Tag Archives: killings

Dylann Roof sentenced to death

A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

Attorney general statement on the sentencing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He did so because of their race.  And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.

The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.  They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.

We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;

Susie Jackson, 87;

Ethel Lance, 70;

Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;

Tywanza Sanders, 26;

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;

and Myra Thompson, 59.

Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.

And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand.  But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.

We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.

 

Silent victims of violence: 4 million children orphaned in Congo

More than 4 million children have lost at least one parent in Congo over the past two decades, the silent victims of continuous cycles of violence.

And more than 26 million orphans live in West and Central Africa, where Congo is located — the second highest number in the world behind South Asia, according to the United Nations.

These children have grown up amid conflict fueled by ethnic strife and the fight over Congo’s valuable minerals. The violence and displacement are eroding the tradition of families caring for their own.

The breakdown in family means some orphans are forced to look after themselves and their younger siblings. Some are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups.

And many also face sexual exploitation, in a country where rape has become commonplace on the streets.

“They are the orphans with a story of violence since 1994 — it’s a generation of victims that continues,” says Francisca Ichimpaye, a senior monitor at the En Avant Les Enfants INUKA center.

And the children “lose their story in the violence.”

As Congo falls once again into violence in the face of a delayed election, here are profiles of some orphans in Goma.

ALPHA MELEKI, 6

Alpha Meleki was found in a pile of bodies after an attack by rebels on his village in Congo’s eastern Beni earlier this year. He had been shot and left for dead with his parents in the bush.

The bullet wounds and the vine-like surgery scar on the 6-year-old’s pudgy belly have only recently healed. He hobbles around, pulling his loose shorts up on his tiny body.

The emotional scars are still fresh. When held by someone new, Alpha sits limply. His large eyes glaze over, and sometimes glare with angry distrust. He saves his smiles for those he trusts, often seeking the hands of adults he knows.

He cannot stand to see others suffer. Whenever another child at the INUKA center needs medical attention, Alpha cries and screams.

In a quiet moment, he touches a short, wide scar on his head. He lets others touch it.

“They hit me with a machete,” he recalls.

The center says it could take years to find any family members, as attacks persist in the northeast.

JEANNETTE UMUTSI, 17

At 17, Jeannette Umutsi has become the caregiver for her little brother, whom she hopes to protect from the horrors she has seen.

At first she recounts her story stoically and with distance. She was born only a few years after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide spilled into Congo. Armed fighters stormed her home, hit her in the leg with a shovel and nearly killed her sister.

She and her family fled her hometown of Kirolarwe in 2008 to escape the violence. In the next village, she hid in a toilet enclosure with wooden plank floors for three days to save herself from another attack. Alone, she would sneak out to grab tomatoes that grew nearby.

For days, she heard gunshots and saw dead bodies, including that of her uncle. As she continues to talk of violence, she breaks down into tears and gasps.

“I have so many nightmares now. So many nightmares,” she says.

Her mother returned to save her. But she later died after giving birth to her brother Shukuru, now 5.

Her father used to be a fighter, she says. Once, he threatened to kill her with a machete. As she talks about him, she folds over herself, head in her skirt, and the fear is palpable in her eyes.

Finally she fled the family. She wrapped Shukuru up, put him on her back, and walked for days, struggling to breathe, on the way to Camp Mugunga in Goma. She is now an older sister to more than a dozen other children at the INUKA center, where she helps cook the fish and rice for lunch and rounds the kids up for naps.

MOISE, 7, AND AGATA MUNOKA, 5

Moise Munoka, 7, sits still, looks down and speaks in a near whisper when he recounts the loss of his mother.

She died in 2013 after health complications from rapes left her quite sick. Rape is a constant in Congo, where it has become a weapon of war. At the Children’s Voice Virunga Centre in Goma, where Moise and his sister Agata gather during the day, at least 30 children were born of rape.

Though Moise never knew his own father, he knows that he was probably a fighter who raped his mother. When asked if he wants to meet him one day, he scrunches his nose up and shakes his head in disgust, “No!”

He is happy to have left his war torn village of Massissi.

“It’s a bad place because there’s war, trouble, people don’t like each other, they like to kill,” he says. “There’s always dead people, and blood.”

He lights up as he explains that he and his sister are now being cared for by a widow, Arlette Kabuo Malimewa, 45. She has three children of her own and also cares for a third foster child.

Agata sleeps in the living room, which has several posters of Jesus Christ lining the walls. Moise has his own room, where his two book bags hang from nails on the wooden planks.

Malimewa sells bed covers in bright pinks and whites that hang over her black lava rock gate, and makes about $5 a week.

“I love them, but it is difficult,” she says. “I want to keep them until my death … because who would they go to?”

ANUARITA MAHORO, 12

Anuarita Mahoro, 12, has been ostracized because she was born with a right hand problem that leaves her too weak to do hard labor.

She lived with her father until he was asked to chop wood for armed men who then killed him in 2014. Her mother lived with “the men of the forests,” as she refers to the fighters. They eventually killed her mother, too, and left.

Anuarita fled to her grandparents in Kiwanja. When her grandfather died, she was forced to leave her grandmother to find work to eat. Starving and sick, she was eventually taken in by a center for orphans.

Here, her right hand tucked between her legs and leaning on her left elbow, she apologizes.

“I have suffered so much so I might sound confused,” she says.

She hopes to return to her village and reclaim her grandmother’s land, showing those in the community her worth.

“After the death of my parents, the community discussed who would take this child. And no one was prepared to take me on as a parent. So since no one wanted me, when I grow up they better not come and ask me for any help,” she said, grinning widely, and then covering her face and laughing.

She would like one day to set up a center for orphans. And if she ever got the conversation she wants with the men who killed her parents, she solemnly reveals the one thought that won’t leave her mind.

“I would ask why they killed my father and my mother and didn’t kill me?”

DAMIEN MATATA BIZI, 22

Damien Matata Bizi looks down, his shoulders heavy, when he hesitantly recounts his past as an orphan who became a child soldier.

Many of the thousands of other former child soldiers in Congo over years made a similar choice, or had none at all. Rwanda’s 1994 genocide pushed fighters into Congo, and multiple rebel groups now fight over the mineral-rich region.

Matata Bizi became a rebel after his father, also an armed fighter, died. He was only 10 years old.

“I was angry when I learned of my father’s death. So I wanted to avenge my father, so I entered into the rebellion to fight,” he said. “My mother could never pay for school, and we could never find money to pay for food so I thought this was best.”

Matata Bizi says he was treated well, but others weren’t.

“The life that vulnerable children have is hard,” he says. “They don’t have education, they don’t have clothes, so it may be better to be in an armed group with the ability to find food and clothes than to be at a loss.”

When asked about having to kill people, his eyes narrow and he impatiently takes a deep breath, visibly angry.

“There’s a difference between the militants and child soldiers,” he says. “The adults have the occasion to reflect on what they’ve done. But for a child, we can only execute an order we are given. We don’t think of things, we do what we are ordered to do. “

Matata Bizi was found, rehabilitated by the United Nations and integrated into the army in 2009. He signed papers that say he is no longer a child soldier. He carries the dirtied, crumbling pages around in his shirt pocket. They brand him now.

He came to Goma in 2013. He was trained as a mechanic at the Don Bosco center in Goma but has no work. He says it’s easier to make more money and move up in rebel groups than in the army.

“War I know isn’t good, and neither is violence. It’s not good or normal,” he says. “But the armed groups exist because the country is badly organized. There’s no work. There’s no occupation for the young.”

On the Web

Children’s Voice

 

Nurse in photo describes her arrest at Baton Rouge protest

The black woman in the photograph stands in calm protest, her long dress fluttering in the breeze as two policemen clad in the heavy black padding and helmets of riot gear rush to remove her from a roadway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Officers took about 180 people into custody over the weekend in the state capital, mostly on misdemeanor charges accusing them of blocking traffic on a major thoroughfare during protests over recent police shootings of black men.

But the standoff with one woman, identified by friends as Ieshia Evans and captured in a widely used image by Reuters freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman, has encapsulated for some the spirit of demonstrators across the United States protesting in the past week what they decry as unjust treatment of minorities by police.

“You’ll be seeing this iconic photo from #BatonRouge and versions of it, for the rest of your life,” a man named David Law said on Twitter on Monday.

The Atlantic magazine called the image, which prompted comments on social media from around the world, “a single photo from Baton Rouge that’s hard to forget.” The Washington Post said it “captured a critical moment for the country,” while Britain’s Daily Mail website called it “an iconic arrest photo.”

Evans is a licensed practical nurse who lives in Pennsylvania, according to online records and a Facebook page that appears to belong to her.

“This is the work of God,” she wrote on Facebook after her arrest. “I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I’m glad I’m alive and safe.”

Baton Rouge has become a flashpoint for protesters after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed last week by city police who were responding to a call that he allegedly threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.

Sterling’s death, followed by the fatal shooting of another black man, Philando Castile, 32, near St. Paul, Minnesota, revived a wave of protests over police treatment of minorities that has swirled for two years and given rise to a movement called Black Lives Matter.

‘MAKING HER STAND’

Evans, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, traveled to Baton Rouge “because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights,” according to R. Alex Haynes, who said on Facebook he had known Evans since childhood.

A jail log from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office showed an Ieshia Evans, 35, was booked on a charge of simple obstruction of a highway and had been released from custody.

Reuters could not reach Evans for comment on Monday.

Bachman said police had cleared a group of protesters, including members of the New Black Panther Party carrying bullhorns and shotguns, from the road before Evans walked onto the highway and stood before a wall of officers. Her face bore no expression and she did not speak, he said.

“To me, it seemed like she was making her stand and she was like, ‘You’re going to have to come and get me,'” the photographer said in an interview.

Bachman said the officers grabbed Evans and hurried her away, with the whole incident lasting only about 30 seconds.

After her arrest, Evans ended another Facebook post with, “Peace, love, blk power! ‪#‎blacklivesmatter.” She asked friends not to give interviews on her behalf, saying she wanted to tell her own story, but said later she was not ready to speak to reporters.

“I want to get home to my son,” she wrote. “I’ve been through a lot.”

 

Body cameras tape only 1 of 4 fatal cop shootings

Only one of the four fatal shooting involving police in Charlotte, North Carolina, were captured by body cameras since the force bought them for officers eight months ago.

The city spent $7.2 million to buy about 1,400 of the lipstick-sized cameras for each of its patrol officers starting in September.

But the cameras were not given to SWAT officers or members of tactical units who apprehend violent criminals.

Civil rights advocates like Susanna Birdsong, the policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, say that needs to be addressed to keep officers accountable.

“I think that they should be without question outfitted with body cameras. The need for transparency and accountability is heightened because there’s a risk that these encounters are going to be confrontational,” Birdsong told The Charlotte Observer.

But Charlotte’s force only has a limited amount of money, and Police Chief Kerr Putney has decided he would rather put more officers on the streets than get cameras for detectives and members of the force’s tactical units, said police Maj. Stephen Willis, who helped create the city’s body camera program.

“The $7.2 million we asked city council for was a large chunk of change,” Willis said. “We wanted to put the money where the work was being done, and that was in patrol.”

The department has not determined how much it would cost to put all its officers in body cameras and would not say how many officers are on SWAT and tactical teams, saying it could threaten their safety.

Requiring tactical units to wear body cameras could also jeopardize how they do their job. While body camera footage is not available under public records law, it is required to be given to people arrested and their lawyers. That footage could show police tactics, Willis said.

Officers involved in tactical units were involved in two fatal shootings by Charlotte police since September. An off duty officer providing security at a mall on Christmas Eve without wearing a camera killed a third person, and the fourth shooting of a man who witnesses said fired dozens of shots at police and taunted them was captured on a body camera.

Boko Haram strikes Nigerian city, at least 50 dead

Boko Haram Islamic extremists struck the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri for the first time in months Monday with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers, witnesses said. At least 50 people were killed and the death toll could go higher.

Another twin suicide bombing killed at least 30 people in Madagali, a town 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, witnesses said. Danladi Buba said two women detonated at a market near a busy bus station at about 9 a.m. Brig. Gen. Victor Ezugwu, the officer commanding in northeast Adamawa State, confirmed the attack but said casualties have yet to be established.

In Maiduguri, capital of neighboring Borno state, at least 30 were killed and more than 90 wounded in overnight blasts and shootouts, and another 20 died in a bombing outside a mosque at dawn Monday, said Muhammed Kanar, area coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency.

The military said there were multiple attacks at four southwestern entry points to the city.

In another blast, two girls blew themselves up in Buraburin neighborhood, killing several people, according to civil servant Yunusa Abdullahi.

“We are under siege,” Abdullahi said. “We don’t know how many of these bombs or these female suicide bombers were sneaked into Maiduguri last night.” He said some residents have found undetonated bombs.

The attack appears to be a challenge to President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration last week that Boko Haram has been “technically” defeated, capable of no more than suicide bombings on soft targets.

Acting on information provided by a captured insurgent, Nigerian troops “intercepted and destroyed” 13 suicide bombers and arrested one female suicide bomber in repelling the attackers, Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, the commander prosecuting Nigeria’s war against Boko Haram, told reporters.

Maiduguri, the city under attack, is the birthplace of Boko Haram, which emerged as a much more radical entity after Nigerian security forces launched an all-out assault on their compound in the city, killing 700 people in 2009.

Militants firing indiscriminately from the back of three trucks attacked the outlying village of Dawari, soldiers engaged them, and as people were fleeing, a woman ran into the area yelling “Boko Haram, Boko Haram.” When people gathered, she detonated herself, according to village head Bulama Isa.

A rocket-propelled grenade then exploded, setting alight grass-thatched huts, and a second woman blew herself up, according to Isa. Among those killed was the village chief and 10 of his children, according to residents Ahmed Bala and Umar Ibrahim.

A soldier said the insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades into four residential areas on the outskirts of the city. Soldiers fired back, and many civilians were caught in the crossfire, according to the soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

Three suicide bombers blew themselves up at a home near Bakassi Estate, killing 18 people Sunday evening, another soldier told The Associated Press.

A nurse at Maiduguri Specialist Hospital said dozens of critically wounded, mainly children and women, may not survive. The nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to reporters, said the hospital was so overflowing with patients that some had to be cared for in the maternity ward. About 60 people had wounds from bullets and shrapnel from explosive devices, she said. Other wounded people had to be sent to other hospitals in the city.

Among them was a baby found dead, still tied to the back of her mother, who survived after being hit by shrapnel, the nurse said.

It was hard to do a body count because so many had been blown into pieces, she said, describing torsos and dismembered arms and legs.

Maiduguri, a city of about 1 million people, now hosts almost as many refugees, among 2.5 million people driven from their homes in the 6-year-old Islamic uprising. About 20,000 people have been killed in Nigeria and hundreds others elsewhere as the insurgents have carried their conflict across its borders into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Baldwin calls for social media background checks in screening process

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined more than 20 Senate Democrats in urging Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and the agency to require social media background checks be a part of the screening process for all foreigners seeking an American visa.

The Senate Democrats also requested more information from the department on the existing screening process, such as if the agency faces any resource barriers to implementing these background checks, to ensure the process is as rigorous and comprehensive as possible.

The letter, signed by 22 Senate Democrats, follows reports that the female assailant in the San Bernardino terrorist attack may have expressed radical jihadis sentiments on social media platforms before her fiancé — the male attacker and a U.S. Citizen — ‎applied for a K-1 fiancé visa on her behalf.

Here’s the letter by Senate Democrats to the Johnson:

We write to express our deep concern regarding reports that critical background information of individuals participating in American visa programs has been largely omitted from the visa security screening process. 

According to recent reports, the female assailant involved in the San Bernardino terrorist attack may have expressed radical jihadist sentiments on social media platforms before her U.S. citizen fiancé, the male attacker, ‎applied for a K-1 fiancé visa on her behalf. Media reports have also indicated that Department of Homeland Security officials are able to conduct social media background checks as a part of certain immigration programs, but are doing so inconsistently. We believe these checks, focused on possible connections to terrorist activity, should be incorporated into DHS’s vetting process for visa determinations, and that this policy should be implemented as soon as possible. 

Therefore, we request that you provide the following information so that we may work with you to implement a more rigorous screening process:

Do you plan to integrate social media background checks into the screening process for all visas?

Do you face resource and/or technical barriers to ‎implementing these background checks? If so, please describe them.

Does the Administration conduct social media background checks in any of the existing screening processes for visa programs? If so, please describe how they are conducted.

Ensuring that the screening processes for our nation’s visa programs are rigorous and comprehensive must be a top priority, as these programs are critical to our security, our economy, and for our bilateral relationships with nations around the world. 

We look forward to working with you to establish a more robust social media background check process for all visitors and immigrants to the United States.

1 after another, Chicago police videos made public

Since dashcam footage showing a white Chicago police officer killing a black teenager was made public, city officials have released a series of videos showing police encounters with the public.

Here is a snapshot of the videos released so far and the one that could soon join them:

LAQUAN McDONALD

Two days before Thanksgiving, after being ordered to do so by a judge, the city released a video that shows Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on the night of Oct. 20, 2014. The video immediately set off protests. Many residents, already suspicious that the circumstances of the shooting had been covered up by police, grew even more skeptical when the city released other squad car dashcam videos from the scene that, like the first, lacked audio. The department has yet to fully explain why.

The video also highlighted inconsistencies with police reports from the incident. Officers who saw Van Dyke shoot McDonald portrayed the teen as menacing, which is not how he appeared on screen.

Officials fought in court for months to keep the footage from being released, efforts that coincided with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign, during which the mayor was seeking African-American votes in a tight race.

The Department of Justice is investigating the circumstances of the shooting, as well as the police department as a whole.

Emanuel also asked the city’s inspector general on Wednesday to launch yet another probe of the case. The newly named head of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, Sharon Fairley, said the inspector general’s involvement was important for “public confidence.”

RONALD JOHNSON III

Eight days before McDonald was killed, Officer George Hernandez fatally shot 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III. Johnson’s family stepped up their pleas to have the squad car video made public after the release of the McDonald footage.

On Monday, during a lengthy news conference in which she outlined why Hernandez was justified in shooting Johnson in the back, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez released the video. Alvarez, who was facing criticism for taking more than a year to bring charges against Van Dyke, also released digital images that show Johnson was carrying something in his hand. Police say it was the gun recovered near his body.

To make her case that Hernandez could have been in fear for his life and the life of his fellow officers, she showed a video from a separate case in which a man running from police fired a gun behind him without looking, striking a pursuing officer.

The attorney for the Johnson family said the prosecutors’ investigation was a “joke.” The family has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that Johnson was not armed.

PHILIP COLEMAN

Also on Monday, the city released a 2012 video of officers using a stun gun and dragging Philip Coleman, a 38-year-old who had been taken into custody after allegedly attacking his mother. The video shows six officers – several of whom appear to be black – entering Coleman’s cell. One fires the stun gun, and an officer then drags Coleman, who was black, out by his handcuffed wrists.

Officials have said Coleman died later at a hospital after a reaction to an anti-psychotic drug. But his family said it was obvious from the start that he was mentally ill and would still be alive if he had been taken to a hospital instead of jail.

The family, which has filed a lawsuit, was livid after the release of the video, saying that nobody from the city warned them it was to be made public in response to a media outlet’s public records request.

While a police review board found the officers’ actions justified, Emanuel said Monday that he didn’t see how the treatment of Coleman “could possibly be acceptable.”

On Tuesday, the new head of the review board said she was reopening the investigation into Coleman’s case.

CEDRICK CHATMAN

Seventeen-year-old Cedrick Chatman was a suspect in a car theft when he was killed on Jan. 7, 2013, by police. Officers said they believed he was reaching for a gun. But the gun turned out to be a smart-phone box. Chatman’s family sued the city and demanded that the video be made public.

Despite having pledged more transparency, the city is fighting the release of that footage. City attorneys are employing arguments similar to the ones they used in opposing the McDonald video’s release: that it could prejudice would-be jurors if the case goes to trial. City attorneys didn’t comment after a Wednesday hearing in the civil case.

The federal judge said he’d decide Jan. 14 whether to order the city to release the footage.

Number of police officers charged with murder or manslaughter triples in 2015

The number of U.S. police officers charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings has tripled this year — a sharp increase that at least one expert says could be the result of more video evidence.

In the past, the annual average was fewer than five officers charged. In the final weeks of 2015, that number has climbed to 15, with 10 of the cases involving video.

“If you take the cases with the video away, you are left with what we would expect to see over the past 10 years – about five cases,” said Philip Stinson, the Bowling Green State University criminologist who compiled the statistics from across the nation. “You have to wonder if there would have been charges if there wasn’t video evidence.”

The importance of video was highlighted last week with the release of footage showing a Chicago officer fatally shooting a teenager 16 times. The officer said he feared for his life from the teen, who was suspected of damaging cars using a small knife. He also had a powerful hallucinogen in his bloodstream.

“This had all the trappings of a life-threatening situation for a law-enforcement officer – PCP-laced juvenile who had been wreaking havoc on cars with a knife,” said Joseph Tacopina, a prominent New York defense attorney and former prosecutor who has represented several police officers. “Except you have the video that shows a straight-out execution.”

When he was charged with first-degree murder last week, officer Jason Van Dyke became the 15th officer in the country to face such charges in 2015.

Over the last decade, law-enforcement agencies have recorded roughly 1,000 fatal shootings each year by on-duty police. An average of fewer than five each year resulted in murder or manslaughter charges against officers, Stinson found.

The cases are often difficult to prove. Of the 47 officers charged from the beginning of 2005 through the end of last year, about 23 percent were convicted, Stinson found.

“For forever, police have owned the narrative of what happened between any encounter between a police officer and a civilian,” said David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who has written extensively on police misconduct. “What video does is it takes that power of the narrative away from the police to some extent. And that shift in power of control over the narrative is incredibly significant.”

In case after case, that is exactly what has happened this year.

Stinson said Van Dyke would “never, ever” have been charged without the video. He said the same is true for Ray Tensing, the white University of Cincinnati police officer who is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 19 death of Samuel DuBose, a black motorist whom Tensing shot to death after pulling him over for a missing front license plate.

Tensing’s attorney said the officer feared he would be dragged under the car as Dubose tried to drive away. But, Stinson said, the video from the officer’s body camera shows that his explanation “doesn’t add up.”

Other cases around the country also reveal just how important the video is.

In Marksville, Louisiana, for example, two deputy city marshals were charged with second-degree murder after authorities reviewed video from one of the officers’ body cameras, which showed a man with his hands in the air inside a vehicle when the marshals opened fire. The man was severely wounded and his 6-year-old autistic son killed.

Just how dramatically a video can shift the balance of power was apparent in North Charleston, South Carolina, when officer Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man as he ran away after a traffic stop.

Slager told investigators that Scott had tried to grab his gun and Taser. But after a video from a cellphone showed Slager taking careful aim at Scott as he ran away and then picking up his Taser and dropping it near Scott’s body, Slager was charged with murder.

“If not for the recording, I have no doubt that the officer in the Walter Scott case would be out on patrol today,” Harris said.

Videos have also played a key role in cases in which the victims were, in fact, armed – something that Tacopina said typically brings to a halt any thought of charging officers.

Chicago prosecutors concluded that McDonald did not pose a threat to Van Dyke, despite the small knife that he was carrying.

Likewise, prosecutors in Albuquerque, New Mexico, charged two officers with second-degree murder of a mentally ill homeless man who was holding two knives when he was shot to death. Defense attorneys have said the officers shot James Boyd out of concern for their lives, but Boyd appears to be turning away from the officers when the shots were fired.

In another case, an officer may owe her freedom to the camera that was attached to her stun gun.

Lisa Mearkle, a police officer in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, was charged with third-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter after shooting an unarmed man twice in the back as he laid face-down in the snow. But after watching a video that showed the man’s hands repeatedly disappear under his body as Mearkle shouted at him to keep his hands where she could see them, the jury acquitted Mearkle. 

California attack the latest in a string of mass shootings. This is a review to 2012

An attack at a Southern California social services center on Dec. 2 became the latest mass shooting in the United States. Here’s a look at some of the nation’s deadliest rampages since 2012:

– Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than a dozen, authorities said. They fled the scene but died hours later in a shootout with police.

– Oct 1, 2015: A shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, left 10 people dead and seven wounded. Shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, exchanged gunfire with police then killed himself.

– June 17, 2015: Dylann Roof, 21, is accused of shooting and killing nine African-American church members during a Bible study group inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police contend the attack was racially motivated. Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes.

– May 23, 2014: A community college student, Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in the area near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. Authorities said he apparently shot himself to death after a gunbattle with deputies.

– Sept. 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, a mentally disturbed civilian contractor, shot 12 people to death at the Washington Navy Yard before he was killed in a police shootout.

– July 26, 2013: Pedro Vargas, 42, went on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah, Florida, apartment building, gunning down six people before officers fatally shot him.

– Dec 14, 2012: In Newtown, Connecticut, an armed 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people, including 20 first graders and six adult school staff members. He then killed himself.

– Sept. 27, 2012: In Minnesota’s deadliest workplace rampage, Andrew Engeldinger, who had just been fired, pulled a gun and fatally shot six people, including the company’s founder. He also wounded two others at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis before taking his own life.

– August 5, 2012: In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 40-year-old gunman Wade Michael Page killed six worshippers at a Sikh Temple before killing himself.

– July 20, 2012: James Holmes, 27, fatally shot 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

– April 2, 2012: Seven people were killed and three were wounded when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at Oikos University in Oakland, California. One Goh was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, but psychiatric evaluations concluded he suffered from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and was unfit to stand trial.

Report: 43 domestic-violence related deaths in Wisconsin in 2014

Forty-three people in Wisconsin lost their lives to domestic violence in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report released this week in conjunction with anti-violence walks hosted by the Zonta Clubs of Madison and Milwaukee and by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

The report says 36 people were victims of domestic violence homicides. Six people were perpetrators of homicides who then committed suicide and one individual was a perpetrator of domestic violence who was killed by responding law enforcement.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin has been producing the annual report since 2000. The 2014 homicide count was close to the annual average for that 15-year period.

“The release of the report and the gatherings today mark a time of remembrance and reflection,” said Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “The report highlights research findings that point to clear warning signs for domestic violence killings. These indicators of risk should inform our efforts to prevent domestic violence deaths in the future.”

The report contains an in-depth discussion of a set of domestic violence assessment questions. The questions are designed to identify those who are at the greatest risk of being killed and provide them with outreach and services. A number of jurisdictions across the county and the state are using a version of the assessment questions, including Madison and Milwaukee.

The walk that took place in Madison circled the Capitol Square and was called the Purple Ribbon Walk.

In Milwaukee, the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk took place at city hall. Civic leaders, including Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and District Attorney John Chisholm, joined in the walk.

“The Purple Ribbon Walk is a memorial to those who have lost their lives and is a recommitment to improving the safety of victims going forward,” said Laurie Logan, president of the Zonta Club of Madison. “During the walk, we carried purple pennants bearing the names of the victims who died in 2014 to show that we carry forward their memories and that we continue our commitment to preventing violence.”

“We organized the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk to draw awareness to domestic abuse and to call attention to the steps we can take as a community to enhance the safety of victims and their children,” said Donna Kahl-Wilkerson, president of the Zonta Club of Milwaukee. “We are proud that Milwaukee County is using lethality assessment to improve the response to victims.”

Other statistics from the report include:

• In 2014, 91 percent of domestic violence homicide perpetrators were men.

• The majority of victims of homicides involving intimate partners were killed after the relationship ended or when one person in the relationship was taking steps to leave the relationship.

• Victims reflected the span of life, from 1 year old to 78 years old. The average age of victims was 40 years old. Perpetrators ranged in age from 17 to 80. The average age for perpetrators was 41 years old.

• Homicides were committed in 19 separate counties in Wisconsin. About 55 percent of the homicide incidents occurred in urban areas, and roughly 45 percent happened in rural communities.

• Guns were used in 59 percent of the domestic violence homicide incidents.