Tag Archives: Dallas

50 years after the Texas sniper, a look at gun violence and mental health laws

For some people, the attack on police officers by a gunman in Dallas this summer brought to mind another attack by a sniper in Austin 50 years ago — on Aug. 1, 1966.

That’s when student Charles Whitman stuck his rifle over the edge of the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin and started shooting. Ultimately, he killed 16 people — and wounded more than 30 others.

For decades, people have struggled to figure out why. There have been theories about abuse, a brain tumor and, of course, mental illness.

Six months before Charles Whitman took aim from that tower he visited a school psychiatrist, and admitted while there that he had a violent fantasy of going to the top of the tower with a deer rifle and shooting people.

Gary Lavergne, who wrote A Sniper in the Tower, said the school psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice D. Heatly, claimed he’d had many students who recounted violent fantasies during therapy sessions.

“Today we take it a whole lot more seriously because of our history,” Lavergne said. “But back then, that kind of thing didn’t happen.”

Soon after the 1966 shooting, Heatly spoke in a news conference.

“It’s a common experience for students who come to the mental hygiene clinic to refer to the tower as the site of some desperate action,” Heatly told reporters. “They say ‘I feel like jumping off of the old tower.’ (Charles Whitman had) no psychosis symptoms at all!”

Whitman never went back to the clinic, but he did return to his violent fantasy. Lavergne said the 25-year-old former Marine and Eagle Scout was incredibly methodical as he went about killing his mother the night before the tower shootings, placing her body in bed as if she were sleeping. Then he went back home and stabbed his wife.

“By 3 o’clock in the morning, his wife and his mother are both murdered,” said Lavergne. “After that, until he goes to the campus, he spent the rest of his time polishing, getting weapons ready, buying more ammunition. All for the specific goal of going to the top of the UT tower and shooting people.”

Nearly two hours later, 16 people were dead and 32 more were wounded. Police finally killed Whitman.

Speaking to the media, John Connally, who was then governor of Texas, could barely find words.

“Of course I am concerned, disturbed, and yet somewhat at a loss to know how you prevent a maniacal act of a man who obviously goes berserk,” Connally said.

Fifty years later, when news about shootings in Dallas, in Orlando or San Bernardino hits, our reactions are much the same. We avoid those charged words, but we often assume the shooter is mentally ill, and that crimes like this could be avoided if those with serious mental illness didn’t have guns.

Which raises two questions: First, was Charles Whitman mentally ill? And second, could policies focusing on mental health prevent mass shootings?

As to the first question, Lavergne said he doesn’t think Whitman had serious mental illness. Whitman, he said, did have mental health challenges that are common — depression and anxiety. But more than anything, he was manipulative.

“He was always who he was expected to be,” Lavergne said. “In front of his father-in-law, he at times appeared to be a dutiful husband, when — in fact — he assaulted his wife, just like his daddy assaulted his mother. And he gave people the impression he was an honor student, when — in fact — when he died he had a 1.9 grade point average.”

Charles Whitman did seem to think something was wrong with him. This is an excerpt from a note he left on his wife’s body:

“I don’t really understand myself these days,” he wrote. “I’m supposed to be an average, reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately, I can’t recall when it started, I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur.”

Whitman didn’t mention he’d also been abusing amphetamines. The potential impact of those chemicals fizzled out of the public conversation as soon as a pathologist made a striking discovery in his autopsy: a brain tumor.

One doctor said the “grayish yellow mass” wasn’t a factor in explaining what Whitman had done. But a medical panel later diagnosed the mass as a glioblastoma and said it could have contributed to Whitman’s inability to control his emotions and his actions. Dr. Elizabeth Burton, a Dallas pathologist, agrees it’s possible.

“You can have headaches, you can have seizures, and you can have changes in cognition, and you can actually have personality changes,” she said.

But plenty of people have tumors and are not violent. And plenty of people have depression, anxiety and paranoia and aren’t violent.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and director of the division of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University, pointed out that only a tiny percent of violence — about 4 percent in the U.S. — is attributable to mental illness.

“We know that people with serious mental disorders are at somewhat elevated risk of committing violence,” Appelbaum said. “Even so, the vast majority of them never commit a violent act. And we know that people with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to end up as victims of violence rather than as perpetrators.”

But Democrats and Republicans have both touted mental health care legislation as a way of preventing mass shootings.

After a shooter killed 20 children in Newtown, President Obama called for a gun crackdown. That didn’t happen. But, Obama’s 2017 budget does include a request for $500 million for mental health services.

Appelbaum said this is a misguided approach.

“We need more funding for treatment of people with mental illness in this country,” Appelbaum said. “But to argue for that funding on false grounds — namely to try and persuade the public that it will protect them [to] have more mental health clinics — in the long run can only backfire.”

Applebaum said he believes there are alternatives. At least temporarily limiting access to guns for some people make sense, he said. In general, people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, or who are a under temporary restraining order, or who have multiple DUI convictions over a 5-year period are more likely to commit acts of violence than people with mental illness are.

This story is part of a partnership with NPR, local member stations and Kaiser Health News

Clinton, Kaine take aim at NRA, with public behind them

“Tim Kaine has a background of steel — just ask the NRA,” said Hillary Clinton in introducing her vice presidential pick in Florida today. It was her first limelight moment since the Republican National Convention, and we’re encouraged that she used part of it to focus on gun control.

The nation desperately needs to hear an honest debate about gun control at the presidential level. Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart on the issue. We got a striking picture of where Republicans stand at their convention in Cleveland, where delegates toted firearms into the Quicken Loans Arena like little kids showing off their toys. The party’s platform not only ignores the nation’s mounting toll of horrific mass shootings, but also reads as if the National Rifle Association wrote it — which might very well be the case.

In addition to Clinton’s remarks today, there was more good news for gun-control advocates. A new Associated Press-GfK poll found support for restrictions on gun ownership now stands at a two-thirds majority — the highest level since the poll started asking the question in 2013, about 10 months after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

According to the new poll, majorities favor nationwide bans on semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents to the poll said laws limiting gun ownership do not infringe on the Second Amendment. Strong majorities from both parties said they support background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through private sales.

In addition, they back the commonsense banning of gun sales to people on the federal terrorist watch list.

But the poll also found widespread pessimism that elected officials will act. It’s incumbent on Clinton and other Democrats running for office in November to prove the public wrong. They must stand up forcefully and stand down the NRA’s propaganda machine.

The NRA maintains that more guns make people safer, but the opposite is true. The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other nation in the “developed” world and more firearm deaths per capita to show for all those weapons. Americans are 10 times likelier to be killed by firearms than citizens of any other developed nation, according to a study that appeared in the American Journal of Medicine. Yet Americans own virtually one gun for every man, woman and child in the country.

Recent gun-violence cases further undermine the NRA’s distortion. When a sniper opened fire on armed Dallas police officers earlier this month, their guns did nothing to protect them. But imagine how many more casualties there would have been if everyone in the crowd had been armed to the hilt and shooting willy-nilly to stop an assailant who was not even visible.

A gunman managed to kill three Baton Rouge police officers and wound three others, despite the fact that his victims were both armed and trained to use their weapons. An armed security guard was working at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando when 49 customers were killed. The guard exchanged fire with the attacker but to no avail. And officials said that more firearms in the nightclub would have resulted in more innocent deaths during the hysterical melee the first shootings triggered.

In all of those cases, the attackers had the advantages of surprise and powerful weapons. We can’t stop the former, but we can curb the latter with sensible gun restrictions. We need laws designed to benefit society rather than the profits of weapons and munitions manufacturers.

Americans don’t balk at the myriad other restrictions they live with, many of which are ridiculous and unfair. Citizens don’t become unhinged at having to undergo minor security checks to buy decongestants. They don’t send death threats to opticians in protest of bogus laws forcing contact lens wearers to undergo annual eye exams, whether they need them or not. Most citizens accept laws against littering, urinating on sidewalks and coming to a complete halt at stop signs even when no traffic is present.

Yet the NRA has trained millions of Americans to go full freak at potentially life-saving restrictions, such as preventing terrorists from buying assault weapons and prohibiting the sale of body-armor-piercing bullets. Obviously, sanity is being set aside when it comes to this issue and tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year as a result.

Beginning now, you must force candidates for offices at all levels to explain their positions on gun control. Let them know that in order to earn your vote, they must support sensible gun control that does not violate the 2nd Amendment but can reduce the shootings.

We’re finally in a place where Americans are fed up with the nation’s gun obsession. We have a presidential candidate who plans to challenge the NRA from the top of the ticket, but it’s up to voters to put pressure on local and state officials.

Together, let’s imagine a nation where we don’t awake every morning to headlines of another slaughter, where we don’t live every day with the fear that we — or someone we love — will be next. Then take that vision to your candidates and ultimately to the ballot box.

 

Wisconsin legislator announces ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill

A Wisconsin legislator announced a “Blue Lives Matter” bill Monday to make targeting law enforcement officers a hate crime in the wake of the Dallas shooting that killed five officers last week.

Rep. David Steffen, a Green Bay Republican, said he believes the law enforcement community deserves the additional protection of hate crime laws, adding Wisconsin to a growing list of states discussing similar bills.

Louisiana became the first state to enact a Blue Lives Matter law in May, allowing prosecutors to seek stronger penalties when police, firefighters and emergency medical crews are intentionally targeted because of their professions. Lawmakers in at least 13 other states and in Congress have floated similar proposals.

Blue Lives Matter laws have failed in four states and is pending in five others and in Congress, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers in at least four other states have said they plan to introduce similar legislation but haven’t officially done so.

Steffen said his proposal is “a small, single step” that Wisconsin can take to “reinforce its commitment” to supporting and protecting law enforcement officers.

But Republicans in Madison have cut back severely on revenue sharing with cities, which has made it more difficult for municipalities to maintain an adequate number of police officers and fire fighters. Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011–13 budget cut shared revenue by 9 percent, the biggest cut in at least a decade.

The cuts endanger safety both for professionals and the public.

The reduction in shared revenue are partly the result of massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Wisconsinites. About 78 percent of Walker’s tax cuts have gone to the state’s top 0.2 percent of earners.

But civil rights organizations and activist groups have criticized Blue Lives Matter bills for other reasons, saying a person’s profession should not be included with race, religion and other characteristics that are protected under hate crime laws.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said police officers and their families won’t be helped by “a heighted sense of victimization.”

“We should recognize the stress they confront, but piling on by claiming that there is a war against police, or that the law isn’t already penalizing attacks on police severely, does a disservice to everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.

In Wisconsin, people convicted of a crime can face an enhanced penalty if they targeted the victim based on their race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. If deemed a hate crime, the penalty for a felony can carry an additional $5,000 fine and an additional five years in prison. The penalty increase for misdemeanors deemed hate crimes depends on the severity of the crime, possibly including additional jail time and thousands of dollars in additional fines.

Steffen’s Blue Lives Matter bill, which he plans to formally introduce in January, would extend hate crime protection to law enforcement officers.

“Law enforcement isn’t just some profession. It is one upon which our quality of life largely depends,” said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police union.

Palmer said the legislation would send an important, symbolic message, but that the Legislature could do other things to better protect officers and support law enforcement, including ensuring adequate staffing and improved training. He said legislation to protect law enforcement and efforts to resolve problems between officers and their communities shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

Clinton: Too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing

Hillary Clinton delivered the following remarks at the African Methodist Episcopal Church National Convention in Philadelphia.

Giving all praise and honor to God.

Thank you for that welcome, and for letting me be a part of this anniversary celebration for the AME Church. I want to thank Bishop Green as well as Bishop Bryant, Bishop White, Bishop Ingram, Bishop Young, Bishop McKenzie, Bishop Jackson, Dr. Richard Allen Lewis, Sr., Reverend Dr. Jeffery B. Cooper, Sr., Bishop Snorton, Reverend Vincent and the AME General Conference Choir, which I had the great pleasure of hearing from backstage.

There is no better place to mark this milestone for the AME Church than right here in Philadelphia, the city where this church was founded by a former slave 200 years ago.

Today, we join to celebrate your esteemed history, the leaders and congregants who built this community and kept it strong, and your legacy of service. You seek to meet what the Book of Micah tells us are the Lord’s requirements for each of us: “To do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

As President Obama has said, the church is the “beating heart” of the African American community. This is the place where people worship, study, grieve and rejoice without fear of persecution or mistreatment. That is a precious thing, my friends, in this world. I know that, from my experience as a lifelong Methodist, how important my own church community has been to me.

So I come here today, first and foremost, to say thank you. Thank you for being part of this historic institution, and for carrying its work forward, as Bishop Green said. I also come tonight as a mother, and a grandmother to two beautiful little children. And like so many parents and grandparents across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.

On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside St. Paul — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light. And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, there was a vicious, appalling attack. A sniper targeted police officers. He said he wanted to hurt white people. Twelve officers were shot, along with two civilians. Five — five — officers have died. We now know all their names: Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, and Patrick Zamarripa. And as I was on my way here today, we heard reports of another shooting yesterday morning in Tennessee.

What can one say about events like these? What can people and leaders of faith say about events like these? It’s hard, isn’t it, even to know where to start. But let’s start here — let’s take a moment to pray for all the families and the loved ones suffering today. For Alton’s grieving children. For the four-year-old girl who bravely comforted her mother while Philando died in front of them. For the families of those police officers who lived every day with the fear that something like this could happen, and will always be proud of their service and sacrifice.

We pray for those families, and for the souls of everyone we lost this week and in all weeks preceding. May they rest in God’s peace.

Now, there are many unanswered questions about each of these incidents. We will learn more in the days ahead. And when we know as much as we can, there must be a just accounting.

For now, let’s focus on what we already know — deep in our hearts. We know there is something wrong with our country. There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. And we know there is clear evidence that African Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans.

And we know there is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect. With so little common ground, it can feel impossible to have the conversations we need to have, to begin fixing what’s broken. We owe our children better than this. We owe ourselves better than this.

No one has all the answers. We need to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them. Those are the truest things I can offer today. We must do better, together. Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other. For Scripture tells us to “incline our ears to wisdom and apply our hearts to understanding.”

The deaths of Alton and Philando are the latest in a long and painful litany of African Americans killed in police incidents — 123 so far this year alone. We know the names of other victims, too:

Tamir Rice.

Sandra Bland.

Walter Scott.

Dontre Hamilton.

Laquan McDonald.

Eric Garner.

Michael Brown.

Freddie Gray.

Brandon Tate-Brown, whose mother Tanya is here today, and who was killed not far from here a year and a half ago.

Tragically, we could go on and on, couldn’t we. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. Families are being torn apart by excessive incarceration. Young people are being threatened and humiliated by racial profiling. Children are growing up in homes shattered by prison and poverty.

They’re trying to tell us. We need to listen.

Brave police officers are working hard every day to inspire trust and confidence. As we mourn the Dallas police officers who died and pray for those wounded, let’s not forget how the Dallas Police Department in particular has earned a reputation for excellence. They’ve worked hard for years to improve policing and strengthen their bonds with the community. And they’ve gotten results.

Police officers across the country are pouring their hearts into this work, because they know how vital it is to the peace, tranquility, justice, and equality of America. They’re trying to tell us. And we need to listen.

People are crying out for relief from gun violence. We remember Reverend Clementa Pinckney, eight congregants at Mother Emanuel in Charleston — and thousands more killed every year by guns across our nation. Things have become so broken in Washington that to just try to get a vote on compromise gun safety reforms, John Lewis himself had to stage a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Gun violence is ripping apart people’s lives. They’re trying to tell us. And we need to listen.

I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people. I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks and getting assault weapons off our streets gets you demonized.

But all these things can be true at once. We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated equally in rights and dignity. We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. And we do need to reduce gun violence. We may disagree about how to do all these things, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.

Now, I have set forth plans for over a year to reduce excessive violence, reform our sentencing laws, support police departments that are doing things right, make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on guns. For example, there are two important steps that I will take as president.

First, I will bring law enforcement and communities together to develop national guidelines on the use of force by police officers. We will make it clear for everyone to see when deadly force is warranted, and when it isn’t. And we will emphasize proven methods for de-escalating situations before they reach that point.

And second, let’s be honest — let’s acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across our society and even in the best police departments. We have to tackle it together, which is why in my first budget, I will commit $1 billion to find and fund the best training programs, support new research, and make this a national policing priority. Let’s learn from those police departments like Dallas that have been making progress, apply their lessons nationwide.

Now, plans like these are important. But we have to acknowledge that — on their own — they won’t be enough. On their own, our thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, either. We need to do some hard work inside ourselves, too.

Today, there are people all across America sick over what happened in Dallas, and fearful that the murders of these police officers will mean that vital questions raised by Alton’s and Philando’s deaths will go unanswered. That is a reasonable fear. Today, there are people all across America who watched what happened in Dallas last night and are thinking, no frustration with the police could ever justify this bloodshed. How did we get here? And is there more to come? That’s a reasonable fear, too..

It is up to all of us to make sure those fears don’t come true. We cannot, we must not vilify police officers. Remember what those officers were doing when they died. They were protecting a peaceful march. They were people in authority, making sure their fellow citizens had the right to protest authority. And there is nothing more vital to our democracy than that. And they died for it.

Ending the systemic racism that plagues our country — and rebuilding our communities where the police and citizens all see themselves as being on the same side — will require contributions from all of us. White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk— talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes — to imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past. Or if every time our children went to play in the park, or went for a ride, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer — “Please, God — please, God — don’t let anything happen to my baby.”

And let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to a dangerous job we need them to do. When gunfire broke out yesterday night, and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show every single day somewhere across America. And let’s remember — let’s think about what Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this morning. He said, “Please join me in applauding these brave men and women, who do this job under great scrutiny, under great vulnerability, who literally risk their lives to protect our democracy.” He went on to say, “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days.”

Let’s remember that — not just today but every day.

Let’s ask ourselves, what can I do? What can I personally do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters to me? That I have a stake in your safety and wellbeing?

Elie Wiesel, who died last week, once clarified for us that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.” None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. And I’m going to keep talking about these issues with every audience. And if I’m elected, I’ll start working on this on day one — and keep at it every single day after that.

I want you to know the 24-hour news cycle moves on — I won’t. This is so important to who we are, what kind of nation we are making for our children and our grandchildren. As President Obama said yesterday, and as we all know in our hearts to be true: We are better than this. And if we push hard enough, and long enough, we can bend the arc of history toward justice. We can avoid that choice that Dr. King posed for us between chaos and community.

So yes, this is about our country. It’s also about our kids. There’s nothing more important than that. And I think it’s about our faith. We have a lot of work to do. We don’t have a moment to lose. But I would not be here tonight if I did not believe we can come together with a sense of shared purpose and belief in our shared humanity, and if I did not know we must, because truly we are stronger together. Not separated into factions or sides; not shouting over each other about who matters more or who has more cause to be upset; but together, facing these challenges together. And if we do this right and have the hard conversations we need to have, we will become even stronger — like steel tempered by fire.

Fierce debates are part of who we are — just like freedom and order, justice and security — complementary values of American life. They are not easy. They challenge us to dig deep, and constantly seek the right balance. But in the end, if we do that work, we will become a better nation. If we stand with each other now, we can build a future where no one is left out or left behind, and everyone can share in the promise of America — which is big enough for everyone, not to be reserved for a few.

But we know something — we know that work is hard, don’t we? I’m calling on this historic church, and all of our churches, to think hard about what special role you can play. Every day, you teach and show us about the Golden Rule and so much else. Why can’t we really believe in and act on it? To treat others as we would want to be treated.

In the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, St. Paul extols the virtues of faith, hope, and love for our fellow human beings. He says we need them all in this life, because of our imperfections: we “see through a glass darkly” and only “know in part.” He proclaims love the greatest virtue, necessary to keep faith and hope alive and to give us direction.

I’ve tried to say for some time now that our country needs more love and kindness. I know it’s not the kind of thing presidential candidates usually say. But we have to find ways to repair these wounds and close these divides. The great genius and salvation of the United States is our capacity to do and to be better. And we must answer the call to do that again. It’s critical to everything else we want to achieve — more jobs with rising income; good education no matter what ZIP code a child lives in; affordable college; paying back debts; health care for everyone. We must never give up on the dream of this nation.

I want to close with a favorite passage — a passage that you all know — that means a great deal to me and I’m sure to many of you, from Galatians. “Let us not grow weary in doing good” — “for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

My friends, let us not grow weary. Let us plan the path forward for all of God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem, bright futures to claim. Let us go forth — go forward, Bishop — with a sense of heartfelt love and commitment. And may the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children and grandchildren deserve.

Thank you, AME, and God bless you.

‘America is weeping’: Taking stock after tragedies

Can this really be America in 2016?

Tumultuous days have brought echoes of decades past and made clear a public that elected a black president hasn’t reconciled its fractured history with race, that a country that lived through unrest and assassinations in the 1960s and 1970s still bubbles with resentment and rage, and that bloody images of violent tragedy aren’t going away.

“America is weeping,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, reflecting an entire nation’s mounting anger, tension and despair.

It started Tuesday, with a familiar scene: A black man, on the ground, shot by police, with the incident captured on cellphone video. That killing, of a 37-year-old named Alton Sterling, who police say was armed and selling CDs outside a Louisiana convenience store, ignited public outrage, and added Baton Rouge to a long list of places where the death of a black male at the hands of police has come under a cloud of suspicion.

It might have remained just that, with Sterling’s name added to a sorrowful litany alongside Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray.

Then came Wednesday.

In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, another black man was shot dead by an officer, this time after a traffic stop. As 32-year-old Philando Castile sat bloodied and dying, his girlfriend made a live broadcast on Facebook that gave an eerie look into the aftermath. As the video freezes and the woman loses composure and lets out a scream, the sweet voice of her 4-year-old daughter chimes in to comfort: “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

And then, like clockwork in a new deranged norm, came another evening, another night of tragedy.

As demonstrators amassed in Dallas on Thursday to mark what had transpired in the two preceding days, five police officers there to help keep the peace were shot and killed and seven other officers and two civilians were wounded. Authorities said it was the work of a sniper. The suspect, who was killed by police, had said he was upset by the recent shootings and wanted to kill whites, particularly white officers.

It was a devastating climax to three horrific days that Americans are struggling to understand.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called it “a week of profound grief and heartbreaking loss.” In Chicago, Archbishop Blase Cupich said, “Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror.” On Capitol Hill, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said, “We feel the pain. We feel the hurt.”

Kevin Boyle, an American history professor at Northwestern University, thought of the late 1960s and the 1992 Los Angeles riots, seeing “terrifying parallels” and “echoes for me of other really incredibly tense points.” The presence of video documentation of the incidents calls attention to strife that had previously existed only in agonizing private memories.

“It’s not that the incidents are new,” he said, “it’s our ability to see them.”

At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., Kim Hernandez welled with tears Friday as she took stock of the week. “There’s just a really scary sense of humanity right now,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how we can fix it, but it doesn’t seem like talking is working.”

At Bible Way Temple in Raleigh, North Carolina, Darnell Dixon Sr., the chief pastor, wondered why more positive change hasn’t come. He presided over the funeral of another black man who was shot by a white officer earlier this year, and was part of a dialogue with police that followed and brought him a sense of healing.

“I started feeling better,” he said. “But yesterday set me back. It bewildered me.”

As rancor grew, a handful of violent incidents against police arose across the country, including the shooting of an officer in Valdosta, Georgia. Authorities said a man called 911 to report a break-in, then ambushed the responding officer.

Some lashed out at the movement that was born of police shootings of blacks and even at President Barack Obama, accusing him of fueling divisions among people of color and whites. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist movement,” while U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas, said the “spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president, have contributed to the modern day hostility we are witnessing between the police and those they serve.”

Black Lives Matter organizers condemned the violence in Dallas, and police haven’t given any indication that the shooter had anything to do with the group.

If the gravity of it all seems clear, the road from here does not.

Does the assemblage of killings by police around the country and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement lead to more than candlelight vigils and calls for change? Does the anger that seemingly fueled the shootings in Dallas precipitate and lead to similar attacks on police akin to Black Panther-style violence of long ago? Is this a turning point or simply a continuation?

Jeanine Bell, an Indiana University professor who authored “Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime,” said the week will not go down as a pivotal point unless it leads to substantive change by police that goes beyond simply diversifying forces and introducing anti-bias training.

“Until there is a call for reorganization of policing practices, not just small changes, then it’s very hard to call this a turning point,” she said.

Pew Research Center, in a survey released last month, found more than 4 in 10 blacks doubt the nation will ever make changes necessary for racial equality with whites and that nearly two-thirds of black adults believe blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the workplace.

This week’s killings come in the midst of a divisive presidential election, amid fears of terrorism and on the heels of the latest mass shooting that claimed 49 innocent lives. The killings in Dallas happened just blocks from the book depository where another sniper took aim at President John F. Kennedy. It ended his life and a period of American history that became regarded as “Camelot,” and became a presage to the strife, unrest and other assassinations that followed.

Two blocks from the shooting site, in Dallas’ historic West End district, Joe Groves owns Ellen’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, where dinner was underway when the gunfire sounded. Many of the officers who were assigned to Thursday night’s demonstration are friends of his, and as the violence erupted, he tapped out three words to two of his uniformed friends: “Love you man.”

Though Groves is white, most of his 72 workers are black and Latino; his clientele is diverse as well. The tension that came to a head in the shootings wasn’t something he’d experienced personally, until now.

On Friday, his restaurant was open again, but the atmosphere was noticeably different. He said people are speaking more quietly, and the enormity of it all seemed to weigh. He sees some good coming of it all, a connectedness between strangers that is rarely there, a willingness to make eye contact. And even though he thinks race relations may have reached their rock bottom, he sees a reason for hope there, too.

“The good news about rock bottom,” he said, “is the only way out is up.”

Wisconsin Republican asks for prayers for dead officers

A Wisconsin legislator is asking people to pray for the families of the officers who were slain in Dallas.

Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican and a former police officer who chairs the Senate public safety committee, issued a news release Friday that people should pray that “during this time of increased tension between police and certain communities that God’s wisdom and guidance will keep all lives safe.”

Wanggaard says people need to remember that they’re all on the same side and everyone wants to return home to their loved ones at the end of the day and too many haven’t lately.

At least one person opened fire on police Thursday night in Dallas during a protest over recent killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Five officers were killed.

 

Transcript: Biden commemorates lives of Dallas officers killed

In this week’s address from the White House, Vice President Joe Biden commemorates the lives of the five police officers who were killed and the seven people who were wounded in Dallas.

The police officers were providing safety to those who were peacefully marching against racial injustices in the criminal justice system — and the shocking images of the lives lost in St. Paul and Baton Rouge.

Echoing the remarks of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown, the vice president called on the American people to act with unity and to stop the violence. He emphasized that it is the responsibility of everyone to speak out against disparities within the criminal justice system, just as much as it is the responsibility of everyone to stand up for the police who protect us every day.

The audio of the address and video of the address is online at www.whitehouse.gov.

The following is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks, as prepared for delivery in the weekly address on July 9:

Although I didn’t know the five police officers who were killed, or the seven who were wounded in Dallas this week – I knew them.

They were the folks I grew up with: The boy with the most courage and the most compassion; the man with a brave heart and a generous soul, whose words were always encouraging; the son who made his mother proud every time he turned and smiled at her; and the friend who you could always count on. Being a cop wasn’t just what they did. It was who they were-like every officer who joined for essentially the same reason. There was something about them that made them think they could help, that they should serve, that they had a duty.

So when an assassin’s bullet targeted the police force in Dallas, it touched the soul of the nation. Those killed and wounded were protecting the safety of those who were peacefully protesting against racial injustices in the criminal justice system. Those who were marching against the kind of shocking images we saw in St. Paul and Baton Rouge-and have seen too often elsewhere-of too many black lives lost.

I believe the Dallas Police Department is one of the finest in the nation-and this incredibly diverse city can bridge any divide. To paraphrase Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, let us use our words carefully. Let us act with unity, not division. As Dallas Police Chief David Brown-one of the leading chiefs in America-said, “There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city, all I know is that this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”

As Americans, we are wounded by all of these deaths. It’s on all of us to stand up, to speak out about disparities in our criminal justice system-just as it’s on all of us to stand up for the police who protect us in our communities every day. In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue offering our thoughts and prayers to provide comfort to the broken-hearted families. But they will only be redeemed by the courage of our actions that honor their memories.

So while we’re being tested, we can’t be pulled apart. We are America, with bonds that hold us together. We endure, we persevere, we overcome, we stand together.

Millions view Facebook video showing aftermath of officer-involved shooting

A live, 10-minute video of the aftermath of a police officer shooting a black man in Minnesota was the latest example of the riveting power of video streaming and the complex ethical and policy issues it raises for Facebook Live and similar features.

The graphic video taken by the victim’s girlfriend and broadcast on her Facebook page shows Philando Castile covered in blood in the driver’s seat of a car as the officer points a gun into the vehicle.

By early July 7, the footage had more than 4 million views and together with another police shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, topped the items on Facebook’s Newswire, which promotes stories of broad interest.

Facebook this year has made its Live feature, which allows anyone to broadcast a video directly from their smartphone, a central component of its growth strategy. Rivals Twitter and Alphabet’s YouTube are also pushing live video as a new frontier in Internet content.

While traditional TV broadcasters are subject to “decency” standards overseen by the Federal Communications Commission — and have a short delay in their broadcasts to allow them to cut away from violent or obscene images — internet streaming services have no such limitations.

That easy accessibility and openness are fostering a new type of intimate, personal broadcasting that proponents said can be extraordinarily powerful, as evidenced by the demonstrations that began shortly after the Minneapolis video.

But critics said the lack of regulation can allow a somewhat cynical exploitation of tragedy.

Facebook and others can “rush forward and do whatever they think will get them clicks and users” without concerns for potential legal consequences, said Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who helps run the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. She advocates on behalf of revenge porn victims and would like companies to do more to prevent dissemination of such content.

Indeed, internet companies enjoy broad protections under federal law for content users posting on their services. Merely hosting third-party content that is objectionable or even illegal does not expose those companies to litigation as long as they adopt reasonable takedown policies.

The companies do enforce their own terms of service, which restrict many types of images. They rely heavily on users to report violations, which are then reviewed by employees or contractors for possible removal.

POLITICAL PRESSURE

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, said live video provides unprecedented opportunity to seize public awareness and cultivate political pressure on a topic such as police brutality.

But Cooper said the technology also raises concerns. “The availability of a live broadcast, unencumbered, becomes a horrendous tool in the hands of a terrorist.”

Facebook said last month that it was expanding the team dedicated to reviewing live content and staffing it 24 hours a day. The company would also test the monitoring of broadcasts that go viral or are trending even before they are reported, giving Facebook a way to stop offending broadcasts quickly, just as a TV network might do.

In the July 6 shooting in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, the footage was taken offline for about an hour, leading to outrage on social media. It was then restored with a warning labeling it as “disturbing.”

“We’re very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “It was down due to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”

Details of the technical glitch were not immediately known.

Facebook’s push into live streaming assures that such violent or otherwise disturbing events would not be the last.

About 1.65 billion people used Facebook monthly as of March 31, spending at least 50 minutes per day on the social media platform. In Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings, it reported a 50 percent surge in revenue, handily beating Wall Street expectations as its promotion of live video won new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to increase spending.

Facebook pays some companies, including Reuters, to produce content for Facebook Live.

The Minnesota shooting followed other violent events that were streamed live on the Internet and went viral.

Just last month, a 28-year-old Chicago man, Antonio Perkins, filmed himself on Facebook Live spending time with his friends outside when shots rang out. The graphic video showed Perkins falling to the ground and what appears to be blood on the grass.

Days earlier, there was a double homicide in France in which the killer later took to Facebook Live to encourage more violence in a 12-minute clip.

In April, an 18-year-old woman was charged after she live streamed her friend’s rape on Twitter’s Periscope. In May, a young woman in France recorded herself on Periscope as she threw herself under a train.

 

 

President, Dallas mayor talk about ‘tremendous tragedy’

President Barack Obama said on July 8 he had spoken with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to extend his condolences and offer support after snipers killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack in the city.

Obama said he told Rawlings that the federal government would provide the city with any assistance it may need as it deals with this “tremendous tragedy”.

“We still don’t know all the facts, what we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” Obama after a meeting with European Union leaders ahead of a NATO summit in Poland.

“We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. In the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Obama said his team is keeping him updated on the investigation and that he would have more to say as more details about the attack are learned.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

 

5 Dallas police officers killed, 6 wounded

Snipers operating from rooftops in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack during one of several protests across the United States against the killing of two black men by police this week.

Police described the July 7 ambush as carefully planned and executed and said they had taken three people into custody before a fourth died. Dallas-based media said the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff that extended into July 8.

The fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with police during the standoff at a downtown garage and warned of placing bombs throughout the city. Police have not yet confirmed his death but said no explosives have been found.

The attack came in a week that two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside Minneapolis. The killings, both now the subject of official investigations, inflamed tensions about race and justice in the United States.

The shots rang out as a protest in Dallas was winding down, sending marchers screaming and running in panic through the city’s streets.

It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

A total of 12 police officers and two civilians were shot during the attack, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS News. Three of the officers who were shot were women, he said.

Rawlings said the people in custody, including one woman, were “not being cooperative” with police investigators. He said the assailant who was dead was being fingerprinted and his identity checked with federal authorities.

Police were still not certain they knew all of the individuals involved in the attack, Rawlings said.

No motive has been given for the shootings at the downtown protest, one of many held in major cities across the United States on July 7. New York police made more than a dozen arrests on July 7, while protesters briefly shut down one of Chicago’s main arteries.

One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty since Dallas Area Rapid Transit formed a police department in 1989, DART said on its website. Thompson joined DART in 2009.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shooters, some in elevated positions, used rifles to fire at the officers in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

“(They were) working together with rifles, triangulating at elevated positions in different points in the downtown area where the march ended up going,” Brown told a news conference, adding a civilian was also wounded.

“It has been a devastating night. We are sad to report a fifth officer has died,” Dallas police said on Twitter.

A video taken by a witness shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and shooting a person who appeared to be wearing a uniform at close range. That person then collapsed to the ground.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video.

‘DESPICABLE ATTACK’

President Barack Obama, who was traveling in Poland, expressed his “deepest condolences” to Rawlings on behalf of the American people.

“I believe I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events and we are united with the people and police department in Dallas,” he said.

Obama said the FBI was in contact with Dallas police and that the federal government would provide assistance.

“We still don’t know all of the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” he said.

The shooting, which erupted shortly before 9 p.m. CDT, occurred near a busy area of downtown Dallas filled with restaurants, hotels and government buildings.

Mayor Rawlings advised people to stay away on July 8 as police combed the area. Transportation was halted and federal authorities stopped commercial air traffic over the area as police helicopters hovered.

Large sections of downtown remained closed to the public on July 8.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most populous and is home to more than 7 million people.

The Dallas shooting happened as otherwise largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, by police near St. Paul, Minnesota, late Wednesday. His girlfriend posted live video on the internet of the bloody scene minutes afterward, which was widely viewed.

Over the last two years, there have been periodic and sometimes violent protests over the use of police force against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York. Anger has intensified when the officers were acquitted in trials or not charged at all.

‘THE END IS COMING’

The suspect in the Dallas standoff had told police “the end is coming” and that more police were going to be hurt and killed. Police chief Brown said the suspect also told police “there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown”.

Police said they were questioning two occupants of a Mercedes they had pulled over after the vehicle sped off on a downtown street with a man who threw a camouflaged bag inside the back of the car. A woman was also taken into custody near the garage where the standoff was taking place.

“We are leaving every motive on the table on why this happened and how this happened,” Brown said.

Mayor Rawlings visited the wounded at Parkland hospital, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after he was shot in Dallas in November 1963.

“(The attack) does have a very strange feel to it,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN. “There is something missing here. Obviously there is a lot of information we don’t have.”

Outside the hospital, officers stood in formation and saluted as bodies of the officers were about to be transported.