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.

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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.

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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.

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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

TEANECK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov 15, 2022–

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

allison.ferre@vacasa.com

KEYWORD: OREGON UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA

INDUSTRY KEYWORD: OTHER TRAVEL LODGING TRAVEL VACATION

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
224-307-5583
ccoons@purposebrand.com

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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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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.

___

Police: Bag found at Stockholm festival had an explosive

From the Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A bag with an explosive charge was found in a Stockholm park during an annual cultural festival and police have opened a preliminary investigation into attempted public destruction, police in Sweden said Monday.

On Sunday, a bag was found and its content was immediately “assessed as dangerous.” The surrounding area was cordoned off and traffic was temporarily rerouted, police said. A bomb squad neutralized the content of the bag on the spot.

“It is only after the investigation at the national forensic center that we can say whether the dangerous object was functional,” said Erik Åkerlund, local police manager.

The police department said it was working ”widely,” interviewing witnesses and examining photo and video images. At the moment no one is in custody.

Police said the bag was found at 9:40 p.m. Sunday. The Aftonbladet newspaper said it was left near the Cafe Opera, a famous nightclub.

The five-day Stockholm Culture Festival ended Sunday with a concert by Iranian pop singer Ebi, whose real name is Ebrahim Hamedi and who is a known Iranian dissident. The free festival included musical acts, activities and performances in six areas across the Swedish capital.

3 Arkansas officers suspended after video captures beating

By ANDREW DeMILLO for the Associated Press

MULBERRY, Ark. (AP) — Three Arkansas law enforcement officers were suspended, and state police launched an investigation after a video posted on social media showed two of them beating a suspect while a third officer held him on the ground.

A car is parked outside the Kountry Xpress in Mulberry, Ark. Three law enforcement officers have been suspended after a video posted on social media showed a South Carolina man being held down on the ground and beaten by police. Arkansas State Police said Sunday night that it would investigate the use of force by the officers earlier in the day outside the convenience store in Mulberry, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo)

The officers were responding to a report of a man making threats outside a convenience store Sunday in the small town of Mulberry, about 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, near the border with Oklahoma, authorities said.

The video shows one officer punching the suspect with a clenched fist, while another can be seen hitting the man with his knee. The third officer holds him against the pavement.

In video recorded from a car nearby, someone yells at officers to stop hitting the man in the head. Two of the officers appear to look up and say something back to the person who yelled. The officers’ comments could not be heard clearly on the video.

Two Crawford County sheriff’s deputies and one Mulberry police officer were suspended, city and county authorities said.

Arkansas State Police said the agency would investigate the use of force. State police identified the suspect as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina.

He was taken to a hospital for treatment then released and booked into the Van Buren County jail on multiple charges, including second-degree battery, resisting arrest and making terroristic threats, state police said.

Worcester’s father declined to comment when contacted Monday by The Associated Press. He referred a reporter to a law firm representing the family. That firm said it was still trying to gather information and did not immediately have a comment on the video.

Worcester is white, according to jail booking information, and the three officers involved also appear to be white.

Authorities have not released the names of the three officers.

“I hold all my employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter,” Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante said.

In a statement released Sunday evening, Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory said the community and the department take the matter “very seriously.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Twitter that the incident “will be investigated pursuant to the video evidence and the request of the prosecuting attorney.”

Cellphone video of often-violent police interactions has put a spotlight on officer conduct in recent years, particularly since the 2020 killing of George Floyd while he was being arrested by police in Minneapolis.

The resulting nationwide protests called attention to officer brutality that often targets Black Americans.

The front door at building that serves as the Mulberry police headquarters and city hall was locked Monday. A sign on the door directed anyone with questions about “the police investigation” to contact Arkansas State Police.

It was unclear whether the officers were wearing body cameras.

Amid public pressure for transparency and the proliferation of videos exposing police misconduct, there has been some pushback against recording officers. In July, the governor of Arizona signed a bill that makes it illegal to knowingly record officers from 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer without permission.

Mulberry is a town of 1,600 people on the southern edge of the Ozarks in western Arkansas, right off Interstate 40, which runs from California to North Carolina.

___

This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Randal Worcester. Authorities initially gave an incorrect spelling.

Georgia woman charged after using pepper spray on school bus

From the Associated Press

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia woman is jailed after police said she pepper-sprayed a school bus driver and bus monitor who were trying to remove her from a bus.

Shaquayle Cuyler, 29, was arrested after she boarded a bus Tuesday morning in Brunswick following a Friday disagreement with the bus driver, Glynn County Schools Police Chief Rod Ellis told The Brunswick News.

Cuyler boarded the bus when it stopped to pick up students, Ellis said. When the driver and monitor tried to remove her, Ellis said she aimed the pepper spray at the two adults.

The driver and monitor were taken to a Brunswick hospital, while paramedics examined the 24 children aboard and cleared them to proceed to their elementary school on another bus. The Glynn County school district said parents were notified.

Cuyler is charged with three counts of battery, cruelty to children, criminal trespass, intentional disruption of a school bus and reckless conduct.

“It was just absolutely bizarre,” Ellis told the newspaper. “She was aggravated. She had words with the driver about something that happened Friday. Then she forced her way onto the bus and got into a confrontation. It is unlawful to just board a bus like that.”

Cuyler is jailed without bail. It’s unclear if she has a lawyer representing her.

16 dead, 18 missing in flash flood in western China

From the Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — A sudden rainstorm in western China triggered a landslide that diverted a river and caused flash flooding in populated areas, killing at least 16 people and leaving 18 others missing, Chinese state media said Thursday.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, residents clear sludge from their property in the aftermath of floods in Qingshan Township of Datong Hui and Tu Autonomous County in northwest China’s Qinghai Province on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. A sudden rainstorm in western China triggered a landslide that diverted a river and caused flash flooding in populated areas, killing some and leaving others missing, Chinese state media said Thursday. (Zhang Hongxiang/Xinhua via AP)

Rescuers, who earlier reported 36 people missing, had found 18 of them by early afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV said in an online update. The Wednesday night disaster affected more than 6,000 people in six villages in Qinghai province, CCTV said.

China is facing both heavy rains and flooding in some parts of the country this summer and extreme heat and drought in other regions. State media have described the prolonged heat and drought as the worst since record keeping started 60 years ago.

Emergency authorities described the flash flooding in Qinghai’s Datong county as a “mountain torrent.” Such torrents generally result from heavy squalls in mountainous areas. Water running down the mountain can turn gullies or streams into raging rivers, catching people by surprise.

Video posted by the Beijing News website showed muddy water rushing down a wide street at night and debris-strewn areas with uprooted trees, partially washed-away roads and overturned cars after the waters had receded.

Seven people died last weekend from a mountain torrent in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.

Elsewhere in Sichuan and other provinces, crops are wilting and factories have been shut down as a drought cut hydropower supplies and high temperatures raised demand for electricity to run air conditioners.

Tesla Ltd. and SAIC, one of China’s biggest state-owned automakers, suspended production at factories in Shanghai due to a lack of components from 16 suppliers in Sichuan that shut down, the Shanghai Economic and Information Industry Committee said in a letter released Thursday.

The Shanghai committee appealed to its counterpart in Sichuan to make sure auto components factories have adequate power during daytime working hours to avoid supply disruptions.

Authorities in three provinces shot rockets into the sky in recent days to “seed” clouds with agents to try to induce them to produce more rain, according to Chinese media and government reports.

Iowa council member countersues police over protest arrest

From the Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines council member is countersuing two police officers who took the unusual step earlier this year of suing several people who participated in a 2020 protest following a Minneapolis officer’s killing of George Floyd.

FILE – Protestors chant “Let them go” as Des Moines, Iowa, police vans arrive at the Polk County Jail after protestors were arrested outside the Capitol, in Des Moines, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Two central Iowa police officers are suing Indira Sheumaker, who is a sitting Des Moines City Council member, and five other people who participated in a racial justice protest in 2020. Now, Sheumaker is countersuing the two police officers. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP, File)

Councilwoman Indira Sheumaker’s countersuit says that Officers Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George used excessive force and violated her civil rights when they arrested her during a protest on July 1, 2020, outside the Iowa State Capitol. Sheumaker’s lawsuit — first reported by the Des Moines Register — also accuses the officers of filing a frivolous lawsuit against protesters.

In June, Wilson and George sued Sheumaker and five other protesters, accusing them of assault and seeking monetary damages, including an unspecified amount in punitive damages.

The protest was among demonstrations against racism and police brutality that erupted worldwide following Floyd’s killing. It began as a rally at the Iowa State Capitol to push for the restored voting rights to felons and turned violent as police led away arrested protesters.

The officers’ lawsuit — which they filed as individuals and not as representatives of the Des Moines Police Department — accuses Sheumaker and another protester of putting George in a chokehold as protesters attempted to thwart the officers’ attempts to arrest several people on prior warrants.

The officers’ lawsuit describes protesters’ actions as “nothing short of domestic terrorism.” Protesters have said police escalated tensions and were heavy-handed in their handling of arrests.

Sheumaker, who was elected to the City Council in 2021 on a platform calling for police reform, denies the officers’ accusations in her countersuit. The lawsuit says she was taking video of police actions at the protest when she was pushed by the crowd into George. As she tried to get back on her feet, her countersuit says, Wilson put her in a chokehold and dragged her across the ground before both officers tackled her.

Sheumaker also states in her counter claim that that the officers’ lawsuit is barred by Iowa case law known as the “fireman’s rule,” which holds that firefighting and policing are inherently dangerous jobs and generally keeps emergency responders from suing or collecting damages for injuries that occur in the course of their duties.

The officers’ attorney, Mark Hedberg, called Sheumaker’s claim meritless, the Register reported.

Seattle ambulance contractor pays $1.4 M in fines

From the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — The private ambulance contractor for the Seattle Fire Department paid nearly $1.4 million last year for violating the terms of its contract with Seattle and arriving late to calls.

American Medical Response contracts with Seattle to provide basic life support ambulance services and transport low-acuity patients. Under the contract, AMR has target response times they must meet at least 90 percent of the time to avoid paying fines.

The first AMR ambulance must arrive in under 11.5 minutes. Last year, AMR ambulances arrived late around 20 percent of the time, according to records KUOW obtained from the Seattle Fire Department. Many ambulances were a few minutes late. A few took an hour or more to show up.

In a statement, a spokesperson for AMR said the longer response times are due to staffing shortages and long wait times at emergency rooms.

“During these waits for a hospital bed, which can range from 40 minutes to four hours, ambulance crews continue providing high-quality patient care either in the ambulance or in the receiving areas of the emergency department,” the statement said. “However, ambulances held at local emergency rooms with patients cannot respond to other 911 calls.”

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins was not available for an interview.

In a statement, department spokesperson Kristin Tinsley said, “Chief Scoggins recognizes that there is a larger challenge with the entire healthcare system for transporting and getting patients to emergency rooms. His hope is that AMR can meet their contractual obligations so SFD units can remain available for the next response.”

She said AMR’s failure to meet its obligations “keeps our units on scene for longer and presents a challenge for SFD to provide the best customer service to the patients we treat.”

The company’s performance didn’t improve much during the first part of 2022. AMR racked up nearly $500,000 in fines as of May 1. The money goes into the city of Seattle’s general fund.

First drought, now downpours as storms slam France, England

From the Associated Press

Winds over 100 kph (60 mph) were recorded at the top of the Eiffel Tower during a flash flood Tuesday, and similar winds were forecast Wednesday in the southeast.

People with umbrellas walking in the rain on Millennium Bridge, London, Wednesday Aug. 17, 2022.. After weeks of sweltering weather, which has caused drought and left land parched, the Met Office’s yellow thunderstorm warning forecasts torrential rain and thunderstorms that could hit parts England and Wales. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Hail hammered Paris and other regions in Tuesday’s sudden storm. Rainwater gushed down metro station stairwells and onto platforms, and cars sloshed along embankments where the Seine River broke its banks.

In southern France, thunderstorms overnight and Wednesday flooded the Old Port of Marseille and the city’s main courthouse and forced the closure of nearby beaches.

As scattered storms swept across Belgium on Wednesday, one flooded parts of the historic town of Ghent following weeks of unrelenting drought.

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London and other parts of southern England were lashed with torrential rain and thunderstorms after one of the driest summers on record which gave the country its first-ever 40 degree Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) temperature last month.

There was widespread flash flooding as the downpours fell on parched ground.

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Despite the rain, much of Britain is still officially in drought. Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people in and around London, says a ban on watering lawns and gardens will take effect Aug. 24.

Much of Western Europe has experienced a season of extreme weather that scientists link to human-made climate change.

Amid the storm warnings, French President Emmanuel Macron postponed an event Wednesday on the French Riviera to mark the 78th anniversary of a key Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France. It was rescheduled for Friday.

The dramatic downpours put an end to weeks of historic heat that left much of France parched, rivers dry and dozens of villages without running water.

Across much of Europe this summer, a series of heat waves has compounded a critical drought, creating prime wildfire conditions.

Rainfall in recent days has eased the burden on firefighters facing France’s worst fire season in the past decade, though emergency authorities said scattered wildfires continued to burn Wednesday in southwest France.

PARIS (AP) — After a summer of drought, heat waves and forest fires, violent storms are whipping France and neighboring countries and have flooded Paris subway stations, snarled traffic and disrupted the president’s agenda.

Winds over 100 kph (60 mph) were recorded at the top of the Eiffel Tower during a flash flood Tuesday, and similar winds were forecast Wednesday in the southeast.

Hail hammered Paris and other regions in Tuesday’s sudden storm. Rainwater gushed down metro station stairwells and onto platforms, and cars sloshed along embankments where the Seine River broke its banks.

In southern France, thunderstorms overnight and Wednesday flooded the Old Port of Marseille and the city’s main courthouse and forced the closure of nearby beaches.

As scattered storms swept across Belgium on Wednesday, one flooded parts of the historic town of Ghent following weeks of unrelenting drought.

London and other parts of southern England were lashed with torrential rain and thunderstorms after one of the driest summers on record which gave the country its first-ever 40 degree Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) temperature last month.

There was widespread flash flooding as the downpours fell on parched ground.

Despite the rain, much of Britain is still officially in drought. Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people in and around London, says a ban on watering lawns and gardens will take effect Aug. 24.

Much of Western Europe has experienced a season of extreme weather that scientists link to human-made climate change.

Amid the storm warnings, French President Emmanuel Macron postponed an event Wednesday on the French Riviera to mark the 78th anniversary of a key Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France. It was rescheduled for Friday.

The dramatic downpours put an end to weeks of historic heat that left much of France parched, rivers dry and dozens of villages without running water.

Across much of Europe this summer, a series of heat waves has compounded a critical drought, creating prime wildfire conditions.

Rainfall in recent days has eased the burden on firefighters facing France’s worst fire season in the past decade, though emergency authorities said scattered wildfires continued to burn Wednesday in southwest France.

UK watchdog probes police stop of sprinter dos Santos

From the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s police watchdog is investigating after armed officers pulled over Portuguese sprinter Ricardo dos Santos’ car in London two years after a traffic stop of the athlete led to accusations of racial profiling.

The Metropolitan Police force said officers on a routine patrol pulled over a car in west London early Sunday because they thought the driver might be using a mobile phone at the wheel. The force said officers spoke to the driver, who then went on his way.

Police said the driver lodged a complaint and the force has referred the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, “recognizing the public interest.”

Dos Santos, 27, said Tuesday that he doesn’t feel safe driving in the British capital.

“I’ve recently changed cars. I’ve got a family car just so I can stand out a lot less, but I guess it’s not the car – it’s the person driving the car,” he told the BBC.

“And every time I do see a police car when I’m driving I think, ‘Is it going to happen this time? Will it happen this time? When is it going to happen again?’” he said.

In 2020, dos Santos and his partner, British runner Bianca Williams, were stopped in west London while traveling with their 3-month-old baby in a car. The couple, who are both Black, were handcuffed and searched for weapons and drugs. Nothing was found.

Police later apologized, and five officers face gross misconduct hearings over the 2020 stop and search.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in 2020 that the incident highlighted the need to overhaul the leadership of the Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest police department.

London police chief Cressida Dick quit in February after Khan publicly criticized her leadership following a string of allegations involving racist and misogynistic behavior within her department’s ranks.

Boston police boat comes to rescue of stranded groom

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Officers with the Boston Police Department’s harbor patrol unit are used to helping boaters in distress, but last weekend Officer Joe Matthews came to the rescue of a groom in danger of missing his own wedding.

This photo provided by the Boston Police Dept., shows from left, Patrick Mahoney, Hannah (Crawford) Mahoney and Boston police officer Joe Matthews on the dock at Thompson Island in Boston Harbor on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Patrick Mahoney was scheduled to get married on Thompson Island, but the boat that was supposed to ferry him to the island where his bride-to-be was waiting broke down. Officer Matthews transported the groom and his party to the island on his police boat so Mahoney’s marriage to Hannah Crawford could go on as scheduled.(Boston Police Dept. via AP)

Patrick Mahoney was scheduled to get married on Thompson Island in the middle of Boston Harbor on Saturday, but the boat that was supposed to ferry him to the island where his bride-to-be was already waiting broke down, police said in a post on their website.

It gets worse. The groomsmen, photographer, DJ and floral arrangements were also stuck on the mainland.

Enter Matthews, who transported more than a dozen people to the island on his police boat so Mahoney’s marriage to Hannah Crawford could go on as scheduled.

“They were there very quickly to get my groomsmen and all of our vendors out here to the island and kind of save the day,” Mahoney told The Boston Globe.

Matthews was only too happy to help.

“It was good to get a nice call for a change and help people out,” he said. “They seemed happy, and we were happy we could do it. It all worked out.”

Preds Foundation teams with police on ‘Gift Card for Guns’

From the Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators Foundation is teaming up on an event offering people gift cards, preseason vouchers and giveaways if they turn in guns to the city’s police.

The NHL team says its foundation is partnering on the event Saturday at Greater Revelations Missionary Baptist Church.

People can turn in guns to the Metro Nashville Police Department there with no questions asked.

They can also drop off unused or expired medication that police will destroy.

In seven Gift Card for Guns days since 2011, people turned in 658 firearms. It’s the first year the Preds Foundation has been involved in the event.

Predators Vice President of Community Relations Rebecca King expressed hope that the initiative would make the community safer.

Firefighters subdue deadly blaze at key oil facility in Cuba

By ANDREA RODRÍGUEZ from the Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) — A deadly fire that consumed at least half of a large oil storage facility in western Cuba and threatened to bring more power failures to the island’s already fragile electricity system was largely controlled Wednesday after nearly five days, authorities said.

Firefighters work to put out a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The fire was triggered when lighting struck one of the facility’s eight tanks late Friday, Aug. 5th. (Yamil Lage, Pool photo via AP)

Flames that recently consumed the fourth tank in the eight-tank facility in Matanzas were almost quelled, although the third tank remained on fire and surrounded by smoke, officials said.

Col. Daniel Chávez, second in command at Cuba’s firefighting department, said the fire could keep burning for the next couple of days, but he did not expect it to spread further. He said the next step is to cool the area.

The blaze killed at least one person and injured 128 others, with 14 firefighters still reported missing and 20 people hospitalized. The fire also forced officials to evacuate more than 4,900 people and shut down a key thermoelectric plant after it ran out of water, raising concerns about a new round of blackouts in addition to the ones the government announced last week for Havana.

Arturo López-Levy, a politics and international relations professor at Holy Names University in California, said the fire will complicate an already difficult scenario in Cuba.

“I think any realistic forecast would point to more blackouts and more difficulty in carrying out the minimum economic activity in the country,” he said.

López-Levy also warned that it would be difficult “to lift up this country after this triple tragedy,” referring to the U.S. sanctions, the pandemic and now the fire.

Some Cubans worry the blaze could lead to more planned power outages as the government grapples with a fuel shortage.

“That gives way to more justification of blackouts that are going to occur,” said Pedro Pozo, a state worker.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel praised the work by local firefighters and special teams sent byt Mexico and Venezuela that employed boats, planes and helicopters to fight the blaze whose billowing, toxic smoke could be seen from the capital of Havana.

“(Tuesday) was a victory day, but we cannot be overconfident,” the president tweeted Wednesday as he warned about a possible switch in the wind direction. “Danger is lurking.”

The fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base began Friday when lightning struck the key infrastructure, which operates an oil pipeline that receives Cuban crude oil that powers thermoelectric plants. It also serves as the unloading and transshipment center for imported crude oil, fuel oil and diesel.

The government has not provided an estimate of damages or said how much it has lost overall in key fuel supplies. The first tank was at 50% capacity and contained nearly 883,000 cubic feet (25,000 cubic meters) of fuel. The second tank was full.

Paramedic, biker killed when car runs into wreck scene

From the Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A paramedic and the motorcyclist he was trying to help after a wreck were killed when a car drove into the scene of emergency responders to the crash on a South Carolina highway Tuesday night, a sheriff said.

Four people in all were struck as the car crossed into the crash scene in Florence from the other lanes of traffic, including a state trooper and a Florence police officer, authorities said.

The first responders were helping after two motorcyclists were severely injured in a crash around 9 p.m. on state Highway 51 near Florence, The officers and paramedics had little time to respond as the car came toward them, Florence County Sheriff TJ Joye said.

“The city police officer pushed the trooper out of the way,” the sheriff said. The police officer appeared to suffer a broken ankle and the trooper suffered a head injury, but both are expected to recover, Joye said.

The driver who hit the people was taken to a hospital. Investigators said she appeared to be elderly. The sheriff did not release her name or condition.

“Why she plowed through there, I have no idea,” Joye said.

The paramedic killed was Sara Kinsey Weaver, 32, and the motorcyclist who died was Cedric Antonio Gregg, 37, Florence County Coroner Keith von Lutcken said.

A crash reconstruction team out of Myrtle Beach is helping his department’s investigation. Deputies will review the team’s findings and consult with prosecutors to see if any charges should be filed, the sheriff said.

Florence County Emergency Medical Services said its people are “heartbroken and overwhelmed by grief” by the deaths, according to a post on the agency’s Facebook page.

Brazil police recover art masterpieces stolen in elderly con

By DAVID BILLER from the Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Police in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday were seeking the arrest of six people accused of involvement in stealing 16 artworks together valued at more than 700 million reais ($139 million), some of which were recovered.

In this photo provided by the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police, officers show artist Tarsila do Amaral’s painting titled “Sol Poente” after it was seized during a police operation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. Police say they seek the arrest of six people accused of stealing 16 artworks, valued at a total of more than 700 million reais ($139 million), stolen from an 82-year-old widow whose daughter orchestrated the theft. (Rio de Janeiro Civil Police via AP)

Police said in a statement that the group stole the works from an 82-year-old widow, who had been married to an art collector and dealer.

The haul included museum-quality pieces from Brazilian masters Tarsila do Amaral and Emiliano Di Cavalcanti. Video provided by police showed them finding more than 10 works underneath a bed and, at the bottom of the pile, was “Sol Poente” – a do Amaral painting of a brilliant-hued sunset.

“Wow! Look who’s here!” one officer exclaimed as she removed bubble wrap from the work. “Oh, little beauty. Glory!”

The theft was orchestrated by the widow’s daughter, according to the statement, which didn’t provide either of their names. The daughter was among those arrested Wednesday, according to local media, which also showed images of a woman attempting to escape through a window as police arrived.

The paintings weren’t stolen in a heist, but rather through a bizarre con. In January 2020, a self-proclaimed soothsayer approached the widow in the Copacabana neighborhood and informed her that her daughter was sick and soon to die, according to the police statement.

The widow, who holds mystical beliefs, was compelled to make bank transfers totaling 5 million reais over the course of two weeks for supposed spiritual treatment. Her daughter, who encouraged the payments, proceeded to fire domestic employees so her accomplices could enter the residence unimpeded and remove the artworks. Upon receiving threats from her daughter and the accomplices, the widow made additional bank transfers.

Three of the artworks, collectively worth more than 300 million reais, were recovered in an art gallery in Sao Paulo. The gallery’s owner told police he had purchased them directly from the widow’s daughter, and sold two others to the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, according to the statement.

A press officer for the world-renowned museum told The Associated Press that its founder, Eduardo Costantini, purchased the works for his personal collection, and possible display at the museum in the future. The museum identified the widow as Genevieve Boghici and said Costantini has maintained direct contact with her throughout the acquisition of the paintings and since.

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AP writer Daniel Politi contributed from Buenos Aires

Firefighters make gains against deadly California fire

By HAVEN DALEY and CHRISTOPHER WEBER from the Associated Press

KLAMATH RIVER, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters have gotten their first hold on California’s deadliest and most destructive fire of the year and expected that the blaze would remain stalled through the weekend.

A chimney stands at a home destroyed by the McKinney Fire on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Klamath National Forest, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The McKinney Fire near the Oregon border was 10% contained as of Thursday morning and bulldozers and hand crews were making progress carving firebreaks around much of the rest of the blaze, fire officials said at a community meeting.

The southeastern corner of the blaze above the Siskyou County seat of Yreka, which has about 7,800 residents, was contained. Evacuation orders for sections of the town and Hawkinsville were downgraded to warnings, allowing people to return home but with a warning that the situation remained dangerous.

About 1,300 residents remained under evacuation orders, officials said.

The fire didn’t advance much on Wednesday, following several days of brief but heavy rain from thunderstorms that provided cloudy, damper weather.

“This is a sleeping giant right now,” said Darryl Laws, a unified incident commander on the blaze.

In addition, firefighters expected Thursday to fully surround a 1,000-acre (404-hectare) spot fire on the northern edge of the McKinney Fire.

The fire broke out last Friday and has charred nearly 92 square miles (238 square kms) of forestland, left tinder-dry by drought. More than 100 homes and other buildings have burned and four bodies have been found, including two in a burned car in a driveway.

The blaze was driven at first by fierce winds ahead of a thunderstorm cell. More storms earlier this week proved a mixed blessing. A drenching rain Tuesday dumped up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) on some eastern sections of the blaze but most of the fire area got next to nothing, said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst.

The latest storm also brought concerns about possible river flooding and mudslides. A private contractor in a pickup truck who was aiding the firefighting effort was hurt when a bridge gave out and washed away the vehicle, Kreider said. The contractor had non-life-threatening injuries, she said.

However, no weather events were forecast for the next three or four days that could give the fire “legs,” Burns said.

The good news came too late for many people in the scenic hamlet of Klamath River, which was home to about 200 people before the fire reduced many of the homes to ashes, along with the post office, community center and other buildings.

At an evacuation center Wednesday, Bill Simms said that three of the four victims were his neighbors. Two were a married couple who lived up the road.

“I don’t get emotional about stuff and material things,” Simms said. “But when you hear my next-door neighbors died … that gets a little emotional.”

Their names haven’t been officially confirmed, which could take several days, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesperson with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Simms, a 65-year-old retiree, bought his property six years ago as a second home with access to hunting and fishing. He went back to check on his property Tuesday and found it was destroyed.

“The house, the guest house and the RV were gone. It’s just wasteland, devastation,” Simms said. He found the body of one of his two cats, which he buried. The other cat is still missing. He was able to take his two dogs with him to the shelter.

Harlene Schwander, 82, lost the home she had just moved into a month ago to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law. Their home survived but her house was torched.

Schwander, an artist, said she only managed to grab a few family photos and some jewelry before evacuating. Everything else — including her art collection — went up in flames.

“I’m sad. Everybody says it was just stuff, but it was all I had,” she said.

California and much of the rest of the West is in drought and wildfire danger is high, with the historically worst of the fire season still to come. Fires are burning in Montana, Idaho and Nebraska and have destroyed homes and threaten communities.

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. California has seen its largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the last five years. In 2018, a massive blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed much of the city of Paradise and killed 85 people, the most deaths from a U.S. wildfire in a century.

In northwestern Montana, a fire that has destroyed at least four homes and forced the evacuation of about 150 residences west of Flathead Lake continued to be pushed north by winds on Wednesday, fire officials said.

Crews had to be pulled off the lines on Wednesday afternoon due to increased fire activity, Sara Rouse, a public information officer, told NBC Montana.

There were concerns the fire could reach Lake Mary Ronan by Wednesday evening, officials said.

The fire, which started on July 29 in grass on the Flathead Indian Reservation, quickly moved into timber and charred nearly 29 square miles (76 square km).

The Moose Fire in Idaho has burned more than 85 square miles (220 square km) in the Salmon-Challis National Forest while threatening homes, mining operations and fisheries near the town of Salmon.

And a wildfire in northwestern Nebraska led to evacuations and destroyed or damaged several homes near the small city of Gering. The Carter Canyon Fire began Saturday as two separate fires that merged.

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Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

Feds charge 4 police officers in fatal Breonna Taylor raid

By DYLAN LOVAN for the Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department announced civil rights charges Thursday against four Louisville police officers over the drug raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose fatal shooting contributed to the racial justice protests that rocked the U.S. in the spring and summer of 2020.

Attorney General Merrick Garland with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The U.S. Justice Department announced civil rights charges Thursday against four Louisville police officers over the drug raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose fatal shooting contributed to the racial justice protests that rocked the U.S. in the spring and summer of 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The charges are another effort to hold law enforcement accountable for the killing of the 26-year-old medical worker after one of the officers was acquitted of state charges earlier this year.

Federal officials “share but cannot fully imagine the grief” felt by Taylor’s family, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the charges.

“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” he said. The charges range from unlawful conspiracies, use of force and obstruction of justice, Garland said.

The charges are against former officers Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison, along with current officers Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany. Louisville police said Thursday they are beginning termination procedures for Goodlett and Meany.

Local activists and members of the Taylor family celebrated the charges and thanked federal officials.

“This is a day when Black women saw equal justice in America,” lawyer Benjamin Crump said.

Some of Taylor’s family and other supporters gathered in a park downtown Thursday and chanted “Say her name, Breonna Taylor!”

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said she has waited 874 days for police to be held accountable.

“Today’s overdue but it still hurts,” she said Thursday. “You all (are) learning today that we’re not crazy.”

Taylor was shot to death by Louisville officers who had knocked down her door while executing the search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot that hit one of the officers as they came through the door and they returned fire, striking Taylor multiple times.

In the protests of 2020, Taylor’s name was often shouted along with George Floyd, who was killed less than three months after Taylor by a Minneapolis police officer in a videotaped encounter that shocked the nation.

Garland said the officers at Taylor’s home just after midnight on March 13, 2020, “were not involved in the drafting of the warrant, and were unaware of the false and misleading statements.” Hankison was the only officer charged Thursday who was on the scene that night.

Hankison was indicted on two deprivation of rights charges alleging he used excessive force when he retreated from Taylor’s door, turned a corner and fired 10 shots into the side of her two-bedroom apartment. Bullets flew into a neighbor’s apartment, nearly striking one man.

He was acquitted by a jury of state charges of wanton endangerment earlier this year in Louisville.

A separate indictment said Jaynes and Meany both knew the warrant used to search Taylor’s home had information that was “false, misleading and out of date.” Both are charged with conspiracy and deprivation of rights.

Jaynes had applied for the warrant to search Taylor’s house. He was fired in January 2021 by former Louisville Police interim chief Yvette Gentry for violating department standards in the preparation of a search warrant execution and for being “untruthful” in the Taylor warrant.

Jaynes and Goodlett allegedly conspired to falsify an investigative document that was written after Taylor’s death, Garland said. Federal investigators also allege Meany, who testified at Hankison’s trial earlier this year, lied to the FBI during its investigation.

Federal officials filed a separate charge against Goodlett, alleging she conspired with Jaynes to falsify Taylor’s warrant affidavit.

Garland alleged that Jaynes and Goodlett met in a garage in May 2020 “where they agreed to tell investigators a false story.”

Former Louisville Police Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, who was shot at Taylor’s door, retired last year. Another officer, Myles Cosgrove, who investigators said fired the shot that killed Taylor, was dismissed from the department in January 2021.

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Pilot shortage leads to Med-Flight service hour cuts

From the Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia State Police has temporarily reduced the operating hours for its Med-Flight helicopter service in central and southwest Virginia due to a shortage of pilots.

State police said until more pilots can be hired and trained, the service has been reduced from 24-hour coverage to 16 hours per day, from 8 a.m. through midnight, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The changes went into effect on Sunday.

In the meantime, private, for-hire air ambulance services such as those offered by VCU Health Systems and HCA Hospitals will fill the gap in the Richmond area. Med-Flight is free of charge, but the private services bill patients for the transport. In most cases, the fee is covered by a patient’s health care insurance.

Traditionally, sworn state police officers have piloted Med-Flight helicopters, but civilian pilots have been employed in the past and the shortage has opened hiring to civilians.

The state has posted job listings seeking pilots for the Med-Flight programs based in Chesterfield County and Abingdon.

Blaze contained in southern France but 4 firefighters hurt

From the Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — A weekend wildfire in the southern French Gard region that injured four firefighters has now been contained, officials said Monday.

This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gard region (SDIS 30) shows a water-bombing plane spreads water at a forest fire in Aubais, southern France, July 31, 2022. A weekend wildfire in the southern French Gard region that injured four firefighters has now been contained. Firefighter spokesman Colonel Eric Agrinier told French media that 370 hectares were burned and two homes affected by the flames. (SDIS 30 service audiovisuel via AP)

Firefighter spokesman Col. Eric Agrinier told French media that 370 hectares (915 acres) were burned and two homes affected by the flames. But he highlighted “dozens and dozens of houses were preserved and (we saw) a human toll of zero casualties among civilians.”

The fire was contained overnight Sunday with some 400 firefighters monitoring the blaze Monday morning, according to the civil protection agency.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted an alert on Sunday regarding the fire that broke out around 3 p.m. in a pine forest in Aubais, a village of 2,000. Several families were evacuated.

France is set to face another heat wave, and several regions have been put on alert for possible wildfires.

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Sheriff: Woman intent on revenge set fire to wrong house

From the Associated Press

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina woman apparently seeking revenge on her ex-boyfriend tried to set fire to a house owned by someone else, according to a sheriff’s office.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said in a report that a homeowner in Gold Hill was awakened Friday by a neighbor who saw a woman trying to set fire to the house. There were bundles of wood and a fire on the front porch and deputies found a jug of oil that they say was used to start the fire.

As the homeowner went to get a garden hose, he saw burning pieces of wood around a propane tank. The garden hose didn’t work because the woman had apparently used a sealant to block the flow of water, deputies said.

The homeowner grabbed a rifle and confronted the woman, who was holding one of his dogs on a leash. With law enforcement and emergency personnel approaching, the woman drove off, the sheriff’s office reported.

Deputies arrested the woman and charged her with felony first-degree arson, assault with a deadly weapon, and larceny of an animal. Bond was set at $101,500. It couldn’t be determined Tuesday if she had an attorney.

Investigators estimate the home sustained approximately $20,000 in damage.

Police: California burglar forgot keys inside crime scene

From the Associated Press

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California burglar returned to the scene of the crime this weekend after he forgot his keys inside a doughnut company’s corporate office.

This Monday, July 25, 2022, image taken from a surveillance video posted on YouTube and provided by the San Rafael Police Department shows a subject who forced entry into the corporate office of Johnny Doughnuts in San Rafael. The burglar had to double back to the scene of the crime, the corporate office of a the San Francisco Bay Area doughnut company – this week because he forgot his keys. Police are asking for the public’s help in identification. (San Rafael Police Department via AP)

The thief stole some petty cash from Johnny Doughnuts’ office in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday night, police said. In another twist, he also grabbed the keys to a bakery vehicle, but didn’t steal the vehicle itself.

San Rafael police are seeking the public’s help to identify the burglar, who used an unknown tool to “manipulate” the office’s doorknob and get inside around 10 p.m., according to Lt. Dan Fink. The crime was reported to police on Monday.

Surveillance video shows the man moving between the office and a back storage area, where he pried open a filing cabinet, Fink said.

The lieutenant said the thief took a bank bag with an unknown amount of cash.

“Part of the investigating is finding out why this specific business was targeted,” he said.

Craig Blum, founder of Johnny Doughnuts, said his company plans to deliver a few dozen doughnuts to the San Rafael police officers “who came to our aid to ensure that we can continue serving our community hand-crafted doughnuts without interruption.”

“It was an unfortunate incident, but we’re glad no doughnuts or team members were harmed,” Blum said. “Sometimes even the thought of a doughnut makes you do crazy things.”

Appalachian floods kill at least 16 as rescue teams deploy

By DYLAN LOVAN and BRUCE SCHREINER for the Associated Press

JACKSON, Ky. (AP) — Search and rescue teams backed by the National Guard looked Friday for people missing in record floods that wiped out entire communities in some of the poorest places in America. Kentucky’s governor said 16 people have died, a toll he expected to grow.

Members of the Winchester, Ky., Fire Department walk inflatable boats across flood waters over Ky. State Road 15 in Jackson, Ky., to pick up people stranded by the floodwaters Thursday, July 28, 2022. Flash flooding and mudslides were reported across the mountainous region of eastern Kentucky, where thunderstorms have dumped several inches of rain over the past few days. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Gov. Andy Beshear told The Associated Press that children were among the victims, and that the death toll could more than double as rescue teams search the disaster area.

“The tough news is 16 confirmed fatalities now, and folks that’s going to get a lot higher,” the governor said later at a briefing. He said the deaths were in four eastern Kentucky counties.

Powerful floodwaters swallowed towns that hug creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and hollows, swamping homes and businesses, trashing vehicles in useless piles and crunching runaway equipment and debris against bridges. Mudslides marooned people on steep slopes and at least 33,000 customers were without power. Numerous state roads were blocked by high water or mud, and crews were “unable to even get to some of these roadways it is so bad,” Beshear said.

“We’ve still got a lot of searching to do,” said Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Kentucky’s hard-hit Perry County. “We still have missing people.”

Emergency crews made dozens of air rescues and hundreds of water rescues, and more people still needed help, Beshear said: “This is not only an ongoing disaster but an ongoing search and rescue. The water is not going to crest in some areas until tomorrow.”

Rachel Patton said floodwaters filled her Floyd County home so quickly that her mother, who is on oxygen, had to be evacuated on a door that was floated across the high water. Patton’s voice faltered as she described their harrowing escape.

“We had to swim out and it was cold. It was over my head so it was, it was scary,” she told WCHS TV.

The water was so swift that some people trapped in their homes couldn’t be reached on Thursday, said Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams.

Just to the west in Perry County, some people remained unaccounted for and almost everyone in the area had suffered some sort of damage, firefighter Glenn Caudil said.

“Probably 95% of the people in this area lost everything — houses, cars, animals. It’s heartbreaking,” Caudil told WCHS.

Determining the number of people unaccounted for is tough with cell service and electricity out across the disaster area, Beshear said: “This is so widespread, it’s a challenge on even local officials to put that number together.”

More than 330 people have sought shelter, Beshear said. He deployed National Guard soldiers to the hardest-hit areas. With property damage so extensive, the governor opened an online portal for donations to the victims. President Joe Biden called to express his support for what will be a lengthy recovery effort, Beshear said, predicting it will take more than a year to fully rebuild.

Biden also declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency appointed an officer to coordinate the recovery. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell joined Beshear at a briefing.

“We’re committed to bringing whatever resources are necessary to support the life-saving efforts as well as the ongoing recovery efforts,” Criswell said.

Even the governor had problems reaching the devastation. His plans to tour the disaster area on Friday were initially postponed because conditions at an airport where they planned to land were unsafe, his office said. The governor scheduled a flyover for later in the day.

Days of torrential rainfall in the region sent water gushing from hillsides and surging out of streambeds, inundating roads and forcing rescue crews to use helicopters and boats to reach trapped people. Flooding also damaged parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia, across a region where poverty is endemic.

“There are hundreds of families that have lost everything,” Beshear said. “And many of these families didn’t have much to begin with. And so it hurts even more. But we’re going to be there for them.”

Poweroutage.us reported more than 33,000 customers remained without electricity Friday in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, with the bulk of the outages in Kentucky.

Rescue crews also worked in Virginia and West Virginia to reach people in places where roads weren’t passable. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in West Virginia where the flooding downed trees, power outages and blocked roads. Gov. Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration, enabling Virginia to mobilize resources across flooded areas of southwest Virginia.

“With more rainfall forecasted over the next few days, we want to lean forward in providing as many resources possible to assist those affected,” Youngkin said in a statement.

The National Weather Service said another storm front adding misery to flood victims in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday could bring more thunderstorms to the Appalachians, where flash flooding remained possible through Friday evening in places across the region.

Brandon Bonds, a weather service meteorologist in Jackson, said some places could see more rain Friday afternoon and begin to dry out on Saturday “before things pick back up Sunday and into next week.”

The hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over a 48-hour period ending Thursday, Bonds said. Some areas got more rain overnight, including Martin County, which was pounded with another 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) or so leading to the new flood warning.

The North Fork of the Kentucky River rose to broke records in at least two places. A river gauge recorded 20.9 feet (6.4 meters) in Whitesburg, more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) over the previous record, and the river crested at a record 43.47 feet (13.25 meters) in Jackson, Bonds said.

In Whitesburg, Kentucky, floodwaters seeped into Appalshop, an arts and education center renowned for promoting and preserving the region’s history and culture.

“We’re not sure exactly the full damage because we haven’t been able to safely go into the building or really get too close to it,” said Meredith Scalos, its communications director. “We do know that some of our archival materials have flooded out of the building into Whitesburg streets.”

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Contributors include Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Ky., Timothy D. Easley in Jackson, Ky., and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Md.,

Marines halt new amphibious vehicle use at sea after mishaps

From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps will keep its new amphibious combat vehicle — a kind of seafaring tank — out of the water while it investigates why two of the vehicles ran into trouble off Southern California’s coast this week amid high surf, military officials said Wednesday.

FILE – Amphibious Assault Vehicles storm Red Beach during exercises at Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 2, 2010. The U.S. Marine Corps will keep its new amphibious combat vehicle – a kind of seafaring tank – out of the water while it investigates why two of the vehicles ran into troubles off the Southern California coast this week amid high surf, military officials said Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)

No Marines or sailors were injured when one of the vehicles rolled onto its side Tuesday in waves that were unusually high because of a storm in the southern hemisphere. The other one became disabled when waves as high as 8-feet (2.4 meters) slammed the coastline.

The mishaps prompted troops to leap out of the vehicles and make their way to shore at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. The mishaps were first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The new vehicles were introduced to replace Vietnam War-era amphibious assault vehicles, one of which was involved in one of Marine Corps’ deadliest training accidents of its kind two years ago off Southern California’s coast.

Lt. Gen. David J. Furness, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for plans, policies, and operations, said the officials decided to halt waterborne operations involving the newer vehicles as a precaution while an investigation is underway. The Marine Corps will continue using the vehicles for land operations.

“This is the right thing to do,” Furness said in a statement. The effort will allow time to “ensure our assault amphibian community remains ready to support our nation,” he added.

In the July 30, 2020 amphibious vehicle accident, eight Marines and one sailor died when the vehicle sank rapidly in 385 feet (117 meters) of water off San Clemente Island. Seven of the Marines were rescued.

A Marine Corps investigation found that inadequate training, shabby maintenance and poor judgment by leaders led to the sinking.

The Marines use the amphibious vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. The armored vehicles that have machine guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

More charged after 911 operator accused of not sending help

From the Associated Press

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities have filed charges against three more people in the case of a Pennsylvania 911 operator accused of failing to send an ambulance to the rural home of a woman who died of internal bleeding about a day later.

Kelly Titchenell sits on her porch in Mather, Pa., holding a photo of her mother Diania Kronk, and an urn containing her mother’s ashes, Thursday, July 7, 2022. A Greene County, Pa., detective last week filed charges against 911 operator Leon “Lee” Price, 50, of Waynesburg, in the July 2020 death of Diania Kronk, 54, based on Price’s reluctance to dispatch help without getting more assurance that Kronk would actually go to the hospital. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

According to a criminal complaint, the three men were charged Monday with tampering with public records, tampering with or fabricating evidence and obstruction.

They are or were managers for Greene County’s emergency management. Prosecutors allege they failed to provide policy memo binders that detail standard operating procedures.

According to the criminal complaint, the three conspired to “knowingly and purposefully conceal, withhold, omit, obstruct or pervert the release of documents” to investigators.

Earlier this month, authorities charged 911 operator Leon “Lee” Price, 50, of Waynesburg, with involuntary manslaughter in the July 2020 death of Diania Kronk, 54, based on Price’s reluctance to dispatch help without getting more assurance that Kronk would actually go to the hospital.

“I believe she would be alive today if they would have sent an ambulance,” said Kronk’s daughter Kelly Titchenell, 38.

Price, who also was charged with reckless endangerment, official oppression and obstruction, questioned Titchenell repeatedly during the four-minute call about whether Kronk would agree to be taken for treatment.

Oregon man pleads guilty in gun theft tied to deputy killing

From the Associated Press

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — An Oregon man has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison in connection with a stolen firearms trafficking scheme that led to the shooting death of Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown in southwest Washington.

Brian Clement, 51, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court Tuesday to second-degree burglary and theft of a firearm, The Columbian reported. A charge of unlawful possession of a firearm was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

The plea deal also requires Clement to testify against his co-defendant, Misty Raya. Prosecutors say he helped her break into a storage unit to steal firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Prosecutors have said one of the stolen guns was used by Raya’s brother-in-law, Guillermo Raya Leon, to shoot Brown as he was working undercover July 23, 2021 at an apartment complex in east Vancouver.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith said during Tuesday’s hearing that Clement was not directly involved in Brown’s death, but Clement’s actions set off a series of events that led to it. She said he helped Raya break into safes inside the storage unit to get to the guns and ammunition.

Defense attorney Kari Reardon said that under different circumstances, she likely would’ve asked Judge John Fairgrieve to sentence Clement to drug treatment court, because he had relapsed at the time.

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Clement apologized to the Brown family Tuesday and said he wouldn’t have been involved if he knew someone would be killed.

“As a previous military police officer, my heart goes out to the family,” Clement said.

Fairgrieve ordered the agreed-upon 90-month sentence and acknowledged the compromises prosecutors have made to ensure cooperation agreements and stronger cases against those charged directly with Brown’s killing. He also recognized that Clement showed remorse for his role.

Investigators have said that Raya Leon admitted to shooting Brown, 46, while the detective was seated in an unmarked police SUV.

Detectives were following Raya Leon, his brother, Abran Raya Leon and his brother’s wife, Misty Raya that day as part of an investigation into the firearms and ammunition theft from the storage unit.

Court records say Misty Raya’s friend, Lani Kraabell, was helping them find buyers for the stolen guns when Guillermo Raya Leon shot Brown.

Kraabell pleaded guilty in June to second-degree manslaughter in connection with Brown’s death and also agreed to cooperate with the criminal cases against her co-defendants. She was sentenced to six years in prison.

Raya Leon has pleaded not guilty to first-degree aggravated murder and other charges. Misty Raya has pleaded not guilty to burglary, identity theft and multiple counts of firearm theft.

Too close to home: Fire at firehouse in Mississippi town

From the Associated Press

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, Miss. (AP) — A volunteer fire department in a Mississippi community lost the use of three trucks when its own station went up in flames.

WLOX TV reports that the fire happened Monday night at the Nicholson Volunteer Fired Department station. Nicholson is a community in Pearl River County, near the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana state line. Five neighboring firefighting agencies assisted in fighting the blaze.

Three trucks were heavily damaged, according to the TV station. And a county press release says several other pieces of key firefighting equipment were destroyed in the fire.

Former Nicholson fire chief Bobby Robbins estimated the damage at $1 million and said it could take around 100 days to have the equipment replaced. There were no injuries. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Robbins said the trucks were donated by Deep South, a company the team is now considering renting from. The Pearl River County Fire Marshal added they are working with other agencies in the meantime to borrow equipment.

Authorities must determine how the fire started as well as how to provide immediate protection in Nicholson without the fire trucks, equipment and a useable firehouse.

Police: Man cut loose after crawling down pizza oven vent

From the Associated Press

LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man became trapped while trying to crawl down through a vent from a strip mall roof into a pizza restaurant on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to slice open the vent to free him, police said.

The man was taken to a hospital and the extent of his injuries was unclear.

Police told local news outlets that emergency responders cut open the vent where it extended upward from a pizza oven at a Little Caesars outlet in suburban Lithonia, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of downtown Atlanta.

Brittany Davis, a U.S. Army recruiter, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she could hear the man yelling for help when she arrived for work at a neighboring recruiting office.

“I looked on the roof but couldn’t see anybody,” Davis said. She called 911.

Davis said a Little Caesars employee told her he could hear the man’s voice coming from inside the oven. Davis said she went inside the pizza restaurant and spoke to the man, who reported he was in pain and having a panic attack.

“I’m not sure what time the restaurant closes at night but the oven still gives off heat after they close I imagine,” DeKalb County Fire Cpt. Jason Daniels told WXIA-TV. “For him to get down into the pipe … he had to do it in a certain window of time when the oven was cool enough and obviously nobody was there.”

The man walked to an ambulance shortly after being removed and was taken to a hospital. Police did not identify him or announce any criminal charges.

Photographs showed the vent broken off and laying on the roof and firefighters cutting away the sheet metal vent while standing atop the oven.

Jan. 6 rioter apologizes to officers after House testimony

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER for Associated Press

A man who joined the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol apologized Tuesday to officers who protected the building after telling lawmakers that he regrets being duped by the former president’s lies of election fraud.

Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last in June 2022 to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, shakes hands with Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges as the hearing with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, concludes at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

During a hearing before the U.S. House committee that’s investigating the insurrection, Stephen Ayres testified that he felt called by former President Donald Trump to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

He described being swept up by Trump’s bogus claims, and believing as he marched to the Capitol that Trump would join them there and that there was still a chance the election could be overturned.

“I felt like I had like horse blinders on. I was locked in the whole time,” said Ayres, who is scheduled to be sentenced in September after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the riot.

His message to others: “Take the blinders off, make sure you step back and see what’s going on before it’s too late.”

“It changed my life,” he said. “And not for the good.”

Ayres, who was not accused of any violence or destruction on Jan. 6, said he worked for a cabinet company in northeast Ohio for 20 years, but lost his job and sold his home after the riot. He was joined by his wife at the hearing.

After the hearing, Ayres approached officers in the committee room who have testified about being verbally and physically attacked by the angry mob. Ayres apologized for his actions to Capitol Police Officers Aquilino Gonell and Harry Dunn, Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges and former MPD officer Michael Fanone.

The officers appeared to have different responses to Ayres’ attempt to make amends.

Fanone told The Associated Press that the apology was not necessary because “it doesn’t do s— for me.” Hodges said on CNN that he accepted the apology, adding that “you have to believe that there are people out there who can change.”

Gonell, who recently found out that the injuries he succumbed to on Jan. 6 won’t allow him to be a part of the force any longer, said he accepted the sentiment from Ayres, but it doesn’t amount to much.

“He still has to answer for what he did legally. And to his God. So it’s up to him,” the former sergeant said.

Dunn, who didn’t stand up when Ayres approached him, said he does not accept his apology.

The Jan. 6 House committee that’s investigating the insurrection sought to use Ayres’ testimony to show how Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet calling his supporters to Washington mobilized not only far-right extremist groups, but average Americans to descend on the nation’s capital.

Ayres described being a loyal follower of Trump on social media before Jan. 6 and said he felt he needed to heed the president’s call to come to Washington, D.C., for the “Stop the Steal” rally.

“I was very upset, as were most of his supporters,” Ayres said when asked about Trump’s unfounded election claims. Asked by Rep. Liz Cheney if he still believes the election was stolen, Ayres said, “Not so much now.”

Ayres said he wasn’t planning to storm the Capitol before Trump’s speech “got everybody riled up.” He had believed the president would be joining them at the Capitol.

“Basically, we were just following what he said,” Ayres said.

Ayres said he and friends who accompanied him to Washington decided to leave the Capitol when Trump sent a tweet asking rioters to leave. If Trump had done that earlier in the day, “maybe we wouldn’t be in this bad of a situation,” Ayres said.

Ayres said it makes him mad that Trump is still pushing his bogus claims about the election.

“I was hanging on every word he was saying,” he said. “Everything he was putting out, I was following it.”

His testimony echoed the words of many Capitol rioters who have expressed remorse for their crimes at sentencing hearings.

He’s among about 840 people who have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges punishable by no more than one year in prison. More than 200 have been sentenced.

In his court case, Ayres admitted that he drove from Ohio to Washington on the eve of the “Stop the Steal” rally to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote count. He entered the Capitol through the Senate Wing doors and remained inside for about 10 minutes, joining other rioters in chanting.

In a Facebook post four days before the riot, Ayres attached an image of a poster that said “the president is calling on us to come back to Washington on January 6th for a big protest.”

In another Facebook post before the riot, he wrote, “Mainstream media, social media, Democrat party, FISA courts, Chief Justice John Roberts, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, etc….all have committed TREASON against a sitting U.S. president! !! All are now put on notice by ‘We The People!’”

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Associated Press reporters Farnoush Amiri, Mary Clare Jalonick and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report from Washington.

Cambodian catches world’s largest recorded freshwater fish

By JERRY HARMER for the Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — The world’s largest recorded freshwater fish, a giant stingray, has been caught in the Mekong River in Cambodia, according to scientists from the Southeast Asian nation and the United States.

In this photo provided by Wonders of the Mekong taken on June 14, 2022, a man touches a giant freshwater stingray before being released back into the Mekong River in the northeastern province of Stung Treng, Cambodia. A local fisherman caught the 661-pound (300-kilogram) stingray, which set the record for the world’s largest known freshwater fish and earned him a $600 reward. (Chhut Chheana/Wonders of the Mekong via AP)

The stingray, captured on June 13, measured almost 4 meters (13 feet) from snout to tail and weighed slightly under 300 kilograms (660 pounds), according to a statement Monday by Wonders of the Mekong, a joint Cambodian-U.S. research project.

The previous record for a freshwater fish was a 293-kilogram (646-pound) Mekong giant catfish, discovered in Thailand in 2005, the group said.

The stingray was snagged by a local fisherman south of Stung Treng in northeastern Cambodia. The fisherman alerted a nearby team of scientists from the Wonders of the Mekong project, which has publicized its conservation work in communities along the river.

The scientists arrived within hours of getting a post-midnight call with the news, and were amazed at what they saw.

“Yeah, when you see a fish this size, especially in freshwater, it is hard to comprehend, so I think all of our team was stunned,” Wonders of the Mekong leader Zeb Hogan said in an online interview from the University of Nevada in Reno. The university is partnering with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration and USAID, the U.S. government’s international development agency.

Freshwater fish are defined as those that spend their entire lives in freshwater, as opposed to giant marine species such as bluefin tuna and marlin, or fish that migrate between fresh and saltwater like the huge beluga sturgeon.

The stingray’s catch was not just about setting a new record, he said.

“The fact that the fish can still get this big is a hopeful sign for the Mekong River, ” Hogan said, noting that the waterway faces many environmental challenges.

The Mekong River runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is home to several species of giant freshwater fish but environmental pressures are rising. In particular, scientists fear a major program of dam building in recent years may be seriously disrupting spawning grounds.

“Big fish globally are endangered. They’re high-value species. They take a long time to mature. So if they’re fished before they mature, they don’t have a chance to reproduce,” Hogan said. “A lot of these big fish are migratory, so they need large areas to survive. They’re impacted by things like habitat fragmentation from dams, obviously impacted by overfishing. So about 70% of giant freshwater fish globally are threatened with extinction, and all of the Mekong species.”

The team that rushed to the site inserted a tagging device near the tail of the mighty fish before releasing it. The device will send tracking information for the next year, providing unprecedented data on giant stingray behavior in Cambodia.

“The giant stingray is a very poorly understood fish. Its name, even its scientific name, has changed several times in the last 20 years,” Hogan said. “It’s found throughout Southeast Asia, but we have almost no information about it. We don’t know about its life history. We don’t know about its ecology, about its migration patters.”

Researchers say it’s the fourth giant stingray reported in the same area in the past two months, all of them females. They think this may be a spawning hotspot for the species.

Local residents nicknamed the stingray “Boramy,” or “full moon,” because of its round shape and because the moon was on the horizon when it was freed on June 14. In addition to the honor of having caught the record-breaker, the lucky fisherman was compensated at market rate, meaning he received a payment of around $600.

Officials try to deliver aid to flooded South Asia villages

By JULHAS ALAM and WASBIR HUSSAIN for the Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Authorities in India and Bangladesh struggled Monday to deliver food and drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people evacuated from their homes in days of flooding that have submerged wide swaths of the countries.

A man stands at the doorway of his flooded shop in Sylhet, Bangladesh, Monday, June 20, 2022. Floods in Bangladesh continued to wreak havoc Monday with authorities struggling to ferry drinking water and dry food to flood shelters across the country’s vast northern and northeastern regions. (AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)

The floods triggered by monsoon rains have killed more than a dozen people, marooned millions and flooded millions of houses.

In Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh along the Surma River, villagers waded through streets flooded up to their knees. One man stood in the doorway of his flooded shop, where the top shelves were crammed with items in an effort to keep them above water. Local TV said millions remained without electricity.

Enamur Rahman, junior minister for disaster and relief, said up to 100,000 people have been evacuated in the worst-hit districts, including Sylhet. About 4 million are marooned, the United News of Bangladesh said.

Flooding also ravaged India’s northeastern Assam state, where two policemen involved in rescue operations were washed away by floodwaters on Sunday, state officials said. They said about 200,000 people were taking shelter in 700 relief camps. Water in all major rivers in the state was above danger levels.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said Monday his administration is using military helicopters to airlift food and fuel to badly affected parts of the state.

Assam has already been reeling from massive floods after torrential rains over the past few weeks caused the Brahmaputra River to break its banks, leaving millions of homes underwater and severing transport links.

The Brahmaputra flows from Tibet through India and into Bangladesh, with a nearly 800-kilometer (500-mile) journey through Assam.

Major roads in affected regions of Bangladesh were submerged, leaving people stranded. In a country with a history of climate change-induced disasters, many expressed frustration that authorities haven’t done more locally.

“There isn’t much to say about the situation. You can see the water with your own eyes. The water level inside the room has dropped a bit. It used to be up to my waist,” said Muhit Ahmed, owner of a grocery shop in Sylhet.

Bangladesh called in soldiers on Friday to help evacuate people, but Ahmed said he hasn’t seen any yet.

“We are in a great disaster. Neither the Sylhet City Corporation nor anyone else came here to inquire about us,” he said. “I am trying to save my belongings as much as I can. We don’t have the ability to do any more now.”

The national Flood Forecasting and Warning Center said on Sunday that flooding in the northeastern districts of Sunamganj and Sylhet could worsen. It said the Teesta, a major river in northern Bangladesh, may rise above danger levels. The situation could also deteriorate in other northern districts, it said.

Officials said floodwaters have started receding in the northeast but are posing a threat to the central region, where water flows south to the Bay of Bengal.

Media reports said villagers in remote areas are struggling to obtain drinking water and food.

BRAC, a private nonprofit group, opened a center Monday to prepare food as part of plans to feed 5,000 families in one affected district, but the arrangements were inadequate, senior director Arinjoy Dhar said. In a video posted online, Dhar asked for help in providing food for flood-affected people.

Last month, a pre-monsoon flash flood triggered by water from upstream in India’s northeastern states hit Bangladesh’s northern and northeastern regions, destroying crops and damaging homes and roads.

Bangladesh is mostly flat and low-lying, so short-term floods during the monsoon season are common and are often beneficial to agriculture. But devastating floods hit the country every few years, damaging its infrastructure and economy. Almost 28% of the nation’s 160 million people live in coastal regions, according to the World Bank.

One of the worst floods took place in 1988, when much of the country was under water. In 1998, another devastating flood inundated almost 75% of the country. In 2004, more prolonged flooding occurred.

Scientists say flooding in Bangladesh has been worsened by climate change. According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, about 17% of the population will need to be relocated over the next decade or so if global warming persists at the present rate.

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Hussain reported from Gauhati, India. Associated Press writer Al-Emrun Garjon in Sylhet, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

Judge resets trial to Oct. 24 for 2 ex-cops in Floyd killing

By STEVE KARNOWSKI and AMY FORLITI for the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge on Tuesday rescheduled the state trial for two former Minneapolis police officers in George Floyd’s killing to Oct. 24 to resolve dueling requests for a new trial date after the state sought to start it as soon as this summer while a defense lawyer asked to delay it to next spring.

Community members lay flowers down near gravestone markers at the ‘Say Their Names’ cemetery Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. The intersection where George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was renamed in his honor Wednesday, among a series of events to remember a man whose killing forced America to confront racial injustice. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of Floyd. Their trial was supposed to start this month, but Judge Peter Cahill earlier this month postponed it until Jan. 5, saying that would improve prospects for a fair trial. He settled on the October date during a brief hearing Tuesday.

The killing of Floyd, who was Black, sparked immediate protests in Minneapolis that spread around the U.S. and beyond in a reckoning over police brutality and discrimination involving people of color. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer who pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement with his knee for more than 9 minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and eventually grew still, was convicted last year of murder.

Thao held back onlookers at the scene. Kueng helped restrain Floyd.

State prosecutor Matthew Frank on Friday had requested a speedy trial on behalf of Floyd’s family, which under Minnesota law could have meant mid-August. Kueng’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, followed with a request Sunday for a longer delay — until April — because of a scheduling conflict.

Attorneys for all sides told Cahill they agreed to the Oct. 24 start date for jury selection. The judge also scheduled a hearing on pretrial motions for Sept. 26-27.

Frank told the court that it would have been “traumatic” for the Floyd family to push the trial date out farther. Not only was their loved one killed by police officers, he said, they’ve had to watch the video of his dying minutes “time and time again in the media and throughout the trial process.”

Thao and Kueng have already been convicted of federal counts of violating Floyd’s rights. Their former colleague, Thomas Lane, was also convicted on a federal count and pleaded guilty in May to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All three are free pending their federal sentencing hearings, which have not been set.

Cahill also presided over last year’s trial of Chauvin, who was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 22 1/2 years. Chauvin has been in prison since that conviction. He also pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge.

Danish-Canadian deal ends 49-year-old feud over Arctic isle

From the Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A territorial dispute between Denmark and Canada over a barren and uninhabited rock in the Arctic that has led to decades of friendly friction has come to an end, with the two countries agreeing to divide the tiny island between them.

A decades-old dispute between Denmark and Canada over a tiny, barren and uninhabited rock in the Arctic has come to an end.

Under the agreement, to be signed later Tuesday, a border will be drawn across the 1.3-square-kilometer (half-square-mile) Hans Island, in the waterway between the northwestern coast of the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island. The rock has no mineral reserves.

“It sends a clear signal that it is possible to resolve border disputes … in a pragmatic and peaceful way, where the all parties become winners,” said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod. He said it was “an important signal now that there is much war and unrest in the world.”

Canada and Denmark agreed in 1973 to create a border through Nares Strait, halfway between Greenland and Canada. But they were unable to agree which country would have sovereignty over Hans Island, which lies about 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) south of the North Pole. In the end, they decided to work out the question of ownership later.

In the following years, the territorial dispute — nicknamed the “whisky war” by media — raised its head multiple times.

In 1984, Denmark’s minister of Greenland affairs raised a Danish flag on the island, buried a bottle of Danish schnapps at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying, “Welcome to the Danish island.” Canadians then planted their own flag and left a bottle of Canadian brandy. Since then, the countries have in turns hoisted their flags and left bottles of various spirits in tit-for-tat moves.

In 2002, Nana Flensburg was part of a Danish military crew that stood on the cliff to perform a flag-raising ceremony. The Politiken newspaper on Tuesday quote her as saying in her diary that “among the stones in the cairns were lots of bottles, glasses, etc. with documents that informed about previous visits to the island.”

The agreement enters into force after the two countries’ internal procedures have been completed. In Denmark, the Parliament must first give its consent to the agreement.

Texas shooting records could be blocked by legal loophole

By ACACIA CORONADO for the Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As public pressure mounts for more information on the deadly Uvalde school shooting, some are concerned that Texas officials will use a legal loophole to block records from being released — even to the victims’ families — once the case is closed.

FILE – A Texas Department of Public Safety officer keeps watch on June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, near a memorial outside Robb Elementary School created to honor the victims killed in last a school shooting. As public pressure mounts for more information on the deadly Uvalde school shooting, some are concerned that Texas officials will use a legal loophole to block records from being released — even to the victims’ families — once the case is closed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Since the May 24 shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 19 kids and two teachers dead, law enforcement officials have provided little or conflicting information, sometimes withdrawing statements hours after making them. State police have said some accounts were preliminary and may change as more witnesses are interviewed.

A number of questions remain unanswered by authorities: Why did police take more than an hour to enter the classroom and confront the gunman? What do their body cameras show? How did law enforcement officers communicate with one another and the victims during the attack? What happened when dozens of officers gathered outside the classroom, yet refrained from pursuing the shooter?

Officials have declined to release more details, citing the investigation. In a letter received Thursday by The Associated Press and other media outlets, a law firm representing the City of Uvalde asked for the Texas attorney general’s office to rule on records requested in relation to the shooting, citing 52 legal areas — including the section containing the loophole — that they believe exempt the records from being released. Amid the growing silence, lawyers and advocates for the victim’s families are beginning to fear they may never get the answers, that authorities will close the case and rely on the exception to the Texas Public Information law to block the release of any further information.

“They could make that decision; they shouldn’t have that choice,” said Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, who since 2017 has led several efforts to amend the loophole. “To understand what our government is doing should not be that difficult — and right now it is very difficult.”

The law’s exception protects information from being released in crimes for which no one has been convicted. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has ruled that it applies when a suspect is dead. Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old man who police say was responsible for the mass killing at Robb Elementary School, was fatally shot by law enforcement.

The loophole was created in the 1990s to protect those wrongfully accused or whose cases were dismissed, according to Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. “It is meant to protect the innocent,” Shannon said. But she said that in some cases “it is being used and misused in a way that was never intended.”

Following the shooting, Texas House of Representatives Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, took to Twitter to voice his continued support for closing the loophole during the Texas Legislature’s next session, which begins in January 2023.

“More than anything, the families of the Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency,” Phelan tweeted. He said it would be “absolutely unconscionable” to deny information based on the “dead suspect loophole.”

Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said the organization was opposed and “will always be opposed” to a loophole amendment proposed in previous years that he said would have allowed the release of records pertaining to law enforcement officers, even those falsely accused of wrongdoing. He said that would negatively affect the officers’ ability to keep working. But Wilkison said he would be willing to participate in future discussions in an attempt to find a middle ground.

Public focus in the Uvalde shooting has been on school district police Chief Pete Arredondo. Steven McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said recently that Arredondo believed the active shooting had turned into a hostage situation, and that he made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.

Arredondo has not responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press. In an interview with The Texas Tribune published Thursday, however, he said he did not consider himself in charge of the law enforcement response and assumed someone else had taken control.

The New York Times reported Thursday that it obtained documents showing police waited for protective equipment as they delayed entering the campus, even as they became aware that some victims needed medical treatment.

If efforts to amend the public information loophole fail and law enforcement continues to refuse to release information, families could turn to any involved federal agencies. In one case in Mesquite, Texas, the parents of an 18-year-old who died after being arrested received records from federal authorities showing that police had used more force against their son than they had originally understood. The police had refused to turn over any information under the legal loophole.

“If someone dies in police custody, this is when we would want to open all of our records,” the father, Robert Dyer, said as he testified before the legislature in 2019 in favor of amending the legal exception.

Mayra Guillen said she and her family were stymied by the state loophole when they tried to get details on a case involving her sister Vanessa Guillen. Authorities say the 20-year-old soldier was killed at a Texas military base by fellow soldier Aaron Robinson, who then disposed of her body.

Military officials and law enforcement said Robinson pulled a gun and shot himself as police were trying to make contact with him. But local police wouldn’t allow Vanessa Guillen’s family to view the officers’ body camera footage of the confrontation because the suspect hadn’t been convicted, Mayra Guillen said.

“We were honestly just trying to receive closure and see if what was being said was true,” Guillen said. “It is only right to have these records be public to some extent. It is so hard to tell whether there will be justice or not.”

Flooding pummels Yellowstone region, leaves many stranded

By AMY BETH HANSON and MATTHEW BROWN for the Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Raging floodwaters that pulled houses into rivers and forced rescues by air and boat began to slowly recede Tuesday across the Yellowstone region, leaving tourists and others stranded after roads and bridges were knocked out by torrential rains that swelled waterways to record levels.

The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up.

In this photo provided by Sam Glotzbach, the fast-rushing Yellowstone River flooded what appeared to be a small boathouse in Gardiner, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022, just north of Yellowstone National Park. (Sam Glotzbach via AP)

Just north of the park, hundreds of people remained isolated after the Yellowstone River and its tributaries washed away the only roadways in and out of the area.

Near Gardiner, Montana, campground manager Marshall Haley said some people had evacuated before the roads washed out after being warned that the river was rising. But others stayed behind and now couldn’t leave, he said. There was no word on when the roads could be repaired and re-opened.

“We’re on an island so to speak,” said Haley. “Most of the motels were full, and the store’s going to run out of food pretty soon probably because no truck can get down here.”

The towns of Cooke City and Silvergate, just east of the park, were also isolated by floodwaters.

Numerous homes and other structures were destroyed, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities.

Heavy rain on top of melting mountain snow pushed the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers to record levels Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials in Yellowstone and in several southern Montana counties were assessing damage from the storms that also triggered mudslides and rockslides. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte declared a statewide disaster.

In Livingston, low-lying neighborhoods were evacuated and the city’s hospital was evacuated as a precaution after its driveway flooded.

It was unclear how many visitors to the region remained stranded or have been forced to leave Yellowstone, or how many people who live outside the park were rescued and evacuated.

Some of the worst damage happened in the northern part of the park and Yellowstone’s gateway communities in southern Montana. National Park Service photos of northern Yellowstone showed a mudslide, washed out bridges and roads undercut by churning floodwaters of the Gardner and Lamar rivers.

Officials in Park County, which includes Gardiner and Cooke City, said extensive flooding throughout the county had made drinking water unsafe in many areas.

The Montana National Guard said Monday it sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help with the evacuations.

In south-central Montana, flooding on the Stillwater River stranded 68 people at a campground. Stillwater County Emergency Services agencies and crews with the Stillwater Mine rescued people Monday from the Woodbine Campground by raft. Some roads in the area are closed because of flooding and residents have been evacuated.

“We will be assessing the loss of homes and structures when the waters recede,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said rain is not in the immediate forecast, and cooler temperatures will lessen the snowmelt in coming days.

“This is flooding that we’ve just never seen in our lifetimes before,” Mottice said.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires, although single weather events usually cannot be directly linked to climate change without extensive study.

The Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs crested at 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) Monday, higher than the previous record of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) set in 1918, according the the National Weather Service.

At a cabin in Gardiner, Parker Manning got an up-close view of the water rising and the river bank sloughing off in the raging Yellowstone River floodwaters just outside his door.

“We started seeing entire trees floating down the river, debris,” Manning, who is from Terra Haute, Indiana, told The Associated Press. “Saw one crazy single kayaker coming down through, which was kind of insane.”

On Monday evening, Manning watched as the rushing waters undercut the opposite riverbank, causing a house to fall into the Yellowstone River and float away mostly intact.

Floodwaters inundated a street in Red Lodge, a Montana town of 2,100 that’s a popular jumping-off point for a scenic, winding route into the Yellowstone high country. Twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) to the northeast, in Joliet, Kristan Apodaca wiped away tears as she stood across the street from a washed-out bridge, The Billings Gazette reported.

The log cabin that belonged to her grandmother, who died in March, flooded, as did the park where Apodaca’s husband proposed.

“I am sixth-generation. This is our home,” she said. “That bridge I literally drove yesterday. My mom drove it at 3 a.m. before it was washed out.”

On Monday, Yellowstone officials evacuated the northern part of the park, where roads may remain impassable for a substantial length of time, park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement.

But the flooding affected the rest of the park, too, with park officials warning of yet higher flooding and potential problems with water supplies and wastewater systems at developed areas.

The rains hit just as area hotels have filled up in recent weeks with summer tourists. More than 4 million visitors were tallied by the park last year. The wave of tourists doesn’t abate until fall and June is typically one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.

Yellowstone got 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) of rain Saturday, Sunday and into Monday. The Beartooth Mountains northeast of Yellowstone got as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters), according to the National Weather Service.

The flooding happened while other parts of the U.S. burned in hot and dry weather. More than 100 million Americans were being warned to stay indoors as a heat wave settles over states stretching through parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolinas.

Elsewhere in the West, crews from California to New Mexico are battling wildfires in hot, dry and windy weather.

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Associated Press writers Thomas Peipert in Denver, Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

Hurricane Agatha sets May record, then weakens over Mexico

By JOSÉ MARÍA ÁLVAREZ from the Associated Press

SAN ISIDRO DEL PALMAR, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season, making landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.

This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Agatha off the Pacific coast of Oaxaca state, Mexico on Monday, May 30, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. (NOAA via AP)

The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165kph), then quickly lost power as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.

Remnants of Agatha were moving northeast Tuesday into Veracruz state, with sustained winds down to 30 mph (45 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate by the evening, but warned that the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous floods for Mexico’s southern states.

Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat told local media that the state’s emergency services office had no reports of deaths. Several municipalities near the coast remained without power Tuesday and mudslides blocked a number of the state’s highways.

San Isidro del Palmar, only a couple miles inland from the coast, was swamped by the Tonameca river that flows through town.

Residents waded through neck-deep water to salvage what items they could from their homes, walking gingerly with piles of clothing atop their heads and religious figures in their arms.

Argeo Aquino, who had lived in the town his whole life, could recall only two other occasions when he saw such flooding.

“The houses are totally flooded, so they are getting everything out,” Aquino said Monday as he watched his neighbors. “There are stores, houses. More than anything else, we have to try to save all the good material, because everything else is going to be washed away.”

The Tonameca’s brown waters reached the windows of parked cars and the minibuses used for local transportation.

Nearby, heavy rain and big waves lashed the beach town of Zipolite Monday, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.

“There is a lot of rain and sudden gusts of strong wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. Ranfagni, who decided to ride out Agatha at the property, said as the storm approached, “You can hear the wind howling.”

Agatha formed on Sunday and quickly gained power. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections and the founder of Weather Underground.

Washington police say drivers aren’t stopping for them

From the Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington State Patrol says drivers are increasingly refusing to stop for troopers – and other law enforcement agencies also say this is becoming a common occurrence.

The Northwest News Network reports that from January 1 to May 17 of this year, the agency logged 934 failure-to-yield incidents. While the patrol didn’t track this in the past, veteran troopers say there’s been a dramatic uptick in drivers fleeing traffic stops.

“Something’s changed. People are not stopping right now,” said Sgt. Darren Wright, a WSP spokesperson with 31 years on the job. “It’s happening three to five times a shift on some nights and then a couple times a week on day shift.”

Local police departments are also seeing this behavior. The Puyallup Police Department logged 148 instances of drivers fleeing from officers from July 26, 2021 to May 18, 2022.

Asked if that represents a significant increase, Chief Scott Engle wrote in an email, “I could 1,000,000% say this is completely absolutely emphatically totally unusual.”

In Lakewood, another small city in Pierce County, Chief Mike Zaro said drivers are refusing to stop for his officers on average once a day.

“A lot of times they’re stolen cars; sometimes we don’t know what the deal is,” Zaro said.

Steve Strachan, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and others in law enforcement connect the increase in failures-to-yield to passage last year of House Bill 1054, a sweeping police tactics law that, among other things, barred high-speed pursuits except in very limited circumstances.

The law was part of a package of police reforms majority Democrats passed in response to the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile police killings — reforms aimed at addressing racial disproportionality in policing.

Minority Republicans in the Legislature criticized many of the changes, including the pursuit law, and said they jeopardized public safety.

Strachan said he doesn’t dispute the need for statewide rules governing police pursuits, but thinks the new law went too far.

Under the new law, police officers can’t give chase unless there’s reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is impaired or the higher standard of probable cause to believe they’re an escaped felon or have committed a violent crime or a sex crime.

Even then there are restrictions on when officers can pursue. Officers must balance whether the person poses an “imminent threat” and whether the safety risks of the person getting away outweigh the danger of engaging in a high-speed chase.

This year both the Washington House and Senate passed a bill with bipartisan votes that would have amended the new pursuit law in response to concerns from police that it was too restrictive. But a final version of the measure died in the state Senate. Advocates for police reform opposed the change.

“Why is it we are so concerned about hot pursuits,” asked Martina Morris with the group Next Steps Washington at a February rally at the Capitol. “Because they are dangerous. They are the number two cause of deaths during encounters with police.”

The prime sponsor of House Bill 1054, Democratic state Rep. Jesse Johnson, also opposed lowering the threshold for pursuits.

“I just do not believe pursuits in a 21st century policing system are needed,” Johnson said in a March interview on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Probe could shed light on police time lapse in Uvalde deaths

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST for the Associated Press

Since the Columbine High School massacre more than 20 years ago, police have been trained to quickly confront shooters in the horrific attacks that have followed.

People visit a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Monday, May 30, 2022. On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old entered the school and fatally shot several children and teachers. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

But officers in Uvalde, Texas, took more than an hour to kill a shooter who massacred 19 children, a lapse of time that will likely be a key part of a Justice Department probe into the police response.

The rare federal review comes amid growing, agonized questions and shifting information from police. Authorities now say that several officers entered the elementary school just two minutes after alleged gunman Salvador Ramos and exchanged fire with him, but he wasn’t stopped until a tactical team entered a classroom more than an hour later.

That’s a confounding timeline for law enforcement experts like Jarrod Burguan, who was the police chief in San Bernardino, California, when the city was hit by a terrorist attack that killed 14 people in 2015. Officers entered that facility, a training center for residents with developmental disabilities, within two minutes of arriving.

“Columbine changed everything,” Burguan said Monday. Officers are now trained to form up and enter buildings to confront shooters as quickly as possible to prevent them from killing more people. “This has been drilled into this industry for years now.”

Justice Department officials probing the Texas slayings will examine a host of questions about the police response in Uvalde. A similar review that largely praised the response to the San Bernardino mass shooting was over 100 pages long.

In announcing the review, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said it would be conducted in a fair, impartial and independent manner and the findings would be made public. It could take months. Handling the review is the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

One key question for Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is why a school district police chief had the power to tell more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary.

“The key question for me is, who designated him to be in charge?” she said.

Officials have said he believed the suspect was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms and there was no longer an active threat. But school police officers don’t typically have the most experience with active shooters, and Haberfeld questioned why people with more specialized training didn’t take the reins.

A U.S. Border Patrol tactical team finally used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman, raising more questions about the choice of entry.

“It’s not some fortified castle from the Middle Ages. It’s a door,” she said. “They knew what to do. You don’t need the key.”

The Justice review won’t investigate the crime itself, or directly hold police civilly or criminally liable. What it will likely do is examine things like how police communicated with each other, said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. It’s not yet known why the school chief, Pete Arredondo, thought the shooter was barricaded and he hasn’t commented.

“I think we need to be a little patient on that and wait to ensure we understand what that mindset was,” Eells said. “It goes back to communication. What information did they have?”

The review will also likely examine how well officers were prepared with gear like weapons and body armor. The shooter wore a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, a powerful weapon capable of piercing basic bulletproof vests.

In previous shootings reviewed by the Justice Department, non-specialized law enforcement units did not have the kind of body armor needed to fully protect themselves.

At the 2016 massacre that killed 49 people and hurt dozens more in the LGBT community at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a detective on the scene exchanged gunfire with the suspect, knowing his handgun was “no match” for the weapon being fired in the club. Despite that, the first officers on the scene formed up in a team to enter the club quickly and begin searching for the shooter, according to the report.

In San Bernardino, meanwhile, only one of the first officers on scene had a shotgun and several did not have body armor. But they still used their training on active shooter situations to form up in a four-officer team to immediately enter the complex.

Moving quickly is important not only to stop a shooter from killing more people, but to help the wounded. In San Bernardino and Orlando, the Justice Department reviews credited the quick response in getting the wounded transported to treatment within a “golden hour” where victims are mostly likely to survive.

It is unclear what impact the delayed entry into the Texas classroom might have had on any of the children who were wounded and needed treatment more than an hour away in San Antonio.

Police do have to quickly analyze the risks to themselves and others in a violent, quickly changing situation — but they’re also trained to stop people from getting hurt, Eells said.

“Making an entry into that room is very, very, very dangerous,” he said. “But we are going to incur that risk, knowingly and willingly, because our priorities are to help those that cannot help themselves.”

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Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writer Gary Fields in Washington contributed to this report.

Firefighters rescue ‘Cinder’ the elk calf from fire’s ashes

MORGAN LEE for the Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Firefighters have rescued an abandoned newborn elk calf found amid the ashes of the nation’s largest wildfire as calving season approaches its peak in New Mexico and fires rage across the American West.

In this photo provided by Nate Sink, a newborn elk calf rests alone in a remote, fire-scarred area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Mora, N.M., on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Sink says he saw no signs of the calf’s mother and helped transport the baby bull to a wildlife rehabilitation center to be raised alongside a surrogate gown elk. (Nate Sink via AP)

Missoula, Montana-based firefighter Nate Sink said Tuesday that he happened upon the motionless elk calf on the ground of a fire-blackened New Mexico forest as he patrolled and extinguished lingering hot spots.

“The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees. I didn’t think it was alive,” said Sink, who was deployed to the state to help contain a wildfire that by Wednesday had spread across 486 square miles (1,260 square kilometers) and destroyed hundreds of structures.

It’s is one of five major uncontained fires burning in New Mexico amid extremely dry and windy conditions. More than 3,000 firefighters battling the biggest blaze have made significant progress halting its growth in recent days ahead of more dangerous fire conditions forecast to return into the weekend, crew commanders said Wednesday night.

Wildlife officials in general discourage interactions with elk calves that are briefly left alone in the first weeks of life as their mothers forage at a distance. Sink says he searched diligently for traces of the calf’s mother and found none.

The 32-pound (14.5-kilogram) singed bull calf, dubbed “Cinder,” was taken for care to a nearby ranch and is now regaining strength at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Espanola, north of Santa Fe.

Veterinarian Kathleen Ramsay at Cottonwood Rehab says she paired Cinder with a full-grown surrogate elk to be raised with as little human contact as possible.

“They do elk things, they don’t do people things,” said Ramsay, noting Cinder arrived at a tender days-old age with his umbilical cord still attached.

Ramsay said the calf hopefully can be released into the wild in December after elk-hunting season. The strategy has worked repeatedly with elk tracked by tags as they rejoined wild herds.

The calf’s rescue was reminiscent of events 70 years ago in New Mexico involving a scalded black bear cub and the fire prevention mascot “Smokey Bear.”

The U.S. fire-safety campaign took on new urgency in 1950 with the rescue by firefighters of a black bear cub that was badly burned by wildfire in southern New Mexico. The cub — named Smokey Bear after the mascot — recovered and lived at the National Zoo until its death in 1976.

Wildfires have broken out this spring in multiple states in the West, where climate change and an enduring drought are fanning the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires.

Crews battling the biggest U.S. fire in northern New Mexico took advantage of one last day of favorable weather Wednesday before hotter, drier and windier conditions are forecast to return late Thursday and continue to worsen into next week.

“All across the fire, we’re making a lot of really good progress over the last few days,” incident commander Carl Schwope said at a briefing Wednesday night.

“We do have some more critical fire weather moving in … starting now and getting warmer and drier throughout the weekend. (But) feeling real confident that we are ahead of the curve on that,” he said.

Bruno Rodriguez, an inter-agency meteorologist assigned to the fire, said gusts should continue to increase by about 5 mph (8 kph) per day, from 25 mph (40 kph) Thursday to as strong as 50 mph (80 kph) by Monday.

“It’s definitely going to be a critical fire weather pattern and unfortunately it’s going to be fairly prolonged and persistent,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno, Nevada.

Police face questions over response to Texas school shooting

By JAKE BLEIBERG, JIM VERTUNO and ELLIOT SPAGAT for the Associated Press

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Law enforcement authorities faced mounting questions and criticism Thursday over how much time elapsed before they stormed a Texas elementary school classroom and put a stop to the rampage by a gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers.

A family pays their respects next to crosses bearing the names of Tuesday’s shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Investigators were also unable to say with any certainty whether an armed school district security officer outside Robb Elementary in the town of Uvalde exchanged fire with the attacker, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, when Ramos first arrived on Tuesday.

The motive for the massacre — the nation’s deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.

During the siege, which ended when a U.S. Border Patrol team burst in and shot the gunman to death, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.

“Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Wednesday that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him.

“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom.”

But a department spokesman said Thursday that authorities were still working to clarify the timeline of the attack, uncertain whether that period of 40 minutes to an hour began when the gunman reached the school, or earlier, when he shot his grandmother at home.

“Right now we do not have an accurate or confident timeline to provide to say the gunman was in the school for this period,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN.

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that the tactical officers from his agency who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved rapidly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind an agent holding up a shield.

“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.

But a law enforcement official said that once in the building, the Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.

Olivarez said investigators were trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.

Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside.

Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”

“They were unprepared,” he added.

Carranza had watched as Ramos crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a funeral home, who ran away uninjured.

Olivarez told CNN that the school security officer outside was armed and that initial reports said he and Ramos exchanged gunfire, “but right now we’re trying to corroborate that information.”

As Ramos entered the school, two Uvalde police officers exchanged fire with him, and were wounded, according to Olivarez. Ramos went into a classroom and began to kill.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner.

“There were more of them. There was just one of him,” he said.

On Wednesday night, hundreds packed the bleachers at the town’s fairgrounds for a vigil. Some cried. Some closed their eyes tight, mouthing silent prayers. Parents wrapped their arms around their children as the speakers led prayers for healing.

Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother at the home they shared.

Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was puttering in his yard when he heard the shots.

Ramos ran out the front door and across the yard to a truck parked in front of the house and raced away: “He spun out, I mean fast,” spraying gravel in the air, Gallegos said.

Ramos’ grandmother emerged covered in blood: “She says, ‘Berto, this is what he did. He shot me.’” She was hospitalized.

Gallegos said he had heard no arguments before or after the shots, and knew of no history of bullying or abuse of Ramos, whom he rarely saw.

Lorena Auguste was substitute teaching at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary. Eventually she found out the girl was OK.

But that night, her niece had a question.

“Why did they do this to us?” the girl asked. “We’re good kids. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

States divided on gun controls, even as mass shootings rise

By RACHEL LA CORTE and ANDREW DEMILLO for the Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was quick to react to this week’s carnage at a Texas elementary school, sending a tweet listing the gun control measures the Democratic-controlled state has taken. He finished with: “Your turn Congress.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the recent mass shooting in Texas, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Flanked by lawmakers from both houses of the state legislature, Newsom said he is ready to sign more restrictive gun measures passed by lawmakers.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

But gun control measures are likely going nowhere in Congress, and they also have become increasingly scarce in most states. Aside from several Democratic-controlled states, the majority have taken no action on gun control in recent years or have moved aggressively to expand gun rights.

That’s because they are either controlled politically by Republicans who oppose gun restrictions or are politically divided, leading to stalemate.

“Here I am in a position where I can do something, I can introduce legislation, and yet to know that it almost certainly is not going to go anywhere is a feeling of helplessness,” said state Sen. Greg Leding, a Democrat in the GOP-controlled Arkansas Legislature. He has pushed unsuccessfully for red flag laws that would allow authorities to remove firearms from those determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

After Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead, Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country issued impassioned pleas for Congress and their own legislatures to pass gun restrictions. Republicans have mostly called for more efforts to address mental health and to shore up protections at schools, such as adding security guards.

Among them is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has repeatedly talked about mental health struggles among young people and said tougher gun laws in places like New York and California are ineffective. In Tennessee, GOP Rep. Jeremy Faison tweeted that the state needs to have security officers “in all of our schools,” but stopped short of promising to introduce legislation during next year’s legislative session: “Evil exists and we must protect the innocent from it,” Faison said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly clashed with the GOP-controlled Legislature over gun laws. He has called for passage of universal background checks and “red flag” laws, only to be ignored by Republicans. Earlier this year, the Democrat vetoed a Republican bill that would have allowed holders of concealed carry permits to have firearms in vehicles on school grounds and in churches located on the grounds of a private school.

“We cannot accept that gun violence just happens,” Evers said in a tweet. “We cannot accept that kids might go to school and never come home. We cannot accept the outright refusal of elected officials to act.”

On Wednesday, a day after the Texas shooting, legislative Democrats asked that the Wisconsin gun safety bills be taken up again, apparently to no avail. Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not return messages seeking their response.

In Pennsylvania, an effort by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday in the GOP-controlled Legislature to ban owning, selling or making high-capacity, semi-automatic firearms failed, as House Republicans displayed their firm opposition to gun restrictions. The GOP-majority Legislature has rejected appeals by Democratic governors over the past two decades to tighten gun control laws, including taking steps such as expanding background checks or limiting the number of handgun purchases one person can make in a month.

The situation is similar in Michigan, which has a Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature. On Wednesday, Democrats in the state Senate were thwarted in their efforts to advance a group of bills that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms and keep them away from minors.

“Every day we don’t take action, we are choosing guns over children,” said Democratic Sen. Rosemary Bayer, whose district includes a high school where a teen was charged in a shooting that killed four in November and whose parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter, accused of failing to lock up their gun. “Enough is enough. No more prayers, no more thoughts, no more inaction.”

Republican state Sen. Ken Horn responded by urging discussion about the other potential causes of gun violence.

“I would just point out that there are political solutions, but there are just as many spiritual solutions,” he said. “We don’t know what’s really happening in this world, what’s happening in this country, what’s happening to young men.”

Florida stands out as a Republican-controlled state that took action. The 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland that left 14 students and three staff members dead prompted lawmakers there to pass a law with a red flag provision that lets law enforcement officers petition a court to have guns confiscated from a person considered a threat.

Democrats now want that expanded to allow family members or roommates to make the same request of the courts, but there has been little appetite among Republicans to amend the law. Instead, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants lawmakers to allow people to carry handguns without a permit. The state currently requires a concealed weapons license.

While Republicans have supported red flag laws in some other states, most legislative action around gun control in recent years has been in states led by Democrats.

In Washington state, the governor earlier this year signed a package of bills related to firearm magazine limits, ghost guns and adding more locations where guns are prohibited, including ballot counting sites.

In California on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic legislative leaders vowed to fast-track gun legislation, identifying about a dozen bills they plan to pass this year. Newsom highlighted a bill that would let private citizens enforce a ban on assault weapons by filing lawsuits – similar to a law in Texas that bans most abortions through civil enforcement.

Oregon’s Democratically controlled Legislature has passed bills that require background checks, prohibit guns on public school grounds, allow firearms to be taken from those who pose a risk and ensure safe storage of firearms. On Wednesday, a group of six Democrats said more must be done after the mass shooting in Texas and the racially motivated massacre in Buffalo, New York. They pledged additional action next year.

“We ran for office to solve big problems and make life better for our constituents — and that includes taking on the gun lobby and politicians that place profits and political power over children’s lives,” they said in a joint statement.

But there are limits even in some Democratic-controlled states, underscoring the challenge of gaining consensus to combat the rising frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.

Rhode Island has passed restrictions in recent years that include measures to ban firearms from school grounds and close the “straw purchasing” loophole that had allowed people to buy guns for someone else. But bills that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons have been bottled up in committee, in part because the overwhelmingly Democratic chamber includes many lawmakers who have opposed the measures, citing their support for the Second Amendment.

In Connecticut, gun violence legislation supported by both parties swiftly followed after 20 children and six staff members were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary Schoo l in 2012. But additional gun control measures stalled this year in the Democratic-led General Assembly, in large part because of a short legislative session and threats by Republicans to hold up legislation through a filibuster.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he’s uncertain whether he will call a special session on the bills. They would put limits on bulk purchases of firearms and require the registration of so-called ghost guns, untraceable firearms that can be assembled at home.

“I think it’s become an incredibly partisan argument right now in our society,” Lamont said. “It wasn’t that way, you know, 30, 40 years ago. So that is disturbing, even in a state like Connecticut, where after Sandy Hook we had strong bipartisan support.”

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DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press statehouse reporters from around the U.S. contributed to this report.