend long. The Polk Pokey is much better than New York anyway.”

The male suspect was charged with burglary and theft related to the store and also burglary of a residence. The female suspect was charged with burglary of a residence, according to the sheriff’s office.

Hundreds attend funeral for Connecticut firefighter

From the Associated Press

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters gathered with family and friends Tuesday for the funeral of a Connecticut firefighter who died from heart problems while battling a house blaze last week.

North Haven Firefighter Matthias Wirtz’ wife, Barbara Cardito, center, surrounded by family watch members of Wirtz’ engine company escort Engine 9 to Saint Barnabus Church in North Haven, Conn., for his funeral on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (Arnold Gold /Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

Matthias Wirtz, a 22-year veteran of the North Haven Fire Department, was remembered as family man who was dedicated to serving the community. He was 46.

Firefighters from across the region lined a street in North Haven in the rain as a procession including the fire engine Wirtz drove and bagpipers made its way to St. Elizabeth of Trinity Parish at St. Barnabas Church. A large U.S. flag hung from two fire ladder trucks.

Speaking during the service, North Haven Fire Chief Paul Januszewski described Wirtz’s last moments before Wirtz collapsed on Dec. 26 while operating a fire engine outside the burning home. He said there was distress in Wirtz’s voice as he responded, “Roger, ready for water,” his last words on the radio.

“He was hurting, but he wasn’t going to say anything to anybody because he knew his brothers were inside looking for occupants,” Januszewski said. “He knew that failure wasn’t an option. And he was putting everybody else above himself, just what he has done his entire life.”

“He would not want to be called a hero. I can tell you that,” Januszewski said. “But I don’t know what else to call him at this point.”

Wirtz received numerous letters of commendation over the years. He was among the Connecticut firefighters who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

His cremains were to be entombed at a local cemetery.

Wirtz is survived by his wife and mother.

The state chief medical examiner’s office determined Wirtz died of heart problems.

The fire displaced 13 residents of the multifamily home. No one else was injured. The cause remains under investigation.

Massachusetts police reform panel suspends 15 officers

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts panel created in 2020 partially in response to nationwide calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has suspended 15 police officers from around the state who face allegations of misconduct.

The law allows the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to suspend the certification of any officer who faces felony allegations.

The officers whose suspensions were announced Tuesday include one accused of repeatedly using a stun gun on a pregnant woman during an arrest, one charged with using a baton to strike a man in custody, and another charged with getting paid for details he did not work.

A law enforcement officer whose certification is suspended can request a hearing before a commissioner within 15 days. A suspension order is in effect until a final decision or revocation is made by the commission.

“We continue to make progress to meet the directives of the statute and add information to the database that is of great public interest,” commission Executive Director Enrique Zuniga said in a statement. “POST will suspend the certification of an officer who is arrested, charged or indicted of a felony and will revoke the certification of an officer who is convicted of a felony.”

Two of the suspended officers are from Fall River, and the others are from Holyoke, Springfield, Needham, Lowell, Woburn, Somerville, West Springfield, Stoneham, Natick, Watertown, Worcester, the State Police and Fitchburg State University.

The nine-member commission was established as part of a 2020 criminal justice reform law to create a mandatory certification process for police officers, and to focus on efforts to improve public safety and increase trust between members of law enforcement and the public. Its members include law enforcement personnel, a judge, lawyer and social worker, and civilians.

Gang leader freed in Mexico prison attack that killed 17

From the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities on Monday raised the death toll from an attack on a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas to 17, a brazen operation that appeared designed to free the leader of a local gang.

A Mexican soldiers stands guard outside a state prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sunday Jan 1, 2023. Mexican soldiers and state police regained control of a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas after violence broke out early Sunday, according to state officials. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Twenty-five inmates escaped in the attack.

Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said 10 of the dead were prison guards who were attacked by gunmen who arrived early Sunday in armored vehicles and fired on the entrance and inside dormitories.

Rodríguez identified the inmates who escaped as being with the Mexicles gang, which she associated with the Caborca Cartel. She said the Mexicles’ leader was among the fugitives. The Mexicles have been one of Juarez’s main gangs for decades and for many years were known to work with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Caborca Cartel had been led by drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero who was recaptured in July.

Mexican National Guard stand guard outside a state prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sunday Jan 1, 2023. Mexican soldiers and state police regained control of a state prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas after violence broke out early Sunday, according to state officials. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said the soldiers and state police who retook control of the prison found 10 “VIP” cells outfitted with televisions and other comforts. One even had a safe filled with cash.

Authorities also found cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana inside the prison.

Sandoval said two other gunmen killed after attacking local police a short time before the attack on the prison were likely a diversion. They were not included in the 17 dead, which were made up of 10 guards and seven inmates.

In August, a riot inside the same state prison spread to the streets of Juarez in violence that left 11 people dead.

In that case, two inmates were killed inside the prison and then alleged gang members started shooting up the town, including killing four employees of a radio station who were doing a promotion at a restaurant.

Violence is frequent in Mexican prisons, including in some where authorities only maintain nominal control. Clashes regularly erupt among inmate of rival gangs, which in places like Juarez serve as proxies for drug cartels.

Police: 5 guns recovered after police chief killed, 2 hurt

From the Associated Press

BRACKENRIDGE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say five guns were recovered from a man shot and killed by police after a chase and gunfire that killed a western Pennsylvania police chief and wounded two other officers.

The police chief and another officer were shot blocks apart Monday in Brackenridge, an Allegheny County borough northeast of Pittsburgh, authorities said. The suspect was later shot and killed in Pittsburgh after he crashed a carjacked vehicle and exchanged gunfire with police, authorities said.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the governor-elect, said slain Brackenridge Police Chief Justin McIntire “ran towards danger to keep Pennsylvanians safe — and he made the ultimate sacrifice in service to community.” The second officer was in stable condition with a leg wound and a third officer was hit by suspected shrapnel.

Allegheny County police said Tuesday that state police had tried to stop Aaron Lamont Swan Jr., 28, of nearby Duquesne, on Route 22 on probation violations involving weapons Sunday evening, but he fled.

Police said Harrison Township officers spotted him Monday and gave chase, and he fled again on foot. Police said he was spotted again about 2 p.m. Monday and officers from a number of departments pursued him for several hours through various neighborhoods.

Another foot pursuit began in Brackenridge after an officer spotted him about 4:15 p.m. Monday, and shots were fired in two locations that left McIntire dead and the Tarentum officer wounded in the leg. Police said Swan then walked into a home and demanded the inhabitant’s car keys, fleeing in the vehicle.

After multiple police departments and a SWAT team responded for the suspect now considered armed and dangerous, the stolen vehicle was spotted in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood. After a short pursuit the car crashed in the city’s Homewood-Brushton neighborhood and Swan again fled on foot into a wooded area.

While police set up a perimeter, Swan left the wooded area and ran into a housing development, firing at officers while fleeing, police said. Swan fired additional shots and police returned fire. Swan was declared dead at the scene. A Pittsburgh officer had a minor injury from what is believed to have been shrapnel, police said.

Five guns believed to have been used by Swan during the case were recovered, four in Brackenridge and one in Homewood-Brushton, police said. Allegheny County police will investigate the shooting of the suspect and turn their findings over to the county’s district attorney, authorities said.

On Monday evening, dozens of police cars lined the southbound lanes of Route 28 as a procession of officers brought McIntire’s body to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office. Dozens of officers from departments across the county lined Pittsburgh streets as the procession passed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“He’s going to be sorely missed, there’s no doubt about that,” fire Chief Rick Jones said of McIntire on Monday evening, noting that McIntire grew up in the borough, The Post-Gazette reported.

“(He) loved his job, loved his community,” said Dave Miller, a firefighter and fire police captain with Pioneer Hose, told the Tribune-Review. “He was a hell of a guy.”

McIntire’s wife, Ashley, expressed heartbreak at her family’s loss. Describing him in a Facebook post as her best friend, she wrote that her entire world was gone “in the blink of an eye.”

“I am literally broken. I just want someone to tell me this nightmare is over … ,” she said. “I can’t even put into words how great of a person my husband was. He was my person. I love you with all my heart. Until we meet again.”

German police union calls for action after New Year attacks

From the Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s biggest police union called Tuesday for concerted action to prevent a repeat of the violent excesses seen in Berlin and other cities during the New Year’s celebrations, in which officers, firefighters and medical personnel were attacked with fireworks.

A woman with a child look to a burned-out bus standing beneath a residential building in the district Neukoelln in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. People across Germany on Saturday resumed their tradition of setting off large numbers of fireworks in public places to see in the new year. The bus was set on fire during the New Year’s celebrations. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Police in the capital recorded dozens of attacks and said 41 officers were injured. Online videos showing people firing rockets and throwing firecrackers at police cars and rescue vehicles drew widespread condemnation from German authorities.

The head of the GdP union, Jochen Kopelke, said there should be an “immediate debate” about the causes and consequences of such attacks, adding that they “must not be repeated at the next turn of the year.”

Kopelke said it was important to discuss the facts of what had happened and avoid blanket accusations against particular social groups.

Some conservative and far-right politicians have noted that some of the attacks took place in areas of Berlin with large immigrant communities.

Christoph de Vries, a lawmaker with the center-right Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter that to tackle the issue of violence toward police officers and firefighters it was necessary to “talk about the role of people (with the) phenotype: West Asiatic, darker skin type.”

His comments drew accusations of racism, but De Vries said he was “ironically” referring to recent guidance by Berlin police on how to describe suspects’ ethnicity and this should not distract from “the necessary discussion about migration policy and glaring deficits when it comes to integration.”

Berlin police have so far said only that out of 103 suspects released from detention, 98 were male.

The German government’s top integration official, Reem Alabali-Radovan, condemned the New Year’s attacks and called for those responsible to swiftly be punished “with the full force of our laws.”

In an interview with the Funke media group, she also called for the perpetrators to be judged “according to their deeds, not according to their presumed origins, as some are doing now,” warning that this could cause further divisions in society rather than address the social causes of the problem.

The attacks have also reignited a debate in Germany about the use of fireworks around New Year. The tradition suffered a blow during the pandemic, when the government banned their sale in an effort to ease the pressure on hospitals and discourage large public gatherings.

Experts say the absence of such a ban may have contributed to the scale of violence and large number of fireworks injuries — including at least one death — seen this year.

The GdP union’s regional head in Berlin, Stephan Weh, suggested it was time to consider a nationwide ban on pyrotechnics, saying the attacks in the capital had shown how they can be used “as weapons against people.”

UK sending 1,200 troops to fill in as ambulance crews strike

By JILL LAWLESS from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The British government said Sunday it will dispatch 1,200 troops to fill in for striking ambulance drivers and border staff as multiple public sector unions walk off the job in the week before Christmas.

FILE – A train arrives a platform at Clapham Junction station in London, on Dec. 14, 2022. The British government said Sunday Dec. 18, 2022 it will dispatch 1,200 troops to fill in for striking ambulance drivers and border staff as multiple public sector unions walk off the job in the week before Christmas. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Ambulance crews are due to strike on Wednesday, joining nurses, railway staff, passport officers and postal workers, who are all staging a series of walkouts in the coming weeks.

The U.K.’s most intense strike wave for decades is a response to a cost-of-living crisis driven by soaring food and energy prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some 417,000 working days were lost to strikes in October, the highest number in a decade.

Unions are seeking pay increases to keep pace with inflation, which was running at 10.7% in November, down slightly from 11.1% in October but still a 40-year high.

The Conservative government argues that double-digit raises would drive inflation even higher, and has tried to pin blame for disruption on union leaders. In the tabloid Sun on Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded union chiefs “Grinches that want to steal Christmas for their own political ends.”

Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said “it would be irresponsible to allow public sector pay and inflation to get out of control.”

“We’re making progress with the economy. Don’t put that at risk with these unaffordable demands,” he told the BBC.

The government is calculating that public opinion will turn on the unions as people across the U.K. face postponed hospital appointments, canceled trains and travel delays during the winter holiday season. But opinion polls show a high level of support for the workers – especially nurses, whose strikes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are the first in the 100-year history of their union, the Royal College of Nursing.

Nurses and ambulance crews say they will still respond to emergencies during their strikes.

“We’ve given a commitment that our members will scramble off picket lines and get into ambulances if there are emergencies that need to be covered,” said Onay Kasab, national lead officer of the Unite union.

But Matthew Taylor, who heads health service body the NHS Confederation, said patients will be at risk, and called on both government and unions to compromise.

“We’re in the middle of winter and we have a health service which, even on an ordinary day without industrial action, is finding it difficult to cope,” he told the BBC. “So there are going to be risks to patients. There’s no question about that.”

Suburban Detroit cop shoots, kills armed man in police lobby

From the Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A suburban Detroit police officer fatally shot a man Sunday in a police station lobby after he pulled out a handgun, pointed it at the officer and attempted to fire the weapon, police said.

The Dearborn officer fired multiple rounds, striking the man, about 3:30 p.m. ET during the confrontation, which began as the officer was sitting behind the desk in the front lobby of the Dearborn Police Station.

The 33-year-old man was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. The man’s name was not immediately released by authorities.

No one else was injured and police said the station’s lobby remains closed to the public during the initial shooting investigation.

Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting in Dearborn, which is located west of Detroit in Wayne County.

Police Chief Issa Shahin said authorities hope to provide answers to the “many questions” about the shooting in the coming days, WXYZ-TV reported.

“What I want to make very clear is that I extend my sincerest condolences to the individual who lost his life here,” Shahin said.

Police: Gunman kills 5 near Toronto before officer kills him

By ROB GILLIES from the Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — A 73-year-old man shot and killed five people at a suburban Toronto condominium building before police officers killed him, authorities said.

York Regional Police tactical officers stand in the lobby of a condominium building in Vaughan, Ontario, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. Police said multiple people are dead, including the suspect, after a shooting in a unit of the building. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

Chief James MacSween of the York Regional Police said one of his officers fatally shot the gunman at a condo in Vaughan, Ontario.

Police did not disclose a possible motive for the attack or release the names or ages of anyone who was killed, including the alleged assailant. But Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which gets involved when there is a death or serious injury involving police, said Monday that the alleged attacker was 73.

“Horrendous scene,” MacSween said late Sunday. “Six deceased. One of them is the subject. The other five are victims.”

One person who was shot by the attacker was hospitalized and was expected to survive, the chief said.

MacSween said he didn’t know whether the shooter lived at the condo building.

York Regional Police say officers were called to the Vaughan, Ontario condo for an active shooting around 7:20 p.m. Sunday.

Police evacuated the building on Sunday, but MacSween said there was no further threat to the community. Residents were allowed to return home early Monday.

Resident John Santoro said police went floor to floor to try to find out if anybody else was involved.
“When I opened my door, police were in the corridor. There were two officers right outside my door in the elevator lobby,” he said.

Mass shootings are rare in Canada, and Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the world’s safest big cities. Vaughan is just north of Toronto.

Canadians are nervous about anything that might indicate they are moving closer to the gun violence situation in the U.S., where mass shootings are common.

“Everybody is horrified,” Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said. “To wake up to this news this morning or see it last night, we are in absolute shock. … This is something I never thought I would see here.”

8 hurt in fire at NYPD warehouse where evidence is stored

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Eight people suffered minor injuries Tuesday in a fire at a New York Police Department warehouse that houses DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as cars, e-bikes and motor scooters, police and fire officials said.

Firefighters battle a blaze at a warehouse in the Brooklyn Borough of New York on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in New York. Eight people suffered minor injuries in the fire at a New York Police Department warehouse that houses DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as cars, e-bikes and motor scooters, police and fire officials said. (WABC via AP)

The fire at the Erie Basin Auto Pound, a low warehouse situated atop a long, curving breakwater on the Brooklyn waterfront, broke out at around 10:30 a.m., FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said.

The volume of fire quickly overwhelmed firefighters who had gone inside to battle the blaze and then had to retreat and fight it from the outside, Hudgens said. The effort included drones as well as boats spraying water into the warehouse from the harbor, he said.

The fire, which sent a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles (kilometers), was still going Tuesday afternoon and might take days to bring under control, Hodgens said.

Hodgens said three firefighters, three emergency medical workers and two civilians suffered minor injuries.

Police Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, who joined Hudgens at a briefing at the fire scene, said the facility is used to store DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as e-bikes, motorbikes and cars. “It’s mainly evidence but we store other things there as well,” he said.

The police have sometimes used the warehouse for public events in which they have crushed illegal motorcycles, scooters and ATVs seized from people operating them illegally.

Maddrey said that once the fire is under control, police property specialists will go inside and see what has been destroyed and what can be salvaged. “We don’t know the severity of the damage inside,” he said.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of the fire department’s chief of department as Hudgens in the second and third references. His name is John Hodgens.

Deputy dressed as Grinch gives onions to speeding drivers

From the Associated Press

MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — Several motorists who were speeding through an elementary school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway received an odorous onion as a reminder to slow down from a county sheriff’s deputy dressed as the Grinch.

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Colonel Lou Caputo, right, costumed as the Grinch, leans on the shoulder of Deputy Andrew Leird, left, as he uses a laser speed detector to check speeds of motorists traveling through a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Marathon, Fla. For drivers slightly speeding through the area, Caputo offers them the choice between an onion or a traffic citation. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

Col. Lou Caputo, a 37-year veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office who conjured up the concept more than 20 years ago, was back on the streets Tuesday.

Drivers who travel about 5 mph or less above the school zone’s speed limit can choose between traffic citations and an onion presented by the Grinch. Those speeding beyond that likely receive a costly ticket.

“It’s about education, awareness that our school zones are still operating even though it’s the holiday season,” Caputo said. “We want people to slow down.”

Caputo said he portrays the fictional character created by children’s author Dr. Seuss to give motorists a “gift” but also to call attention in a nice way to the need to obey speed limits in school zones.

“It catches them off guard,” Caputo said.

“But when I give them a clear choice of a citation or the onion, they will take the onion. And I’ve had them eat the onion right in front of me.”

Keys schools remain in session through Dec. 16.

Border Patrol agent dies in ATV accident during Texas patrol

From the Associated Press

MISSION, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent died Wednesday after an all-terrain vehicle accident while patrolling along the border in south Texas, according to the agency.

An ATV vehicle is removed from the scene where an off duty border patrol agent was killed on Wednesday Dec. 7, 2022 in Mission, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)

The accident happened about 1 a.m. near Mission, Texas, along the border with Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement. The agent was tracking a group of people who had crossed the border illegally.

Fellow agents found the man unresponsive, began life-saving efforts and called for an ambulance, the statement said. The agent died at a hospital.

“The death of an Agent who died while securing our nation’s border is a tremendous loss for our organization and our nation, our prayers are with his family and co-workers during this difficult time,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz in the statement.

The agency did not release the identity of the agent and declined further comment.

The Texas-Mexico border has seen multiple deadly accidents in recent years stemming from immigration-related pursuits.

In June, four migrants died and three other people were injured after a Jeep being pursued by Border Patrol agents crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer on the interstate near the Texas border city of Encinal.

In January, Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Anthony Salas died after being involved in a single vehicle traffic accident near Eagle Pass while working with U.S. Border Patrol to transport six people who had illegally immigrated to the U.S.

Last year, an Austin man was charged in the deaths of eight migrants after a deadly crash near the border city of Del Rio following a police chase.

Fire out at Iowa plant where explosion injured several

From the Associated Press

MARENGO, Iowa (AP) — It took nearly all night, but firefighters extinguished a fire that tore through an asphalt shingle recycling plant at Marengo in east-central Iowa.

Firefighters work to control a blaze at a grain elevator, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Marengo, Iowa. An explosion has caused injuries and an evacuation of people near the operation. The explosion and fire happened about 11:15 a.m. Thursday in Marengo at a grain elevator owned by Heartland Crush. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP)

Firefighters worked until 4 a.m. Friday to extinguish the fire, Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said. The fire broke out following an explosion at the C6-Zero plant shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. C6-Zero recycles used asphalt shingles into biofuel.

Gray said multiple people were injured, including 5 people who were taken by ambulances to a hospital in Iowa City and others who were driven to hospitals in private vehicles. He did not have an exact count of the number of people injured, nor did he answer questions about what caused the explosion. Gray said he expected to release more information by the end of the day Friday.

Gray told the Des Moines Register that at least one person was in serious condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ burn unit. Iowa State Patrol Senior Trooper Bob Conrad told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that at least 30 people were in the plant when the explosion happened.

People living and working near the plant were evacuated, and residents a safe distance from the fire were urged to stay inside to avoid exposure to smoke. Those evacuated were allowed to return to their homes around 7 p.m. Thursday, Gray said.

Marengo is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Des Moines.

MARENGO, Iowa (AP) — It took nearly all night, but firefighters extinguished a fire that tore through an asphalt shingle recycling plant at Marengo in east-central Iowa.

Firefighters worked until 4 a.m. Friday to extinguish the fire, Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said. The fire broke out following an explosion at the C6-Zero plant shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. C6-Zero recycles used asphalt shingles into biofuel.

Gray said multiple people were injured, including 5 people who were taken by ambulances to a hospital in Iowa City and others who were driven to hospitals in private vehicles. He did not have an exact count of the number of people injured, nor did he answer questions about what caused the explosion. Gray said he expected to release more information by the end of the day Friday.

Gray told the Des Moines Register that at least one person was in serious condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ burn unit. Iowa State Patrol Senior Trooper Bob Conrad told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that at least 30 people were in the plant when the explosion happened.

People living and working near the plant were evacuated, and residents a safe distance from the fire were urged to stay inside to avoid exposure to smoke. Those evacuated were allowed to return to their homes around 7 p.m. Thursday, Gray said.

Marengo is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Des Moines.

German police seek help in solving bull sperm heist

From the Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Police in western Germany are appealing for help in cracking a potentially very cold case.

Authorities say about 60 containers of bull sperm were stolen from a farm in the town of Olfen, 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of Cologne, late Monday or early Tuesday.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that while it’s unclear how the rustle happened, the precious cargo needs to be supercooled with liquid nitrogen at –196 Celsius degrees (–320 Fahrenheit) so it isn’t spoiled.

They are seeking tips from the public that might lead to the recovery of the sperm, which was intended for artificial insemination.

Baltimore fire chief resigns as fatal fire report released

From the Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s fire chief resigned Friday, the same day as the release of a report that reviewed the department’s response to a January vacant rowhouse fire that left three firefighters dead.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced that he decided to accept Chief Niles Ford’s resignation immediately to position the fire department for the necessary changes. Ford had led the department since 2014.

“There are no words or actions that will fill the void or ease the pain felt by the family, loved ones and colleagues of these three heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the people of Baltimore,” Scott said in a statement.

The 314-page report by a board comprised of officials from area fire departments aimed to make recommendations to prevent future tragedies, not find fault, news outlets reported. It notes that many of its recommendations could also be found in previous reports about close calls and deaths in the department. The table of contents states that a message from Ford would appear on page 4, but that page is blank.

“There must be a renewed commitment to leadership, accountability, safety, and professionalism at every level of the Department to bring these recommendations to fruition and solve some of the chronic issues the Department has been dealing with for years,” the report stated.

Four firefighters were battling a blaze inside the home on Jan. 24 when part of the three-story building collapsed, officials said.

Paramedics/firefighters Kenneth Lacayo and Kelsey Sadler were pulled from the fire and taken to a trauma hospital, where they were both pronounced dead. Lt. Paul Butrim was recovered from the building and pronounced dead at the scene. EMT/firefighter John McMaster was initially put on life support, but he was released from the hospital a few days later.

The firefighters’ deaths were later ruled homicides and the blaze was classified the blaze as “incendiary,” meaning it was set or spread into an area where flames shouldn’t be and involves a violation of law, intentional or not. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said a person of interest was identified.

The report released Friday described the challenges that department members faced that day as extreme, saying that they had never been experienced in the department’s 65-year history. It identified communication and leadership problems at the fire scene, stating that the incident commander was “overwhelmed and reached task saturation because command was not expanded.”

The report also found that there was no program to notify firefighters about vacant and unsafe homes or standard procedures for battling fires or coordinating EMS responses at vacant buildings.

The mayor said an accountabililty program will be established to ensure that the recommendations are properly implemented and that the department is committed to protecting residents’ lives and doing so in a way that protects those who “selflessly serve others on a daily basis,” Scott said.

Officers who defended Capitol from Trump supporters honored


WASHINGTON (AP) — Law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 were honored Tuesday with Congressional Gold Medals nearly two years after they fought supporters of then-President Donald Trump in a brutal and bloody attack.

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pray during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the “heroes” as she opened the ceremony in the the stately Capitol Rotunda, which was overrun that day when Trump supporters roamed the halls trying to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

In bestowing Congress’ highest honor, Pelosi praised the heroes for “courageously answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”

To recognize the hundreds of officers who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the medals will be placed in four locations — at U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. President Joe Biden said when he signed the legislation last year that a medal will be placed at the Smithsonian museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

The ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda comes as Democrats, just weeks away from losing their House majority, race to finish a nearly 18-month investigation of the insurrection. Democrats and two Republicans conducting the probe have vowed to uncover the details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to overturn his election defeat and encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” in a rally just before the congressional certification.

Awarding the medals is among Pelosi’s last ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership. When the bill passed the House more than a year ago, she said the law enforcement officers from across the city defended the Capitol because they were “the type of Americans who heard the call to serve and answered it, putting country above self.”

“They enabled us to return to the Capitol,” and certify Biden’s presidency, she said then, “to that podium that night to show the world that our democracy had prevailed and that it had succeeded because of them.”

Dozens of the officers who fought off the rioters sustained serious injuries. As the mob of Trump’s supporters pushed past them and into the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own guns, dragged down stairs, sprayed with chemicals and trampled and crushed by the crowd. Officers suffered physical wounds, including brain injuries and other lifelong effects, and many struggled to work afterward because they were so traumatized.

Four officers who testified at a House hearing last year spoke openly about the lasting mental and physical scars, and some detailed near-death experiences.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at the mouth, bleeding and screaming as the rioters tried to gouge out his eye and crush him between two heavy doors. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.” Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said a large group of people shouted the N-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.

At least nine people who were at the Capitol that day died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Several months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the insurrection had died by suicide. The circumstances that led to their deaths were unknown.

The June 2021 House vote to award the medals won widespread support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against it — lawmakers who had downplayed the violence and stayed loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections.

Pelosi, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell attended the ceremony and awarded medals. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee also attended.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been handed out by the legislative branch since 1776. Previous recipients include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost. In recent years, Congress has awarded the medals to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who became a leading advocate for people struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and biker Greg LeMond.

Signing the bill at the White House last year, Biden said the officers’ heroism cannot be forgotten.

The insurrection was a “violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people,” and Americans have to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

US police rarely deploy deadly robots to confront suspects

By JANIE HAR and CLAUDIA LAUER from the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The unabashedly liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots last week after supervisors approved limited use of the remote-controlled devices, addressing head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects.

A police officer uses a robot to investigate a bomb threat in San Francisco, on July 25, 2008. The liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, after supervisors approved limited use of the remote-controlled devices, addressing head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 on Tuesday to permit police to use robots armed with explosives in extreme situations where lives are at stake and no other alternative is available. The authorization comes as police departments across the U.S. face increasing scrutiny for the use of militarized equipment and force amid a years-long reckoning on criminal justice.

The vote was prompted by a new California law requiring police to inventory military-grade equipment such as flashbang grenades, assault rifles and armored vehicles, and seek approval from the public for their use.

So far, police in just two California cities — San Francisco and Oakland — have publicly discussed the use of robots as part of that process. Around the country, police have used robots over the past decade to communicate with barricaded suspects, enter potentially dangerous spaces and, in rare cases, for deadly force.

Dallas police became the first to kill a suspect with a robot in 2016, when they used one to detonate explosives during a standoff with a sniper who had killed five police officers and injured nine others.

The recent San Francisco vote, has renewed a fierce debate sparked years ago over the ethics of using robots to kill a suspect and the doors such policies might open. Largely, experts say, the use of such robots remains rare even as the technology advances.

Michael White, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, said even if robotics companies present deadlier options at tradeshows, it doesn’t mean police departments will buy them. White said companies made specialized claymores to end barricades and scrambled to equip body-worn cameras with facial recognition software, but departments didn’t want them.

“Because communities didn’t support that level of surveillance. It’s hard to say what will happen in the future, but I think weaponized robots very well could be the next thing that departments don’t want because communities are saying they don’t want them,” White said.

Robots or otherwise, San Francisco official David Chiu, who authored the California bill when in the state legislature, said communities deserve more transparency from law enforcement and to have a say in the use of militarized equipment.

San Francisco “just happened to be the city that tackled a topic that I certainly didn’t contemplate when the law was going through the process, and that dealt with the subject of so-called killer robots,” said Chiu, now the city attorney.

In 2013, police maintained their distance and used a robot to lift a tarp as part of a manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, finding him hiding underneath it. Three years later, Dallas police officials sent a bomb disposal robot packed with explosives into an alcove of El Centro College to end an hours-long standoff with sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, who had opened fire on officers as a protest against police brutality was ending.

Police detonated the explosives, becoming the first department to use a robot to kill a suspect. A grand jury declined charges against the officers, and then-Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown was widely praised for his handling of the shooting and the standoff.

“There was this spray of doom about how police departments were going to use robots in the six months after Dallas,” said Mark Lomax, former executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. “But since then, I had not heard a lot about that platform being used to neutralize suspects … until the San Francisco policy was in the news.”

The question of potentially lethal robots has not yet cropped up in public discourse in California as more than 500 police and sheriffs departments seek approval for their military-grade weapons use policy under the new state law. Oakland police abandoned the idea of arming robots with shotguns after public backlash, but will outfit them with pepper spray.

Many of the use policies already approved are vague as to armed robots, and some departments may presume they have implicit permission to deploy them, said John Lindsay-Poland, who has been monitoring implementation of the new law as part of the American Friends Service Committee.

“I do think most departments are not prepared to use their robots for lethal force,” he said, “but if asked, I suspect there are other departments that would say, ‘we want that authority.’”

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin first proposed prohibiting police from using robot force against any person. But the department said while it would not outfit robots with firearms, it wanted the option to attach explosives to breach barricades or disorient a suspect.

The approved policy allows only a limited number of high-ranking officers to authorize use of robots as a deadly force — and only when lives are at stake and after exhausting alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through alternate means.

San Francisco police say the dozen functioning ground robots the department already has have never been used to deliver an explosive device, but are used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations.

“We live in a time when unthinkable mass violence is becoming more commonplace. We need the option to be able to save lives in the event we have that type of tragedy in our city,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement.

Los Angeles Police Department does not have any weaponized robots or drones, said SWAT Lt. Ruben Lopez. He declined to detail why his department did not seek permission for armed robots, but confirmed they would need authorization to deploy one.

“It’s a violent world, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

There are often better options than robots if lethal force is needed, because bombs can create collateral damage to buildings and people, said Lomax, the former head of the tactical officers group. “For a lot of departments, especially in populated cities, those factors are going to add too much risk,” he said.

Last year, the New York Police Department returned a leased robotic dog sooner than expected after public backlash, indicating that civilians are not yet comfortable with the idea of machines chasing down humans.

Police in Maine have used robots at least twice to deliver explosives meant to take down walls or doors and bring an end to standoffs.

In June 2018, in the tiny town of Dixmont, Maine, police had intended to use a robot to deliver a small explosive that would knock down an exterior wall, but instead collapsed the roof of the house.

The man inside was shot twice after the explosion, survived and pleaded no contest to reckless conduct with a firearm. The state later settled his lawsuit against the police challenging that they had used the explosives improperly.

In April 2020, Maine police used a small charge to blow a door off of a home during a standoff. The suspect was fatally shot by police when he exited through the damaged doorway and fired a weapon.

As of this week, the state attorney general’s office had not completed its review of the tactics used in the 2018 standoff, including the use of the explosive charge. A report on the 2020 incident only addressed the fatal gunfire.

Tampa police chief resigns over golf cart traffic stop

From the Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The police chief in Tampa, Florida, resigned Monday after using her position to escape a ticket during a traffic stop involving a golf cart driven by her husband.

Mary O’Connor addresses reporters during a news conference at the Tampa Police Department headquarters, Feb. 8, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. O’Connor has been placed on leave after a video emerged of her flashing her badge from the passenger seat of a golf cart to get out of a traffic ticket. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor placed Chief O’Connor on administrative leave Friday, Dec. 2, 2022 pending an investigation of the Nov. 12 traffic stop. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Mary O’Connor submitted her resignation after an internal affairs review found she violated police department policy during the Nov. 12 stop by a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy.

During that stop — which was recorded on video by the deputy’s body camera — O’Connor identified herself as the Tampa chief, flashed her badge and said “I’m hoping you will let us go tonight.”

The deputy issued only a verbal warning instead of a citation. The golf cart did not have a license tag, a requirement for when such vehicles are driven on public streets. O’Connor’s husband, Keith, said they had just come from a restaurant and didn’t usually drive the cart on streets.

The internal review found O’Connor violated regulations on standards of conduct and “abuse of position or identification.”

“The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards for ethical and professional behavior that apply to every member of our police force,” Mayor Jane Castor — herself a former Tampa police chief — said in a statement requesting the resignation. “As the Chief of Police, you are not only to abide by and enforce those standards but to also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case.”

Castor appointed Lee Bercaw, who was assistant chief, as acting chief while a nationwide search begins. O’Connor served in the post for nearly a year.

Last week, O’Connor issued a statement apologizing for her conduct.

“In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent,” she said.

NY sergeant hailed for aiding at 2017 birth helps at another

From the Associated Press

SHIRLEY, N.Y. (AP) — A group of police officers who helped deliver a baby at a Long Island home over the weekend included a sergeant who helped another newborn take his first breath five years ago.

This time, Suffolk County Sgt. Jon-Erik Negron joined officers Conor Diemer, Jadin Rodriguez and Zachary Vormittag after a woman went into labor at her Shirley home on Saturday.

The woman gave birth to a boy about 15 minutes after calling 911, police said. An ambulance arrived soon after the birth, and the baby and mother were taken to a hospital in good health.

Back in August 2017, Negron responded when another baby arrived unexpectedly at a Mount Sinai home. After a complication, the baby wasn’t breathing when Negron arrived. He sucked fluid out of the infant’s airway with a turkey baster or the like from the parents’ kitchen, and the boy started breathing.

The grateful parents asked Negron to be the infant’s godfather, and he accepted. The boy’s father, Mike Pappalardo, told Newsday that the sergeant celebrates birthdays and holidays with the family.

Negron, 37, has no children himself, but he has also assisted at other births during his career, according to Newsday.

He told the newspaper that he keeps expecting each one to be the last, “but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again.”

Task force unveils improvements in wake of Astroworld show

By JUAN A. LOZANO from the Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — After last year’s deadly Astroworld music festival in Houston, questions were raised about whether there was sufficient coordination and communication among officials, public safety agencies and promoters in planning the event and implementing an emergency response when it turned tragic.

task force this week unveiled a new agreement its members said will clearly outline responsibilities between all parties involved in such events to ensure they are safe. The group’s members said it will also improve communication, the development of safety plans and permitting procedures for large events like the Astroworld festival, which was attended by some 50,000 people.

Some of the changes in the new agreement, which updates one from 2018, include requiring all relevant safety stakeholders to be together at one location during an event to better monitor any possible problems; creating an internal calendar of events so agencies, officials and departments know about and plan for upcoming events; having a streamlined event permitting process and creating an event safety planning checklist.

“It’s not to say those things were absent so to speak. They weren’t as aligned as they needed to be,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Monday. “And when there’s not alignment, there’s confusion. And when there’s confusion, there’s hesitancy and when there’s hesitancy, bad things can happen.”

Questions were raised about a possible lack of coordination between officials who work for the city of Houston and surrounding Harris County, and festival promoter Live Nation over several issues before the Nov. 5, 2021, concert. Among the questions were whether there was sufficient coordinated planning for responding to emergency situations like the massive crowd surge that led to 10 deaths at the festival, which was headlined by rapper Travis Scott.

There was also confusion about which agencies and officials ultimately had authority over the event. The festival was held on a parking lot that is part of NRG Park, a complex that consists of stadiums, an arena and a convention center that’s owned by Harris County but sits within Houston city limits.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said he’s grateful the new agreement between the city and county requires there be a unified command center where all public safety agencies will be located in one location for better communication. During the Astroworld festival, for example, Houston firefighters were not given radios to be in direct contact with festival organizers.

Finner said as police chief he will now have the authority to reject any security plan for such an event.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said while the previous agreement already required the creation of an emergency action plan, the updated agreement requires that all public safety agencies and other officials take part in that process from the beginning and not simply review it at the end.

“That is the big difference,” Peña said.

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said the new agreement will help also the city and county better prepare for upcoming events with large crowds that are set to be held at NRG Park, including next year’s NCAA Final Four and the World Cup in 2026.

“When it comes to safety, this is commitment,” Garcia said.

But Andrea Luoma, who runs the entertainment management program at the University of Montana College of Business, said she was concerned the new agreement did not offer specific guidelines for dealing with crowd sizes.

“Crowd management is a well-established science. If the authorities in Houston did not do their due diligence to understand the nuances of crowds, then crowd crush or crowd collapse could easily happen again,” Luoma said.

Those killed during the Astroworld festival died from compression asphyxia. They ranged in age from 9 to 27 years old. Roughly 300 people were injured and treated at the scene, and 25 were taken to hospitals.

More than 500 lawsuits were filed after the deadly concert. The families of two people who died ha ve settled wrongful death lawsuits they filed.

Portland, Oregon settles lawsuit over police use of tear gas

By CLAIRE RUSH for the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland, Oregon, has reached a $250,000 settlement to a federal lawsuit over its police bureau’s use of tear gas and other crowd control devices during the racial justice protests that rocked its streets in 2020, court documents show.

FILE – Portland police chase demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest on July 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. The city of Portland, Oregon, has settled a federal lawsuit over its police bureau’s use of tear gas and other crowd control devices during racial justice protests in 2020. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File )

Under the settlement filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, the city agreed to pay the $250,000 to five demonstrators who alleged they were subject to tear gas while protesting lawfully.

The city also agreed to stop using rubber ball distraction devices, commonly known as flash-bang grenades, and to dismantle its remaining stock under an injunction that will last 14 months. While the plaintiffs’ ability to enforce the injunction will lapse after that time period, one of their attorneys, Juan Chavez, said he would be “perplexed” if the city reintroduced the devices.

The injunction additionally requires police to restrict their use of tear gas, pepper spray, less-lethal launchers and long-range acoustic devices in accordance with bureau policy and state law.

The lawsuit was originally filed by the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland in June 2020 as protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis erupted nightly on Portland’s streets, at times prompting violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

The group’s founder and executive director, Teressa Raiford, called the settlement “a win for organizers.”

“Our freedom of expression is the foundation of how we make social change possible,” Raiford said in a news release. “We’re grateful to everyone — all of our supporters and our individual donors — who made it possible to bring this lawsuit. Black Lives Still Matter.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in an emailed statement that the agreement “fairly and appropriately resolves the case to provide certainty for all parties,” adding that since 2020 the city has worked to improve crowd management trainings and its response to protests.

A Portland police directive that governs the use of force, including during crowd control situations, states that less-lethal tactics can be used for managing encounters with threatening or actively resistive persons. Another directive that is currently under review instructs officers not to deploy less-lethal munitions or tear gas indiscriminately into a crowd.

A bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year limits police use of tear gas to specific scenarios, including when there is a risk of injury or death, when de-escalation efforts have been attempted but failed, and in the event of an “objectively dangerous and unlawful situation.” The law also bars police from using less-lethal projectiles or “handheld chemical incapacitants,” not including tear gas, for crowd management.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez will enforce the 14-month injunction. Hernandez had previously found the city in contempt for violating a court order he issued in June 2020 that prohibited police from using pepper spray and less-lethal launchers against people engaged in passive resistance.


San Francisco will allow police to deploy robots that kill

By JANIE HAR from the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Supervisors in San Francisco voted Tuesday to give city police the ability to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations — following an emotionally charged debate that reflected divisions on the politically liberal board over support for law enforcement.

FILE – San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott answers questions during a news conference in San Francisco, on May 21, 2019. The Democratic San Francisco Board of Supervisors could allow police to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations. The 11-member board will vote Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, on a controversial proposal opposed by civil rights advocates critical of the militarization of police. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

The vote was 8-3, with the majority agreeing to grant police the option despite strong objections from civil liberties and other police oversight groups. Opponents said the authority would lead to the further militarization of a police force already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.

Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that forwarded the proposal to the full board, said she understood concerns over use of force but that “according to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipments. So here we are, and it’s definitely not a easy discussion.”

The San Francisco Police Department said it does not have pre-armed robots and has no plans to arm robots with guns. But the department could deploy robots equipped with explosive charges “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect” when lives are at stake, SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.

“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” she said.

Supervisors amended the proposal Tuesday to specify that officers could use robots only after using alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through those alternative means. Only a limited number of high-ranking officers could authorize use of robots as a deadly force option.

San Francisco police currently have a dozen functioning ground robots used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations, the department says. They were acquired between 2010 and 2017, and not once have they been used to deliver an explosive device, police officials said.

But explicit authorization was required after a new California law went into effect this year requiring police and sheriffs departments to inventory military-grade equipment and seek approval for their use.

The state law was authored last year by San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu while he was an assembly member. It is aimed at giving the public a forum and voice in the acquisition and use of military-grade weapons that have a negative effect on communities, according to the legislation.

A federal program has long dispensed grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, bayonets, armored vehicles and other surplus military equipment to help local law enforcement.

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump signed an order reviving the Pentagon program after his predecessor, Barack Obama, curtailed it in 2015, triggered in part by outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

San Francisco police said late Tuesday that no robots were obtained from military surplus, but some were purchased with federal grant money.

Like many places around the U.S., San Francisco is trying to balance public safety with treasured civilian rights such as privacy and the ability to live free of excessive police oversight. In September, supervisors agreed to a trial run allowing police to access in real time private surveillance camera feeds in certain circumstances.

Debate on Tuesday ran more than two hours with members on both sides accusing the other of reckless fear mongering.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who voted in favor of the policy authorization, said he was troubled by rhetoric painting the police department as untrustworthy and dangerous.

“I think there’s larger questions raised when progressives and progressive policies start looking to the public like they are anti-police,” he said. “I think that is bad for progressives. I think it’s bad for this Board of Supervisors. I think it’s bad for Democrats nationally.”

Board President Shamann Walton, who voted against the proposal, pushed back, saying it made him not anti-police, but “pro people of color.”

“We continuously are being asked to do things in the name of increasing weaponry and opportunities for negative interaction between the police department and people of color,” he said. “This is just one of those things.”

The San Francisco Public Defender’s office sent a letter Monday to the board saying that granting police “the ability to kill community members remotely” goes against the city’s progressive values. The office wanted the board to reinstate language barring police from using robots against any person in an act of force.

On the other side of the San Francisco Bay, the Oakland Police Department has dropped a similar proposal after public backlash.

The first time a robot was used to deliver explosives in the U.S. was in 2016, when Dallas police sent in an armed robot that killed a holed-up sniper who had killed five officers in an ambush.

Police smash European cocaine ‘super cartel,’ arrest 49

By SAMUEL PETREQUIN for the Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — Law enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to take down a “super cartel” of drugs traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the European Union crime agency said on Monday.

FILE- This Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, file photo shows the sun bouncing off the Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Europol says law enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to take down a “super cartel” of drugs traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place between Nov. 8-19.

The agency said police forces involved in “Operation Desert Light” targeted both the “command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.”

Over 30 metric tons (33 tons) of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize drugs shipments.

The Netherlands was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai.

Dutch authorities said one of the suspects arrested in Dubai allegedly imported thousands of kilos of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021. The 37-year-old man with both Dutch and Moroccan nationality is also being prosecuted for laundering large amounts of money and possession of firearms. Police started investigating him after investigators cracked the encrypted messaging service Sky ECC, which is popular with criminals.

A 40-year-old Dutch-Bosnian citizen was also arrested in Dubai following an investigation based on intercepted Sky messages, according to Dutch police. He is suspected of importing into Europe cocaine and raw materials for the production of amphetamines.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.

More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 metric tons (330 tons) in 2022.

NY firefighter hailed for off-duty rescue in Connecticut

From the Associated Press

BROOKFIELD, Conn. (AP) — A suburban New York firefighter said that his instinct and training kicked in when he spotted a burning car on a Connecticut roadside this weekend and went on to rescue the injured driver.

Nicholas Perri Jr. was off-duty, driving home from work, and didn’t have firefighting gear when he saw the blazing vehicle on the side of Route 7 near Brookfield early Saturday morning. But he pulled over, ran to the fire and “did the best I could do,” he told NBC Connecticut.

“I used every ounce of muscle and adrenaline possible,” Perri told the news station in a story published Sunday.

He said he broke the front passenger-side window and was able to pull the driver through it after struggling a bit to free one of her legs, which was mangled.

“I said, ‘Listen, you have to work with me because we’re running out of time here,’” he told the news station.

Brookfield volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel arrived to find Perri guiding the driver to them. She was taken to a hospital.

Brookfield Fire Chief Andrew Ellis is convinced the woman would have died without Perri’s help.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” Ellis told NBC Connecticut.

5 officers charged after Black man paralyzed in police van

From the Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Five Connecticut police officers were charged with misdemeanors Monday over their treatment of a Black man after he was paralyzed from the chest down in the back of a police van.

FILE – In this image taken from police body camera video provided by New Haven Police, Richard “Randy” Cox, center, is pulled from the back of a police van and placed in a wheelchair after being detained by New Haven Police on June 19, 2022, in New Haven, Conn. Five Connecticut police officers were charged with misdemeanors Monday, Nov. 28, over their treatment of Cox after he was paralyzed from the chest down in the back of a police van. (New Haven Police via AP, File)

Randy Cox, 36, was being driven to a New Haven police station June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when the driver braked hard, apparently to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van, police said.

As Cox pleaded for help, saying he couldn’t move, some of the officers mocked him and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries. Then, the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.

The five New Haven police officers were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons.

The officers turned themselves in at a state police barracks Monday. Each was processed, posted a $25,000 bond and are due back in court Dec. 8, according to a news release from state police. Messages seeking comment were sent to attorneys for the officers.

The case has drawn outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.

Five officers were placed on administrative leave in Cox’s case. The state later dropped all charges against Cox that led to him being put in the van. They included illegal possession of a firearm and threatening.

New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.

UK police target spoofing site in massive fraud crackdown

By DANICA KIRKA from the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — More than 70,000 potential victims of banking scams across the U.K. will receive text messages from police on Thursday asking for their help in what authorities are calling their biggest ever anti-fraud operation.

British authorities have already arrested more than 100 people after taking down a website they described as an “international one-stop spoofing shop,” London’s Metropolitan Police Service said. Spoofing refers to fraudsters who disguise their phone numbers to make potential victims believe a call is coming from a trusted source such as their own bank.

Police are now contacting fraud victims who lost “tens of millions of pounds” to encourage them to report the crimes and help authorities prosecute thousands of suspected scammers who used the iSpoof website. One victim alone was conned out of 3.2 million pounds ($3.9 million), police said.

The campaign comes as authorities change their approach to combatting widespread electronic fraud, going after the individual scammers instead of simply shutting down websites like iSpoof that enable them, said Commissioner Mark Rowley, who heads London’s police service. Police in Britain are working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and authorities in Europe on the iSpoof investigation.

“The Met is targeting the criminals at the center of these illicit webs that cause misery for thousands,” Rowley said. “By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable victims.”

Fraudsters used iSpoof to disguise their phone numbers then posed as representatives of legitimate British banks, including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, Nationwide and TSB, police said.

In their effort to identify and prosecute the fraudsters, police allowed iSpoof to continue operating so they could infiltrate the site and gather information on its users.

The website was created in December of 2020 and had 59,000 user accounts, police said. Of 10 million fraudulent calls made through iSpoof, 40% were to numbers in the United States and 35% were in the U.K.

Because of the large number of potential suspects, police are focusing first on U.K. users who paid at least 100 pounds in Bitcoin to use iSpoof.

The suspected organizer of the website was arrested earlier this month in East London. He has been charged with a number of offenses and remains in custody, police said.

British authorities have forwarded information about other suspects to law enforcement agencies in The Netherlands, Australia, France and Ireland.

Bell stolen from Louisiana fire and police memorial

From the Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A bell has been stolen from a Louisiana memorial to firefighters and police which has also been vandalized several times this year, authorities said.

The memorial bell at the Shreveport Police and Fire Memorial was taken sometime between Monday and Wednesday, police said in a statement.

The memorial, maintained by the Rotary Club, has been spray painted and otherwise damaged several times this year, police said. Off-duty officers have helped clean up the damage.

A reward is being offered to recover the bell and arrest the people who took it.

Ringing a bell traditionally represents the end of an emergency call so first responders could return home.

Vehicle driven on Browns’ field; police investigating

By TOM WITHERS for the Associated Press

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns are working to repair damage to their field inside FirstEnergy Stadium ahead of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay after it was vandalized Monday night.

FILE – A general overall interior view of FirstEnergy Stadium during an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots on Oct. 16, 2022, in Cleveland. The Browns are working to repair damage caused to their turf field inside FirstEnergy Stadium ahead of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay after it was vandalized by a vehicle Monday, Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)

The team said it has provided information to Cleveland police, who are investigating.

At some point overnight, someone broke into the stadium and drove a vehicle onto the grass playing surface, causing “some superficial damage,” according to the team. Aerial TV footage showed looping tire tracks spanning half the field.

The Browns said the stadium’s grounds maintenance crew is repairing the surface.

“We take pride in the strong reviews and reputation of our stadium’s playing surface,” the Browns said in a statement. “We have been in touch with the NFL on the matter and are confident after repair our field will be ready for Sunday’s game vs. the Tampa Buccaneers.”

The Browns, who have lost six of seven games, have played at the lakefront stadium since their return as an expansion team in 1999.

Last week, the Browns’ game at Buffalo was moved to Detroit because of a blizzard that dumped more than 6 feet of snow on the Bills’ home field in Orchard Park, New York.

New Mexico police: Planned attack led to university shooting

From the Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico investigators say a University of New Mexico student conspired with two other students and a teenage girl to lure a visiting New Mexico State University basketball player onto campus, leading to a shootout that left the UNM student dead and the player wounded.

Law enforcement continue their investigation of a deadly overnight shooting at Coronado Hall on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

The investigation into the shooting early Saturday continued Monday, with New Mexico State Police confirming that they have arrested and charged the teen with aggravated battery and conspiracy, but that it was too early to say whether others would face charges.

Police identified Brandon Travis as the University of New Mexico student who was fatally shot and accused of planning the assault on Mike Peake, the starting power forward for the Aggies basketball team. Police have identified the other two students, but their names have not been released.

The shooting in Albuquerque happened hours before the scheduled tipoff of a basketball game between the rival schools that was later postponed. It was not clear if the game would be rescheduled. The two teams already were set to face off in Las Cruces on Dec. 3.

New Mexico State Police said an altercation between Travis, 19, and Peake led to the shooting. They said Travis had plotted with his friends “to lure the 21-year-old victim to UNM campus and assault him.” How and why the two first crossed paths remained unclear.

“Once at the campus, Travis, armed with a firearm, confronted and shot the victim. The victim, who also had a firearm, shot Travis,” authorities said in a statement issued Sunday.

The teen girl and Travis’ friends fled the scene outside a dormitory at UNM’s Albuquerque campus.

Peake was listed in stable condition at a hospital.

New Mexico State University officials confirmed Monday that the player was Peake, a Chicago native who spent most of high school playing in Kansas before signing with Georgia and then transferring to Austin Peay State University. He came to NMSU for the 2021-22 season.

New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan E. Arvizu said in a statement it was important that “no one rush to judgment until all the facts are made available.”

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes said the university community was shaken by the shooting, calling it a “tragedy on so many levels.”

The shooting came six days after a former University of Virginia football player allegedly killed three Cavaliers football players and wounded two other students on the Charlottesville campus before being arrested.

Police: Gunman kills 5 at gay club, is subdued by patrons

By THOMAS PEIPERT and JESSE BEDAYN for the Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle inside a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and leaving 25 injured before he was subdued by “heroic” patrons and arrested by police who arrived within minutes, authorities said Sunday.

Tyrice Kelley, center right, a performer at Club Q, is comforted during a service held at All Souls Unitarian Church following an overnight fatal shooting at the gay nightclub, in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP)

The suspect in the Saturday night shooting at Club Q used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon, a law enforcement official said. A handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered, according to the official, who could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The attack ended when a patron grabbed a handgun from the suspect and hit him with it, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Associated Press. The person who hit the gunman had him pinned down when police arrived, Suthers said.

“Had that individual not intervened this could have been exponentially more tragic,” Suthers said.

On its Facebook page, the club called it a “hate attack.” Investigators were still determining a motive and whether to prosecute it as a hate crime, said El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen. Charges against the suspect will likely include first-degree murder, he said.

Police identified the alleged gunman as Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was in custody and being treated for injuries.

Aldrich was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons, authorities said. They declined to elaborate on that arrest. No explosives were found, authorities said at the time, and The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported that prosecutors did not pursue any charges and that records were sealed.

Of the 25 injured, at least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of the victims were shot, a police spokesperson said.

Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that all of those hospitalized would recover.

The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

It was the sixth mass killing this month and came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Authorities were called to Club Q at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with a report of a shooting, and the first officer arrived at midnight.

Joshua Thurman said he was in the club with about two dozen other people and was dancing when the shots began. He initially thought it was part of the music, until he heard another shot and said he saw the flash of a gun muzzle.

Thurman, 34, said he ran with another person to a dressing room where someone already was hiding. They locked the door, turned off the lights and got on the floor but could hear the violence unfolding, including the gunman getting beaten up, he added.

“I could have lost my life — over what? What was the purpose?” he said as tears ran down his cheeks. “We were just enjoying ourselves. We weren’t out harming anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home, enjoying ourselves like everybody else does.”

Detectives also were examining whether anyone had helped Aldrich before the attack, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said. He said patrons who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and owed a debt of gratitude for preventing more deaths.

Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a drag show on Saturdays, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday all-ages drag brunch.

Suthers noted that the club had operated for 21 years and had not reported any threats before Saturday’s attack.

Drag events have become a focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests recently as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them, falsely claiming they’re used to “groom” children.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting and the FBI was assisting police with the investigation.

To substantiate a hate-crime charge against Aldrich, prosecutors would have to prove he was motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. So far, the suspect has not been cooperative in interviews with investigators and has not given them clear insight yet about the motivation for the attack, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings was not yet clear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subjected to horrific hate violence in recent years.”

“Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected governor in 2018, called the shooting “sickening.”

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said. “Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn.”

A makeshift memorial sprang up Sunday near the club, with flowers, a stuffed animal and candles and a sign saying “Love over hate” next to a rainbow-colored heart.

Seth Stang was buying flowers for the memorial when he was told that two of the dead were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man said it was like having “a bucket of hot water getting dumped on you. … I’m just tired of running out of places where we can exist safely.”

Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it was one of only two nightspots for the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs. “It’s kind of the go-to for pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club, which is tucked behind other businesses, including a bowling alley and a sandwich shop.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 located 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Denver, is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against LGBTQ rights. The group condemned the shooting and said it “exposes the evil and wickedness inside the human heart.”

In November 2015, three people were killed and eight wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when authorities say a gunman targeted the clinic because it performed abortions.

“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on Facebook. “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”

The CEO of a national LGBTQ-rights organization, Kevin Jennings of Lambda Legal, pleaded for tighter restrictions on guns.

“America’s toxic mix of bigotry and absurdly easy access to firearms means that such events are all too common and LGBTQ+ people, BIPOC communities, the Jewish community and other vulnerable populations pay the price again and again for our political leadership’s failure to act,” he said in a statement.

The shooting came during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Sunday’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.

In June, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and charged with conspiracy to riot at a Pride event. Experts warned that extremist groups could see anti-gay rhetoric as a call to action.

The previous month, a fundamentalist Idaho pastor told his small Boise congregation that gay, lesbian and transgender people should be executed by the government, which lined up with similar sermons from a Texas fundamentalist pastor.

Since 2006, there have been 523 mass killings and 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.


Bedayn is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


Associated Press reporters Colleen Slevin in Denver, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed.

Indonesian quake kills at least 162 and injures hundreds

By FIRMAN TAUFIQ and EDNA TARIGAN from the Associated Press

CIANJUR, Indonesia (AP) — A powerful earthquake killed at least 162 people and injured hundreds on Indonesia’s main island on Monday. Terrified residents fled into the street, some covered in blood and debris.

Earthquake survivors are treated outside of a hospital in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. An earthquake shook Indonesia’s main island of Java on Monday damaging dozens of buildings and sending residents into the capital’s streets for safety. (AP Photo/Kholid)

Many of the dead were public-school students who had finished their classes for the day and were taking extra lessons at Islamic schools when they collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said as he announced the latest death toll in the remote, rural area.

Hospitals were overwhelmed by injured people, and the toll was expected to rise further. No estimates were immediately available because of the area’s far-flung, rural population, but many structures collapsed, and residents and emergency workers braced for grim news.

“Buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighboring district.

Roughly 175,000 people live in the town of Cianjur, part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2.5 million people. Known for their piety, the people of Cianjur live mostly in towns of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller homes in the surrounding countryside.

Kamil said that more than 13,000 people whose homes were heavily damaged were taken to evacuation centers.

Emergency workers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside hospitals, on terraces and in parking lots in the Cianjur region, about three hours drive from the capital, Java. The injured, including children, were given oxygen masks and IV lines. Some were resuscitated.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Cianjur regional hospital building, waiting for treatment

“I was working inside my office building. The building was not damaged, but as the quake shook very strongly, many things fell. My leg was hit by heavy stuff,” Sarmadi said.

Sarmadi was waiting near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics were unable to see him. Many people were coming in worse shape.

“I really hope they can handle me soon,” he said.

Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, uses one name, is also one of the survivors that is being taken to the hospital.

“I fainted. It was very strong,” said Hasan.

“I saw my friends running to escape from the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.”

Residents, some crying and holding their children, fled damaged homes after the magnitude 5.6 quake shook the region in West Java province in the late afternoon, at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.

In many homes in Cianjur, chunks of concrete and roof tiles fell inside bedrooms.

Shopkeeper Dewi Risma was working with customers when the quake hit, and she ran for the exit.

“The vehicles on the road stopped because the quake was very strong,” she said. “I felt it shook three times, but the first one was the strongest one for around 10 seconds. The roof of the shop next to the store I work in had collapsed, and people said two had been hit.”

Twenty-five people were still stuck buried in the debris in Cijedil village, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said earlier in the day.

Several landslides closed roads around the Cianjur district. Among the dozens of buildings that were damaged was a hospital, the agency said. Power outages were reported.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency recorded at least 25 aftershocks.

“The quake felt so strong. My colleagues and I decided to get out of our office on the ninth floor using the emergency stairs,” said Vidi Primadhania, a worked in the capital, where many residents ran into the streets and others hid under desks.

The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Aetrex’s Albert 2 Pro and Orthotics Help Denver Fire Department Reduce Injuries, Improve Comfort and Performance

From the Associated Press – PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from Business Wire


Aetrex, Inc. (“Aetrex”), the global market leader in foot scanning technology, orthotics and comfort & wellness footwear, today announced the implementation of its Albert 2 Pro 3D foot scanning technology in the Denver Fire Department (DFD). The foot scanning system is a key component of its firefighters’ wellness and fitness program, developed in February 2021 to provide firefighters with a holistic approach to performance health. In addition to scanning feet, the program includes fitness and medical exams, movement and asymmetry analysis, aerobic capacity measurement, and other physical and mental health evaluations.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20221115005052/en/

Most safety footwear available to firefighters today does not offer the comfort, support and alignment needed for proper foot health. Armed with the knowledge that a large part of physical health and injury prevention begins with one’s feet, the DFD began searching for a simple foot scanning solution in 2021 and decided to purchase the Albert 2 Pro in May 2022 to gain holistic insight into the footwear needs of the department’s 1,000+ firefighters.

“Compared to other foot scanning technologies on the market, Aetrex’s Albert 2 Pro stood out for its tailored orthotic recommendations, ease of use and scalability for the needs of our team. We were also drawn to the dual static and dynamic scan capability,” said Eric Tade, Assistant Chief of the Fire Department.

The scanner has proven to be an important, seamless addition to their program. “The interactive, visual education component of an Albert 2 Pro foot scan allows our firefighters to open up about any foot pain or related issues they are experiencing. We use the scanner’s built-in Learning Center program to educate firefighters on common foot pain sources and how orthotics can help,” said Tade.

As one of the nation’s first fire departments to hire a full-time physical therapist, the team has consulted with their in-house physical therapists and leveraged foot scans to offer firefighters personalized foot health solutions. Aetrex Orthotics, including 3D-printed custom orthotics, are recommended to each firefighter based on their unique needs and are funded through the DFD’s charitable foundation. Foot scan findings have shown plantar fasciitis to be the most common ailment among firefighters, while many experience knee and hip issues related to stability concerns.

The DFD’s wildland team, which deploys in the Alaskan wilderness for 2-3 weeks at a time, has benefitted the most from the integration of Aetrex’s products. After weeks on their feet in uneven terrain, using custom Aetrex Orthotics recommended by the scanner, wildland firefighters have reported faster recovery, fewer injuries and improved performance.

“Lack of proper foot support is a common problem among frontline and service workers of all kinds. We’re thrilled our foot scanning technology and orthotics are providing a personalized level of comfort and support to each of the Denver Firefighters, especially in their line of work where staying healthy on their feet is vital to their lives and others,” said Larry Schwartz, CEO at Aetrex, Inc.

Following the success of the Albert 2 Pro’s introduction into the fire department’s wellness program, the City of Denver plans to supply Aetrex’s scanner and orthotics to the sheriff’s department, beginning with scans for several hundred sheriffs this winter.

To learn more about Aetrex’s technology suite and footwear, please visit www.aetrex.com.

About Aetrex
Aetrex, Inc. is widely recognized as a global leader in foot scanning technology, orthotics and comfort and wellness footwear. Aetrex has developed state-of-the-art foot scanning devices, including Albert, Albert 2 Pro, a CES 2022 Innovation Award Honoree, 3D Fit and iStep, designed to accurately measure feet and determine foot type and pressure points. Since 2002, Aetrex has placed over 10,000 scanners worldwide that have performed more than 40 million unique customer foot scans, currently averaging more than 2.5 million scans a year.

The company is renowned for its over-the-counter orthotics – the worlds #1 premium foot orthotic. With fashion, function and quality at the forefront, Aetrex also designs and manufactures stylish, performance footwear. Based in New Jersey, Aetrex is consistently named one of New Jersey’s Top 100 Privately Held Companies and was also included in NJBIZ’s Top 30 Manufacturing Companies. It has remained privately owned by the Schwartz family for three generations. For additional information, visit www.aetrex.com.

Justice Dept begins probe of Massachusetts police department

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced an investigation into whether the police department in Massachusetts’ second-largest city routinely uses excessive force or discriminates against residents based on race or gender.

The civil investigation into the Worcester Police Department will review how the agency addresses misconduct complaints and discipline; review department policies, procedures and training; and evaluate how officers interact with the public, collect evidence, and complete investigations, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said in a statement.

“Based on information provided to the Justice Department, we find significant justification to investigate whether the Worcester Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of racially discriminatory and gender-biased policing, and uses excessive force,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

The “majority of Worcester’s officers do their jobs with honor, pride, restraint and distinction,” said U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins, but she added that the investigation’s “ultimate goal is to ensure that policing in Worcester is constitutional, safe, and effective all while the civil rights of their residents remain intact”

City leaders pledged full cooperation with the investigation.

“The city and Worcester Police Department collectively strive to deliver the highest quality of municipal services to residents and will continue to do so in a transparent and professional manner as the investigation takes its course,” police Chief Steven Sargent, Mayor Joseph Petty and acting City Manager Eric Batista said in a statement.

Worcester has roughly 200,000 residents and is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Boston. More than 23% of its population is Latino or Hispanic, and 13% is Black or African American, according to Census Bureau statistics.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law, federal prosecutors said.

The Justice Department conducted a similar investigation of the Springfield Police Department that was settled earlier this year with a consent decree.

The U.S. attorney’s office did not point to any specific incidents that spurred the investigation, but in April, a Black man sued the city and five officers saying he was wrongfully charged with murder based on his race and what his attorneys called fabricated evidence.

Wrong way vehicle hit 22 LA County sheriff’s recruits on run

From the Associated Press

WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — A vehicle that struck 22 Los Angeles County sheriff’s recruits on a training run around dawn Wednesday, critically injuring at least five of them, was traveling on the wrong side of the road just before the crash, authorities said.

Two investigators stand next to a mangled SUV that struck Los Angeles County sheriff’s recruits in Whittier, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. The vehicle struck several Los Angeles County sheriff’s recruits on a training run around dawn Wednesday, some were critically injured, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A total of 23 people were injured, including the driver, said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Sheila Kelliher.

In addition to the five who were critically injured, there were four with moderate injuries and 14 with minor injuries. The driver was among those with minor injuries, she said.

“I am personally heart sick,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, adding that she was focusing on the cadets who were injured to pull through this.

The crash occurred just before 6:30 a.m. in suburban Whittier, where a training academy is located.

California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Charlie Sampson said about 75 recruits were running in formation northbound in the street when the southbound vehicle veered into the opposing lane and struck the victims.

Sampson identified the driver a 22-year-old man from suburban Diamond Bar but withheld his name.

Sampson said the driver was cooperating with investigators. All possibilities, ranging from an intentional act to impaired driving, will be investigated, he said. Sampson said he did not have results of a field sobriety test.

TV news helicopter broadcasts showed a large response of firefighters and ambulances, an SUV with severe front-end damage straddling a toppled pole on a sidewalk, as well as numerous individuals nearby in uniform workout clothes. Close by was also a 25 mph (40 kph) speed limit sign.

Running shoes and a backpack were strewn around the scene.

“Our hearts are with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s recruits injured this morning while training to serve their communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Jennifer and I send our best wishes for their recovery and stand with their loved ones and colleagues at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during this difficult time.”

Haitian police briefly lose control of armored car

By EVENS SANON AND MEGAN JANETSKY from the Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Just weeks after the United States and Canada sent a fleet of armored vehicles to Haiti to keep gangs at bay, Haitian police briefly lost control of one of the cars in an incident that left at least two people dead, officials said.

Police officers in an armored vehicle patrol the Varreux fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Authorities seemed to have gained control of the key fuel terminal a day after a powerful gang leader announced that he was lifting a blockade that has strangled Haiti’s capital for nearly two months. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The incident speaks to the difficult path ahead for the Caribbean country paralyzed by gang warfare and struggling with its worst crisis in years.

A police station in the south of Haiti was overtaken by gangs Thursday morning, police said in a local radio broadcast. When authorities sent reinforcements in armored vehicles to control the gangs, police claim one of the vehicles broke down.

But officials within Haiti with direct knowledge of the situation said the car got caught in a sand trap and was assaulted by minors wielding Molotov cocktails, said Renata Segura, deputy director of Latin America and Caribbean for International Crisis Group.

Segura, who tracks Haiti for the nongovernmental organization that tries to prevent or resolve conflict, said she was not authorized to reveal the identity of the official.

Police fled the vehicle in an attempt to avoid an armed conflict, she said, and a video confirmed by The Associated Press shows young men surrounding the tan vehicle labeled “POLICE” while firing automatic weapons in the air, cheering and recording video on their phones.

The armored vehicle was part of a fleet sent by the U.S. and Canada last month after being purchased by Haitian officials for an unconfirmed amount. It was part of an effort by the two countries that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said would help “cut the insecurity knot” that has allowed gangs to create a humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Police eventually regained control of the vehicle and the police station later in the day, but it ended in two alleged gang members dead and two police officers shot.

The incident comes a few days after the country’s biggest gang and its leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer nicknamed “Barbecue,” lifted a blockade of the country’s main fuel depot in Port-au-Prince.

The blockade deepened turmoil in Haiti, which has been reeling since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The chaos has spurred on a huge migratory exodus from the island.

Firefighters put out fire in Baghdad international airport

From the Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — Firefighters at Baghdad’s international airport on Tuesday put out a fire that broke out in its departure hall that temporarily suspended flights.

According to Iraqi state media, citing Iraq’s civil defense directorate, the fire broke out in a cafeteria kitchen, causing plumes of smoke to spread across the airport, as some passengers looked on from a distance.

Firefighters were able to put out the fire in minutes. Flights have since resumed.

Three airport workers with breathing issues were treated after inhaling the smoke, while no deaths were reported.

In January, six rockets struck Baghdad’s international airport facility, damaging two commercial planes but causing no casualties.

West Virginia State Police receive $285K for Forensic Lab

From the Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia State Police are receiving more than $285,000 to improve and advance the agency’s Forensic Lab through education and training.

The funds from the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program are provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Assistance. The grant is administered by the Justice and Community Services Section of the West Virginia Division of Administrative Services.

The award will provide continued education to forensic analysts through specialized training and improve the quality of state police Forensic Lab services, according to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice’s office.

California storm tapers off after drenching rain, heavy snow

From the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A drenched California emerged Wednesday from a powerful multiday storm that unleashed rain, snow and raging floodwaters, leaving one person dead and four others missing.

Passing storm clouds move over Castaic Lake in Castaic, Calif. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. A powerful storm pounded California with rain and snow Tuesday, leaving one person dead and two others missing after they were swept away by floodwaters in a canal, while a tornado touched down in Sacramento County. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Lingering showers, mountain snow and gusty winds were tapering off, and the National Weather Service issued overnight frost and freeze advisories due to the cold airmass behind the storm.

The tempest unleashed heavy downpours Tuesday in Southern California, where one person was found dead after runoff surging down a creek channel swept 10 people away in the city of Ontario. Five were rescued and firefighters were searching for four others, Fire Chief Ray Gayk said Wednesday.

“As far as we know, there were homeless people in the storm drains and that’s when they got washed away by the surge of water and they ended up in the actual storm drain system,” Gayk told the Los Angeles Times.

A tornado touched down a few miles outside the town of Galt near Sacramento at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. No major damage was reported.

The storm continued to affect travel Wednesday on highways through the Sierra Nevada after heavy snow and whiteout conditions. Chain controls remained in effect and big rigs were restricted altogether on some sections of routes through the towering mountain range.

In the southern Sierra, a helicopter crew retrieved the body of a hiker found on a mountain pass, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday. The body was discovered Saturday after an earlier storm swept through the area last week.

The potent fall storms are a promising start to California’s wet season, although experts say it will take much more precipitation to reverse the impacts of the state’s historic drought.

UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab reported that this week’s storm dropped 34.3 inches (87 centimeters) of snow by Wednesday, and that the the eight-day total was 54 inches (130.5 cm).

Among Lake Tahoe snow sport resorts, Mt. Rose and Boreal announced plans to open for the season on Friday. The Eastern Sierra resort of Mammoth Mountain, which opened last weekend, reported totals from the departing storm ranged from 49-70 inches (124-178 cm).

Annual snowfall in the Sierra normally provides about a third of the state’s water when it melts. Last year, however, California had powerful storms in October and December but experienced its driest January through April on record.

Militia leader who pointed rifle at police sentenced

From the Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The leader of a pro-gun group who was convicted of pointing a rifle at law enforcement while in Kentucky for a demonstration has been sentenced to seven years and two months in prison, officials said.

The sentence for John F. Johnson, 59, of Cincinnati, who goes by “Grandmaster Jay,” was announced Wednesday in a joint statement from U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett, FBI Special Agent Jodi Cohen and Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields.

A federal jury convicted Johnson in May on charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement and brandishing a firearm during racial justice protests two years ago. Court documents and evidence presented during the trial said Johnson pointed an AR-15 platform rifle and tactical flashlight at two federally deputized officers on a roof in downtown Louisville. The alleged incident occurred the day before the Kentucky Derby, when hundreds of protesters peacefully marched to demand justice in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police.

Johnson’s group has often demonstrated against white supremacy and police violence.

Washington police chief fired, commander on leave amid probe

From the Associated Press

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A police chief in central Washington has been fired and a police commander placed on leave amid an investigation.

Sunnyside City Manager Elizabeth Alba said Monday that Sunnyside Police Chief Albert Escalera was fired, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Alba cited crime, shootings by police and reports of misconduct from within the department as reasons for firing Escalera, who served as chief for the past eight years.

“I have not come to this decision lightly, but ultimately believe my decision best serves the interests of the police department, the city as a whole, and the community of Sunnyside,” Alba wrote.

Alba said trust and cohesion between her and the police chief were lacking.

Attempts by the newspaper to reach Escalera for comment were not immediately successful.

Cmdr. Scott Bailey was also placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into alleged misconduct. Alba said Bailey’s leave is not disciplinary in nature.

TSA: Handgun found inside raw chicken in luggage at airport

From the Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Security officers at a South Florida airport have reported finding a handgun hidden inside a raw chicken packed in a traveler’s luggage.

The Transportation Security Administration posted photos of the gun and poultry Monday on its official Instagram account. The weapon was recovered at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The post didn’t identify the traveler who was transporting the weapon or whether any arrests were made.

According to the TSA, fresh meat, seafood and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags, as long as they are packed in ice. Unloaded firearms are allowed to be transported in checked bags, but they must be declared at the ticket counter and packed in a locked hard-sided container.

Police detain man after eggs thrown at King Charles III

From the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — A 23-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after hurling eggs and vitriol at King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, as they walked in the northern England city of York.

A protester, top left, throws eggs at King Charles III, right, and the Queen Consort, left, as they arrive for a ceremony at Micklegate Bar, where the Sovereign is traditionally welcomed to the city, in York, England, Wednesday Nov. 9, 2022. (Jacob King/PA via AP)

The incident happened as the king and his wife were entering York through Micklegate Bar, a medieval gateway where monarchs are traditionally welcomed to the city.

Video footage showed several eggs in motion and smashed on the ground. None appeared to hit the royal couple, who continued to be greeted by local dignitaries and to meet assembled well-wishers.

Several police officers could be seen grappling with a man at a crowd barrier. Britain’s PA news agency reported that the protester booed and shouted “This country was built on the blood of slaves” as he was being detained.

Other members of the crowd tried to drown him out by chanting “Shame on you” and “God save the King.”

North Yorkshire Police said a 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a public order offense and was being held in custody.

Charles and Camilla traveled to York as part of a series of engagements around the U.K. marking the start of the new king’s reign. They attended a service at the city’s cathedral, York Minster, and unveiled a statue of the king’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September after 70 years on the throne.

Canadian man in custody after allegedly killing Mexican cop

From the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Canadian man was in custody after allegedly shooting and killing a police officer responding to a call in the Mexican resort town of Tulum, prosecutors said Tuesday.

On Monday, police in Tulum had responded to a report of a man firing at a car, according to the Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s offfice. When they arrived in the community of Francisco Hu May, a man fired at them, striking one officer who died later.

The shooter, identified only as “Patrick C” in line with Mexican law enforcement policy, then entered his home and set fire to it before running back out. The man was shot by police in the leg and hospitalized in Playa del Carmen.

Quintana Roo’s state security agency also confirmed the police officer’s death.

Neighborhoods evacuated near burning Georgia chemical plant

By RUSS BYNUM for the Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A large fire burned Monday inside a chemical plant on the coast of Georgia, where authorities ordered about 100 nearby homes to evacuate because of threats from toxic smoke and potential explosions.

Members with the Waynesville Fire and Rescue Department take a break from battling large fire that burned inside a chemical plant on the coast of Georgia, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Brunswick, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Emergency responders safely evacuated a small handful of employees working when the fire broke out at about 4 a.m. Monday at the plant outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia, said fire Capt. Eric Prosswimmer, who was on the scene with fire crews from Jacksonville, Florida, sent to help battle the flames.

The fire sent a large plume of thick smoke into the air from the plant, located located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Savannah.

As a precaution, local emergency officials ordered neighborhoods within a 1-mile (1.6 kilomter) radius of the plant to evacuate. People within a 3-mile (5-kilomter) radius were told to shelter in place.

Wayne Neal, chairman of Glynn County’s elected Board of Commissioners, estimated roughly 100 households had been told to evacuate. Sheriff’s deputies were using patrol cars to block entrances to affected neighborhoods.

Smoke from the plant had largely died down by late morning. But fire still burned inside, Prosswimmer said, and changing winds could stir up more smoke. Hazardous materials crews were working to survey the threats to determine whether evacuations should cover a larger area.

“We will evacuate more than we need to evacuate,” Prosswimmer told a news conference. “I know it’s a big inconvenience to the people, but it’s the right thing to do for health and safety reasons.”

Officials said they were mostly concerned about hazards posed by smoke drifting into populated areas. There had also been explosions at the site.

Prosswimmer said heat from the fire had caused three metal tanks containing chemicals to explode. Fighting the blaze was further complicated when firefighters depleted more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million litres) of water stored in tanks on the site.

Prosswimmer said firefighters had backed away from the fire to await the arrival of tankers carrying more water to the scene.

“We’re going to take very calculated, slow steps at this and make sure no one’s in jeopardy,” Prosswimmer said, adding: “Right now we’re staged way far back from it and some of it’s just being allowed to burn.”

He said one firefighter suffering from exhaustion had been taken to a hospital and was in stable condition. There were no other injuries.

The plant is operated by Symrise, a German company that produces fragrances, flavoring and other ingredients for foods and cosmetics. The Georgia plant manufactures fragrance ingredients used in perfumes, detergents and household cleaners, said Smyrise spokesperson Christina Witter.

The company said in a statement Monday the cause of the fire was not known.

“Currently, Symrise has no reason to believe that the fire will cause additional health hazards to the local community,” Symrise’s statement said. “Symrise will closely cooperate and support local authorities in analyzing the causes for the fire as soon as the authorities allow return to the area.”

Prosswimmer said an investigation would be conducted after the fire was extinguished.


An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling of Capt. Eric Prosswimmer’s last name.

Arson probed after major Los Angeles blaze and smaller fires

From the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A raging fire destroyed a vacant commercial building in Los Angeles early Wednesday and numerous other small fires broke out in the same area, triggering an arson investigation in which one person was detained, authorities said.

Flames lit up the sky before dawn in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley as fire spread through a former restaurant, blanketing the neighborhood with smoke.

More than 100 firefighters battled the flames. Some perched high on ladders to direct streams of water into the building. The Los Angeles Fire Department also deployed its robot firefighting vehicle into the building, fire department spokesperson Nicholas Prange said.

The building sustained heavy damage and substantially collapsed, but no injuries were reported, he said.

Approximately eight other small blazes, including a car fire and rubbish fires, broke out in the same area within the span of an hour, Prange said.

All of the fires were being investigated by LAFD arson investigators but there was no immediate evidence connecting the blazes, he said.

The arson team was working with police and a “person of interest” was detained for questioning, Prange said. There was no additional information about that person.

The building that burned was the original Lamplighter Family Restaurant, a staple of the eastern San Fernando Valley for many years until it closed in 2006.

Police chief in Virginia capital city resigns amid scrutiny

From the Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The police chief in Virginia’s capital city resigned Tuesday after months of scrutiny for comments he made about an alleged shooting plot.

Gerald Smith resigned Tuesday afternoon and will be on administrative leave through Dec. 31, according to a statement released by a spokeswoman for the city of Richmond. Smith, who served as chief for two and a half years, said at a July 6 news conference that two men had planned a shooting at a Fourth of July fireworks show at the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch later reported that records obtained through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act showed that Smith was informed in writing before his news conference that the location of any potential incident was not known. Neither person who was charged in the case is accused of planning a mass shooting.

Acting police Major Richard Edwards has been temporarily appointed as police chief while officials conduct a nationwide search for Smith’s replacement.

Smith’s July 6 news conference came two days after seven people were killed in an Independence Day parade shooting in Illinois. Smith said a “hero citizen” had contacted police after overhearing a conversation indicating that an attack was being planned on an Independence Day celebration in Richmond.

Two suspects, both Guatemalan immigrants, were charged in state court with possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen. Those charges were dropped after charges against the men were filed in federal court. Federal prosecutors charged one man with possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen. The other man was charged with entering the United States illegally.

Smith was named police chief in July 2020 after previously serving as deputy chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina.


This story was first published on October 25, 2022. It was updated on October 26, 2022, to correct that Smith previously served as deputy chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police department, rather than its chief.

Press Release: Sequim Police Department Announces New Partnership with LensLock Body-Worn Cameras

From Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, CA, UNITED STATES, October 25, 2022/ EINPresswire.com / — After testing 5 vendors, Sequim Police Department Chief Sheri Crain and the city council agreed to a 5-year contract with LensLock, Inc. Each of Sequim PD’s 20 officers will receive a LensLock body-worn camera this month. Additionally, LensLock’s in-car video cameras will be installed in all SPD vehicles to capture feeds of the front and backseat of the patrol car. This rollout for the dash cameras is expected to complete by the end of the year.

The criteria for selection of LensLock, Inc. included the cameras and software programs’ ease of use, redaction abilities, and more. Sequim gathered over one month of testing data and feedback from their officers and civilian staff.

“Part of the decision was for ease of redaction,” Crain said, as people in private and/or public spaces may need to be blurred out for various legal reasons.

Police staff said they interviewed 12 other agencies in the northwest using LensLock, Inc. and that the company’s products received good reviews. LensLock supplies police and sheriff departments on a national basis and prides itself on best-in-class customer service.

About LensLock, Inc.
LensLock, Inc. is a privately held, law enforcement technology company specializing in body-worn and in-car dash cameras. As a Microsoft Azure Government Cloud partner, LensLock’s secure video cloud management solution is FBI CJIS-compliant, reliable, user-friendly, and affordable.

LensLock’s mission is to make the lives of law enforcement officers easier and safer. LensLock builds innovative, cost-effective technology solutions specifically designed for law enforcement agencies, and delivers best-in-class service each and every day.

Mississippi investigates spate of police shootings

From the Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss (AP) — State investigators in Mississippi are probing at least five police shootings that occurred in October. The shootings took place across the state and have resulted in multiple injuries and at least three deaths.

The latest shooting happened on Sunday and resulted in the death of a person in northeast Mississippi. Witnesses attending a family member’s visitation at a funeral home near the shooting told WLBT-TV they heard a car crash outside and an exchange of gunfire. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has not identified the person who died.

On Friday in southeast Mississippi, a 58-year-old man was taken to a hospital for treatment after he was shot by a deputy, according to WLOX-TV. The man was in stable condition at the hospital. The sheriff’s department had been responding to a domestic disturbance, the news station reported.

In the north Mississippi college town of Oxford on Oct. 19, deputies shot and killed a man who took a woman and her two teenage children hostage, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department said. The woman and teens survived the incident.

Another man was shot at a seafood restaurant in the Memphis suburb of Southaven, though it was not immediately clear how police were connected to the shooting. The fatal shooting of a Black teenager on Oct. 6 on the opposite end of the state sparked protests in Gulfport.

Jaheim McMillan, 15, died days after Gulfport police shot him in the head outside a discount store. Gulfport police said in a news release that the shooting occurred after they responded to a 911 call about several minors waving guns at other motorists.

The high school freshman died after he was taken off life support at a hospital in Alabama. McMillan’s family doesn’t believe he was armed, and their supporters are calling for the release of body camera footage of the shooting. Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell has said the footage will be released after the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation completes its work.

MBI is examining all of the shootings and will share its findings with the state attorney general’s office. MBI investigates all police shootings in the state, and the attorney general’s office is in charge of any prosecutions.

On Monday, the attorney general’s office said it found that a Mississippi deputy was justified in the fatal shooting of a man in July. The attorney general’s office made its decision following an MBI investigation.

Officials vow more police patrols to curb NYC subway crime

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City and state officials on Saturday announced new efforts to curb violence and other crimes on the city’s subway system, including increased police patrols, cameras and mental health help for those in need.

Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, and other officials disclosed the new measures in the wake of more disturbing attacks in the system, including the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy on an A train in Queens earlier this month and the death of a man pushed in front of another Queens train during a dispute on Monday.

Adams said that while crime in the city is down 4% since 2019, and down 17% from 10 years ago, many in the public don’t feel safer. He said the new efforts complement the subway safety plan he announced at the beginning of the year.

“We can give you stats all day,” he said. “The question is, how do New Yorkers feel? We must match the actual impacts with how New Yorkers feel on the streets and in the subway system.”

Adams and Hochul said police with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be taking primary responsibility for patrolling subway stations adjacent and linked to the four major commuter rail hubs — Penn Station and Grand Central Station in Manhattan, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Sutphin-Archer Station in Queens. That will free up about 100 New York Police Department officers and allow for increased patrols at additional subway stations, they said.

Hochul said the state will provide funds for additional police overtime pay. The New York Police Department plans to increase the police presence in the subway system by adding 1,200 overtime shifts per day, or about 10,000 overtime hours daily.

The officials said that will allow NYPD officers to patrol platforms in at least 300 stations during peak hours and transit officers to ride hundreds of additional trains per day, also during peak hours.

Hochul said the state also will help to open two new units at psychiatric care centers, with 50 total beds, to help people on the streets and in the subway system who are experiencing homelessness and severe mental illness.

The MTA also will have conductors announce to riders when they are entering stations with police officers present.

Patrick Lynch, president of the City of New York Police Benevolent Association, the union representing rank-and-file officers, in a statement Saturday called the plan to add overtime shifts “unsustainable.”

“We have 12.45% fewer rank-and-file cops permanently assigned to the subways than we did in 2020,” he said. “The increased workload is crushing the cops who remain. The answer is not to squeeze them for more forced OT. Our city must immediately boost pay and improve working conditions in order to recruit and retain enough police officers.”

Last month, Hochul announced that the MTA had received about $5.5 million in state and federal funding to purchase and install security cameras on all of the city’s nearly 6,400 subway cars. The installation is expected to be completed sometime in 2025. The subway system already has more than 10,000 existing security cameras in its 472 stations.

Louisiana police department names its 1st woman chief

From the Associated Press

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A police department in southwest Louisiana has named its first woman to lead the law enforcement agency.

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory has selected Capt. Judith Estorge to be the Lafayette Police Department’s new permanent chief, The Advocate reported.

Estorge joined the police department in 1993 and has climbed the department ranks, working as a patrol officer, traffic motor officer, detective, precinct sergeant and watch commander. She commands a precinct covering northeast Lafayette. She’s responsible for overseeing 25 patrol officers, four sergeants, a lieutenant and administrative assistant, Lafayette Consolidated Government said in a statement.

“I am proud to serve our community and the officers of the Lafayette Police Department, and I thank Mayor-President Josh Guillory and the selection committees for entrusting me with the responsibility of protecting and serving the citizens of Lafayette,” Estorge said in the statement.

Estorge, a Lafayette native, assumes the new post Nov. 1.

Estorge’s appointment follows 2 1/2 years of leadership upheaval at the department.

Chief Toby Aguillard resigned under pressure the day Guillory took office in January 2020. Scott Morgan served as the interim chief for a year until Thomas Glover, retired from the Dallas Police Department, was selected for the top role. Glover was fired Oct. 7, 2021, after 10 months on the job. He has appealed his termination.

Sgt. Wayne Griffin, who was then named interim chief, was put on leave Oct. 21, 2021 after a sexual harassment complaint was filed. Griffin was later demoted, then terminated in January for lying during that investigation. His termination was successfully appealed on Oct. 5 and he was restored to the police force as a sergeant.

Interim Chief Monte Potier has led the department for a year.

Guillory said he’s confident that Estorge “will bring all of the qualities necessary to lead the LPD as their next Chief. Her nearly 30 years of experience and the respect she has earned from those on the force make her ideal to lead the department moving forward.”

Thousands gather at funeral for 2 Connecticut officers

By DAVE COLLINS for the Associated Press

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Thousands of police officers from around the country gathered in a football stadium in Connecticut on Friday for a joint funeral for two officers who were shot to death in an apparent ambush.

This combo of images provided by the Connecticut State Police, show, from left, Bristol, Conn. Police Department Sgt. Dustin Demonte, Officer Alex Hamzy and Officer Alec Iurato. Authorities said Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, they believe that police officers Demonte and Hamzy, who were shot dead in Connecticut, had been drawn into an ambush by a 911 call about possible domestic violence. A third officer, Alec Iurato, was wounded but expected to recover. (Connecticut State Police via AP)

The service for Bristol officers Dustin DeMonte and Alex Hamzy was set to be held at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field — the University of Connecticut’s 40,000-seat stadium in East Hartford. Major highway closures were announced for the processions of the two officers from funeral homes to the stadium.

DeMonte, Hamzy and Officer Alec Iurato were shot on Oct. 12 in what police believe was an ambush set up by a 911 call made by the shooter, Nicholas Brutcher. Iurato, who survived a gunshot wound to his leg, struggled to get behind a police cruiser and fired a single shot that killed Brutcher. Brutcher’s brother, Nathan, also was shot and survived.

At the time of the shooting, DeMonte was a sergeant with 10 years experience on the force and Hamzy was an officer for eight years. They were promoted posthumously to lieutenant and sergeant, respectively.

Mourners including many police officers from New England and beyond streamed into the stadium hours before the service.

Sgt. Greg Dube of the New Hampshire State Police said it was important to show support in large numbers after such a tragedy.

“We’re all family,” he said. “We definitely feel their pain. The best way we can show our respect is in strength in numbers.”

“I might not have met them, but I understand it could have easily happened to me or my colleagues. You just can’t take any day for granted,” Dube said.

Authorities have not released a motive for the shooting. A preliminary report said Nicholas Brutcher fired more than 80 rounds as he attacked the officers from behind. The state inspector general also said in the report that it was evident Iurato’s deadly use of force on Nicholas Brutcher was justified.

Calling hours for Hamzy on Wednesday drew hundreds of people, while a private wake for DeMonte was held Thursday.

Washington wildfire caused by pyrotechnic, police seek tips

From the Associated Press

CAMAS, Wash. (AP) — A wildfire in southwest Washington state that ballooned in size Sunday, causing regional air quality issues, may have been started by a firework or firearm, officials said.

The Nakia Creek Fire started Oct. 9 on Larch Mountain, northeast of Camas.

Clark County Fire Marshal Dan Young said this week that someone visiting Larch Mountain spotted smoke and got video on his cellphone, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

In the video, starts of smoke can be seen as well as two women, two men and a light-colored Subaru, and investigators would like to speak to those people, Young said.

“We’re not sure what they were doing; we’re calling it a pyrotechnic at this time,” he said. “We don’t know if it’s a firework or a firearm, or something like that.”

Since Sunday when the blaze spread quickly and caused ongoing evacuations, improved weather conditions have allowed firefighters to reduce the threat to nearby homes.

Officials said Wednesday the fire was the number one priority in the country because of its potential risk to life and the resources it will take to put it out, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Dave Larson, deputy incident commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry, the agency that has taken charge of the firefighting.

Woman charged with sending bee swarm on deputies at eviction

From the Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts woman who released a swarm of bees on sheriff’s deputies as they tried to serve an eviction notice is facing multiple assault and battery charges, authorities said.

Rorie S. Woods, 55, of Hadley, Mass., center, wears a beekeeping suit while taken into custody by Hampden County Sheriff’s Department officers, in Longmeadow, Mass., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. Woods is facing multiple assault and battery charges for allegedly unleashing a swarm of bees on a group of sheriff’s deputies trying to serve an eviction notice, some of whom are allergic to bee stings, authorities said. (Robert Rizzuto/Hampden County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

Rorie S. Woods, 55, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Oct. 12 in Springfield District Court and was released without bail, Masslive.com, citing court records, reported on Wednesday.

She and other protesters maintain that they were trying to prevent a wrongful eviction. The homeowner, Alton King, brought evidence of a bankruptcy stay to court the next day, at which point “everything should have stopped,” said Grace Ross of the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending.

Woods’ lawyer did not immediately respond to a voicemail left by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Hampden County deputies were met by protesters when they went to the home in Longmeadow on the morning of Oct. 12, according to the official department report.

Woods, who lives in Hadley, arrived in an SUV towing a trailer carrying bee hives and started “shaking” them, breaking the cover off one and causing hundreds of bees to swarm out and initially sting one deputy, according to the report.

Woods, who put on a beekeeper’s suit to protect herself, was eventually handcuffed but not before several more sheriff’s department employees were stung, including three who are allergic to bees, the report said.

When Woods was told that several officers were allergic, she said “Oh, you’re allergic? Good,” according to the report.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said Woods could have faced more serious charges if anything worse had happened. “We had one staff member go the hospital, and, luckily, he was all right,” Cocchi said.

The deputies were simply doing their duty, Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Hoffman said.

“We had a court order that’s been presented to us and it’s our job to effectuate that court order,” Hoffman said. “It was Miss Woods’ arrival with her vehicle and her trailer that really caused things to go haywire.”

Germany: Man bites police dog, woman punches officer

From the Associated Press

Police in Germany said Friday they detained a man for resisting arrest and biting a service dog.

Officers were called to a dispute between two 29-year-old men and a 35-year-old woman in the western town of Ginsheim-Gustavsburg shortly after midnight.

The trio acted in an “extremely aggressive and uncooperative” fashion, police said in a statement. Officers were only able to overpower one of the men by using “massive physical force,” it said.

“In the course of resisting arrest the 29-year-old man also bit a police dog,” the statement said, adding that the canine did not sustain any injuries.

Meanwhile, the 35-year-old woman injured a police officer with a punch to the face.

All three were detained and spent the rest of the night in jail to sober up.

Crews fight fire at Evansville warehouse, adjacent buildings

From the Associated Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Firefighters were battling a large fire Monday in southwestern Indiana that’s left an Evansville warehouse and neighboring buildings in ruins and produced a smoke plume visible for miles around.

Firefighters walk near a large fire near the Lloyd Expressway in Evansville, Ind., Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (MaCabe Brown/Evansville Courier & Press via AP)

Evansville Fire Department spokesman Mike Larson said about “every truck in the city” as well as one fire unit from Henderson, Kentucky, was called to the scene of the warehouse fire along Morton Avenue.

He said the fire was contained as of 9:15 a.m. CDT and no longer a threat to spread, but fires were still burning inside the warehouse and neighboring buildings. Dozens of firefighters would likely remain at the scene for hours, Larson told the Evansville Courier & Press.

Larson said there were no reported injuries, and there was no word yet on a possible cause of the fire in the city about 170 miles (270 kilometers) southwest of Indianapolis.

The fire, which was reported about 4:40 a.m., produced a smoke plume so thick it was clearly visible on weather radar in the city.

Video footage of the scene showed that flames were still rising by mid-morning from multiple collapsed buildings across a large area and producing smoke plumes.

Authorities closed the Lloyd Expressway near the Evansville’s Division Street and U.S. 41 exits and asked motorists to avoid the area.

Scathing report says UK police getting away with lawbreaking

By JILL LAWLESS for the Associated Press

Officers in London’s Metropolitan Police force are getting away with breaking the law, and the system for investigating police misconduct is marred by racism and misogyny, a report said Monday.

In the latest withering criticism of Britain’s biggest police force, Louise Casey said some officers were “getting away both with misconduct but also criminal behavior” without being fired.

“Cases are taking too long to resolve, allegations are more likely to be dismissed than acted upon, the burden on those raising concerns is too heavy, and there is racial disparity across the system, with white officers dealt with less harshly than Black or Asian officers,” Casey said in a letter to police chief Mark Rowley.

Casey, an experienced former government official, was asked to investigate the force after a string of controversies over alleged misogyny and racism among officers. She issued an interim report on Monday, with her full findings due next year.

Last year a police officer, Wayne Couzens, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a woman who was walking home at night in London. Sarah Everard’s slaying by a serving officer shocked the nation, and the police force’s subsequent handling of vigils and protests against Everard’s slaying — where women were detained for breaching coronavirus restrictions — drew strong criticism.

Earlier this year, an investigation slammed a culture of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment at one London police station, Charing Cross.

The force also has been criticized for the way it handled the case of two Black sisters murdered in a London park in 2020 — their bodies found by a family search party because police weren’t looking for them — and for failing to stop serial killer Stephen Port, who drugged and killed four young men he met online.

In February, Cressida Dick resigned from her role as police chief after London Mayor Sadiq Khan said she was not doing enough to urgently overhaul the force and regain public confidence. In June the force was placed in “special measures” by the country’s police watchdog.

Rowley, who replaced Dick, said the force fired between 30 and 50 officers and staff a year but that the number should be much higher.

“You have to come to the conclusion there must be hundreds of people that shouldn’t be here, who should be thrown out,” he said. “There must be hundreds who are behaving disgracefully, undermining our integrity and need ejecting.”

The British government said it would review the system and procedures for firing police officers.

Rowley said the failings uncovered by Casey were “completely unacceptable.”

“I am sorry to those we have let down: both the public and our honest and dedicated officers,” he said in a letter to Casey. “The public deserves a better Met, and so do our good people who strive every day to make a positive difference to Londoners.”

Review slams Seattle police response to 2020 protest zone

From the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — Poor communication, deception, bad judgment and a lack of leadership contributed to tension, violence and killings in Seattle in 2020, according to a review of the city’s response to racial injustice demonstrations that year.

Seattle’s inspector general, Lisa Judge, released the 81-page review Tuesday. It focuses on 23 days in June, shortly after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis led to protests across the U.S., The Seattle Times reported. Earlier reports by her office looked at the Seattle Police Department’s crowd control policies and on rebuilding community trust.

On June 8, 2020, police abandoned the East Precinct building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in an attempt to defuse tension with protesters. The demonstrators used the opportunity to declare an eight-block “cop-free” zone known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

The inspector general’s office concluded the occupation revealed a dysfunctional relationship between the city administration, led by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan, and the police department, led by then-Police Chief Carmen Best.

It also found police brass misled the public, exaggerated dangers posed by protesters to justify leaving the precinct, and employed a racist ruse in an apparent attempt to frighten and intimidate thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters.

The ruse involved fake radio chatter on public channels warning that an armed group of Proud Boys — a far-right group with a reputation for street violence — was gathering downtown and heading toward Capitol Hill. As a result, some protesters armed themselves and prepared for violence.

“Lying to the community in this way was not only contrary to policy, but it was also a poorly considered tactic contributing to the tensions,” the report said. “Many panelists viewed this incident as an example of the way structural and internalized racism can coalesce in police decision-making and cause harm to the community.”

Police, including the chief, made unsubstantiated or false claims that Capitol Hill leaders were extorting area business owners and that protesters were stopping citizens at armed checkpoints, the review found.

The report raised concerns about the decisions by police and Seattle Fire Department medics to stand by at the protest zone perimeter after two fatal shootings, leaving treatment and transportation of the victims to volunteer medics and private vehicles while trained medical responders and ambulances were just blocks away.

Violence and crime escalated until the night of June 20, when 19-year-old Lorenzo Anderson was shot multiple times during an altercation. He was taken to a medic tent where civilian medics tried to stop his bleeding. Seattle Fire Department medics and firefighters declined to respond without a police escort, citing Fire Department policy.

Early June 29, someone in a white Jeep was reported to have fired shots toward a nearby park. As the vehicle approached a set of barricades, people believed to be armed, self-appointed CHOP security guards opened fire, killing the 16-year-old driver and wounding his 14-year-old passenger.

Two days later, police moved through the area and expelled the protesters.

Mexican congress approves keeping military in police work

By MARK STEVENSON for the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Congress has approved a constitutional reform that allows the armed forces to continue performing domestic law enforcement duties through 2028.

FILE – Soldiers patrol after a mass shooting that killed 20 people at the town hall of San Miguel Totolapan, Mexico, Oct. 6, 2022. Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved a constitutional reform late Oct. 12, 2022 that extends to 2028 the use of the military for public security. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

Putting soldiers on the streets to fight crime was long viewed as a stopgap measure to fight drug gang violence, and legislators had previously said civilian police should take over those duties by 2024.

But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador supports relying on the military indefinitely because he views the armed forces as more honest. The president has given the military more responsibilities than any Mexican leader in recent memory.

The reform backed by López Obrador passed the lower house late Wednesday, and must still be approved by a majority of Mexico’s 32 state legislatures.

Most experts agree that Mexico needs better-paid, trained and equipped civilian police. The army and marines were called in to aid local police forces in 2006 in fighting the country’s well-armed drug cartels. Mexico’s state and municipal police are often corrupt, poorly trained and unprofessional.

But López Obrador has relied almost exclusively on the military for law enforcement. He eliminated the civilian federal police and created the National Guard, which he now wants to hand over completely to the Defense Department.

López Obrador has relied on the armed forces for everything from building infrastructure projects to running airports and trains.

The reform extending the military mandate also promises to restore some funding to improve state and local police forces, which López Obrador cut soon after he took office in December 2018.

However, new measure — which was already approved by the Senate — does not specify how much funding will be provided to improve civilian police other than saying it cannot be less than the annual increase in funding given to the military and National Guard.

In fact, under a bill passed this week by the lower house, much of that funding would come from the government confiscating domestic bank accounts if they have laid untouched for six years or more.

But on Thursday, López Obrador said he opposed giving even that money to police, saying “it should be for disabled people, the elderly, health care.”

Starved for money, many local police forces are in a precarious state, with ill-paid cops working 24-hour shifts and having to buy their own equipment or uniforms.

“We have seen in the south, southeast of Mexico a lot of them don’t even wear uniforms; they wear a white T-shirt and boots they have to buy themselves,” said Magda Ramírez, a researcher at the civic group Mexico Evalua.

“There isn’t funding even to buy indispensable things like bulletproof vests or equipment,” she noted. Even in better-funded police departments — and there are some, especially in northern Mexico — police officers often must fix their own patrol vehicles.

“Okay, maybe you have a uniform and a bulletproof vest, but you are fixing your own patrol car. You’re a policeman, not a mechanic,” Ramírez said.

Critics note the military is not trained for police work and does little investigation. The armed forces have been accused of human rights violations while performing law enforcement duties.

But polls have found most Mexicans trust the military more than local police and want the army and navy to continue in law enforcement tasks. That is not surprising, given the poor state of most of the police forces they have seen; but most Mexicans have never been given the choice between good, efficient police and soldiers.

The problems with law enforcement in Mexico are unlikely to be solved by the army or the militarized National Guard, said security expert Alejandro Hope.

“Crimes aren’t reported. When they are reported, they aren’t investigated. When they are investigated, they aren’t prosecuted properly,” said Hope, noting that none of that will be solved by “a military force that carries out patrols, but doesn’t investigate.”

For example, the National Guard has about 118,000 officers and the Mexican army and navy have about 140,000 deployable troops. “There are 400,000 local police: That is where the efforts should be concentrated,” Hope said.

Where Ya Gonna Book? Vacasa and Sony Pictures Open a Ghostbusters Firehouse in Portland for the Stay of an Afterlife-Time

From the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Oct 12, 2022–

Exterior of a Ghostbusters Firehouse in Portland, managed by Vacasa (Photo: Business Wire)

Vacasa (Nasdaq: VCSA), North America’s leading vacation rental management platform, is offering the getaway of an afterlife-time at a Ghostbusters Firehouse in Portland, Oregon,​​ in collaboration with Sony Pictures. One group of up to five lucky guests will have the opportunity to experience a three-night stay, Oct. 28-31, 2022, in an immersive recreation of where the Ghostbusters first studied and contained the spooky specters.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20221012005332/en/

Exterior of a Ghostbusters Firehouse in Portland, managed by Vacasa (Photo: Business Wire)

Ghostbusters fans, paranormal enthusiasts and intrepid travelers can try their hand at ghost-hunting by booking the firehouse at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2022. The single stay will be available to book exclusively on Vacasa.com on a first-come-first-served basis.

The private two-bedroom, three-story firehouse built in the early 1900s includes all the comforts of home with a full kitchen, multiple living quarters and endless Ghostbusters features, including a scientist-approved Ghost Containment System and a Dark Room where guests can develop and analyze photos of the Scourge of Carpathia. Courtesy of Vacasa’s dedicated local team, the beds are freshly made, the Ectoplasm has been expertly cleaned up, and the pantry is stocked—with StayPuft marshmallows and cheezy crackers (as long as Slimer doesn’t get to them first).

All of Egon’s essentials, including smoking Ghost Traps, a P.K.E. Meter, Proton Packs, Aura Video-Analyzer, and even an Ecto-Containment Unit are available throughout the firehouse so guests have everything they need to send ghosts back to their place of origin or the nearest convenient parallel dimension. In addition to the shelves of ghostly gadgets and ready-to-wear flight suits, no Ghostbusters station would be complete without Janine’s desk—and ringing phone—and an ominous seven-foot Vigo painting watching from the wall.

Vacasa’s courteous and efficient staff will be on call 24-hours a day to ensure the stay is a super(natural) experience. There’s just one house rule: Don’t. Cross. The streams. It would be bad. It would be a total protonic reversal…

So, where you gonna book? Visit the Vacasa.com listing on Oct. 21, 2022, at 10 a.m. PT for the chance to experience the Ghostbusters Firehouse in Portland for a nightly rate of $19.84 (plus local taxes + fees), in honor of the year the first movie was released. Vacasa will also make a donation to the Oregon Volunteer Firefighters Association to commemorate the stay.

To learn more about all that awaits in the firehouse, and take a Matterport virtual tour, visit www.vacasa.com/ghostbusters.

About Vacasa

Vacasa is the leading vacation rental management platform in North America, transforming the vacation rental experience by integrating purpose-built technology with expert local and national teams. Homeowners enjoy earning significant incremental income on one of their most valuable assets, delivered by the company’s unmatched technology that adjusts rates in real time to maximize revenue. Guests can relax comfortably in Vacasa’s 35,000+ homes across more than 400 destinations in North America, Belize and Costa Rica, knowing that 24/7 support is just a phone call away. In addition to enabling guests to search, discover and book its properties on Vacasa.com and the Vacasa Guest App, Vacasa provides valuable, professionally managed inventory to top channel partners, including Airbnb, Booking.com and Vrbo.

For more information, visit https://www.vacasa.com/press.

About Ghost Corps

Ghost Corps, Inc., a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., is focused on expanding the Ghostbusters brand with live-action feature films, animated motion pictures, television, merchandise, and other new entertainment products. Ghost Corps is headquartered on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, Calif.

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20221012005332/en/

CONTACT: Allison Ferre




SOURCE: Vacasa

Copyright Business Wire 2022.

Man charged with smuggling pythons in his pants at US border

From the Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York City man has been charged with smuggling three Burmese pythons in his pants at a U.S-Canadian border crossing.

Calvin Bautista, 36, is accused of bringing the hidden snakes on a bus that crossed into northern New York on July 15, 2018. Importation of Burmese pythons is regulated by an international treaty and by federal regulations listing them as “injurious to human beings.”

Bautista, of Queens, was arraigned Tuesday in Albany on the federal smuggling charge and released pending trial, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Carla B. Freedman.

An email seeking comment was sent to Bautista’s lawyer.

The charge carries the potential for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000, according to federal prosecutors.

The Burmese python, one of the world’s largest snakes, is considered a vulnerable species in its native Asia and is invasive in Florida, where it threatens native animals.

Chicago Paramedics to Aid Community Health Centers in Medical Home Network Partnership

From the Associated Press

The MHN Paramedic Partnership connects Chicago paramedics with community health centers to bring preventive care to patients with the greatest medical need.

CHICAGO, Oct. 11, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A team of Chicago Fire Department Community Paramedics are piloting an innovative home visiting program focused on transforming care for patients who have chronic conditions or need extra help managing their health at home. The MHN Paramedic Partnership, a pilot program funded by Medical Home Network (MHN), connects Chicago Fire Department Community Paramedics with patients who live on the South Side to bring preventive care to those with the greatest medical need and build healthier communities.

The first cohort of 12 community paramedics is making non-emergency field clinical assessments on South Side patients of Chicago Family Health Center, Friend Health and Sinai Medical Group.

“Community paramedics engage patients in their homes and focus on addressing barriers to their healthcare including social determinants of health, education on chronic conditions and navigating the healthcare system to optimize their health,” said Dr. Katie Tataris, University of Chicago EMS medical director and Chicago Fire Department Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) medical director.

Paramedics Take Wellness Checks to Deeper Level

In addition to their regular training as community paramedics, MHN provides training that helps improve their understanding of how community health centers manage cases and coordinate care.

Paramedics put their training to work in field clinical assessments in under-resourced South Side neighborhoods. They follow up with patients after transitions of care such as a transport to an emergency department or following discharge from a hospital stay back to home. Connecting with a patient’s medical home is central to the program, so paramedics have an opportunity to provide an update to the primary care physician – especially for the those who have not seen a doctor or have chronic conditions.

“Paramedics are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community and are skilled at assessing patient health and needs,” said Tina Spector, MHN vice president for clinical integration and innovation. “They can do a medical check and identify what is troubling the patient, whether it’s a broken wheelchair, medication side effects or identifying another social determinant of health. The MHN Paramedic Partnership will swiftly connect patients with their care managers and primary care physicians to address any issues.”

During the pilot program, community paramedics will check on high-risk patients up to four times. They size up potential home health and safety hazards, answer patient questions about their conditions and treatments, check the medicines they currently take and help them follow treatment plans. In addition, they are in a unique position to assess if a patient has social determinants such as food insecurity or transportation issues that are impacting physical health.

Community Health Centers Extend Reach of Safety Net

MHN technology helps paramedics collaborate and connect with the community health centers. The secure MHNConnect care management platform gives them patient information, including access to the MHN Baseball Card summary of ED visits, inpatient stays and a care management plan. Paramedics use MHN’s Community Connect software to confer with care teams at the primary care clinics. Care managers schedule medical appointments and reach out to providers who can address social determinants of health.

“Community paramedics assist individuals in overcoming healthcare barriers by identifying and mitigating gaps in their health and wellness needs,” said Jonathan Zaentz, Chicago Fire Department district chief of special projects. “The MHN Paramedic Partnership allows them to coordinate with community resources and support relationships between the patient and medical and social services.”

If the pilot is successful, MHN hopes to renew its yearlong funding and work with the city to expand the project to other regions served by Chicago EMS.

“The MHN Paramedic Partnership envisions a new role for EMS in community health,” said MHN President and CEO Cheryl Lulias. “We expect this groundbreaking collaboration with the City of Chicago to expand to other communities to help eliminate unnecessary ambulance calls and Emergency Department visits and encourage closer ties between patients and their primary care physicians.”

About Medical Home Network

Medical Home Network (MHN) is a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization focused on transforming care in the safety net and building healthier communities. Based in Chicago, MHN powers the future of healthcare delivery by creating clinically integrated, digitally connected and community-based systems of care that focus on the whole person. MHN’s innovative approach consistently delivers leading health outcomes, savings, and quality results under value-based arrangements. For the second year in a row, Modern Healthcare named MHN one of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Learn more at medicalhomenetwork.org and on LinkedIn.

Media Contact:

Christina Coons
Purpose Brand

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SOURCE Medical Home Network

Nebraska Sandhills wildfire more than half contained

From the Associated Press

HALSEY, Neb. (AP) — A destructive Nebraska Sandhills wildfire that saw one firefighter die while fighting the flames was more than half contained by Wednesday, officials said.

This photo provided by the Nebraska National Forest & Grasslands Service shows distant flames Sunday, Oct. 3, 2022 from the Bovee Fire near the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. By Sunday night, the grassland fire in the state’s Sandhills region had grown to about 15,000 acres, or around 24 square miles (62 square kilometers), according to the Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands. (Julie Bain/Nebraska National Forest & Grasslands Service via AP)

The size of the Bovee Fire in west-central Nebraska was mapped Tuesday at nearly 19,000 acres, or about 30 square miles (78 square kilometers), up from the 15,000 acres, or about 23 square miles (60 square kilometers), reported Sunday night, according to a report from the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team.

Officials said the fire was 56% contained going into Wednesday. Continued favorable weather conditions are helping fire crews contain the grasslands blaze that was sparked Sunday afternoon and ballooned over a matter of hours in the tinder-dry region.

The fire destroyed the main lodge and cabins of the Nebraska State 4-H Camp, as well as an observation tower in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. Purdum Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Moody died Sunday after suffering an apparent heart attack while battling the fire, officials said.

The flames also forced the brief evacuation of the nearby village of Halsey and shut down a stretch of Nebraska Highway 2 on Sunday as smoke from the fire cut visibility. Officials have said the fire was “human-caused,” but have not released details on how the fire started.

$40K awarded to woman injured by Portland police at protests

From the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury on Tuesday awarded $40,000 to a woman who sued the city of Portland, Oregon, over police use of force at a 2020 protest against police brutality, agreeing police used unreasonable force against her and committed battery.

Erin Wenzel sued the city for assault, battery and negligence, claiming that on Aug. 14, 2020, an officer “ran at her and violently slammed into her with a nightstick” while she was leaving the area as police had instructed, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. After she stood up, she said another officer pushed her.

Jurors heard from medical experts during the trial who confirmed her arm was broken and that she has PTSD, at least in part, because of the incident.

This was the first civil trial from the Portland 2020 racial justice protests to reach a jury. After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in late May 2020, protesters in Portland clashed nightly with Portland police and federal law enforcement officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

More than 50 similar lawsuits are pending against the city, and nearly two dozen Portland city attorneys and risk managers, as well as attorneys for plaintiffs involved in the pending lawsuits, at times tuned in to watch the proceedings.

The jury awarded Wenzel $14,106 for the battery claim and $26,166 in non-economic damages. They decided that the police did not assault her and awarded no damages for that claim. Wenzel had asked for $450,000.

Battery is when someone intentionally hurts another person. Assault is when someone makes another person afraid they are going to be battered.

Wenzel testified she didn’t think the police would use force against her since she was complying with their orders, likely negating the assault claim.

The jury also said the city was not negligent in how it trains police officers.

The officers who pushed Wenzel were never identified and there is no known video of the incident. During the six-day trial, the jury heard from Wenzel who said she was at the protest as a medic and that her helmet was marked with a red cross. She also testified that she never threw anything at the police or participated in vandalism.

After police rushed the crowd of protesters and pushed the group to disperse, Wenzel said she moved in the direction they had ordered.

Several officers testified they believed that protesters who moved slowly during dispersals were often providing cover for other protesters to escape and they were therefore allowed to use force.

Detective Erik Kammerer testified moving slowly or dispersing on its own does not warrant use of force but also said officers pushed intentionally slow walking people out of the way.

The U.S. Department of Justice specifically cited that logic as violating bureau directives.

Before the trial started, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Katharine von Ter Stegge limited admissible evidence to the approximately two-hour window Wenzel was at the protest. That meant video of Portland police pushing dispersing protesters on other nights couldn’t be used to show the city was likely aware of and took no action to stop officers from using the tactic.

The jury agreed that it is not acceptable for officers to push protesters for dispersing too slowly and that the city should be required to cover resulting medical expenses. The jury appeared less willing to award sizable monetary amounts for severe emotional distress and pain, a decision which could factor into settlement negotiations for the dozens of lawsuits pending against the city.

Indonesia police chief, others removed over soccer disaster

By AGOES BASOEKI and EDNA TARIGAN for the Associated Press

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers were removed from their posts Monday and 18 others were being investigated for responsibility in the firing of tear gas inside a soccer stadium that set off a stampede, killing at least 125 people, officials said.

Distraught family members were struggling to comprehend the loss of their loved ones, including 17 children, at the match in East Java’s Malang city that was attended only by hometown Arema FC fans. The organizer had banned supporters of the visiting team, Persebaya Surabaya, because of Indonesia’s history of violent soccer rivalries.

Players and officials of the soccer club Arema FC pray outside Kanjuruhan Stadium where a deadly crush broke out on Saturday night, in Malang, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Police firing tear gas at Saturday night’s match between host Arema FC of East Java’s Malang city and Persebaya Surabaya in an attempt to stop violence triggered a disastrous crush of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits, leaving a large number of people dead, most of them trampled upon or suffocated. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

The disaster Saturday night was among the deadliest ever at a sporting event.

Arema players and officials laid wreaths Monday in front of the stadium.

“We came here as a team asking forgiveness from the families impacted by this tragedy, those who lost their loves ones or the ones still being treated in the hospital,” head coach Javier Roca said.

On Monday night, about a thousand soccer fans dressed in black shirts held a candlelight vigil at a soccer stadium in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi to pray for the victims of the disaster.

Witnesses said some of the 42,000 Arema fans ran onto the pitch in anger on Saturday after the team was defeated 3-2, its first loss at home against Persebaya in 23 years. Some threw bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials. At least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze outside the stadium.

But most of the deaths occurred when riot police, trying to stop the violence, fired tear gas, including in the stands, triggering a disastrous stampede of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits. Most of the 125 people who died were trampled or suffocated. The victims included two police officers.

At least 17 children were among the dead and seven were being treated in hospitals, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said. Police said 323 people were injured in the crush, with some still in critical condition.

National Police spokesperson Dedy Prasetyo said Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat had been removed along with nine members of an elite police mobile brigade and face possible dismissal in a police ethics trial.

125 die in crush after tear gas at Indonesia stadium

Police firing tear gas after a soccer match in an attempt to stop violence sent a crush of fans running for the exits, leaving at least 125 people dead.

He said 18 officers responsible for firing the tear gas, ranging from middle- to high-ranking, were being investigated.

Police are questioning witnesses and analyzing video from 32 security cameras inside and outside the stadium and nine cellphones owned by the victims as part of an investigation that will also identify suspected vandals, he said.

The parents and other relatives of Faiqotul Hikmah, 22, wailed Monday when an ambulance arrived at their home with her body wrapped in white cloth and a black blanket. She died while fleeing to exit 12 at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

A dozen friends had traveled with her to see the match, but Hikmah was one of only four who were able to enter the stadium because tickets were sold out, her friend, Abdul Mukid, said Monday. He later bought a ticket from a broker after hearing of the chaos inside the stadium in order to search for Hikman.

“I have to find her, save her,” Mukid recalled thinking.

Mukid found Hikmah’s body laid at a building in the stadium compound, with broken ribs and bluish bruises on her face. He learned that a second friend had also died from other friends who called him while he was in an ambulance taking Hikmah’s body to a hospital.

“I can’t put into words how much my sorrow is to lose my sister,” said Nur Laila, Hikmah’s older sibling. “She was just a big Arema fan who wanted to watch her favorite team play. She shouldn’t die just for that,” she said, wiping away tears.

President Joko Widodo ordered the premier soccer league suspended until safety is reevaluated and security tightened. Indonesia’s soccer association also banned Arema from hosting soccer matches for the rest of the season.

Arema FC President Gilang Widya Pramana expressed his sadness and deepest apologies to the victims and the Indonesian people, and said he is ready to take full responsibility for the tragedy at his team’s stadium.

He said the management, coach and players were in shock and speechless.

“I am ready to provide assistance, even though it will not be able to return the victims’ lives,” Pramana said at a news conference Monday at Arema’s headquarters in Malang.

“This incident was beyond prediction, beyond reason … in a match watched only by our fans, not a single rival supporter,” he said, sobbing. “How can that match kill more than 100 people?”

He said Arema FC is ready to accept any sanctions from Indonesia’s Soccer Association and the government, and “hopefully, it will be a very valuable lesson.”

Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud said he will lead an inquiry that will examine law violations in the disaster and provide recommendations to the president to improve soccer safety. The investigation is to be completed in three weeks.

Mahfud instructed the national police and military chiefs to punish those who committed crimes and actions that triggered the stampede.

“The government urged the national police to evaluate their security procedures,” Mahfud said at a news conference.

Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas and ensure that those found responsible are tried in open court. While FIFA has no control over domestic games, it has advised against the use of tear gas at soccer stadiums.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international prominence in the sport, hooliganism is rife in the soccer-obsessed country where fanaticism often ends in violence. Data from Indonesia’s soccer watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in game-related incidents over the past 28 years.

Saturday’s game was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including a 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City in which over 80 died and more than 100 were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a soccer match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. In February 2012, 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a match between rivals al-Masry and al-Ahly when thousands of al-Masry fans invaded the field and attacked visiting supporters. The Egyptian league was suspended for two years as a result.

By boat and jet ski, volunteers assist in Ian rescue efforts

By ROBERT BUMSTED and BOBBY CAINA CALVAN from the Associated Press

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — There was no time to waste. As Hurricane Ian lashed southwest Florida, Bryan Stern, a veteran of the U.S. military, and others began gathering crews, boats and even crowbars for the urgent task that would soon be at hand: rescuing hundreds of people who might get trapped by floodwaters.

A team from the non-profit Project Dynamo helps Betty Reynolds onto a boat as she is rescued from Sanibel Island, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Reynolds home was flooded when Hurricane Ian swept through the area. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

“As soon as the sun came up, we started rolling,” said Stern, who last year put together a search-and-rescue team called Project Dynamo, which has undertaken operations in Afghanistan, Ukraine and, now, Florida.

Project Dynamo has rescued more than 20 people, many of them elderly residents who became cut off when the Category 4 storm washed away a bridge connecting the Florida mainland with Sanibel Island, a crescent-shaped sliver of shell-strewn sand popular with tourists that is home to about 7,000 residents.

On a stretch of beach, etched into the sand, there were calls for immediate assistance: “Help,” “SOS.”

As local authorities continue reaching people isolated on barrier islands or trapped by floodwaters, others unwilling to be bystanders have sprung into action, sometimes risking their own safety or setting aside their own losses and travails to aid official rescue operations. It isn’t a new phenomenon: Grassroots rescue groups have responded to past disasters, including after Hurricane Ida pounded Louisiana last year.

Although some officials frown on people running their own rescue operations — especially in the early going if it’s not safe enough yet or if the rescuers lack training — others welcome every bit of help.

“It sort of restores your view of humanity. You see people chipping in and they aren’t getting paid for it,” said Tim Barrett, the training division chief for the Sanibel Fire Department. “There’s even people whose homes are destroyed, but they’re helping them. They’re still helping other people.”

It can be dangerous work. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the ferocious storm, which lashed some areas with winds of 155 mph (249 kph) or more and pummeled the coast with ocean surge.

“We’re still working on rescuing people. I mean, this is just horrible that people have lost their lives. It’s horrible that people are still possibly stuck in rubble,” Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Inside the search for Hurricane Ian’s survivors

As local authorities continue reaching people trapped by floodwaters, others unwilling to be bystanders have sprung into action to aid official rescuers do their important work. (Oct. 2) (AP Video/Robert Bumsted)

“But I’ve been talking to the sheriffs and first responders and they’re trying to get to these people as quickly as they can.,” he said. “They’ve been working to evacuate people that stayed on, places like Sanibel and Pine Island and Fort Myers Beach.”

The storm has killed dozens of people in Florida and more bodies might still be recovered.

Matt Mengel and his friends said they had made seven rescues so far, most of them elderly residents of Sanibel Island whom they reached on jet skis.

“We had gasoline. We had jet skis. We had water. We had food and snacks. And our mission was just to go find them, dead or alive,” he said.

He called the destruction of the area, where he has lived for seven years, heartbreaking. “It was sad to see our home get destroyed and our favorite spots get destroyed.”

The group’s rescue missions began Friday when they hadn’t heard from a friend who lives and works on Sanibel Island. That friend was found safe and sound, but they quickly found others who needed help.

Just as they were leaving, Mengel’s girlfriend heard a woman calling out for help. They responded and found a couple who desperately wanted to leave the island.

A Coast Guard helicopter was patrolling nearby, and Mengel — with the help of the Project Dynamo crew — began frantically waving for attention. The helicopter spotted him and touched down on the beach to whisk the couple away.

“All I wanted to do was help,” Mengel said.

A local television station recounted how three siblings — Leah, Evan and Jayden Wickert — helped save about 30 people from rising floodwaters in a Naples neighborhood.

Water had deepened to about 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) in their neighborhood, and folks were standing on whatever they could to keep their necks above water. The siblings used kayaks and boats to save people.

“There were a lot of people standing on their couches getting out of the water,” Leah Wickert told WBBH-TV.

Betty Reynolds, 73, expressed appreciation for the men who came to her rescue after she spent days in her damaged Sanibel Island home.

“You hate to leave a home you’ve lived in for 47 years,” she said, but said it filled with “lots and lots of mud.”

She said she didn’t evacuate before the storm because she and her home survived previous storms unscathed. But she said this one took her by surprise: “I just didn’t believe there was going to be so much storm surge.”

Reynolds was taken off the island Saturday while Stern and his Project Dynamo team were on another mission, having received a text from a man who was concerned about his mother.

Stern, whose cohorts are also military veterans, speaks quickly and is full of bravado. On a recent trip to Sanibel Island, he landed a boat directly on the beach, jumped into the water as it hit the sand and ran ashore.

“It’s like D-Day,” he said afterward.

When there was no answer at the home of the woman whose son had texted, his team used a crowbar to enter, with the son’s permission.

Stern said he couldn’t stand by. His rescue project was borne out of his frustrations watching Americans and their allies struggle last year to get out of Afghanistan.

He has since turned his attention to helping people flee the war in Ukraine, where Stern and his team plan to return soon after what he called a brief “vacation” in Florida.

Biden pledge to make federal fleet electric faces slow start

By HOPE YEN, MATTHEW DALY and DAVID SHARP for the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, a self-described “car guy,″ often promises to lead by example on climate change by moving swiftly to convert the sprawling U.S. government fleet to zero-emission electric vehicles. But efforts to eliminate gas-powered vehicles from the fleet have lagged.

FILE – President Joe Biden drives a Cadillac Lyriq through the showroom during a tour at the Detroit Auto Show, Sept. 14, 2022, in Detroit. Biden, a self-described “car guy,” often promises to lead by example by moving swiftly to convert the sprawling federal fleet to zero-emission electric vehicles. But efforts to help meet his ambitious climate goals by eliminating gas-powered vehicles from the federal fleet have lagged. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Biden last year directed the U.S. government to purchase only American-made, zero-emission passenger cars by 2027 and electric versions of other vehicles by 2035.

“We’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles,” the president said soon after his January 2021 inauguration. He has since used photo ops — taking a spin in Ford Motor Co.’s electric F-150 pickup truck, or driving GM’s Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV at the Detroit auto show — to promote their potential. Cabinet officials have hawked a first set of Ford Mustang Mach-E SUVs in use at the departments of Energy and Transportation.

The White House frequently describes the 2027 timeline as on track. But the General Services Administration, the agency that purchases two-thirds of the 656,000-vehicle federal fleet, says there are no guarantees.

Then there is the U.S. Postal Service, which owns the remaining one-third of the federal fleet. After initially balking and facing lawsuits, the agency now says that half of its initial purchase of 50,000 next-generation vehicles will be powered by electricity. The first set of postal vehicles will hit delivery routes late next year.

Climate advocates say that agency can do even better.

“USPS should now go all-electric or virtually all electric with its new vehicles,″ said Luke Tonachel, senior director of clean vehicles and buildings at the Natural Resources Defense Council, citing an additional $3 billion in federal spending targeted for the postal fleet under the landmark climate law Biden signed last month.

About 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, making it the single largest source of planet-warming emissions in the country.

Electrification of the federal fleet is a “cornerstone” of Biden’s efforts to decarbonize the federal government, said Andrew Mayock, chief federal sustainability officer for the White House.

“The future is electric, and the federal government has built a strong foundation … that’s going to deliver on this journey we’re on over the next decade,″ he said in an interview.

Excluding the Postal Service, about 13% of new light-duty vehicles purchased across the government this year, or about 3,550, were “zero emissions,” according to administration figures provided to The Associated Press. The government defines zero emissions as either electric or plug-in hybrid, which technically has a gas-burning engine. That compares with just under 2% in the 2021 budget year and less than 1% in 2020.

Nationwide, about 6% of new car sales are electric.

When it comes to vehicles actually on the road, the federal numbers are even smaller. Many of the purchases in recent months won’t be delivered for as long as a year due to supply chain problems.

Currently just 1,799 of the 656,000-vehicle federal fleet are zero-emissions vehicles.

At a rate of 35,000 to 50,000 GSA car purchases a year, it will take years, if not decades, to convert the entire fleet.

“It hasn’t been exactly a fast start,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal mobility analyst for Guidehouse Insight. “It’s going to be challenging for them probably for at least the next year or two to really accelerate that pace.”

Christina S. Kingsland, who directs the business management division for the federal fleet at GSA, said “the federal fleet is a working fleet.”

The agency pointed to a limited EV supply from automakers with big upfront costs. In addition, it said the needs of agencies are often highly specialized, from Interior Department pickup trucks on large rural tribal reservations to hulking Department of Homeland Security SUVs along the U.S. border.

Agencies also need easy access to public EV charging stations. The White House has acknowledged agencies are “way behind” on their own charging infrastructure, with roughly 600 charging stations and 2,000 total chargers nationwide.

While Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law provides $7.5 billion to states to build out an EV charging network of up to 500,000 chargers over several years along interstate highways, no money from that law was earmarked for federal agencies’ specialized needs. Money for charging stations must be allocated in each department’s budget.

Meeting Biden’s goal for the federal fleet is contingent on industry increasing production as predicted beginning in 2025 and 2026, analysts say. By that time, the effects of big federal investments to build public chargers and boost EV manufacturing in the U.S. will likely be felt alongside tougher rules for automakers to curtail tailpipe emissions.

GM, for example, has set a target of 1 million EV annual production capacity worldwide by 2025, while Ford expects to make 2 million EVs globally by 2026. Stellantis also is cranking up production capacity and is getting ready to launch a whole slate of new EVs.

The White House has declined to set a specific goal for EV purchases in 2023, but Mayock said he expects the number to be higher than 13%.

While the Postal Service is an independent agency, it plays an essential role in fleet electrification, not only because it owns 234,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, but also because the familiar blue-and-white mail trucks are by far the most visible federal vehicle, rolling into neighborhoods across America each day.

The agency plans to buy up to 165,000 of next-generation vehicles over a decade. The Postal Service remains “committed to reducing our carbon footprint in many areas of our operations and expanding the use of EVs in our fleet is a priority,″ said spokesperson Kim Frum.

White House officials say government EV purchases can only increase exponentially after a near-zero baseline a few years ago under President Donald Trump, who sought to loosen fuel economy requirements for gas-powered vehicles and proposed doing away with a federal tax credit for electric cars.

At a recent EV demonstration at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center outside Washington, officers test-drove EVs outfitted for police use, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Officers were impressed with the EV’s acceleration and “nimbleness,″ Mayock said, calling the test drives “a big change-management moment″ for the government.


$100M lawsuit filed over injuries suffered in police van

By PAT EATON-ROBB for the Associated Press

Lawyers for Randy Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed from the chest down in June when a police van without seat belts braked suddenly, filed a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday against the city of New Haven, Connecticut.

FILE – Doreen Coleman, left, mother of Richard “Randy” Cox Jr., walks with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump during a march for Justice for Randy Cox on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven, Conn., Friday, July 8, 2022. At right is Attorney Michael Jefferson. Lawyers for Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed from the chest down in June when a police van without seat belts braked suddenly, filed a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, against the city of New Haven. (Arnold Gold/New Haven Register via AP, File)

Cox, 36, was being driven to a police station in the city June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when the driver braked hard, apparently to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van, police said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Cox’s legal team is still in talks with the city but filed a federal negligence lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court to make sure Cox is compensated for his suffering.

“If we say we respect life and respect Randy Cox’s life experiences and people like Randy Cox, similarly situated, then we have to show that by action, not just by rhetoric,” Crump said. “Not just say we care about Black lives, but we have an actual duty in New Haven and throughout America to show that we believe Black lives matter.”

In the lawsuit, the city and the officers involved in Cox’s transport are accused of negligence, recklessness, use of excessive force, denial of medical treatment and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Cox’s supporters say the police mocked his cries for help after he was injured and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries. Police video shows the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell at the police department before paramedics finally took him to a hospital.

“The treatment of Mr. Cox while in the custody of the New Haven Police Department was completely unacceptable, and the City of New Haven is deeply committed to doing everything within its power to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” Mayor Justin Elicker said.

LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, said, “We don’t want any lip service; we want action. The action can’t come from me, it has to come from the people have those jobs, being the mayor or the police commission or someone with any of those titles. I’ll be waiting.”

The case drew outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.

Five officers were placed on administrative leave in Cox’s case.

New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.

People trapped, 2M without power after Ian swamps SW Florida

By CURT ANDERSON from the Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to 2 million people before aiming for the Atlantic Coast.

Curious sightseers walk in the receding waters of Tampa Bay due to the low tide and tremendous winds from Hurricane Ian in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States barreled across the Florida peninsula overnight Wednesday, threatening catastrophic flooding inland, the National Hurricane Center warned.

The center’s 2 a.m. advisory said Ian was expected to emerge over Atlantic waters later on Thursday, with flooding rains continuing across central and northern Florida.

In Port Charlotte, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in a hospital even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients — some of whom were on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients were forced into just two because of the damage. Bodine planned to spend the night there in case people injured from the storm arrive needing help.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

Law enforcement officials in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves.

Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mother in North Fort Myers, whose home was swamped by 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water.

“We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know how they’re going to leave, their cars are totaled,” Hailer said. “Her only way out is on a boat.”

Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and blew down trees as it slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph (241 kph) winds, pushing a wall of storm surge. Ian’s strength at landfall was Category 4 and tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind speed, to ever strike the U.S.

Ian dropped in strength by late Wednesday to Category 1 with 90 mph (144 kph) winds as it moved overland. Still, storm surges as high as 6 feet (2 meters) were expected on the opposite side of the state, in northeast Florida, on Thursday.

The storm was about 55 miles (90 km) southwest of Orlando with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) at 2 a.m. Thursday, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

A hurricane warning remained in effect north of Bonita Beach, about 31 miles (50 km) south of Fort Myers, to Anclote River including Tampa Bay and from Sebastian Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia county line.

The center discontinued a hurricane warning between Bonita Beach and Chokoloskee. A tropical storm warning from Chokoloskee to Flamingo on the state’s southwest tip also was discontinued.

Hurricane-force winds were expected across central Florida through early Thursday with widespread, catastrophic flooding likely, the hurricane center said.

No deaths were reported in the United States from Ian by late Wednesday. But a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West.

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 people and managed to find three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the Florida Keys, officials said. Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 20 remaining migrants.

The storm previously tore into Cuba, killing two people and bringing down the country’s electrical grid.

The hurricane’s eye made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers. As it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay.

More than 2 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity, according to the PowerOutage.us site. Nearly every home and business in three counties was without power.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. “for life-saving purposes,” saying violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.

“I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell said.

The Weather Underground predicted the storm would pass near Daytona Beach and go into the Atlantic before veering back ashore in South Carolina on Friday.

The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all preemptively declared states of emergency. Forecasters predicted Ian will turn toward those states as a tropical storm, likely dumping more flooding rains into the weekend.

At Freedom House, these Black men saved lives. Paramedics are book topic

From NPR

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — John Moon stands on the 2000 block of Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. He’s in front of a building that houses the Hill District Federal Credit Union, but he points to a plaque affixed to the stone façade commemorating the Freedom House ambulance service, widely acknowledged as the first paramedic program in the United States.

A group shot of Freedom House paramedics.
Heinz History Center

A half-century ago, Moon was a Freedom House paramedic, and he remains fiercely proud of it: The service, staffed overwhelmingly by Black men from the neighborhood, revolutionized emergency street medicine on the same blocks where many were underemployed, or even believed to be “unemployable.”

“We were considered the least likely to succeed by society’s standards,” said Moon, who was 22 and a hospital orderly when he started training to join Freedom House. “But one problem I noticed is, no one told us that!”

Today, however, Moon worries that Freedom House is in danger of being forgotten – a victim not just of time, but of the deliberate erasure of its memory.

“Unfortunately, today there are probably people who live here that has never heard of Freedom House ambulance service,” he said.

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Their story is committed to the page

American Sirens” (Hachette Books), by Kevin Hazzard, tells the story of Freedom House, which operated from 1967-75, its historic accomplishments, and its unjust and untimely demise.

Moon, himself, plays a central role. He spent much of his childhood in an Atlanta orphanage before relatives living in the Hill adopted him. As an orderly at Oakland’s Montefiore Hospital, he was astonished one night when two Black men entered with a patient on a stretcher, giving orders and clearly in command – a nearly unimaginable thing in those days. Moon learned they were from Freedom House, and he vowed to follow in their footsteps.

Cover of American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics by Kevin Hazzard.

Hachette Books

Hazzard sketches other key characters. One is Peter Safar, the storied Viennese-born anesthesiologist and Holocaust survivor who invented cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, in the 1950s, while working in Baltimore. Safar was also interested in emergency street medicine at a time when ambulances were driven by police, volunteer firefighters or even mortuary workers with little to no medical training. For victims of car crashes, heart attacks and gunshots, there was no on-site treatment, only an imperative to get them to the hospital as quickly as possible. Mortality rates were high. In the 1960s, working at Pittsburgh’s Presbyterian Hospital, Safar developed a plan to do emergency street medicine, but he had no means to implement it.

Enter Philip Hallen, a former ambulance driver who was now president of the Maurice Falk Medical Fund, a local foundation. Hallen also saw the need for street medicine, especially in the Hill, which was medically underserved. He reached out to James McCoy Jr., a Hill-based entrepreneur who ran a job-training program called Freedom House Enterprises. After connecting with Safar, the men took the unusual step of recruiting their first class of “paramedics” – a job that, technically, did not yet exist – from the Hill itself.

“So, what you end up with was, you know, a number of guys maybe who were fresh back from Vietnam. A number of guys maybe who were fresh out of prison. A number of guys who were in-between jobs, because literally they’re picking people up who they see kind of wandering the streets,” said Hazzard, an Atlanta-based writer and former paramedic.

The rigorous training paid off, Hazzard writes: Serving just the Hill and Oakland at first, Freedom House saved lives that would have been lost before. Tour the Hill today with Moon, for instance, and stops will include the site of his first call for a heroin overdose, as well as the story of how he became, he believes, the first paramedic to intubate a patient in the field. The latter story involves another key figure in the book, Nancy Caroline, a doctor who in later years was Freedom House’s medical director.

Doctors speak of Freedom House’s success

“They were the first true paramedic program in the world,” said Ronald Stewart, a Canadian expert in emergency medicine who was medical director for Pittsburgh’s Public Safety department in the 1970s and ’80s.

“It just amazes me, the quality of the program they were able to develop,” said Jon Krohmer, a Michigan-based expert in emergency medicine and a board member of the National EMS Museum.

One intangible impact of Freedom House was the community pride it generated: Highly trained technicians – dozens of them, over the years — were saving lives in their own neighborhood, which was often ignored by the rest of the city.

“Often times, when a person would call for assistance, they would say, ‘Don’t send the police, send Freedom House,’ ” said Moon.

The flip side: Hazzard recounts that some white patients refused treatment by Freedom House, even though their lives might have been at stake.

Freedom House defibrillator.

Heinz History Center

Freedom House operated under a city contract – meaning that for years, the Hill had better emergency care than the rest of the city, where ambulances were still driven by police. But, in fact, emergency medicine was in the midst of a revolution sparked in part by “Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society,” a 1966 report by the National Academies of Sciences/National Research Council. In this atmosphere, Freedom House’s influence spread nationally, too. Under a contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Freedom House director Dr. Caroline wrote the first national curricula on emergency street medicine.

Saving lives gets in the way

But despite such successes, in “American Sirens,” Hazzard writes, a new Pittsburgh mayor, Pete Flaherty, began to withhold support from Freedom House. At least one issue was racism: The overwhelmingly white police force saw the work of the overwhelmingly Black paramedics as an incursion onto their turf.

“There are many within Freedom House who eventually came to the conclusion that, you know, the problems that we’re having with City Hall are not what we’re doing, but rather who’s doing it,” said Hazzard.

Headshot of author Kevin Hazzard.

Hachette Books

Funding cuts were followed, in 1975, by the absorption of Freedom House into a new citywide EMS department. Many Freedom House paramedics stayed on, but most say they were treated poorly, their years of experience discounted. John Moon recalls being forced to “ride as the third person on a two-person crew.”

“I endured a concerted effort to eliminate as many, if not all, of Freedom House employees as humanly possible, and it was very, very successful,” he said.

But Moon himself persisted: In 2009, he retired as assistant chief of the department. These days, he is one of the main advocates for keeping the memory of Freedom House alive.

Savoring their memory

Public remembrances include the plaque on Centre Avenue (which was the headquarters of Jim McCoy’s Freedom House Enterprises), and another on the site of UPMC Presbyterian, where the Freedom House ambulance service actually operated (though the original building is gone). Heinz History Center also houses a Freedom House display as part of its permanent exhibit “Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation.”

Moon hopes “American Sirens” helps spread the word. But in any case, Freedom House lives on in his heart.

“I owe Freedom House a debt that I don’t think I will ever be able to repay,” he said, “because they’re the ones that instilled that motivation and that drive into me that I could do something no matter what it is, no matter what the hurdle, no matter what the barrier.”

Shortage of new police cars has some Virginia departments concerned: ‘Ford canceled all of our orders’

From WTVR News Richmond

PETERSBURG, Va. — Law enforcement agencies across Central Virginia, including Virginia State Police, are facing challenges acquiring new police vehicles this year.

Maj. Robert Ruxler with Colonial Heights Police said he believes the issue is nationwide as police departments and sheriff’s offices routinely buy new vehicles because of the miles they quickly rack up.

“We would run for 100,000 miles before we actually pull them out of service,” Petersburg Chief Travis Christian explained. “We’re quickly approaching those numbers right now.”

But now there is a problem trying to replace aging police cars in the Tri-Cities that date back from 2011, 2015 and 2017.

“The accessibility of vehicles is usually pretty easy,” Capt. Damon Stoker with Hopewell Police said. “But now I think, universally, they’re harder to come by.”

Colonial Heights got the bad news about their July 2021 order from Ford on Monday.

“We were notified that Ford canceled all of our orders for 2022 Police Interceptors,” Ruxler said.

Ruxer said the department was given the option to purchase 2023 vehicles, but with a caveat.

“The cost was increased by approximately $7,500 per vehicle,” Ruxer said. “Fortunately, our city is very supportive and understood our needs for police vehicles and was able to work with us to make this purchase.”

Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian
Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian

Christian said Petersburg has been seeking 15 new cars for over six months.

“We’ve been trying since actually late December of last year to find vehicles, we can’t find vehicles,” Christian said.

Because the cruisers are hard to find and buy, Petersburg decided to lease. But that that still came with another issue.

“So even though we can purchase more vehicles by way of leasing, there’s still a delay in getting those vehicles because the manufacturers, can’t produce the vehicles fast enough for us to purchase,” Christian said.

Poster image (43).jpg

Stoker said Hopewell is still expecting several 2022 models, but like many agencies they are also looking to save money while still equipping their fleet.

“Hopefully we can make a deal with our sheriff’s office,” Stoker said. “They got a vehicle that’s used, got some mileage on it… It’s outfitted for a police K-9 and hopefully we can get that from them.”

State police also got the cancellation notice for more than 100 2022 models. As a result, the agency will now be getting 2023 models at the increased price.

Judge bars enforcement of Delaware ‘ghost gun’ restrictions

By RANDALL CHASE for the Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A federal judge has issued an injunction barring Delaware from enforcing provisions of a new law outlawing the manufacture and possession of homemade “ghost guns,” which can’t be traced by law enforcement officials because they don’t have serial numbers.

Friday’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by gun rights advocates after Democratic Gov. John Carney signed a law last October criminalizing the possession, manufacture and distribution of such weapons as well as unfinished firearm components.

Judge Maryellen Noreika denied a motion by Democratic state Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, the sole defendant, to dismiss the lawsuit. She instead granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs to prohibit enforcement of certain provisions pending resolution of the lawsuit.

The judge wrote that without an injunction, the plaintiffs would “face irreparable harm … because they are threatened by criminal penalties should they engage in conduct protected by the Second Amendment.”

While declining to issue a permanent injunction, Noreika said that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their arguments that a ban on possessing homemade guns violates the Second Amendment, and that the prohibition on manufacturing untraceable firearms is also likely unconstitutional.

Noreika said Jennings had offered no evidence to support her assertion that the prohibitions don’t burden protected conduct because untraceable firearms are “not in common use and typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

Jennings similarly failed to substantiate her argument that the prohibitions on possession and manufacturing are “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

At the same time, however, Noreika said restrictions on the distribution of unfinished firearm frames or components do not unduly burden a person’s Second Amendment rights. She noted that such components are still available if they include serial numbers and manufacturer information and are obtained from federally licensed gun dealers.

The judge also held that a provision restricting the distribution of instructions for using a three-dimensional printer to produce a firearm or component is not an unjustifiable regulation of speech under the First Amendment.

“The statute prohibits only the distribution of functional code,” the judge wrote. “It does not prohibit gunsmiths and hobbyists from exchanging information about how to use their 3D-printer to manufacture a firearm, or for instructing individuals on how to program their 3D-printer to make the firearm of their choice.”

Mexico City police injured by explosion at protest

By FABIOLA SÁNCHEZ and FERNANDO LLANO for the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An explosion occurred outside Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office on Thursday, injuring police as protesters demonstrating ahead of the anniversary of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students clashed with officers clad in riot gear.

A police officer grimaces in pain as he is aided by paramedics after being injured by an explosive device thrown by protesters during clashes outside of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office in Mexico City, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The demonstrators were marching ahead of the anniversary of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students of a teachers’ college in Iguala, Guerrero. Multiple police were injured by the explosion and loaded onto ambulances. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Those injured by the explosion were loaded onto ambulances. Broken glass and blood were visible.

Members of a bomb squad cordoned off the area. One undetonated object that an explosives technician recovered appeared to be a small pipe bomb — a tube with two capped ends.

Mexico City’s police department said that 11 police officers were injured by shrapnel from fireworks and some suffered bruises. They were all taken to hospitals and the injuries were not considered life threatening.

The protest was just one of a host of activities planned in advance of Monday’s 8th anniversary of the students’ disappearances. Protests that includes relatives of the disappeared students have usually remained peaceful.

Thursday’s demonstration started that way too, with chants and speeches. Most of the protesters boarded buses and left before a small group that stayed behind clashed with police.

Some masked protesters threw rocks and launched bottle rockets into police lines. Others spray painted areas around the building with demands for the missing students’ safe return.

The police bunched together, crouching below their plastic shields and were engulfed in smoke.

“I was in the entrance to my store when four bombs went off like bottle rockets which is what they launched at the Attorney General’s Office, toward the windows,” said 19-year-old Jose Rivera Cruz, who sells clothing to one side of the office. “There was smoke and they closed the metro bus station (across the street). And most of the police were running and trying to get to the patrol cars and the ambulances.”

As more police arrived to help the injured and secure the area, the protesters left, he said.

On Sept. 26, 2014, local police in Iguala, Guerrero abducted 43 students from a radical teachers’ college. They were allegedly turned over to a drug gang and never seen again. Three victims were later identified by burned bone fragments.

Last month, Interior Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas, who leads a truth commission investigating the case, called it a “state crime” and directly implicated the military, among other state actors including local and state police.

Former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who oversaw the original investigation into the disappearances, was arrested last month on charges of torture, official misconduct and forced disappearance. Last week, Mexico arrested a retired general, who had been in charge of the local army base in Iguala when the abductions occurred.

Dozens of student protesters arrived at the Attorney General’s Office aboard buses Thursday morning. Police with helmets and riot shields formed several lines of defense in front the entrances.

On Wednesday, activists had vandalized the exterior of Israel’s embassy in Mexico City. Mexico is seeking the extradition from Israel of another key figure in the investigation of the students’ disappearances.

Wily seal that cruised to pond surrenders at police station

From the Associated Press

BEVERLY, Mass. (AP) — A gray seal that wandered into a Massachusetts pond and evaded authorities’ attempts to capture him turned himself in Friday after waddling up to the local police station.

The gray seal first appeared earlier this month in Shoe Pond in the city of Beverly, northeast of Boston. The animal is believed to have traveled to the pond from the sea via a river and drainage pipes.

The seal quickly became a local attraction and was even named “Shoebert” after his chosen pond.

Firefighters and wildlife experts used boats and giant nets in an effort to capture the wily animal Thursday, but gave up after several fruitless hours. Early Friday morning, however, Shoebert left the pond, crossed a parking lot and appeared outside the side door of the local police station looking, according to a police statement, “for some help.”

The seal was quickly corralled by a team of wildlife experts, firefighters and the police department’s “entire midnight shift,” according to a Facebook post from the Beverly Police Department.

“Shoebert appeared to be in good health and was a little sassy in the early morning hours,” the department noted.

The seal was transported to Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, where aquarium staff will perform a medical exam before releasing him back into the wild, Sarah Callan, manager of the aquarium’s animal rescue program, wrote in an email.

“He is acting like a typical, feisty, 4-year-old gray seal,” Callan added. “We are planning to release him in a quiet, remote location near other seals.”

Seattle mayor appoints Adrian Diaz as city’s police chief

From the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Adrian Diaz as the city’s new police chief.

FILE – Then-Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz addresses a news conference in Seattle, on Sept. 2, 2020. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Diaz as his pick for permanent chief of the Seattle department. Harrell on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Harrell on Tuesday announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since September 2020.

“Throughout this process, we’ve heard Seattleites’ clear expectations for the Seattle Police Department: effective public safety, meaningful community engagement, and a commitment to accountability and continuous improvement,” Harrell said in a written statement. “I am confident that Chief Adrian Diaz will provide the leadership necessary to advance these critical priorities and make Seattle safe for all residents.”

Harrell had encouraged Diaz to apply for the permanent role and chose him after a committee appointed by the mayor identified Diaz, Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Eric Greening and Tucson Police Assistant Chief Kevin Hall as finalists for the position, The Seattle Times reported.

The Seattle City Council must confirm Harrell’s selection.

In a public forum last week, the finalists fielded questions about alternatives to police response, culture within the department and violence in the city. Diaz indicated support for increased policing alternatives and reform within the department, but he spoke more about his previous experience than about new ideas.

Diaz joined the agency in 1997 and has worked in the Seattle Police Department’s patrol and investigations units. He also served as assistant chief of the collaborative policing bureau before he was promoted to deputy chief.

Diaz said in a statement Tuesday that he was committed to ensuring that community is at the forefront of the department’s work and engagement.

“I approach this work with optimism, mindful of the trust that was shattered by the events of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, of the combined trauma of community and our officers alike, and of the long path towards reconciliation ahead of us,” Diaz said.

Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned in August 2020 after a tumultuous summer of racial justice protests in Seattle and nationally, sparked by the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.

Best, Seattle’s first Black police chief, said at the time that she quit in protest of efforts to decrease police spending.

The Seattle City Council voted in late 2020 to shrink the budget of the Seattle Police Department by about 18%, which was less than the proposed cuts that prompted Best to resign and far less than the 50% some advocates had sought.

The council at the same time approved hiring more than 100 officers and has since approved money for incentives as it has, like many cities, struggled to retain and attract police.

City Council members and residents had criticized Best for the department’s response to the 2020 protests against police brutality — which at times included tear gas, pepper spray and other less lethal weapons.

As interim chief, Diaz reworked the department’s crowd management policies and procedures, reducing the need for police use of crowd control tools, the statement from the city said.

Harrell and Diaz have said little about how they will navigate reform within the department, which has been under a federal consent decree for a decade because of sustained issues of force and bias within the department.

Harrell said in the statement that Diaz understands the department must continue striving for excellence, reject bias and complacency, and act on the needs of the city’s communities.

Milwaukee police sue city over inadvertent gun discharges

From the Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee’s police union is suing the city over service weapons that officers say aren’t safe because they have inadvertently fired without anyone pulling the trigger.

It’s the latest legal action involving the P320 model firearm manufactured by SIG Sauer, including a case filed in Philadelphia in June by a U.S. Army veteran who suffered a serious leg injury when his holstered gun discharged. SIG Sauer, based in Newington, New Hampshire, has denied the P320 model is defective.

The Milwaukee Police Association says the department-issued handguns have inadvertently misfired three times in the last two years resulting in injuries to two officers.

Most recently, a 41-year-old officer was shot in the knee on Sept. 10. In July 2020, Officer Adam Maritato, who is a party in the union’s lawsuit that was filed this week, was unintentionally shot in the leg by another officer’s holstered gun.

The lawsuit alleges that when the city purchased the guns in 2019, it knew, or should have known, about the discharge and safety issues. It also says that during training for the weapons, the city “failed to disclose that the P320 had issues with discharging without a trigger pull, and the officers relied on the safety training to be accurate and complete.”

The lawsuit accuses the city of endangering the safety of its officers and the public by issuing the firearm. The union is asking a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge to force the city to pay damages for the officers’ injuries and to replace every department-issued P320 with another firearm.

“It is unacceptable that we now have hundreds of cases around the country with known unintentional discharges and the city is failing to act,” union President Andrew Wagner said in a statement Tuesday.

Wagner said the union filed the lawsuit after the latest shooting because it had not heard anything since it formally notified the city in June 2021 that it needed to replace the guns for “known safety issues.”

The Milwaukee city attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Blind dog rescued from hole at California construction site

From the Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters have rescued a 13-year-old blind dog that fell into a hole at a California construction site.

This image provided by the Pasadena Fire Department showing firefighters pose with a Cesar a blind dog that was rescued from a hold in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Firefighters have rescued a 13-year-old blind dog that fell into a hole at a California construction site. The dog, named Cesar, lives next to the site in Pasadena with his owner. He apparently wandered onto the site, said Cesar’s owner Mary, who declined to give her last name. (Pasadena Fire Department via AP)

According to KABC-TV, the dog, named Cesar, lives next to the site in Pasadena with his owner. The dog apparently wandered onto the site, said Cesar’s owner Mary, who declined to give her last name.

Cesar then fell into the hole, which was about 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep and 3 feet (0.91 meters) wide, around 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Mary was alerted by the barking of her other dog. Cesar responded and she could hear he was no longer in her own yard. A Pasadena search and rescue team soon responded to the scene.

Pasadena Fire Chief Chad Augustin said confined-space rescues present unique challenges for firefighters.

“There’s a lot of steps we need to do to make it as safe as possible. For not just the dog but also our rescuers,” Augustin said.

The team hooked up a series of ropes and pulleys to lower one team member into the hole. It took the team member about 12 minutes to reach the dog, secure him in a harness and bring him back to the surface.

Cesar appeared to be healthy and uninjured after he was retrieved from the hole. He shook off a heavy coat of construction dirt and dust and was reunited with his owner at the scene.

Fatal Hawaii ambulance fire linked to oxygen device

By CALEB JONES for Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Preliminary findings from an investigation into an ambulance fire that killed a patient and injured a paramedic last month show the blaze originated in an oxygen device that is routinely used, officials in Hawaii said Wednesday.

The Aug. 24 fire killed a 91-year-old patient and severely injured a 36-year-old paramedic when flames engulfed the back of the ambulance in the parking lot of a Kailua hospital.

“Based on the preliminary findings of this investigation … the fire is classified as accidental and originated at the portable oxygen regulator assembly,” Honolulu Fire Chief Sheldon “Kalani” Hao said at a news conference. “The exact and definitive cause of this fire cannot be determined within the scope of the Honolulu Fire Department.”

Dr. Jim Ireland, the emergency services director for the city and county, said the injured paramedic reported hearing a loud sound when he was connecting a breathing device called a CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, to an oxygen source in the back of the ambulance.

“It is reported that at the time the paramedic connected the CPAP oxygen line to the portable oxygen cylinder, there was a sound described as a pop, followed by a bright flash of light with the back of the ambulance immediately filling with smoke and fire,” Ireland said.

He said the emergency medical technician who was driving the ambulance reported hearing the same sound before the fire.

The city hired investigators from the Emergency Care Research Institute, a private, nonprofit firm that specializes in medical device evaluations, to help the fire department determine the cause of the fire.

Ireland said the investigation into what sparked the fire is ongoing and a final report will be issued once complete.

Found: Alligator, drugs, guns, money. But where’s the tiger?

From the Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An alligator, drugs, guns and money were seized during a raid at two homes in Albuquerque last month, but New Mexico wildlife officials said Saturday they are still searching for a young tiger they believe is being illegally kept as a pet.

This undated image released by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish shows a missing tiger in Alburquerque, N.M. The animal is believed to be less than 1 year old and 60 pounds, but tigers can grow to 600 pounds. Officials say the alligator was taken to a wildlife facility after a Aug. 12 search, and a 26-year-old man was arrested. Authorities in New Mexico found an alligator and large quantities of drugs, guns and money at two homes in Albuquerque last month, but on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, they said they are still searching for a young tiger they think is being being illegally kept as a pet. (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish via AP)

Investigators think the tiger is with someone “in New Mexico or a nearby state,” New Mexico Department of Game and Fish conservation officers said in a statement

The animal was believed to be less than 1 year old and weigh under 60 pounds (27 kilograms), but tigers can grow to 600 pounds (272 kilograms), the department said, calling large meat-eating animals such as tigers and alligators a clear danger to the public.

Wild tigers are listed globally as an endangered species. Alligators were listed as endangered in the U.S. from 1967 to 1987, but today thrive in the wild.

The alligator seized by authorities is about 3 feet (almost 1 meter) long. It was taken to a wildlife facility after state conservation officers and federal, state and local police served search warrants Aug. 12.

Albuquerque police reported a 26-year-old man was arrested and investigators seized 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) of heroin, 10.5 pounds (4.75 kilograms) of cocaine, 49 pounds (22 kilograms) of marijuana, 17 rifles and pistols, fentanyl and Xanax pills, and nearly $42,000.

Firefighters rescue dogs from kennel roof after evacuation

From the Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Firefighters used a ladder truck to rescue dogs from the roof of a downtown kennel on Monday after chemical fumes from work on a floor forced an evacuation.

Two workers and several animals at Dog Days of Birmingham began having what appeared to be breathing difficulties after a contractor put new sealant on a concrete floor that was being refinished, said Jay Barrett, a spokesperson for the company.

Small dogs that were kept on the ground floor were taken out the front door to safety, he said, but 13 larger dogs that were housed on the second floor were taken to a rooftop play area to get out of the fumes.

Firefighters used a ladder truck parked beside the building to carry the animals off the roof. Firefighters handed down one animal from a fire truck to kennel workers waiting on the ground.

Four people and 26 animals were inside the business when the smell became too strong to remain, he said.

“The humans are all fine. We did take five dogs to the vets as a precaution,” said Barrett. “All were cleared and returned to their owners.”

Capt. Orlando Reynolds of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service said crews were trying to clear the building of the fumes before staff returned inside.

Rains, mudslides prompt Southern California evacuations

By STEFANIE DAZIO from the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Heavy rains Monday unleashed mudslides in a mountain area east of Los Angeles that burned two years ago, sending boulders and other debris across roads and prompting evacuation and shelter-in-place orders for thousands of residents.

In this photo released by the San Bernardino County Fire Department, a fallen tree and other debris blocks a road in Forest Falls after a mudslide in San Bernardino County, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (San Bernardino County Fire Department via AP)

Firefighters went street by street in the community of Forest Falls to make sure no residents were trapped. Eric Sherwin, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said crews hadn’t found anyone who needed to be rescued and no one was reported missing.

Many structures in the area had varying levels of damage, Sherwin said, including a commercial building where the mud was so high it collapsed the roof.

The rains were the remnants of a tropical storm that brought high winds and some badly needed rainfall to drought-stricken Southern California last week, helping firefighters largely corral a wildfire that had been burning out of control about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the mudslides.

The mud flows and flash flooding occurred in parts of the San Bernardino Mountains where there are burn scars — areas where there’s little vegetation to hold the soil — from the 2020 wildfires.

“All of that dirt turns to mud and starts slipping down the mountain,” Sherwin said.

One of the wildfires, the El Dorado Fire, was sparked by a smoke device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender. A firefighter died and the couple was criminally charged in a pending case.

Concerns about additional mud and debris flows Monday night prompted authorities to put 2,000 homes in the San Bernardino Mountain communities of Oak Glen and Forest Falls under evacuation orders after nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain fell on Yucaipa Ridge.

For some homes in Forest Falls it was too late to evacuate and residents were told to shelter in place through the night because it was safer than venturing out.

“The roads are compromised or they’re covered in debris,” Sherwin said, adding that crews planned to work all night using heavy equipment to clear routes.

The mudslides came after a week that saw California endure a record-long heatwave, where temperatures in many parts of the state rocket past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), and pushed the state’s electrical grid to the breaking point as air conditioners sucked up power. The Fairview Fire and the Mosquito Fire burning east of Sacramento broke out and raged out of control.

The tropical storm aided crews battling the Fairview Fire about 75 miles (121 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. The 44-square-mile (114-square-kilometer) blaze was 56% contained by late Monday. Two people died fleeing the fire, which destroyed at least 30 homes and other structures in Riverside County.

The Mosquito Fire has grown to 76 square miles (197 square kilometers), with 16% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. While crews were able to take advantage of cooler temperatures and higher humidity Monday to strengthen control lines, more than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties remained under threat, and some 11,000 residents were under evacuation orders.

Smoky skies from wildfires in many areas of the West caused air quality to deteriorate Monday, with dangerous levels of particulate pollution detected by government and private monitors in portions of eastern Oregon and Washington, Northern California, central Idaho and western Montana. In some areas, people were told to avoid all outdoor activity until the pollution cleared.

In Washington, fire officials scrambled to secure resources for a blaze sparked Saturday in the remote Stevens Pass area that sent hikers fleeing and forced evacuations of mountain communities. As of Monday, the Bolt Creek Fire was 2% contained and had scorched nearly 12 square miles (31 square kilometers) of forestland about 65 miles (104 kilometers) northeast of Seattle. A larger incident management team and additional fire crews were slated to arrive Tuesday, officials said.

In Oregon, utility companies said Monday they restored power to tens of thousands of customers after shutting down service over the weekend to try to prevent wildfires during high winds, low humidity and hot temperatures.

Both Portland General Electric and Pacific Power enacted planned power shutoffs Friday as gusting winds and low humidity moved into Oregon, posing extreme fire danger. The utilities were concerned that the winds would cause power lines to break or sag, making sparks that could ignite tinder-dry vegetation.

South of Portland, evacuation levels were reduced near the 135-square-mile (349-square-kilometer) Cedar Creek Fire, which has burned for over a month across Lane and Deschutes counties. Firefighters were protecting remote homes in Oakridge, Westfir and surrounding mountain communities. Sheriff’s officials warned that people should remain ready to leave at a moment’s notice should conditions change.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the last five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in its history.


UK police officer who shot unarmed Black man suspended

For the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — A police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man in London has been suspended from duty, the British capital’s Metropolitan Police force said.

Chris Kaba, 24, was killed in south London on Sept. 5 after police pursued his car and tried to stop it. His vehicle was hemmed in by two police cars in a narrow residential street in the Streatham Hill neighborhood, and one round was fired from a police weapon.

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Amanda Pearson said Monday the firearms officer was suspended partly because of the “significant impact on public confidence.”

“We understand how concerned communities are, particularly Black communities, and thank those who are working closely with our local officers,” she said.

The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, launched a homicide investigation last week into Kaba’s death.

The office said the shooting came after the activation of an automatic number plate recognition camera, which indicated that the vehicle Kaba was driving was linked to a firearms incident in previous days. It said the car that Kaba was driving wasn’t registered to him.

Wind, storms could spread wildfires in Oregon this week

From the Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon firefighters will face challenges this week as continued heat combines with windy and unstable conditions, possible thunderstorms and unwanted east winds, fire meteorologists said.

Forecasters said the concern isn’t on the same level as the 2020 Labor Day fires east wind event, but there is concern about active wildfires near Oakridge, Grants Pass and Joseph spreading as well as new blazes starting and growing quickly.

Oregon utilities told the Statesman Journal they’re watching conditions closely and may consider shutting down power lines to limit wildfire danger. Falling power active lines in the high winds were at least partly to blame for the Labor Day wildfires.

Eric Wise, fire meteorologist for the Northwest Coordination Center, described his level of concern as “about a 6 or 7,” on a scale of 1 to 10.

August has generally been the state’s busiest month for wildfires, but in September — when hot and dry east winds are involved — Oregon has experienced the largest wildfire spreads in state history.

“This is a concerning forecast for western Oregon, but we’re also not expecting anything like the winds we saw back in 2020,” Wise said about this week.

Wednesday and then Friday into early Saturday are the most concerning days, officials said.

Heat Tuesday and Wednesday combined with an unstable atmosphere could create dry thunderstorms, with lightning strikes that could ignite fires.

Friday and into Saturday is when the east winds are forecast. Unlike the moisture-laden winds from the Pacific, east winds have a tendency to dry out over the Cascade Range and sweep down into western Oregon.

Weather models are projecting sustained winds speeds around 20 mph (32 kph) with gusts up to 40 mph (64 kph) in the Columbia River Gorge.

That’s decent news for the largest active fire in southwest Oregon — the Cedar Creek Fire — which is southeast of Eugene and about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Oakridge. The fire, next to Waldo Lake, has burned about 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) and growth appears likely.

Other wildfires likely to be impacted include the Rum Creek Fire in southwest Oregon above the Rogue River, and the Double Creek, Sturgill and Nebo fires in the Wallowa Mountains of northeast Oregon.

Pacific Power spokesman Drew Hanson said if the forecasted conditions develop, the utility is prepared to turn off power to reduce wildfire risks. Hanson said the goal is to notify potentially affected customers 48 hours in advance.

Portland General Electric spokeswoman Andrea Platt said it was too early to say whether a public safety power shutoff may be called.

Cooler temperatures and possibly even rain are expected next week.

New city watchdog to investigate series of police shootings

From the Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The new police department watchdog for Ohio’s capital city will investigate three recent police shootings, including the killing of a man shot in his bed.

The probes by Inspector General Jacqueline Hendricks follows a vote by the Columbus Civilian Police Review Board on Tuesday directing Hendricks’ office to look into the shootings, including the Aug. 30 death of Donovan Lewis, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Lewis, 20, was shot less than a second after Columbus officer Ricky Anderson opened the door of the bedroom where Lewis was sleeping. An attorney representing Lewis has called the shooting reckless and senseless. Officers were at the apartment trying to arrest Lewis on multiple warrants.

Hendricks’ office will also investigate the Aug. 24 nonfatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy and an Aug. 22 incident when a Columbus officer fired at — but did not hit — two fleeing suspects. The reviews will start after the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation completes its examination of the first two shootings. The state declined to investigate the Aug. 22 incident.

Hendricks will determine whether to recommend that administrative misconduct charges be filed against officers involved in the shootings. The civilian review board has the final say on whether those recommendations are forwarded to the Columbus public safety director or police chief for review and possible disciplinary action.

Hendricks says her office has opened 50 investigations into complaints of alleged misconduct by Columbus police, including 10 alleged cases of excessive force, in the new office’s first two months, the Dispatch reported.

Dog sniffs out cocaine hidden in wheelchair at Milan airport

From the Associated Press

ROME (AP) — A drug-sniffing dog led frontier police Friday at a Milan airport to some 13 kilograms (nearly 30 pounds) of cocaine stuffed into the leather upholstery of a motorized wheelchair, whose user immediately stood up and was arrested, authorities said.

This picture made available Friday, Sep. 2, 2022, by the Italian Financial Police shows the motorized wheelchair used by a man who tried to sniff some 13 kilos (nearly 30 pounds) of cocaine, foreground, at Milan airport, northern Italy. Police said that when the cocaine was found, the chair user, a Spaniard who had requested airport personnel to help guide the wheelchair, got up, walked without assistance, and was taken into custody. (Guardia di Finanza via AP)

The specialized canine unit was being deployed at Malpensa airport to check arriving passengers and their luggage from a flight from the Dominican Republic, since previously drug couriers had used that route, the Financial Guard police said in a statement.

When a dog drew officers’ attention to the traveler, police first checked his luggage, which yielded nothing, then slashed the wheelchair’s upholstery, discovering the cocaine.

Police said that when the cocaine was found, the chair user — a Spaniard who had requested airport personnel to help guide the wheelchair — got up, walked without assistance and was taken into custody.

The passenger was brought to a local jail, where judicial authorities upheld his detention pending investigation of the case, the statement said.

Police said the 11 packets of cocaine, weighing a total of 13.35 kilograms (nearly 30 pounds) could have yielded some 27,000 individual doses of the drug and had a street sale value of some 1.4 million euros (dollars).

Ukrainian firefighters rescue kitten from burning building

From the Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian firefighters known for rescuing people from buildings hit by shelling in more than six months of war helped a small, furry survivor this weekend — a gray-and-white kitten.

In this image made from video, a firefighter holds a kitten after rescuing it from a burning building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. Ukraine’s emergency services posted video to Facebook on Sunday showing the firefighters petting and cuddling the kitten as they carried it to safety. One said, “We found a beauty.” Ukraine’s emergency services said the kitten’s paw needed medical attention. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine via AP)

The rescuers, wearing full firefighting gear, battled raging flames and smoke to pull the kitten out from under a metal chair in the rubble of a wooden hotel-restaurant complex hit by a rocket in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, the country’s emergency services said Sunday on Facebook.

Video showed the firefighters petting and cuddling the feline as they carried it to safety. One used water from a firetruck to wipe down the kitten in his arms.

“We found a beauty,” one of the firefighters said as the kitten wiggled around in a colleague’s arms. Another said, “Get this kitty some oxygen.”

Ukraine’s emergency services said the kitten’s paw needed medical attention.

“Heroes of our time,” the emergency services proclaimed of the firefighters. “They protect, work, save, treat … And we wish the cat a speedy recovery.”

Canadian police hunt for suspects after 10 stabbed to death

By ROB GILLIES and ROBERT BUMSTED for the Associated Press

WELDON, Saskatchewan (AP) — Canadian police searched Monday for two men suspected of killing 10 people in a series of stabbings in an Indigenous community and a nearby town, as a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of one of the deadliest attacks in the nation’s history stretched into its second day.

Investigators gather in front of the scene of a stabbing in Weldon, Saskatchewan, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. A series of stabbings at an Indigenous community and at another in the village of Weldon left multiple people dead and others wounded, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched for two suspects. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press via AP)

Authorities have said some of the victims were targeted and others appeared to have been chosen at random on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the town of Weldon in Saskatchewan province. They have given no motive for the crimes, which also left 18 people injured — but a senior Indigenous leader suggested drugs were somehow involved.

Police believe the suspects were last spotted around midday on Sunday in the provincial capital of Regina, about 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of where the stabbings happened. Authorities issued alerts in Canada’s three vast prairie provinces — which also include Manitoba and Alberta — and contacted U.S. border officials.

With the suspects still at large, fear gripped communities in the rural, working class area of Saskatchewan surrounded by farmland that were terrorized by the crimes. One witness who said he lost family members described seeing people with bloody wounds scattered throughout the Indigenous reserve.

“No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. They’re going to be terrified to open their door,” said Ruby Works, who also lost someone close to her and is a resident of Weldon, which has a population of about 200 and is home to many retirees.

As the Labor Day holiday weekend drew to a close Monday, police urged Saskatchewan residents who were returning from trips away to look for suspicious activity around their homes before entering.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30, and both men face at least one count each of murder and attempted murder. More charges are expected.

Police have given few details about the men. Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “unlawfully at large.”

The attack was among the deadliest mass killings in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020, when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto.

Deadly mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but have happened around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in China’s southwestern city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass stabbing at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men killed eight people in a vehicle and stabbing attack at London Bridge.

“It is horrific what has occurred in our province,” said Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan.

Police got their first call about a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. on Sunday, and within minutes heard about several more. In all, dead or wounded people were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reserve and in the town, Blackmore said. James Smith Cree Nation is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.

She couldn’t provide a motive, but the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations suggested the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities, and we demand all authorities to take direction from the chiefs and councils and their membership to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.

As the manhunt stretched on, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray urged anyone with information to come forward.

“They have not been located, so efforts continue,” Bray said in a video posted on Twitter on Monday morning. “We will not stop until we have those two safely in custody.”

The night before, he said police believed the suspects were still in Regina but didn’t say why.

The elected leaders of the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation declared a local state of emergency.

Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson — who apparently is not related to the suspects — said everyone has been affected by the tragic events.

“They were our relatives, friends,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty horrific.”

Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, who is the former partner of Michael Brett Burns and the mother of their two daughters.

“It’s sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”

Burns later posted on Facebook that there were dead and wounded people everywhere on the reserve, making it look like “a war zone.”

“The look in their eyes couldn’t express the pain and suffering for all those who were assaulted,” he posted.

Doreen Lees, an 89-year grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car came barreling down her street early Sunday as her daughter was having coffee on her deck. Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help.

But Lees said the man took off after her daughter said she would call for help.

“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.”

She said she began to follow him because she was concerned about him, but her daughter told her to come back to the house.

Weldon residents have identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson. Works said the 77-year-old widower was like an uncle to her.

“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was just a little girl,″ she said, describing the moment she heard the news. She said he loved his cats, was proud of his homemade Saskatoon berry jam and frequently helped out his neighbors.

“He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, kind hearted man,″ said Works.

Weldon resident Robert Rush described the victim as gentle.

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.

Rush said Petterson’s adult grandson was in the basement when the suspects entered the home, and he phoned police.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the flag above Canada’s parliament building in Ottawa would be flown at half-staff to honor the victims.

“As Canadians, we mourn with everyone affected by this tragic violence, and with the people of Saskatchewan,” Trudeau said.

Memphis officer shot while looking for stolen vehicles

From the Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A police officer was shot and critically wounded Wednesday while patrolling for stolen vehicles in Memphis, Tennessee, officials said.

The Memphis Police Department said the officer was shot by someone in a silver Infiniti. The officer was taken to a hospital by a fellow officer and listed in critical but stable condition, police said.

A second officer was hurt in a crash with another car. That officer was taken to a hospital in noncritical condition, police said. The civilian driver of the other vehicle also was taken to a hospital. That person’s condition was not immediately known.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said the shooting took place during an operation in an area where vehicle thefts have been committed and where stolen cars have been dropped off.

Three people have been detained for questioning, Davis said in a news conference outside Regional One Hospital.

Schools in the area of the shooting were placed on lockdown during the incident. The lockdowns have been lifted.

Delivery driver’s actions save pups from Florida house fire

From the Associated Press

LAKE CITY, Fla. (AP) — Three puppies in northeast Florida were saved from a burning house after a delivery driver noticed a fire in the home whose owner was away, fire officials said.

The driver for Amazon was delivering a package on Tuesday when she noticed smoke coming from the home and called 911. Firefighters rescued the pups from the home and revived them from smoke inhalation, according to Columbia County Fire Rescue. Firefighters contained the fire to the room where it was started.

“Thank you to the Amazon driver who noticed the smoke and called 911,” Columbia County Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post. “Since the homeowner was not at home at the time, she saved the home and the puppies’ lives!”

The county is located about 60 miles (about 97 kilometers) west of Jacksonville, Florida.

It’s not the first time a delivery driver has come to the rescue.

In January, a newspaper delivery woman in Georgia saved the lives of three adults, four children and several household pets after she noticed smoke billowing from the family’s garage. In July, a UPS driver administered emergency CPR to a girl who had nearly drowned in a swimming pool near Soap Lake, Washington.

Medic who cared for Mariupol wounded heads for Ukraine front

By HANNA ARHIROVA for the Associated Press

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — For 22 days, Serhiy Chornobryvets barely slept and rarely took off his red paramedic uniform. Day and night, he raced around his hometown of Mariupol, rescuing those wounded by the Russian bombs and shells that pummeled the southern Ukrainian city.

Ukrainian medic Serhiy Chornobryvets poses for a photo on Aug. 20, 2022, in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Chornobryvets, who won praise for his bravery in the siege of Mariupol, now works to save soldiers on the front lines of Ukraine’s war with Russia. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

When he finally escaped Mariupol — whose residents endured some of the worst suffering of the war during a nearly three-month siege — he still did not rest. Instead, he joined an organization that sends medics to the front lines in eastern Ukraine, where the fighting is currently concentrated.

“Me before Mariupol and me after what happened: It’s two different people,” the skinny, fresh-faced 24-year-old said during a recent interview with The Associated Press in Kharkiv, another city that has endured intense bombardment.

“If I had not survived Mariupol, I would not have gone to work as a paramedic now. I wouldn’t have had enough courage,” explained Chornobryvets, who is simply called “Mariupol” on the battlefield and now wears a patch that bears the symbol of the port city, a yellow anchor, on his camouflage uniform.

In fact, he could see no other way of making sense of the horrors he witnessed in a place that became a worldwide symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion. Residents suffered relentless bombardment, many trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

“It was like going back to the Stone Age,” Chornobryvets said. “There was looting, constant shelling, planes, aerial bombardment. People around us were losing their minds, but we got on with our work.”

While many hid in basements or bomb shelters, Chornobryvets said he never did. He stayed above ground to tend to the wounded — all while risking his own life. He finally fled on March 18 — his birthday — still in his red paramedic’s overalls.

His tireless efforts were publicly praised by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, when the leader accepted an award in May from the Atlantic Council, the Washington-based think tank, on behalf of the Ukrainian people.

Chornobryvets said that his new work on the front and what he did in Mariupol were almost indistinguishable: “Same wounds, only I’m wearing a different uniform.”

In footage from July, he and his fellow medics can be seen rushing toward a soldier hit by Russian fire. They tightened a tourniquet around the man’s right thigh, and then carefully tended to a gaping wounds in an arm and a leg, where the bone was exposed.

He has a year left of college to finish — but resists making plans for the future. Until the war is won, he has vowed to stay on the battlefield.

“Medicine is my life, and my duty is to save people,” said Chornobryvets.

He dreams of one day returning to Mariupol, which fell to the Russians in May, but tries not to think about it too much because it’s too painful.

“My soul will calm down when I enter Mariupol — and the Ukrainian flag is flying over it,” he said.

Beasley touts sheriff support, opposes ‘defund the police’

By HANNAH SCHOENBAUM for the Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley pitched herself Monday as a bridge between law enforcement and the Democratic party, appealing to moderate voters in one of the nation’s most competitive races for a seat in the narrowly divided chamber.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley speaks during a campaign appearance in Durham, N.C., on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

Joined by more than a dozen current and former law enforcement officers at a news conference in Durham, Beasley announced new legislative priorities to strengthen public safety and mend the frayed relationship between her party and the police force.

The Democrat committed to working with Republican lawmakers to secure funding for local law enforcement to train officers on deescalation techniques, mindful responses to behavioral health crises and alternatives to using force. She also told sheriffs she would fight for federal funding to help rural departments address officer shortages and the ongoing opioid crisis.

With the Senate in a 50-50 deadlock, North Carolina is one of the few states where Democrats have strong potential to flip a seat this November. Beasley, former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, will face off this fall against Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Beasley distanced herself Monday from the “defund the police” movement — a progressive push to divest funds from police department budgets and reallocate them to social services and other community resources.

Popularized by Black Lives Matter activists during the 2020 George Floyd protests, the slogan spun into a political weapon for Republican candidates in the last election cycle, giving them a mechanism to paint their Democratic opponents as anti-law enforcement.

“I do not support defund the police,” Beasley said Monday. “I know that police officers need more funding … for recruitment, retention, training, mental health and addressing the opioid crisis. We’ve got to be more realistic about the kinds of issues that they’re dealing with in our communities.”

Beasley is among several Democratic candidates in competitive races who have recently spoken out against the polarizing political movement.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat and former Orlando police chief who’s challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for his seat, pledged in a recent campaign ad to protect Floridians from “crazy” ideas like “defund the police.” And Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who is fighting for a second term in one of the nation’s most contentious gubernatorial races, has called unjustified police shootings “isolated instances” and lauded the state’s high law enforcement budget.

Budd said Monday that it’s “dishonest” for Beasley to portray herself as favored by law enforcement. He touted his own endorsements from the North Carolina Troopers Association, a separate union that represents most border patrol agents, and many local sheriffs as evidence that he’d be the best candidate to support officers and deputies.

Beasley’s campaign is in “a desperate place when it comes to law enforcement,” Budd said after a speech to Christian ministers and their spouses at a Greenville church.

Republicans criticized Beasley last year when a Federal Election Commission filing showed her campaign listed as participating in a joint fundraiser that included the campaign committee for Democratic U.S. Rep. Cori Bush from Missouri. Bush is a vocal advocate for defunding the police and reinvesting that money in social services and mental health programs. Budd made an indirect reference to Beasley’s association with Bush at his campaign appearance Monday.

Later organizational documents filed for the “Lead the Way 2022” committee do not mention the Beasley campaign’s continued involvement.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said Beasley has been rightfully critical of law enforcement, noting that she was the first chief justice in the nation to call out racial bias in the justice system after a white Minneapolis police officer murdered Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, in May 2020.

But Birkhead also described her as the only candidate in the race “who law enforcement officers can truly count on.”

“She has demonstrated her knowledge and her leadership and her advocacy,” the sheriff said. “Folks like her opponent talk a big game about supporting us, but his (Budd’s) record speaks otherwise.”

Georgia targets $100M from feds to aid police, cut violence

From the Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia will give out $100 million in federal COVID-19 money to bolster policing and reduce violence, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday.

Local agencies can apply for up to $1.5 million apiece if they can show that violent gun crimes and other violence got worse during the pandemic in their communities. State agencies can’t apply.

“With these funds, I am sending reinforcements to those on the front lines to help with recruitment and retention, crime reduction, violence intervention, and equipment and technology,” the Republican Kemp said in a statement. “I look forward to the positive impact these investments will have and expect local governments to take full advantage of these available funds to take the fight to the criminals.”

It’s the third announcement spending federal pandemic relief funds that Kemp has made in recent days as he runs for reelection, with more likely to come. The announcements infuriate Democrats, who say Kemp is using money he opposed to bolster his chances against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

“Once again, Brian Kemp is turning to funds provided by Democrats’ American Rescue Plan, which he called ‘a slap in the face for hardworking Georgians’ and urged Georgia’s U.S. senators to oppose,” state Democratic Party spokesperson Max Flugrath said in a statement.

Kemp has been hammering Abrams on the stump and in advertising, claiming that her statements and her membership on the boards of the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund and Marguerite Casey Foundation show she favored defunding the police. Abrams says she does not support defunding the police. In a public safety plan released in June, Abrams said she actually supports increasing police funding, proposing to raise starting pay for state trooper cadets, prison guards and juvenile justice guards to $50,000, at a cost of $182 million over two years.

Abrams also called for $25 million in grants to raise officer pay and subsidize housing, saying local agencies would have to adopt state best practices to be eligible.

Kemp rolled out endorsements from 102 of Georgia’s 159 sheriffs in June and was endorsed Thursday by the Fraternal Order of Police. While Kemp touts his “back the blue” stance, state documents make clear that much of the money could go to other programs that aim to reduce violence that Abrams supports.

One use of the grants announced Thursday would be to hire back for public safety positions that were eliminated or went unfilled between January 2020 and March 2021. Agencies could also hire more officers than they had before the pandemic if they meet certain federal qualifications.

The money can also go for items including hiring outreach workers to try to persuade people who are violence-prone to choose other ways of addressing their problems, according to a document published by the state Office of Planning and Budget. For example, some hospital-based programs reach out to shooting victims and their family and friends to try to deter them from seeking revenge. Abrams supports violence intervention programs in her plan.

The grant document also spotlights programs that respond to certain police calls with mental health professionals and other non-police personnel. Georgia lawmakers this year passed a bill requiring the state’s 23 community service boards to provide mental health co-responders to any local law enforcement agency that wants them, and the grants could fund that program.

The grants could also be used to pay for equipment and technology that allows police to respond to rising gun violence.

Applications are due Nov. 18 and state officials are likely to decide who gets the money in January. Funds have to be spent by Oct. 31, 2026.

Hawaii ambulance fire leaves patient dead, paramedic injured

From the Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — A patient died and a paramedic was critically injured when their ambulance caught fire outside a hospital in Hawaii, emergency officials said.

“We had an ambulance tonight for reasons we don’t understand catch on fire, possibly explode, prior to entering the hospital,” said Dr. Jim Ireland, the emergency services director. “We’re all just very concerned about our team and the patient that lost their life.”

The 91-year-old patient and the paramedic were in the back of the ambulance as it pulled up to Adventist Castle Health in Kailua on Wednesday night. Another emergency medical technician who was driving the ambulance escaped injury after helping the injured paramedic escape the back of the burning vehicle.

The injured 36-year- old paramedic, a 10-year veteran, was initially treated at the hospital and then taken to another emergency room at the Straub Burn Unit, a city and county news release said.

“All our paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers are all treasured members of our staff and or family, they save lives every day, and it’s just very hard to be in a situation where our team is the ones who are injured. I’ll just leave it at that,” Ireland said. “Please pray for him.”

Ireland said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that officials at this time would not be releasing the names of the injured paramedic or the patient who died.

The patient, who was being transported to the hospital after a 911 call, died inside the ambulance. Officials declined to say what the initial call was for, citing privacy concerns.

The Honolulu Fire Department and federal officials will investigate the cause of the fire.

“This morning we were in contact with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as the ATF, and we are making all records available to these agencies because I want answers,” Ireland said. “We want answers because we want to know what happened and we want to make sure this never happens again.”

Calls and emails to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were not immediately answered.

Ireland said that he and his colleagues could not recall a similar incident in Hawaii.

“This is extremely rare. And if you look at reports from the mainland, it has happened, but it’s very, very rare,” Ireland said. “In 30 years here, I’ve never seen it.”


This story has been corrected to show the injured paramedic is a 10-year veteran, not eight.

Western fires outpace California effort to fill inmate crews

By DON THOMPSON for the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As wildfires rage across California each year, exhausted firefighters call for reinforcements from wherever they can get them — even as far as Australia.

Cadets, who were formerly-incarcerated firefighters, train at the Ventura Training Center (VTC) during an open house media demonstration Thursday, July 14, 2022, in Camarillo, Calif. California has a first-in-the nation law and a $30 million training program both aimed at trying to help former inmate firefighters turn pro after they are released from prison. The 18-month program is run by Cal Fire, the California Conservation Corps, the state corrections department and the nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition at the Ventura Training Center northwest of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Yet one homegrown resource is rarely used: thousands of experienced firefighters who earned their chops in prison. Two state programs designed to get more former inmate firefighters hired professionally have barely made a dent, according to an Associated Press review, with one $30 million effort netting jobs for just over 100 firefighters, little more than one-third of the inmates enrolled.

Clad in distinctive orange uniforms, inmate crews protect multimillion-dollar homes for a few dollars a day by cutting brush and trees with chainsaws and scraping the earth to create barriers they hope will stop flames.

Once freed from prison, however, the former inmates have trouble getting hired professionally because of their criminal records, despite a first-in-the-nation, 18-month-old law designed to ease their way and a 4-year-old training program that cost taxpayers at least $180,000 per graduate.

“It’s absolutely an untapped pool of talent,” said Genevieve Rimer, who works with former inmates trying to clear their records. “Thousands of people are coming back from California’s fire camps annually. They have already been trained. They have a desire to go and put their lives on the line in order to ensure public safety.”

California is hardly alone in needing seasoned smoke eaters, but the nation’s most populous state faces different challenges than other more sparsely settled Western regions. A wildfire that nearly leveled the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise nearly four years ago, for instance, was the nation’s deadliest wildfire in nearly a century, killing 85 people.

The U.S. Forest Service is short about 1,200 firefighters, 500 of them in California, and the Interior Department is down about 450 firefighters, 150 of them in California, said two of the state’s top elected officials, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, in a recent letter to Biden administration officials.

Other Western states are grappling with the issue. Nevada is considering a program like Arizona’s “Phoenix Crew,” which started in 2017 and provides mostly former inmate firefighters a pipeline to firefighting jobs.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California legislation in 2020, allowing former inmates to seek to withdraw guilty pleas or overturn convictions. A judge can then dismiss the charges. Former inmates convicted of murder, kidnapping, arson, escape and sex offenses are excluded.

Since the law took effect, the nonprofit Forestry & Fire Recruitment Program, started by two former inmate firefighters, has worked with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles to help former inmates clear their records and get hired.

Yet they have only been able to file 34 petitions, and just 12 had records expunged during what the program warns “can be a long and drawn out process.”

Ashleigh Dennis is one of at least three attorneys filing expungement petitions through the Oakland-based advocacy group Root & Rebound. She has similarly been able to file just 23 requests, with 14 granted.

Among other hurdles, applicants must show a judge evidence they have been rehabilitated, and the expungement only applies to crimes they were incarcerated for while working in firefighting crews. Many people have unrelated convictions that must be separately expunged.

It’s been a learning curve to educate judges about the law and get the corrections department to speed up certifying to the court that inmates have served as firefighters, said Dennis and one of her clients, Phi Le. He petitioned the court in October and his record was expunged in January.

Da’Ton Harris Jr.’s record was finally cleared in August, about 18 months after starting the process.

“I’m out here, a public servant, risking my life every day to try and better my community,” said Harris. “I don’t think it was a smooth transaction at all.”

Despite his record, Harris obtained firefighting jobs with the U.S. Forest Service, the state’s firefighting agency Cal Fire, and the Forestry & Fire Recruitment Program.

But like Le, his advancement was limited because his criminal record made him ineligible for an Emergency Medical Technician certification, an obstacle that disappeared with the expungement. Outside of temporary federal and state firefighting agency jobs, most fire departments require applicants to be licensed EMTs — a certification the state bans certain felons from obtaining because the job comes with access to narcotics and sharp objects.

Rimer, the Forestry & Fire Recruitment Program’s director of supportive services, said California should automatically expunge records of eligible former inmates, much as it does for those convicted of antiquated marijuana crimes. And it should include their entire criminal record, she said.

“I think it spearheaded opportunity for people, but I don’t think it’s good enough,” she said of the expungement law.

The law’s author, Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes, a Democrat from San Bernardino, has been struggling ever since to learn how many former inmates it has helped. She said many former inmates have contacted her office to praise “the life-changing impact of the legislation.”

The corrections department informs eligible inmates about the law but doesn’t track expungements, said department spokeswoman Tessa Outhyse. Cal Fire, the court system and the state Department of Justice also couldn’t say how many have had their records expunged.

In another effort, California in 2018 created a training program to help former inmates get hired professionally.

The 18-month program is run by Cal Fire, the California Conservation Corps, the state corrections department and the nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition at the Ventura Training Center northwest of Los Angeles. Conservation corps members also are eligible. Former inmates convicted of arson or sex offenses are excluded.

Participants spend six months on life skills and firefighter training and the next year fighting or preventing fires and doing other community service, for which they are paid $1,905 a month. The center has four fire crews with 60 participants.

In four years the program has cost over $29.5 million but has just 106 graduates.

Nearly all found a professional job: 98 are with Cal Fire and three are with other agencies including the Orange County Fire Authority and the U.S. Forest Service, according to corrections officials. Cal Fire provided slightly different figures.

But they’re the fortunate ones among the 277 who have participated since the program’s inception. Another 111 participants, or 40%, left before completing the program, said Outhyse.

Climate change is making wildfires more frequent and destructive, so the shortage comes at a time when demand for wildfire crews is going up.

And the state is turning more to professional wildland firefighters, largely because inmate crews are less available after voters shortened criminal sentences and officials released thousands of lower-level inmates early to prevent coronavirus infections.

This August about 1,670 inmates are in fire camps, including staff like cooks and laundry workers, down about 40% from August 2019. The corrections department was budgeted for 152 crews this year, but fielded just 51, each with about 15-18 firefighters.

With fewer inmate crews, California is turning more to other agencies. The conservation corps is responsible for filling 30 crews, Cal Fire 26 and the California National Guard 14.

The state also is creating what officials called the first all-hazards fire engine strike team operated by a state National Guard. The fire engines can respond both to wildfires and urban blazes.

“We’ve recognized for a few years now that due to early release, due to COVID, a number of other reasons, we have to do something,” said Battalion Chief Issac Sanchez, a Cal Fire spokesman.