Category: Sirennet Blog

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.