Category: Sirennet Blog

Man arrested after tiger shown in a yard of his Houston home

By JUAN A. LOZANO for the Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas man free on bond from a murder charge was returned to custody Monday after neighbors found a pet tiger wandering around a Houston neighborhood.

Houston police tweeted Monday night that Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was back in custody charged with felony evading arrest.

Police had said they believed the tiger had belonged to Cuevas, but his attorney questioned the accuracy of that belief.

Waller County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wes Manion approximates the size of the tiger, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Houston, that was loose the night before on the 1100 block of Ivy Wall Drive. Manion, who was off-duty at the time, arrived shortly after seeing posts by neighbors. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Video of the Sunday night encounter shows the tiger coming face-to-face with an armed off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy, police said. During the encounter, the deputy can be heard yelling at Cuevas to get the animal back inside.

No shots were fired.

When officers arrived, Cuevas put the animal in a white Jeep Cherokee and drove off, Houston police Cmdr. Ron Borza said during a news conference Monday. Cuevas got away after a brief pursuit, he said.

Police said Monday that the tiger’s whereabouts are not known. Borza had said earlier Monday that the main concern was finding Cuevas and finding the tiger “because what I don’t want him to do is harm that tiger. We have plenty of places we can take that tiger and keep it safe and give it a home for the rest of its life.”

Cuevas’ attorney, Michael W. Elliott, said he didn’t think Cuevas was the owner of the tiger or that he was taking care of the animal. The attorney also said it was unclear to him if it was Cuevas seen on videos of the incident.

“People are making a lot of assumptions in this particular case. Maybe he might be the hero out there who caught the tiger that was in the neighborhood,” Elliott said.

Cuevas was charged with murder in a 2017 fatal shooting of a man outside a restaurant in neighboring Fort Bend County and was out on bond. Elliott said Cuevas has maintained the shooting was self-defense and is innocent of the murder charge.

Cuevas also apparently had two monkeys in the home, Borza said.

Having a monkey is not illegal in Houston if the animal is under 30 pounds (13.5 kilograms). Tigers are not allowed within Houston city limits unless the handler, such as a zoo, is licensed to have exotic animals. Texas has no statewide law forbidding private ownership of tigers and other exotic animals.

In 2019, some people who went into an abandoned Houston home to smoke marijuana found a caged tiger. The tiger’s owner was later ordered to pay for the animal’s care at an East Texas wildlife refuge.

“Private citizens and emergency responders should not have to come face to face with a lion or a tiger in a crisis,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, a Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group. “These animals belong in the wild or in reputable sanctuaries or zoos and nowhere else.”

Borza said residents should not have such animals because they can be unpredictable.

“If that tiger was to get out and start doing some damage yesterday, I’m sure one of these citizens would have shot the tiger. We have plenty of neighbors out here with guns, and we don’t want to see that. It’s not the animal’s fault. It’s the breeder’s fault. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

School shooting in Russia kills 9 people; suspect arrested

By DARIA LITVINOVA for the Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — A gunman launched an attack on a school in the Russian city of Kazan that left at least nine people dead Tuesday — including seven youngsters — and sent students running out of the building as smoke poured from one of the windows.

At least 21 others were hospitalized, six in extremely grave condition, authorities said.

Medics and friends help a woman board an ambulance at a school after a shooting in Kazan, Russia, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Russian media report that several people have been killed and four wounded in a school shooting in the city of Kazan. Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported the shooting took place Tuesday morning, citing emergency services. (AP Photo/Roman Kruchinin)

The attacker, identified only as a 19-year-old, was arrested, officials said. They gave no immediate details on a motive.

But Russian media said the gunman was a former student at the school who called himself “a god” on his account on the messaging app Telegram and promised to “kill a large amount of biomass” on the morning of the shooting.

Attacks on schools are rare in Russia, and President Vladimir Putin reacted by ordering the head of the country’s National Guard to revise regulations on the types of weapons allowed for civilian use.

Four boys and three girls, all eighth-graders, died, as well as a teacher and another school employee, said Rustam Minnikhanov, governor of the Tatarstan republic, where Kazan is the capital.

Footage released by Russian media showed students dressed in black and white running out of the building. Another video depicted shattered windows, a stream of smoke coming out of one, and the sound of gunfire. Dozens of ambulances lined up at the entrance.

Russian media said while some students were able to escape, others were trapped inside during the ordeal.

“The terrorist has been arrested, 19 years old. A firearm is registered in his name. Other accomplices haven’t been established. An investigation is underway,” Minnikhanov said.

Authorities said the 21 hospitalized included 18 children.

Authorities announced a day of mourning on Wednesday and canceled all classes in Kazan schools. Authorities tightened security at all schools in the city of about 1.2 million people, 430 miles (700 kilometers) east of Moscow.

The deadliest school attack in Russia took place in 2004 in the city of Beslan, when Islamic militants took more 1,000 people hostage for several days. The siege ended in gunfire and explosions, leaving 334 dead, more than half of them children.

In 2018, a teenager killed 20 people at his vocational school before killing himself in Kerch, a city in the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea. In the wake of that attack, Putin ordered authorities to tighten control over gun ownership. But most of the proposed legislative changes were turned down by the parliament or the government, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein said on Telegram that the suspect in the Kazan attack received a permit for a shotgun less than two weeks ago and that the school had no security aside from a panic button.

Authorities in Tatarstan ordered checks on all gun owners in the region.

Putin extended condolences to the families of the victims and ordered the government to give them all necessary assistance. Russian officials promised to pay families 1 million rubles (roughly $13,500) each and give 200,000 to 400,000 rubles ($2,700-$5,400) to the wounded.

The Kremlin sent a plane with doctors and medical equipment to Kazan, and the country’s health and education ministers headed to the region.

Hopes fade for minke whale stuck in River Thames near London

By MIKE FULLER for the Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Hopes faded Monday for a young minke whale who became trapped in the River Thames near London, authorities said.

Lifeboat workers attempt to assist a stranded young Minke whale on the River Thames near Teddington Lock, in London, Monday, May 10, 2021. A Port of London Authority spokesperson said a whale had never been seen this far up the Thames before, 95 miles from its mouth. The whale had been freed on Sunday after it became stuck at Richmond lock but has remained in the Thames.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Rescuers trying to recapture the whale said that by 5 p.m. (1600 GMT; 12 p.m. EDT) its condition had deteriorated rapidly and it would soon be stranded by the dropping tide near Teddington in southwest London.

“Once the whale is beached a veterinary team will be on stand by to euthanize the animal to end its suffering,” the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said in a statement.

The BDMLR said the injured and drained calf would struggle to swim even if it managed to get back into deeper water.

Crews had already worked for hours before being able to free the whale early Monday from a perilous stranding on a lock near Richmond, a few miles downstream of Teddington.

But as the mammal was being taken for further health checks on an inflatable pontoon, it slipped back into the water.

“This animal is very, very lost,” Port of London Authority spokesman Martin Garside said. “It’s like seeing a camel at the North Pole.”

Garside said a whale had never been seen this far up the Thames before, 95 miles (150 kilometers) along the river from its mouth, with the sheer distance making the whale’s route back to safety extremely difficult.

The whale, which measured about four meters (13 feet) long, was first seen lying on the lock’s boat rollers Sunday night. Hundreds of people gathered along the banks of the Thames to watch the rescue operation as night fell. The area is known for wide tidal swings that easily reach over 5.5 meters (18 feet) high.

Port staff were joined by firefighters, coast guard members and marine animal rescue divers.

Minke whales, which are more typically found in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, can grow to a size of nine meters (30 feet).

Meanwhile, in Spain, a marine wildlife group was working to make sure that a gray whale found near Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean coast, far from its usual northern Pacific migration routes, doesn’t get stranded.

Maritime rescuers, firefighters and other authorities worked with conservationists over the weekend to keep a whale nicknamed Wally from venturing into shallow water and ports near Barcelona.

The maritime group said the whale entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar and has been spotted since March in the vicinity of Morocco, Algeria, Italy and France.

In an aerial video released by the group, the whale could be seen very close to a seawall near one of Barcelona’s main beaches.

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Aritz Parra contributed to this report from Madrid.

Capitol rioters make questionable claims about police

By JACQUES BILLEAUD for the Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Joshua Matthew Black said in a YouTube video that he was protecting the officer at the U.S. Capitol who had been pepper sprayed and fallen to the ground as the crowd rushed the building entrance on Jan. 6.

“Let him out, he’s done,” Black claimed to have told rioters.

FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol as they riot in Washington. At least a dozen of the 400 people charged so far in the Jan. 6 insurrection have made dubious claims about their encounters with officers at the Capitol. The most frequent argument is that they can’t be guilty of anything, because police stood by and welcomed them inside, even though the mob pushed past police barriers, sprayed chemical irritants and smashed windows as chaos enveloped the government complex. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

But federal prosecutors say surveillance footage doesn’t back up Black’s account. They said he acknowledged that he wanted to get the officer out of the way — because the cop was blocking his path inside.

At least a dozen of the 400 people charged so far in the Jan. 6 insurrection have made dubious claims about their encounters with officers at the Capitol. The most frequent argument is that they can’t be guilty of anything, because police stood by and welcomed them inside, even though the mob pushed past police barriers, sprayed chemical irritants and smashed windows as chaos enveloped the government complex.

The January melee to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory was instigated by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump who have professed their love of law enforcement and derided the mass police overhaul protests that shook the nation last year following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

But they quickly turned on police in one violent encounter after another.

“We backed you guys in the summer,” one protester screamed at three officers cornered against a door by dozens of men screaming for them to get out of their way. “When the whole country hated you, we had your back!”

The Capitol Police didn’t plan for a riot. They were badly outnumbered and it took hours for reinforcements to arrive — a massive failure that is now under investigation. Throughout the insurrection, police officers were injured, mocked, ridiculed and threatened. One Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died after the riot.

Officers who spoke to The Associated Press said police had to decide on their own how to fight them off. There was no direction or plan and they were told not to fire on the crowd, they said. One cop ran from one side of the building to another, fighting hand-to-hand against rioters. Another decided to respond to any calls of officers in distress and spent three hours helping cops who had been immobilized by bear spray or other chemicals.

Three officers were able to handcuff one rioter. But a crowd swarmed the group and took the arrested man away with the handcuffs still on.

Still, some rioters claim police just gave up and told them that the building was now theirs. And a few — including one accused of trying to pull off an officer’s gas mask in a bid to expose the officer to bear spray — have claimed to be protecting police.

Matthew Martin, an employee for a defense contractor from Santa Fe, New Mexico, who has acknowledged being inside the building, claimed police were opening doors for people as they walked into the Capitol.

Dan Cron, Martin’s attorney, said a photo filed in court by authorities shows an officer using his back to hold a door open for people. No police barriers were in place when Martin walked into the Capitol area, nor was there anyone telling people they weren’t allowed in the building, Cron said.

“He thought that was OK,” Cron said, adding that his client was inside the Capitol for less than 10 minutes and didn’t commit any violence. “He doesn’t know what the policies and procedures at the Capitol are,” Cron said. “He had never been there.”

On the surface, images taken of officers who appear to step aside as the mob stormed the building could be beneficial to the rioters’ claims. In the days after Jan. 6, those images fueled rumors that police had stood by on purpose, but they have not been substantiated.

Experts caution against drawing conclusions.

“The context will be very important in claiming officers welcomed in a crowd,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “They were trying to control a fast-developing, difficult, potentially explosive situation. So I don’t think it’s enough to say, ‘The officer didn’t tackle me.’”

Authorities say Michael Quick of Springfield, Missouri, claimed that he didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t allowed in the Capitol when he and his brother climbed in through an open window. He believed police were letting people in, despite seeing officers in riot gear.

Attorney Dee Wampler, who represents Michael and Stephen Quick, said he doesn’t currently have proof for the claim the officers were letting people into the building, but he pointed out that he has thousands of documents from prosecutors still left to review.

“If this case was tried, the evidence would be that there was a fairly large number of officers that were standing around when my clients entered, and they didn’t try to stop the Quicks,” Wampler said, adding that his clients didn’t commit any violence inside the Capitol.

But the argument did not work for Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who sported face paint, a furry hat with horns and carried a spear during the riot.

Chansley’s lawyer said an officer told his client that “the building is yours” and that he was among the third wave of rioters entering the Capitol.

In rejecting a request two months ago to free Chansley from jail, Judge Royce Lamberth said it wasn’t clear who made the comment and concluded Chansley was unable to prove that officers waved him into the building, citing a video that the judge said proves that the Phoenix man was among the first wave of rioters in the building. The judge noted that rioters were crawling in through broken windows when Chansley entered the Capitol through a door.

Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, still insists that his client was in the third wave of rioters in the building and said it shouldn’t shock the public that rioters who were hanging on to Trump’s every word and believed the election was stolen legitimately believed they were allowed in the building. “It’s what’s in their hearts and minds,” Watkins said.

In all, Joshua Black made two claims that he helped officers at the Capitol.

Before encountering the officer he claimed to have protected at a Capitol doorway, Black said, police shot him in the cheek with a plastic projectile as he tried to keep another officer from being “bootstomped” by other rioters while outside the Capitol. But prosecutors say surveillance video doesn’t depict an officer on the ground, nor is Black shown trying to help an officer.

Black’s attorney, Clark Fleckinger II, didn’t return a phone call and email seeking comment.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

Hamas fires rockets at Jerusalem after clashes at mosque

By ILAN BEN ZION and JOSEPH KRAUSS for the Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hamas militants fired a large barrage of rockets into Israel on Monday, including one that set off air raid sirens as far away as Jerusalem, after hundreds of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli police at a flashpoint religious site in the contested holy city.

Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Monday, May. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The early evening attack drastically escalated what already are heightened tensions throughout the region following weeks of confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem that have threatened to become a wider conflict.

Shortly after the sirens sounded, explosions could be heard in Jerusalem. One rocket fell on the western outskirts of the city, lightly damaging a home and causing a brushfire. The Israeli army said there was an initial burst of seven rockets, one was intercepted, and rocket fire was continuing in southern Israel.

Gaza health officials said nine people, including three children, were killed in an explosion in the northern Gaza Strip. The cause of the blast was not immediately known. Meanwhile, Hamas media reported that an Israeli drone strike killed a Palestinian, also in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said an Israeli civilian in the country’s south suffered mild injuries when a vehicle was struck by an anti-tank missile from Gaza.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, said the attack was a response to what he called Israeli “crimes and aggression” in Jerusalem. “This is a message the enemy has to understand well,” he said.

He threatened more attacks if Israel again invades the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or carries out planned evictions of Palestinian families from a neighborhood of east Jerusalem that have raised tensions.

Earlier, Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at the iconic compound, which is Islam’s third-holiest site and considered Judaism’s holiest. Tensions at the site have been the trigger for prolonged bouts of violence in the past, including the last Palestinian intifada, or uprising. It was not clear if the current unrest would escalate or dissipate in the coming days.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the iconic golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

More than 305 Palestinians were hurt, including 228 who went to hospitals and clinics for treatment, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Seven of the injured were in serious condition. Police said 21 officers were hurt, including three who were hospitalized. Israeli paramedics said seven Israeli civilians were also hurt.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by ultranationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem.

Monday’s confrontation was the latest after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional center of their conflict, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

Over the past few days, hundreds of Palestinians and several dozen police officers have been hurt in clashes in and around the Old City, including the sacred compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

An AP photographer at the scene said that early Monday morning, protesters had barricaded gates to the walled compound with wooden boards and scrap metal. Sometime after 7. a.m., clashes erupted, with those inside throwing stones at police deployed outside.

Police entered the compound, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and stun grenades, some of which enterd the mosque.

Police said protesters hurled stones at officers and onto an adjoining roadway near the Western Wall, where thousands of Israeli Jews had gathered to pray.

The tensions in Jerusalem have threatened to reverberate throughout the region and come at a crucial point in Israel’s political crisis after longtime leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition last week. His opponents are now working to build an alternate government.

Before Monday’s rocket attack on Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza, Palestinian militants had fired several barrages of rockets into southern Israel. Protesters allied with the ruling Hamas militant group have launched dozens of incendiary balloons into Israel, setting off fires across the southern part of the country.

The rare strike on Jerusalem came moments after Hamas had set a deadline for Israel to remove its forces from the mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah and release Palestinians detained in the latest clashes.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, has fought three wars with Israel since it seized power in Gaza in 2007. The group possesses a vast arsenal of missiles and rockets capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel.

The rocket strike on Jerusalem was a significant escalation and raised the likelihood of a tough Israeli response. Israel’s response thus far has come under growing international criticism.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled closed consultations on the situation Monday.

Late Sunday, the U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat. A White House statement said that Sullivan called on Israel to “pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm” and expressed the U.S.’s “serious concerns” about the ongoing violence and planned evictions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu pushed back against the criticism Monday, saying Israel is determined to ensure the rights of worship for all and that this “requires from time to time stand up and stand strong as Israeli police and our security forces are doing now.”

The day began with police announcing that Jews would be barred from visiting the holy site on Jerusalem Day, which is marked with a flag-waving parade through the Old City that is widely perceived by Palestinians as a provocative display in the contested city.

Just as the parade was about to begin, police said they were altering the route at the instruction of political leaders. Several thousand people, many of them from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, were participating.

In the 1967 Mideast war in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, it also took the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It later annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

Rio’s deadly police shootout prompts claims of abuse

By DAVID BILLER and MARCELO SILVA DE SOUSA for the Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A bloody, hourslong gunbattle in a Rio de Janeiro slum echoed into Friday, with authorities saying the police mission successfully eliminated two dozen criminals, while residents and activists claimed human rights abuses.

It was just after sunrise Thursday when dozens of officers from Rio de Janeiro state’s civil police stormed Jacarezinho, a working-class favela in the city’s northern zone. They were targeting drug traffickers from one of Brazil’s most notorious criminal organizations, Comando Vermelho, and the bodies piled up quickly.

Blood covers the floor of a home during a police operation targeting drug traffickers in the Jacarezinho favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, May 6, 2021. At least 25 people died including one police officer and 24 suspects, according to the press office of Rio’s civil police. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

When the fighting stopped, there were 25 dead — one police officer and 24 people described by the police as “criminals.”

Rio’s moniker of “Marvelous City” can often seem a cruel irony in the favelas, given their stark poverty, violent crime and subjugation to drug traffickers or militias. But even here, Thursday’s clash was a jarring anomaly that analysts declared one of the city’s deadliest police operations ever.

The bloodshed also laid bare Brazil’s perennial divide over whether, as a common local saying goes, “a good criminal is a dead criminal.” Fervent law-and-order sentiment fueled the successful presidential run in 2018 by Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain whose home is in Rio. He drew support from much of society with his calls to diminish legal constraints on officers’ use of lethal force against criminals.

The administration of Rio state’s Gov. Cláudio Castro, a Bolsonaro ally, said in an emailed statement that it lamented the deaths, but that the operation was “oriented by long and detailed investigative and intelligence work that took months.”

The raid sought to rout gang recruitment of teenagers, police said in an earlier statement, which also cited Comando Vermelho’s “warlike structure of soldiers equipped with rifles, grenades, bulletproof vests.”Police conduct an operation against alleged drug traffickers in the Jacarezinho favela. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Television images showed a police helicopter flying low over the Jacarezinho favela as men with high-powered rifles hopped from roof to roof to evade officers.

Others didn’t escape.

One resident told The Associated Press how a man barged into her humble home around 8 a.m. bleeding from a gunshot wound. He hid in her daughter’s room, but police came rushing in right behind him.

She said that she and her family saw officers shoot the unarmed man.

Hours later, his blood was still pooled on her tile floor and soaked into a blanket decorated with hearts.

About 50 residents of Jacarezinho poured into a narrow street to follow members of the state legislature’s human rights commission who conducted an inspection following the shootouts. They shouted “Justice!” while clapping their hands. Some raised their right fists into the air.Blood covers the floor and a bed inside a home during a police operation targeting drug traffickers in the Jacarezinho favela. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Felipe Curi, a detective in Rio’s civil police, denied there were any executions.

“There were no suspects killed. They were all traffickers or criminals who tried to take the lives of our police officers and there was no other alternative,” he said at a news conference.

Curi said some suspects had sought refuge in residents’ homes, and six of them were arrested. Police also seized 16 pistols, six rifles, a submachine gun, 12 grenades and a shotgun, he said.

Bolsonaro’s son Carlos, a Rio city councilman who is influential on social media, supported police. He expressed condolences to the family of the fallen officer on Twitter, while skipping any mention of the other 24 dead or their families. The president didn’t refer to the incident at all Thursday night in his weekly live broadcast on Facebook.Weapons and drugs seized during a police raid are displayed for the press at city police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Bolsonaro’s political rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said any operation that produces two dozen deaths doesn’t qualify as public security.

“That is the absence of the government that offers education and jobs, the cause of a great deal of violence,” said da Silva, who is widely expected to mount a challenge to Bolsonaro’s reelection bid next year.

The Brazilian divisions of international advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged public prosecutors to thoroughly investigate the operation.

“Even if the victims were suspected of criminal association, which has not been proven, summary executions of this kind are entirely unjustifiable,” said Jurema Werneck, Amnesty’s executive director in Brazil.

The Rio state prosecutors’ office said in a statement to the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that it would investigate accusations of violence, adding that the case required a probe that is independent from police.Residents protest a police operation targeting drug traffickers in the Jacarezinho favela. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a ruling last year prohibiting police operations in Rio’s favelas during the pandemic unless “absolutely exceptional.”

The order came after police fatally shot a 14-year-old in a home where there was no indication of any illegal activity. The teen’s death sparked a Brazilian iteration of Black Lives Matter protests held across the city’s metropolitan area for weeks.

The ruling, which remains in force, caused a decline in police operations throughout the middle of last year, as reflected by a plunge in the number of shootouts reported by Crossfire, a non-governmental group that monitors violence, and in official state data on deaths resulting from police intervention. But both indicators have crept back up to around pre-pandemic levels.

The Candido Mendes University’s Public Safety Observatory said Rio police killed an average of more than five people a day during the first quarter of 2021, the most lethal start of a year since the state government began regularly releasing such data more than two decades ago.

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Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo and AP producer Diarlei Rodrigues in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

By REBECCA BOONE for the Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A sixth-grade girl brought a gun to her Idaho middle school, shot and wounded two students and a custodian and then was disarmed by a teacher Thursday, authorities said.

The three victims were shot in their limbs and expected to survive, officials said at a news conference. Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson says the girl pulled a handgun from her backpack and fired multiple rounds inside and outside Rigby Middle School in the small city of Rigby, about 95 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Yellowstone National Park.

RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT FIRST NAME TO ADELA – Adela Rodriguez, left, walks with her son, Yandel Rodriguez, 12, at the high school where people were evacuated after a shooting at the nearby Rigby Middle School earlier Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Rigby, Idaho. Authorities said that two students and a custodian were injured, and a male student has been taken into custody. (AP Photo/Natalie Behring)

A female teacher disarmed the girl and held her until law enforcement arrived and took her into custody, authorities said, without giving other details. Authorities say they’re investigating the motive for the attack and where the girl got the gun.

“We don’t have a lot of details at this time of ‘why’ — that is being investigated,” Anderson said. “We’re following all leads.”

The girl is from the nearby city of Idaho Falls, Anderson said. He didn’t release her name.

Police were called to the school around 9:15 a.m. after students and staffers heard gunfire. Multiple law enforcement agencies responded, and students were evacuated to a nearby high school to be reunited with their parents.

“Me and my classmate were just in class with our teacher — we were doing work — and then all of a sudden, here was a loud noise and then there were two more loud noises. Then there was screaming,” 12-year-old Yandel Rodriguez said. “Our teacher went to check it out, and he found blood.”

Yandel’s mom, Adela Rodriguez, said they were OK but “still a little shaky” from the shooting as they left the campus.

Both of the students who were shot were being held at the hospital, and one of them might need surgery, said Dr. Michael Lemon, trauma medical director at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Still, both students were in fair condition and could be released as early as Friday. One of the students had wounds in two limbs and might have been shot twice, he said.

“It’s an absolute blessing” that they weren’t hurt worse, Lemon said. The adult was treated and released for a bullet wound that went through an extremity, the doctor said.

Schools would be closed districtwide to give students time to be with their families, and counselors would be available starting Friday, said Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin.

“This is the worst nightmare a school district could ever face. We prepare for it,” Martin said, “but you’re never truly prepared.”

Police tape surrounded the school, which has about 1,500 students in sixth through eighth grades, and small evidence markers were placed next to spots of blood on the ground.

“I am praying for the lives and safety of those involved in today’s tragic events,” Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “Thank you to our law enforcement agencies and school leaders for their efforts in responding to the incident.”

Lucy Long, a sixth-grader at Rigby Middle School, told the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls that her classroom went into lockdown after they heard gunshots, with lights and computers turned off and students lined up against the wall.

Lucy comforted her friends and began recording on her phone, so police would know what happened if the shooter came in. The audio contained mostly whispers, with one sentence audible: “It’s real,” one student said.

Lucy said she saw blood on the hallway floor when police escorted them out of the classroom.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Mark Taylor said decisions about criminal charges wouldn’t be made until the investigation is complete but that they might include three counts of attempted murder.

The attack appears to be Idaho’s second school shooting. In 1999, a student at a high school in Notus fired a shotgun several times. No one was struck by the gunfire, but one student was injured by ricocheting debris from the first shell.

In 1989, a student at Rigby Junior High pulled a gun, threatened a teacher and students, and took a 14-year-old girl hostage, according to a Deseret News report. Police safely rescued the hostage from a nearby church about an hour later and took the teen into custody. No one was shot in that incident.

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Associated Press writers Keith Ridler in Boise and Emily Wilder in Phoenix contributed. Photographer Natalie Behring contributed from Rigby.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Yandel Rodriguez’s first name and his pronouns.

Pressure rises for India lockdown; surge breaks record again

By NEHA MEHROTRA and ASHOK SHARMA for the Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure Friday to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating.

Workers load oxygen cylinders onto a hand cart to be carried inside the COVID-19 wards at a government run hospital in Jammu, India, Friday, May 7, 2021. With coronavirus cases surging to record levels, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing growing pressure to impose a harsh nationwide lockdown amid a debate whether restrictions imposed by individual states are enough. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections.

Indian television stations broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals waiting to be admitted, with hospital beds and critical oxygen in short supply. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are being treated in makeshift outdoor clinics, with IV drips hanging from trees.

As deaths soar, crematoriums and burial grounds have been swamped with bodies, and relatives often wait hours to perform the last rites for their loved ones.

The situation is so dramatic that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out.

“Only if our health is good, will we be able to earn,” said Aruna Ramjee, a florist in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. “The lockdown will help everyone, and coronavirus spread will also come down.”

The alarming picture has gripped the world’s attention, just as many developed countries are seeing vaccinations drive down infections and are beginning to open up. India’s surge has served as a warning to other countries with fragile health systems — and also has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic since the country is a major vaccine producer but has been forced to delay exports of shots.

Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies. On Friday India reported a new daily record of 414,188 confirmed cases and 3,915 additional deaths. The official daily death count has stayed over 3,000 for the past 10 days.

That brings the total to more than 21.4 million COVID-19 infections and over 234,000 deaths. Experts say even those dramatic tolls are undercounts.

Over the past month, nearly a dozen of India’s 28 federal states have announced some restrictions, but they fall short of a nationwide lockdown imposed last year that experts credit with helping to contain the virus for a time. Those measures, which lasted two months, included stay-at-home orders, a ban on international and domestic flights and a suspension of passenger service on the nation’s extensive rail system.

The government provided free wheat, rice and lentils to the poorest for nearly a year and also small cash payments, while Modi also vowed an economic relief package of more than $260 billion. But the lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, also stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages, with many dying along the way.

The national restrictions caused the economy to contract by a staggering 23% in the second quarter last year, though a strong recovery was under way before infections skyrocketed recently.

Some who remember last year’s ordeal remain against a full lockdown.

“If I had to choose between dying of the virus and dying of hunger, I would choose the virus,” said Shyam Mishra, a construction worker who was already forced to change jobs and start selling vegetables when a lockdown was imposed on the capital, New Delhi.

Modi has so far left the responsibility for fighting the virus in this current surge to poorly equipped state governments and faced accusations of doing too little. His government has countered that it is doing everything it can, amid a “once-in-a-century crisis.”

Amid a shortage of oxygen, the Supreme Court has stepped in. It ordered the federal government to increase the supply of medical oxygen to New Delhi after 12 COVID-19 patients died last week after a hospital ran out of supplies for 80 minutes.

Three justices called on the government this week to impose a lockdown, including a ban on mass gatherings, in the “interest of public welfare.”

Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert, said he believes that a total lockdown is needed like last year, especially in areas where more than 10% of those tested have contracted COVID-19.

Rahul Gandhi, an opposition Congress party leader, in a letter to Modi on Friday, also demanded a total lockdown and government support to feed the poor, warning “the human cost will result in many more tragic consequences for our people.”

As the world watches India with alarm, some outside of its borders have joined the calls. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, suggested that a complete shutdown in India may be needed for two to four weeks.

“As soon as the cases start coming down, you can vaccinate more people and get ahead of the trajectory of the outbreak of the pandemic,” Fauci said in an interview with the Indian news channel CNN News18 on Thursday.

Still, Modi’s policy of selected lockdowns is supported by some experts, including Vineeta Bal, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology. She said different states have different needs, and local particularities need to be taken into account for any policy to work.

In most instances, in places where health infrastructure and expertise are good, localized restrictions at the level of a state, or even a district, are a better way to curb the spread of infections, said Bal. “A centrally mandated lockdown will just be inappropriate,” she said.

Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private consultancy, acknowledged that the intensity of the pandemic was different in each state, but said a “coordinated countrywide strategy” was still needed.

According to Reddy, decisions need to be based on local conditions but should be closely coordinated, “like an orchestra which plays the same sheet music but with different instruments.”

Iraq pushes vaccine rollout amid widespread apathy, distrust

By ABDULRAHMAN ZEYAD for the Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s vaccine roll-out had been faltering for weeks. Apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronavirus infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots.

A follower of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds a picture of him while receiving a dose of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, May 4, 2021. Iraq’s vaccine rollout had been faltering for weeks. Apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronavirus infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots. It took al-Sadr’s public endorsement of vaccinations — and images of him getting the shot — to turn things around. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

It took a populist Shiite cleric’s public endorsement of vaccinations — and images of him getting the shot last week — to turn things around.

Hundreds of followers of Muqtada al-Sadr are now heading to clinics to follow his example, underscoring the power of sectarian loyalties in Iraq and deep mistrust of the state.

“I was against the idea of being vaccinated. I was afraid, I didn’t believe in it,” said Manhil Alshabli, a 30-year-old Iraqi from the holy city of Najaf. “But all this has changed now.”

“Seeing him getting the vaccine has motivated me,” said Alshabli, speaking by phone from Najaf where he and many other al-Sadr loyalists got their shots, Alshabli compared it to soldiers being energized when they see their leader on the front line.

Iraq has grappled with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. New case numbers spiked to over 8,000 per day last month, the highest they have ever been. The surge was driven largely by public apathy toward the virus. Many routinely flout virus-related restrictions, refusing to wear face masks and continuing to hold large public gatherings.

Daily rates have decreased in the last week, with 5,068 new cases reported on Monday.

Iraq’s Health Ministry has repeatedly tried to reassure Iraqis that the vaccines are not harmful, but this has not convinced many who harbor long-standing distrust of the health care system.

Iraq’s centralized system, largely unchanged since the 1970s, has been ground down by decades of war, sanctions and prolonged unrest since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Successive governments have invested little in the sector.

Many avoid going to public hospitals altogether. Last month, a massive blaze tore through the coronavirus ward in a Baghdad hospital, killing more than 80 people and injuring dozens. Iraq’s Health Minister Hasan al-Tamimi was suspended for alleged negligence, and resigned Tuesday over the incident.

So far, fewer than than 380,000 people have been fully vaccinated in the country of 40 million.

Last week, as sluggish vaccination efforts continued, pictures of the black-turbaned al-Sadr, wearing a black mask and getting jabbed in the arm, began circulating on social media.

Shortly after, his followers launched a vaccination campaign, calling on supporters to join them and posting photos of themselves carrying his posters while seated at medical centers receiving the vaccine.

The Health Ministry has cashed in on the campaign, publishing on its Facebook page the photo of al-Sadr getting the shot, saying his vaccination was meant to encourage all citizens to do the same.

Faris Al-Lami, assistant professor of community medicine at the University of Baghdad, said the government is widely viewed as corrupt and that its actions since the start of the pandemic only deepened the public’s mistrust.

He cited certain early practices, such as using security forces to take patients from their homes as if they were criminals, and holding up the burials of those who died of the virus for several weeks.

Al-Lami also pointed to what he said are current problematic policies. For example, he said high-risk patients, such as those with chronic or immunodeficiency diseases, have to wait inside hospitals to get their shots, putting them at high risk of infection. Meanwhile, people with personal connections can get them easily.

He said it’s a positive development when the vaccination of a political or religious figure encourages people to get their shots. “But the ideology that is based upon blindly following anyone’s decision is a disaster in itself,” he said.

Iraq received 336,000 new doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in late March and Iraqis above the age of 18 are qualified to get the jab. Last month, the first shipment of Pfizer doses arrived in the country, with 49,000 shots.

“All the vaccines that arrived in Iraq are safe and effective … but until this moment, there are some citizens who are afraid of taking the vaccine as a result of malicious rumors,” said Ruba Hassan, a Health Ministry official.

The Health Ministry has introduced measures to push Iraqis to get the shots. They include travel restrictions for those unable to produce a vaccination card and dismissals of employees at shops, malls and restaurants. While the measures have led more people to seek out vaccinations, they have also confused and angered a still largely reticent public.

Restaurant owners said they were blindsided by the measures, uncertain if it meant they would face closure if they refused them.

“There is no clear law to follow,” said Rami Amir, 30, who owns a fast food restaurant in Baghdad. “I don’t want all my staff to be vaccinated because they might have severe side effects or complications,” he said, echoing widespread skepticism.

Omer Mohammed, another restaurant owner, said applicants for a new job at his eatery dropped out when he said vaccination cards were a necessary prerequisite.

Medical professionals were prioritized to receive the vaccine and were able to pre-register in January when Iraq received its first shipment of 50,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.

When recent medical school graduate Mohammed al-Sudani, 24, went to get vaccinated this month he said the process was “bittersweet.” He showed up with no previous registration for the AstraZeneca vaccine. He didn’t need it. There was barely anyone there.

The next week he brought two of his aunts to the same center. There were only two other people in the waiting room.

“The nurse came in and asked them to call their relatives and friends to come to raise the number to at least 10 people because the jabs inside the vaccine kits were only valid for 6 hours,” he said.

It was a different scene in hospitals that carry Pfizer shots. Tabark Rashad, 27, headed to Baghdad’s al-Kindi hospital last week. The waiting room was crowded with dozens of people, sparking infection concerns.

“I went to protect myself against COVID-19, not get it in this room,” she said. “It was chaos.”

Nature at its craziest: Trillions of cicadas about to emerge

By SETH BORENSTEIN for the Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Sifting through a shovel load of dirt in a suburban backyard, Michael Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury find their quarry: a cicada nymph.

A cicada nymph moves in the grass, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Frederick, Md. Within days, a couple weeks at most, the cicadas of Brood X (the X is the Roman numeral for 10) will emerge after 17 years underground. There are many broods of periodic cicadas that appear on rigid schedules in different years, but this is one of the largest and most noticeable. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

And then another. And another. And four more.

In maybe a third of a square foot of dirt, the University of Maryland entomologists find at least seven cicadas — a rate just shy of a million per acre. A nearby yard yielded a rate closer to 1.5 million.

And there’s much more afoot. Trillions of the red-eyed black bugs are coming, scientists say.

Within days, a couple weeks at most, the cicadas of Brood X (the X is the Roman numeral for 10) will emerge after 17 years underground. There are many broods of periodic cicadas that appear on rigid schedules in different years, but this is one of the largest and most noticeable. They’ll be in 15 states from Indiana to Georgia to New York; they’re coming out now in mass numbers in Tennessee and North Carolina.

When the entire brood emerges, backyards can look like undulating waves, and the bug chorus is lawnmower loud.

The cicadas will mostly come out at dusk to try to avoid everything that wants to eat them, squiggling out of holes in the ground. They’ll try to climb up trees or anything vertical, including Raupp and Shrewsbury. Once off the ground, they shed their skins and try to survive that vulnerable stage before they become dinner to a host of critters including ants, birds, dogs, cats and Raupp.

It’s one of nature’s weirdest events, featuring sex, a race against death, evolution and what can sound like a bad science fiction movie soundtrack.

Some people may be repulsed. Psychiatrists are calling entomologists worrying about their patients, Shrewsbury said. But scientists say the arrival of Brood X is a sign that despite pollution, climate change and dramatic biodiversity loss, something is still right with nature. And it’s quite a show.

Raupp presents the narrative of cicada’s lifespan with all the verve of a Hollywood blockbuster:

“You’ve got a creature that spends 17 years in a COVID-like existence, isolated underground sucking on plant sap, right? In the 17th year these teenagers are going to come out of the earth by the billions if not trillions. They’re going to try to best everything on the planet that wants to eat them during this critical period of the nighttime when they’re just trying to grow up, they’re just trying to be adults, shed that skin, get their wings, go up into the treetops, escape their predators,” he says.

“Once in the treetops, hey, it’s all going to be about romance. It’s only the males that sing. It’s going to be a big boy band up there as the males try to woo those females, try to convince that special someone that she should be the mother of his nymphs. He’s going to perform, sing songs. If she likes it, she’s going to click her wings. They’re going to have some wild sex in the treetop.

“Then she’s going to move out to the small branches, lay their eggs. Then it’s all going to be over in a matter of weeks. They’re going to tumble down. They’re going to basically fertilize the very plants from which they were spawned. Six weeks later the tiny nymphs are going to tumble 80 feet from the treetops, bounce twice, burrow down into the soil, go back underground for another 17 years.”

“This,” Raupp says, “is one of the craziest life cycles of any creature on the planet.”

America is the only place in the world that has periodic cicadas that stay underground for either 13 or 17 years, says entomologist John Cooley of the University of Connecticut.

The bugs only emerge in large numbers when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees. That’s happening earlier in the calendar in recent years because of climate change, says entomologist Gene Kritsky. Before 1950 they used to emerge at the end of May; now they’re coming out weeks earlier.

Though there have been some early bugs In Maryland and Ohio, soil temperatures have been in the low 60s. So Raupp and other scientists believe the big emergence is days away — a week or two, max.

Cicadas who come out early don’t survive. They’re quickly eaten by predators. Cicadas evolved a key survival technique: overwhelming numbers. There’s just too many of them to all get eaten when they all emerge at once, so some will survive and reproduce, Raupp says.

This is not an invasion. The cicadas have been here the entire time, quietly feeding off tree roots underground, not asleep, just moving slowly waiting for their body clocks tell them it is time to come out and breed. They’ve been in America for millions of years, far longer than people.

When they emerge, it gets noisy — 105 decibels noisy, like “a singles bar gone horribly, horribly wrong,” Cooley says. There are three distinct cicada species and each has its own mating song.

They aren’t locusts and the only plants they damage are young trees, which can be netted. The year after a big batch of cicadas, trees actually do better because dead bugs serve as fertilizer, Kritsky says.

People tend to be scared of the wrong insects, says University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. The mosquito kills more people than any other animals because of malaria and other diseases. Yet some people really dread the cicada emergence, she said.

“I think it’s the fact that they’re an inconvenience. Also, when they die in mass numbers they smell bad,” Berenbaum says. “They really disrupt our sense of order.”

But others are fond of cicadas — and even munch on them, using recipes like those in a University of Maryland cookbook. And for scientists like Cooley, there is a real beauty in their life cycle.

“This is a feel-good story, folks. It really is and it’s in a year we need more,” he says. “When they come out, it’s a great sign that forests are in good shape. All is as it is supposed to be.”

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears