Tag Archives: shootings

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.

New lawsuit marks 46th anniversary of Kent State killings

On the 46th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, attorney Michael Kuzma will bring a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, demanding records related to the FBI’s role in escalating situations on the campus.

In the years since the killings on the Ohio campus on May 4, 1970, survivors, witnesses and victims’ families have sought to establish the FBI’s involvement.

Kuzma wants that the Justice Department produce all responsive records related to Terrence Norman, reported at the time of the massacre to be a young FBI informant.

Norman is believed by families and observers to have fired the first shots from a revolver and, in the chaos that immediately followed, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire at unarmed Kent State student protesters, resulting in the deaths of Allison Beth Krause, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Sandra Lee Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder and injuries to nine others.

“The time to tear down the veil of secrecy surrounding the involvement of the FBI and Terrence Norman in the assassinations of four Kent State University students is now,” Kuzma said in a news release.

Attorney Daire Brian Irwin, who is handling Kuzma’s complaint filing, said, “Through this lawsuit we hope to learn if the Kent State killings are another example of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, specifically their ‘New Left’ project targeting student dissent, run amok.”

COINTELPRO was a secret FBI program designed to monitor and neutralize non-violent protest groups and political dissidents deemed by the agency to be a danger to national security.

The FBI has refused to release Norman’s dossier on privacy grounds.

The government will have 30 business days to answer the complaint.

Terry Norman, in mask, takes pictures of the May 4, 1970, antiwar demonstration on the Kent State University campus before the shootings that day. Though Norman was highly visible during the protest, he has remained a shadowy figure in the events. The girl holding a white rag near her chest in the background is Mary Vecchio, who soon would become part of probably the most memorable picture taken at KSU that day. She was photographed crying over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of four students killed. John Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for that photo. — Kent State University Libraries
Terry Norman, in mask, takes pictures of the May 4, 1970, antiwar demonstration on the Kent State University campus before the shootings that day. Though Norman was highly visible during the protest, he has remained a shadowy figure in the events. The girl holding a white rag near her chest in the background is Mary Vecchio, who soon would become part of probably the most memorable picture taken at KSU that day. She was photographed crying over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of four students killed. John Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for that photo. — Kent State University Libraries

2-year-olds involved in fatal shootings twice in one week

A Milwaukee mother of three was shot and killed by her 2-year-old son yesterday morning while driving on U.S. 41/Highway 175 near Miller Park.

Antonio Price said investigators told him that his sister Patrice Price was driving with her two sons, ages 1 and 2, in the backseat when she was shot. Price said investigators told him the older boy fired the gun.

According to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office, the child shot his mother in the back with a 40-caliber firearm that slid out from under the driver’s seat.

Price said his sister was a great mother and always gave him good advice.

The woman’s father, Andre Price, said his daughter was driving her boyfriend’s car when she was shot. He said his daughter was a hardworking mother of three.

Price says he has not been allowed to see his daughter and that he wants to hold her one last time.

Twice in one week

The shooting occurred just a week after a 2-year-old Indianapolis boy took a gun from his mother’s purse on the kitchen counter when she wasn’t watching, then shot and killed himself with it.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said officers found the child with a single gunshot wound when they arrived at the home around 9 p.m. on April 21. The child died at a children’s hospital.

Police said the mother and child were the only people at home when the shooting happened.

Accidental gun deaths involving children have become a major problem in the U.S.

Last year, about 265 children under 18 shot someone by accident, and 83 of those shootings were fatal, according to research compiled by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Forty-one of those deaths involved the shooters themselves, and most of the shootings involved toddlers or teens playing with the weapons.

Nearly 1.7 million children live in households where guns are stored either loaded or not locked away, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The center  publishes a 0-100 score rating each state’s strictness of firearm laws, with 100 being the strictest. Wisconsin’s score is 25, compared with a score of 2 for Kansas and 93.5 for California.

Wisconsin gun safety

Wisconsin state Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, introduced four bills early this year related to firearm safety, including a bill that would have required a gun owner to store firearms in a locked container or have a locking device engaged if there is a child living in the residence or if a child is present in the home.

All four bills were sent to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, where Republican leaders, who are heavily subsidized by the National Rifle Association, refused to allow a hearing on them.

Man charged with randomly killing six people in Kalamazoo described as ‘family man’

A An alleged gunman who seemed to choose his victims at random opened fire outside an apartment complex, a car dealership and a restaurant in Michigan, killing six people in a rampage that lasted nearly seven hours, police said.

Authorities identified the shooter as Jason Dalton, a 45-year-old Uber driver and former insurance adjuster who police said had no criminal record. They could not say what motivated him to target victims with no apparent connection to him or to each other in the Saturday night shootings.

“How do you go and tell the families of these victims that they weren’t targeted for any reason other than they were there to be a target?” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said Sunday at a news conference.

Dalton, who was arrested in Kalamazoo following a massive manhunt, was expected to be arraigned Monday on murder charges.

Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas described a terrifying series of attacks that began about 6 p.m. Saturday outside the Meadows apartment complex on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County, where a woman was shot multiple times. She was expected to survive.

A little more than four hours later and 15 miles away, a father and his 17-year-old son were fatally shot while looking at cars at the dealership.

Fifteen minutes after that, five people were gunned down in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, Matyas said. Four of them died.

“These are random murders,” Matyas said.

Between shootings, Dalton apparently took fares through Uber.  One man told 24 hour news 8 that he and his family ordered an Uber and rode with Dalton after the Cracker Barrel shooting and not long before Dalton’s arrest. Although they said nothing alarming happened during their rides, some apparent Uber passengers have posted on Facebook that they were in Dalton’s vehicle when he was driving very erratically just before the shootings. Allegedly, he was involved in a sideswipe hit-and-run crash and ran at least one stop sign.

A spokeswoman for Uber confirmed that Dalton had driven for the company in the past, but she declined to say whether he was driving Saturday night.

Uber prohibits both passengers and drivers from possessing guns of any kind in a vehicle. Anyone found to be in violation of the policy may be prohibited from using or driving for the service.

Dalton was arrested without incident about 12:40 a.m. Sunday after a deputy spotted his vehicle driving through downtown Kalamazoo after leaving a bar parking lot, authorities said.

Matyas declined to disclose anything found in the vehicle except for a semi-automatic handgun.

A man who knows Dalton said he was a married father of two who never showed any signs of violence.  Dalton lived with his wife and two kids in a small ranch-style house in a rural area of Michigan.

Gary Pardo Jr., whose parents live across the street from Dalton in Kalamazoo Township, described him as a family man who seemed fixated on cars and often worked on them. 

“He would go a month without mowing his lawn but was very meticulous with his cars,” Pardo said, explaining that Dalton, at times, owned a Chevrolet Camaro and two Hummer SUVs.

Progressive Insurance confirmed that he once worked for the company before leaving in 2011.

Dalton was an insurance adjuster who did auto-body estimates and once taught an auto-body repair class at an area community college, said James Block, who has lived next door to him for 17 years.

“He loved to do things outside with his kids” like taking them for rides on his lawn tractor, Block said.

Neighbors told the the Detroit Free Press that Dalton “liked guns,” and another news source reported that he caught authorities’ attention in the past for shooting guns out of his home’s backdoor.

His wife and children were unhurt, authorities said.

The suspect was in contact with more than one person during the rampage, authorities said, but they would not elaborate. Prosecutors said they did not expect to charge anyone else.

Authorities were interviewing Dalton and reviewing his phone. They did not know if the handgun belonged to him, Getting said.

“This is every community’s nightmare — when you have someone going around just randomly killing people, no rhyme, no reason,” Getting said.

Tammy George said the woman who was shot outside the apartment building is her next-door neighbor. She and her family heard the gunfire, ran outside and saw the woman on the ground.

Four bullets flew into a closet of George’s home, she said. Her son, James, was playing video games with two friends a few feet away from where the bullets pierced the wall.

“I checked out the back window and saw a car speeding off,” said James George, 17.

On Sunday morning, Tammy George came outside to clean the parking lot.

“I was worried about the kids coming out and seeing their mom’s blood,” she said. “I cleaned it up. No kid should have to come out and see their parent’s blood on the ground.”

During a Sunday morning news conference, some law enforcement officials wiped teary eyes or got choked up. When the news conference ended, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley embraced.

The four people killed outside the restaurant were identified as 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye of Baroda and 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown, all of Battle Creek.

The two victims killed at the car dealership were identified as Tyler Smith and his father, Richard, who was 53.

A 14-year-old girl wounded at the restaurant was hospitalized in critical condition.

Late Sunday night, mourners streamed into a Kalamazoo church for a prayer service intended to honor the victims and help residents cope.

With a population of about 75,000, Kalamazoo is about 160 miles west of Detroit. It is home to Western Michigan University and the headquarters of popular craft beer maker Bell’s Brewery. The city also is known for the anonymously funded Kalamazoo Promise program, which has paid college tuition of students who graduate from Kalamazoo Public Schools for more than a decade.

Associated Press writers Mike Householder and Tom Krisher in Kalamazoo, Don Babwin in Chicago and WiG contributed to this report.

Police killed 1,186 civilians during 2015

As of Dec. 26, police had killed 1,186 people since the year 2015 began, according to the website killedbypolice.net, which lists all the victims’ names and links to news reports of their deaths.

The Washington Post puts the number of Americans shot dead by police in 2015 at 965, but the Post only included shootings that involved an on-duty police shooting to death a civilian. The Post reported 62 of the deaths occurred in the past 30 days.

The Post did not include people in police custody, fatal shootings by off-duty officers, or police killings that did not involve firearms.

Police killed more than 1,100 civilians in 2014. Twenty-seven police were killed in the line of duty that year.

The latest high-profile police shooting occurred over the weekend in Chicago, when police fatally shot a 19-year-old man and 55-year-old woman, according to The Associated Press. The event again put a spotlight on one of the nation’s largest police departments and raised complaints that CPD officers are too quick to use deadly force.

Once again, activists called for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The holiday weekend shootings follow the Nov. 24 release of video showing white Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The release of the video sparked persistent protests, forced the resignation of the city’s police chief and led to a wide-ranging civil rights investigation of the entire Chicago Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Education groups opposing campus conceal-and-carry legislation

Four national groups representing college educators and trustees said on Nov. 12 they would fight a growing push in state legislatures to allow people to carry concealed guns on campuses.

The groups also called for the repeal of measures in several states that already allow for so-called campus carry, arguing that academic institutions should remain “as safe and weapon-free as possible for students, faculty, staff, parents and community members.”

“Colleges and universities closely control firearms and prohibit concealed guns on their campuses because they regard the presence of weapons as incompatible with their educational missions,” said the statement, signed by the American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

The groups said students and professors wouldn’t be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they thought there might be a gun in the room. “College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons,” they said.

Supporters such as the National Rifle Association argue that lawful gun owners should be allowed to carry on campuses for self-protection. They argue that having more law-abiding citizens with guns could potentially deter mass shootings or allow bystanders to intervene to limit the deadly consequences.

The statement from the four groups comes amid intensifying debate over how to prevent gun violence on campuses, following last month’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Lawmakers in Florida are considering plans to allow concealed permit owners to bring their guns onto campus, and several other states are expected to consider similar legislation next year.

Texas recently became the eighth state to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The change goes into effect next year, and colleges are considering how to implement it. The law contains a key concession for opponents, giving administrators the ability to mark off certain areas as gun-free.

Seven other states — Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin — now have laws or court rulings allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on some campuses, according to the NCSL.

The higher education groups rejected the argument that more guns could deter mass shootings. They called on colleges and universities to plan for critical incidents, and “rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents.”

Students for Concealed Carry, a group that is pushing for campus carry laws in several states, said the laws don’t have as much of an impact as critics claim. Few students can qualify to carry weapons because they aren’t 21, and those who do have obtained licenses and undergone background checks, spokesman Zachary Zalneraitis said.

“The people in charge, the administrators and professors, are always resistant to it,” he said. “But after it gets passed, it just becomes a non-issue.”

Milwaukeeans want to replace ad hoc memorials for homicide victims with lasting markers

On what would have been his friend’s 18th birthday, a solemn teenager stared at a slumping display of helium balloons and a giant stuffed doll tied to a tree.

The decorations had been up for weeks as a memorial to Breanna Eskridge, who was gunned down outside her grandmother’s Milwaukee home. Jamel Russell came this day to mourn.

Such improvised tributes are part of the landscape in tough neighborhoods across the U.S., symbolizing a complex knot of emotions that community activists and city officials must navigate as they grapple with whether to remove them. To some, they’re eyesores, reminders of gang disputes, drug sales and sadness. To others, they’re an important acknowledgment of loss and mourning.

In Milwaukee, victims’ advocates are leading a push to make these ad hoc memorials into something more lasting. Community organizer Camille Mays has been working with local officials to establish publicly funded individual tributes to replace the makeshift shrines.

“Something that can promote life and growth and peace,” she said.

Collective tributes to victims of gun violence are fairly common. Boston has established a peace garden to memorialize its homicide victims, and Dayton, Ohio, for the past quarter-century has dedicated one day a year to honor the people lost to violence there.

But Rhonda Barner, who has worked as a survivors’ advocate for decades, said she knows of no city that does what Milwaukee is considering by honoring homicide victims with individual memorials. The closest match she has found is in Florida, where road markers recognize certain traffic deaths with an inscription bearing a victim’s name.

Mays’ plan would be particularly visible around Milwaukee’s north side, where unemployment is rampant and residents push back against gangs and drugs.

Support has been widespread, but some, including Selvie Penix, are conflicted.

“It would be all right, I guess,” Penix said, standing in front of a crucifix, stuffed dog and red rose placed on a tree where his sister, Tracey Howard, was killed weeks ago. “It would be sentimental to some people. For me, it would just bring me back to seeing her laying down.”

Alderman Russell Stamper says there is enough support among city leaders to get funding approved for Mays’ cause.

Stamper helped establish a lasting tribute to Russell “Tattoo Russ” Setum, who was killed after celebrating his 24th birthday in 2012 by a shooter who said “sorry, mama,” as he pulled the trigger while she pleaded for her son’s life.

Friends tied the typical decorations to a tree outside the Setum family home where he was killed, but his mother, Leona Setum, took it all down. Today, a modest bouquet of plastic roses, hidden inside landscaping, marks the spot at the base of the tree.

A few blocks away sits a garden with a hand-painted sign reading “Uptown Community Gardens of Peace, featuring Russell Setum’s cherry tree.”

Stamper says the city has tens of thousands of dollars set aside each year for lot enhancements and community gardens. For him, it’s an easy step to transition teddy bear shrines into these sorts of tributes.

Mays likes this concept but would be satisfied with something less elaborate: a small plant, plaque or sign, simply marking the location, even if it doesn’t include the name of the person killed.

Police Capt. Jason Smith, who runs a north side district singled out for excellence in “problem-oriented policing,” said when it comes to temporary tributes, he “used to be a jerk and take them down.” He now sees them as a worthwhile part of mourning and an opportunity for developing relationships that improve police work.

The sites are flashpoints for anger, which can lead to retaliation killings, so Smith has instructed his officers to call a group of pastors after shootings where memorials spring up. At the top of that list is a man who helped train him, Malcom Hunt, who went into ministry after retiring from the force.

Hunt says the memorials are places where he can reach out to people to keep their minds on healing and off revenge.

He gave his card, recently, to the 17-year-old who was thinking of Breanna Eskridge.

Her balloons were beginning to sag. The oversized SpongeBob doll was weathered and fading, as were the hand-written messages — including “R.I.P.,” “I love you,” and “love always” — scrawled across it.

It wasn’t his first encounter with loss. Russell had the image of another tribute saved in his cellphone, this one affixed to a lamp post a few blocks away for his younger brother, Japhet Moore, who was 14 when he was killed two years ago.

Russell said he visits the displays all the time. If they were permanent, he said, “That would be a good thing.”

Wisconsin schools have plans to deal with shooters

Wisconsin’s public universities and technical colleges have emergency plans that include how to respond to a campus shooting.

Each University of Wisconsin System campus has a so-called “all-hazards” plan that details how to handle crises including active shooters. The campuses share the plans with faculty and staff several ways including posting the plans online, presenting them during student orientations, text messages and campus-wide email alerts. 

UW-La Crosse’s shooter plan, for example, is available through that university’s police department website. The plan recommends that if a shooter is outside a building people inside should hide on the floor in a darkened, locked room and call police while ignoring any voice commands from outside unless they’re clearly coming from police. 

If the shooter is clearly in the same building and people can’t lock themselves in a room they should flee the structure if they can do so safely. If a shooter enters a person’s classroom, he or she should call police and keep the line open even if they can’t talk. They should try to negotiate with the shooter. Overpowering the shooter should be a last resort, according to the plan.

UW-Stevens Point has a nearly identical plan. Officials at that school sent an email to faculty, staff and students on Oct. 6, five days after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, with links to the plan and urging people to people to review it and sign up for text alerts.

UW-Madison’s police department has a plan for an active shooter on its website as well. That plan says the best option is to run away and call police. If a person can’t flee, he or she should hide and fight only as a last resort. Marc Lovicott, a campus police spokesman, said the agency regularly conducts drills for dealing with a shooter with building occupants, distributes brochures with the shooter plan at student orientations and sends monthly bulletins to building managers covering emergency preparedness, including how to deal with a shooting. 

Each state technical college has an all-hazards plan that deals with shooters as well, said Conor Smyth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Technical College System. Leaders at each college share the plan via the Internet and email, he said. They also present the plans during new staff orientations and in-service sessions. The plans are usually available on campus telephones as well, he said.

Scott Walker says Nikki Haley asked him to hold back opinion on Confederate flag removal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said on June 24 that he didn’t initially offer his opinion on whether the Confederate flag should be taken down from the Capitol grounds in South Carolina because Gov. Nikki Haley asked him to hold off speaking about it.

Haley’s spokeswoman Chaney Adams confirmed the two Republicans spoke over the weekend, but he did not say that Haley asked Walker not to comment.

Walker called Haley on June 20 to check in and let her know he was getting questions about the flag, Adams said. Haley told Walker that she had a plan to handle it and that it was important that the movement come from inside the state and not outside, Adams said.

The flag’s placement on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse became a topic of debate after Dylann Roof, 21, was accused of shooting nine parishioners during a Bible study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston.

The suspect held the Confederate flag in a photograph on a website and displayed the flags of defeated white-supremacist governments in Africa on his Facebook page.

Walker on June 20, after speaking to religious conservatives in Washington, told reporters that the debate over whether the flag ought to remain on public land in South Carolina should be at the state level.

“I just think before I or anyone else weighs in on anything to do with policy, whether it’s this or any other policy decisions, we should honor the dead and the families by allowing them to bury their loved ones,” Walker went on to say. “And then you could perfectly ask me that question at some point in the next week or two when that’s done.”

Walker was criticized for not taking a position on whether the flag should stay or go.

On June 22, after Haley called for removing the flag, Walker said on Twitter that he was glad Haley was taking that position and he supported her.

“She asked me to wait,” Walker claimed. “I was fully prepared to say that it’s a state issue, but if it were me I would take it down. But I waited until she had a chance to get out front.”

South Carolina lawmakers agree to debate removal of Confederate flag

South Carolina lawmakers took their first step toward removing the Confederate battle flag from their Statehouse grounds June 23, as protesters outside demanded the flag come down in response to the hate-crime killings of nine people inside their historic black church.

The measure enabling lawmakers to debate the flag removal later this summer needed two-thirds approval. It passed the House by a vote of 103-10. The Senate later approved it with a voice vote.

State Sen. Paul Thurmond, a Charleston Republican, said he loves his ancestors, but he supports moving the flag to a museum. But he said he isn’t proud of a heritage that included holding people in bondage, and he wants to send a message to anyone who might proudly display the banner before committing racial hate crimes.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s unexpected call for the flag to come down also reverberated around the South, as a growing number of other politicians announced their own against the flag.

Haley’s decision, prompted by the massacre inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian church in Charleston, suddenly eroded the position many southern lawmakers have held onto throughout their careers: that debating the status of the Confederate flag would be too racially divisive.

The Confederate battle flag was placed atop South Carolina’s Statehouse dome in the 1960s as an official protest of the civil rights movement. After mass protests, it was moved to a flagpole next to a Confederate monument out front in 2000, as part of a compromise between a group of black lawmakers and the Republicans who have controlled South Carolina since 2001.

For years, South Carolina lawmakers sought shelter in that bipartisan compromise, saying that renewing the debate would unnecessarily revive painful divisions. Nationally, politicians said it was up to the state to decide. But after Haley’s announcement, even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the call to remove it.

“The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it,” Haley said on June 22. But she said that for many others, it is a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past,” and argued that removing it from such a public space will help South Carolina come together and heal.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin said before the session that it would be impractical and disrespectful to publicly debate the topic while funeral services are being held. On June 26, President Barack Obama plans to deliver his eulogy at the “Mother Emanuel” church in Charleston.

Dylann Storm Roof, faces murder and gun charges in the church attack. The 21-year-old white man had told a friend that he would do something “for the white race” and posed in photos displaying Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, faces murder charges.

Hundreds gathered in sweltering heat outside the Capitol earlier June 23, chanting “bring it down, bring it down,” next to the Confederate monument where South Carolina’s rebel flag flies atop a 30-foot pole, in full view of the U.S. and state flags flying at half-staff.

“With enough political will anything can be done,” said State GOP Chairman Matt Moore. “There is a silent majority of South Carolinians who strongly believe we can have a better future without the flag being on Statehouse grounds.”

Leaders in other states swiftly followed suit: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for removing the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag and, in Tennessee, both Democrats and Republicans said a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest must be removed from the Senate.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the replacement of vanity license plates depicting the Confederate flag, saying the banner is “hurtful” for too many people.

And Kentucky’s Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, called for removing a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from his Capitol’s rotunda.

Big businesses also took action: Wal-Mart, e-Bay and Sears Holding Corp. announced they would no longer sell merchandise featuring the Confederate flag, which e-Bay called a “contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.”