Categories
U. S. News

New US envoy starts challenge to restore US on world stage

The longtime career diplomat thanked President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position” and said she was “thrilled” to be at the United Nations.

“The United Nations is the world’s most important forum for bringing people and countries together,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters immediately afterward. “This administration knows that when America is at the table and acting in accordance with our values, the United States is an indispensable institution for the advancement of peace, security and collective well-being.”

She said the Biden administration is “clear-eyed about the difficult work that needs to be done, from elevating human rights to reforming the U.N. itself to addressing conflicts old and new around the world.”

Thomas-Greenfield reiterated what she said when she was nominated for the U.N. post: “Multilateralism is back and diplomacy is back and America is back and we’re ready to get to work.”

The United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday and the new ambassador, who only arrived in New York on Thursday morning, said with a smile, “I not only had to hit the ground running, I’m actually hitting the ground sprinting.”

Thomas-Greenfield, who rose to be U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs before retiring after more that 35 years during the Trump administration, will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post.

Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at Biden’s return to multilateralism.

At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield described China as “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake.

The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N.

Thomas-Greenfield told reporters Wednesday that representing the United States as a diplomat around the world, “I found that diplomacy is about showing compassion, it’s about managing points of differentiation and it’s about bringing people together.”

When she presented her credentials to secretary-general Guterres, she said coming to the United Nations “was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here.”

“So I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for,” he said.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration — but “it takes two to tango.”

“We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favorable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.”

But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.”

Nonetheless, Polyansky said the U.S. and Russia can work together but “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance.”

“But we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues,” he said.

Thomas-Greenfield said at her Senate hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question.

Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.”

Categories
Covid-19 U. S. News

White House to Spend $10 Billion to Bolster Vaccine Effor

The White House announced Thursday that it is dedicating another $10 billion to try to drive up vaccination rates in low-income, minority and rural enclaves throughout the country.

The effort, which is funded through the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed earlier this month, will include $6 billion in funding for community health centers to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and other preventive health care for populations at higher risk for the virus.

President Joe Biden’s administration, which will start distributing the money in April to nearly 1,400 centers across the country, said health centers can also use the funding to modify and improve infrastructure and add mobile units.

In addition, the Biden administration said it is allotting $3 billion to bolster “vaccine confidence.” The money, which will be parceled out to 64 jurisdictions, can be used by rural, faith-based organizations and by food assistance and housing nonprofits in high-poverty communities to conduct door-to-door outreach and education efforts to urge eligible people to schedule vaccination appointments.

Some of the funding will also be spent to help dialysis clinics provide COVID-19 vaccinations to people receiving dialysis and health care personnel in the clinics.

About $300 million is earmarked for community health worker services to support COVID-19 prevention and control, and an additional $32 million is for training, technical assistance and evaluation, the White House said.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 545,000 people in the United States, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Categories
Crime & Safety U. S. News

Kentucky Man Arrested for Assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police Officer in Jan. 6 Capitol Breach

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, April 20th, the District of Columbia unsealed a criminal complaint against Stephen Chase Randolph, 31, of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, for assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officer and engaging in disorderly conduct.

Randolph was arrested pursuant to a complaint and made his initial appearance in court on April 20, 2021 in the Western District of Kentucky. The complaint charges Randolph with assaulting, resisting or impeding an officer causing bodily injury; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and obstruction of justice and Congress.

According to court documents, Randolph was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 where he was captured on video pushing into and pulling barricades from officers. As depicted in the video, Johnson became confrontational with USCP officers as he approached a barricade blocking access to Pennsylvania walkway. He can be seen forcibly pushing and pulling on the metal barricades, causing a USCP officer to fall and hit her head on the stairs before losing consciousness. He continued to assault two other USCP officers by physically pushing, shoving, grabbing and generally resisting the officers. In conversation with undercover agents, Randolph stated, “It was f****** fun,” referring to being in the crowd at the U.S. Capitol.

In the same conversation with agents acting in an undercover capacity, Randolph said he witnessed a female police officer get pushed over by barricades and that her head had bounced off the handrails by the stairs. Randolph opined that the police officer likely had a concussion because she was curled up in the fetal position after being pushed to the ground.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case, with valuable assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, along with the U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department, who listed Johnson as #168 on their seeking information photos. Significant assistance in this matter was provided by the FBI-Louisville Field Office.

Categories
Covid-19 U. S. News

FDA inspection found problems at factory making J&J vaccine

The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.

The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent BioSciences factory.

Agency inspectors said a batch of bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. That batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out.

Other problems cited in the inspection report were peeling paint, black and brown residue on floors and walls in the factory, inadequate cleaning and employees not following procedures to prevent contamination.

Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed, the FDA noted. The nearly 8 million doses of J&J vaccine given in the U.S. came from Europe.

Both Emergent and Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that they are working to fix the problems as quickly as possible.

After quality problems surfaced late last month, J&J took control of the factory. The Biden administration now is working to move AstraZeneca vaccine manufacturing to another factory. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not yet authorized in the U.S.

The Baltimore factory halted all production late last week at the request of the FDA. The agency hasn’t given emergency approval to the factory, which is needed before any vaccine material made there can be distributed.

All the bulk vaccine substance Emergent has made, plus early batches made there and then put in vials and packaged by other J&J contractors, are being stored and will undergo additional testing by the FDA, the agency said.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines that are given to the people of this nation have met the agency’s high standards for quality, safety and effectiveness,” the FDA said.

At the moment, use of the J&J vaccine is on hold in the U.S. as government health officials investigate its possible connection to very rare blood clots. Their decision on whether to allow the vaccine to be given could come Friday.

On Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency’s safety committee said its review found the blood clots are a very rare side effect but that the J&J vaccine’s benefits outweigh that risk.

Emergent, a little-known drug manufacturing contractor, was granted a major role in the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. The company has been repeatedly cited by the FDA for problems ranging from poorly trained employees to cracked vials and mold around one of its facilities, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

FDA inspectors started checking the Emergent factory in Baltimore on April 12 and finished their investigation on Tuesday.

The inspectors reviewed security camera footage that showed employees carrying unsealed bags of medical waste around in the factory, with the bags touching materials ready to be used to make vaccine batches. The footage also showed employees moving between manufacturing areas for the two vaccines without documenting whether they changed protective gowns and showered in between, as required.

The inspection report noted that Emergent didn’t sufficiently investigate the contamination of the later-discarded J&J batch and didn’t appear to have done any extra cleaning after the contamination was discovered.

“There is no assurance that other batches have not been subject to cross-contamination,” the report stated.

It also noted that the factory had inadequate procedures for assuring that the vaccine substance met all quality and purity requirements.

It’s unclear how long it will take the companies to resolve all the problems at the factory, known as Bayview.

J&J has pledged to provide 100 million doses for the U.S. by the end of May and 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year.

“Right now, we can’t speculate on any potential impact this could have on the timing of our vaccine deliveries,” J&J said in a statement.

 

Categories
Crime & Safety U. S. News

Police kill Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, who attacked 2 with knife

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — Body camera footage from other officers released Wednesday in the fatal police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager who charged at two people with a knife, showed a chaotic scene that happened within minutes of the verdict in George Floyd’s killing and ignited outrage by many over the continued use of lethal force by police in Columbus and the U.S.

Officials with the Columbus Division of Police had released initial footage of the shooting Tuesday night just hours after it happened, which was a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.

Bryant was 16 and in foster care with Franklin County Children’s Services at the time of her death. Her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, described her as a shy and quiet girl, who liked making hair and dance videos on TikTok.

“The fact that I see what I saw on that video is not how I know my Ma’Khia,” Wilcox told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life.”

The incident has caused an outcry in the community and nationwide as Bryant’s killing is the second high-profile fatal shooting of a teenager by police in the last month. Body camera footage released last week showed an officer shoot and kill 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.

“It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old. I’m a father,” Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters Wednesday. “Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old lost her life yesterday.”

He added, “I sure as hell wish it wouldn’t have happened.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the Columbus shooting “tragic” and said President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.

“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” Psaki said in a statement.

The 10-second body camera clip begins with the officer, identified Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon, getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone had called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Woods said. It remains unclear who called the police.

The officer, who was hired by the force in December 2019, is seen taking a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when Bryant starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.

Bryant then charges at another girl or woman, who is pinned against a car.

From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.

A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

The race of the officer wasn’t clear and he was taken off patrolling the streets for the time being.

Bryant was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. Police did not say if anyone else was injured.

In the moments after the shooting, people living or visiting the street filmed as police roped off the area with yellow tape in front of the house where the shooting took place.

A neighbor’s video shows an officer performing CPR on the teenager while a man can be heard yelling, “You all just jumped out of the (expletive) car and shot her!”

Neighbors stood in open doorways filming and behind cars shaking their heads, eyewitness footage showed.

Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.

Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now reviewing the killing following a recent agreement with the city.

The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Floyd. It also took place less than 5 miles from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year. The officer in Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, is now facing trial for murder, with the next hearing scheduled for April 28.

Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.

Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday that he watched the footage of Bryant’s killing and called it a “horrible tragedy.”

He added that while the public has the video evidence, “we need to let the investigation play out.”

The Republican governor also detailed upcoming legislation to boost police accountability in the state and overhaul policing. The effort was initially introduced in another form with Attorney General Yost in the days after Floyd’s killing last summer.

The new bill, to be introduced by GOP State Rep. Phil Plummer, of Dayton, would, among other things, establish an oversight board for law enforcement in the state. DeWine said the goal of the legislation is to increase transparency in the profession.

Categories
U. S. News

Police kill Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, who attacked 2 with knife

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Body camera footage from other officers released Wednesday in the fatal police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager who charged at two people with a knife, showed a chaotic scene that happened within minutes of the verdict in George Floyd’s killing and ignited outrage by many over the continued use of lethal force by police in Columbus and the U.S.

Officials with the Columbus Division of Police had released initial footage of the shooting Tuesday night just hours after it happened, which was a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.

Bryant was 16 and in foster care with Franklin County Children’s Services at the time of her death. Her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, described her as a shy and quiet girl, who liked making hair and dance videos on TikTok.

“The fact that I see what I saw on that video is not how I know my Ma’Khia,” Wilcox told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life.”

The incident has caused an outcry in the community and nationwide as Bryant’s killing is the second high-profile fatal shooting of a teenager by police in the last month. Body camera footage released last week showed an officer shoot and kill 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.

“It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old. I’m a father,” Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters Wednesday. “Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old lost her life yesterday.”

He added, “I sure as hell wish it wouldn’t have happened.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the Columbus shooting “tragic” and said President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.

“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” Psaki said in a statement.

The 10-second body camera clip begins with the officer, identified Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon, getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone had called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Woods said. It remains unclear who called the police.

The officer, who was hired by the force in December 2019, is seen taking a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when Bryant starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.

Bryant then charges at another girl or woman, who is pinned against a car.

From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.

A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

The race of the officer wasn’t clear and he was taken off patrolling the streets for the time being.

Bryant was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. Police did not say if anyone else was injured.

In the moments after the shooting, people living or visiting the street filmed as police roped off the area with yellow tape in front of the house where the shooting took place.

A neighbor’s video shows an officer performing CPR on the teenager while a man can be heard yelling, “You all just jumped out of the (expletive) car and shot her!”

Neighbors stood in open doorways filming and behind cars shaking their heads, eyewitness footage showed.

Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.

Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now reviewing the killing following a recent agreement with the city.

The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Floyd. It also took place less than 5 miles from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year. The officer in Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, is now facing trial for murder, with the next hearing scheduled for April 28.

Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.

Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday that he watched the footage of Bryant’s killing and called it a “horrible tragedy.”

He added that while the public has the video evidence, “we need to let the investigation play out.”

The Republican governor also detailed upcoming legislation to boost police accountability in the state and overhaul policing. The effort was initially introduced in another form with Attorney General Yost in the days after Floyd’s killing last summer.

The new bill, to be introduced by GOP State Rep. Phil Plummer, of Dayton, would, among other things, establish an oversight board for law enforcement in the state. DeWine said the goal of the legislation is to increase transparency in the profession.

Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Categories
Crime & Safety U. S. News

Teen’s death puts focus on split-second police decisions

It happened in less than a second.

Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo dropped the gun he’d been holding, turned and began raising his hands just as the officer had commanded. Then the cop fired a single shot, killing the boy in the dark Chicago alley.

The graphic video that became the latest tragic touchstone in the nation’s reckoning with race and policing puts a microscope on those split-second decisions with far-reaching and grave consequences. Investigators are still sorting through exactly what happened, but the shooting has raised difficult questions about why the boy wasn’t given more time to comply and whether the deadly encounter could have been prevented in the first place.

“Time and again, our communities of color are being told that these are isolated incidents or that they are the fault of the suspect. What do you say when you see the evidence with your own eyes?” Jose Lopez, the League of United Latin American Citizens’ national vice president for the Midwest, said in a statement.

The white officer, Eric Stillman, was responding to reports of shots fired in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of the city’s southwest side, around 3 a.m. on March 29. Stillman’s jumpy, nighttime bodycam footage shows him chasing Toledo, who was Latino, on foot down an alley for several seconds and yelling: “Police! Stop! Stop right (expletive) now!”

As the teen slows down, Stillman yells: “Hands! Hands! Show me your (expletive) hands!” Toledo then turns toward the camera, Stillman yells, “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he fires and Toledo falls. Police found a gun next to a fence a short distance away after the shooting. Prosecutors have previously said a 21-year-old man with Toledo fired the rounds that originally drew the officer’s attention.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office will decide whether Stillman, who has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days, should face charges. But it’s been rare to charge police with crimes in the death of civilians, and winning a conviction is harder in part because jurors are reluctant to second-guess an officer when the officer has been faced with a split-second decision in a life-or-death situation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said an officer’s fear for their life in the heat of the moment matters, even if in hindsight it turns out they weren’t in danger. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a 1989 ruling that shaped the legal landscape that the “calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.”

It takes the brain about three-fourths of a second to react to a perceived threat, said Chris Burbank, a former police chief in Salt Lake City who is now with the Center for Policing Equity. Most police can then draw a gun and fire two accurate rounds in 1.5 seconds, so the pivotal portion of a confrontation can be over in less than three seconds.

The decisions made in that tiny period can influenced by a host of factors, including training, immediate surroundings and structural biases like racism, he said. A growing body of research shows Black teenagers, for example, are often wrongly perceived as older and more threatening than white teenagers.

And it can be hard for officers to say after the fact exactly what made them shoot, said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and longtime professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It’s always a shock to actually have to fire because firing is pretty rare in a big city,” he said. “You talk to cops after shootings, a lot of it is a blur … the truth is that you may not even know why you fired.”

The often-used “show me your hands!” command can unintentionally accelerate a confrontation. The motions of a person trying to obey can appear at first like the moves someone makes to start an attack, said Von Kliem, a former police officer and director of consulting division for the Force Science Institute. Some in law enforcement-training circles have had concerns about how the phrase affects a situation since the mid-1990s, though it’s still often used without causing serious problems.

But focusing solely on split-second heated moments can miss the larger systemic questions raised by a community mourning a child, said Nathan Morris, an attorney for a 13-year-old shot by police in Utah. That boy, Linden Cameron, has autism and his mother had called police to help handle a breakdown last year. Cameron was unarmed. He survived the shots that were fired after a chase by officers.

“Are we doing the right thing by putting our officers in situations that require a split-second decision?” Morris said. “Should they even be chasing a 13-year-old child down?”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is now demanding a new policy on foot pursuits, something she called one of the most dangerous actions an officer can take. Some major cities have already taken action to limit foot chases, though experts say it would be hard to tell police not to try to stop someone with a gun.

Some shifts in police training could help, Burbank said. He spent years training police officers and being trained himself, and says nearly every law enforcement practice scenario ended with a shooting.

“There have to be ‘no shoot’ scenarios,” he said. “We need to spend more time training for when you don’t have to use force than when you do. And we do not do that.”

Categories
U. S. News

Teen’s death puts focus on split-second police decisions

It happened in less than a second.

Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo dropped the gun he’d been holding, turned and began raising his hands just as the officer had commanded. Then the cop fired a single shot, killing the boy in the dark Chicago alley.

The graphic video that became the latest tragic touchstone in the nation’s reckoning with race and policing puts a microscope on those split-second decisions with far-reaching and grave consequences. Investigators are still sorting through exactly what happened, but the shooting has raised difficult questions about why the boy wasn’t given more time to comply and whether the deadly encounter could have been prevented in the first place.

“Time and again, our communities of color are being told that these are isolated incidents or that they are the fault of the suspect. What do you say when you see the evidence with your own eyes?” Jose Lopez, the League of United Latin American Citizens’ national vice president for the Midwest, said in a statement.

The white officer, Eric Stillman, was responding to reports of shots fired in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of the city’s southwest side, around 3 a.m. on March 29. Stillman’s jumpy, nighttime bodycam footage shows him chasing Toledo, who was Latino, on foot down an alley for several seconds and yelling: “Police! Stop! Stop right (expletive) now!”

As the teen slows down, Stillman yells: “Hands! Hands! Show me your (expletive) hands!” Toledo then turns toward the camera, Stillman yells, “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he fires and Toledo falls. Police found a gun next to a fence a short distance away after the shooting. Prosecutors have previously said a 21-year-old man with Toledo fired the rounds that originally drew the officer’s attention.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office will decide whether Stillman, who has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days, should face charges. But it’s been rare to charge police with crimes in the death of civilians, and winning a conviction is harder in part because jurors are reluctant to second-guess an officer when the officer has been faced with a split-second decision in a life-or-death situation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said an officer’s fear for their life in the heat of the moment matters, even if in hindsight it turns out they weren’t in danger. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a 1989 ruling that shaped the legal landscape that the “calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.”

It takes the brain about three-fourths of a second to react to a perceived threat, said Chris Burbank, a former police chief in Salt Lake City who is now with the Center for Policing Equity. Most police can then draw a gun and fire two accurate rounds in 1.5 seconds, so the pivotal portion of a confrontation can be over in less than three seconds.

The decisions made in that tiny period can influenced by a host of factors, including training, immediate surroundings and structural biases like racism, he said. A growing body of research shows Black teenagers, for example, are often wrongly perceived as older and more threatening than white teenagers.

And it can be hard for officers to say after the fact exactly what made them shoot, said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and longtime professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It’s always a shock to actually have to fire because firing is pretty rare in a big city,” he said. “You talk to cops after shootings, a lot of it is a blur … the truth is that you may not even know why you fired.”

The often-used “show me your hands!” command can unintentionally accelerate a confrontation. The motions of a person trying to obey can appear at first like the moves someone makes to start an attack, said Von Kliem, a former police officer and director of consulting division for the Force Science Institute. Some in law enforcement-training circles have had concerns about how the phrase affects a situation since the mid-1990s, though it’s still often used without causing serious problems.

But focusing solely on split-second heated moments can miss the larger systemic questions raised by a community mourning a child, said Nathan Morris, an attorney for a 13-year-old shot by police in Utah. That boy, Linden Cameron, has autism and his mother had called police to help handle a breakdown last year. Cameron was unarmed. He survived the shots that were fired after a chase by officers.

“Are we doing the right thing by putting our officers in situations that require a split-second decision?” Morris said. “Should they even be chasing a 13-year-old child down?”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is now demanding a new policy on foot pursuits, something she called one of the most dangerous actions an officer can take. Some major cities have already taken action to limit foot chases, though experts say it would be hard to tell police not to try to stop someone with a gun.

Some shifts in police training could help, Burbank said. He spent years training police officers and being trained himself, and says nearly every law enforcement practice scenario ended with a shooting.

“There have to be ‘no shoot’ scenarios,” he said. “We need to spend more time training for when you don’t have to use force than when you do. And we do not do that.”

Categories
U. S. News

Leaders of Proud Boys ordered jailed on Capitol riot charges

A federal judge on Monday ordered two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group to be arrested and jailed while awaiting trial on charges they planned and coordinated an attack on the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean had been free since their March 10 indictment, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly concluded that the two men are dangerous and no conditions for their release could be adequate. The judge said Biggs and Nordean “facilitated political violence” even if they weren’t armed and didn’t assault anybody at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Kelly overruled another federal judge in Washington, D.C., who had ordered pretrial home confinement for Nordean. Biggs was freed after his initial Jan. 20 arrest in his home state of Florida. Justice Department prosecutors initially didn’t seek to keep Biggs jailed but last month asked for his pretrial release to be revoked, saying new evidence shows he poses a “grave danger” to the community.

Attorneys for Biggs and Nordean asked Kelly to suspend Monday’s ruling pending a possible appeal, but the judge denied their request.

Biggs and Nordean are among more than two dozen Capitol riot defendants who have been described by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.

Last month’s indictment charged Biggs, Nordean and two other men described as Proud Boys leaders with conspiring to impede Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. Other charges in the indictment include obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and disorderly conduct.

Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe are charged in the same indictment as Biggs and Nordean and have been jailed since their arrests in March.

Police arrested the Proud Boys’ top leader, Enrique Tarrio, in Washington two days before the riot and charged him with vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a protest in December. Tarrio, who was ordered to stay out of the District of Columbia, hasn’t been charged in connection with the Capitol siege.

Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, has been a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group’s national “Elders Council.” Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida, is a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl, 35, of Philadelphia, and Donohoe, 33, of Kernersville, North Carolina, serve as presidents of their local Proud Boys chapters, according to the indictment.

Proud Boys members describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” Its members frequently have engaged in street fights with antifascist activists at rallies and protests.

On the morning of the riot, Biggs and Nordean met other Proud Boys members at the Washington Monument and led them on a march to the Capitol before then-President Donald Trump finished addressing thousands of supporters near the White House, the indictment says.

Around two hours later, just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the election results, Proud Boys members followed a crowd of people who breached barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, the indictment says. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building itself after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.

During a March 3 hearing, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell accused prosecutors of backtracking on their claims that Nordean had instructed Proud Boys members to split up into smaller groups and directed a “strategic plan” to breach the Capitol. However, Howell concluded that Nordean was extensively involved in “pre-planning” for the events of Jan. 6 and that he and other Proud Boys “were clearly prepared for a violent confrontation” that day.

Categories
U. S. News

NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s experimental helicopter Ingenuity rose into the thin air above the dusty red surface of Mars on Monday, achieving the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet.

The triumph was hailed as a Wright brothers moment. The mini 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) copter even carried a bit of wing fabric from the Wright Flyer that made similar history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

It was a brief hop — just 39 seconds and 10 feet (3 meters) — but accomplished all the major milestones.

“Goosebumps. It looks just the way we had tested,” project manager MiMi Aung said as she watched the flight video during a later briefing. “Absolutely beautiful flight. I don’t think I can ever stop watching it over and over again.”

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward.

Scientists cheered the news from around the world, even from space, and the White House offered its congratulations.

“A whole new way to explore the alien terrain in our solar system is now at our disposal,” Nottingham Trent University astronomer Daniel Brown said from England.

This first test flight — with more to come by Ingenuity, the next as soon as Thursday — holds great promise, Brown noted. Future helicopters could serve as scouts for rovers, and eventually astronauts, in difficult, dangerous places.

Ingenuity has provided a third dimension to planetary exploration and ”freed us from the surface now forever,” said JPL director, Michael Watkins.

Ground controllers had to wait more than three excruciating hours before learning whether the preprogrammed flight had succeeded 178 million miles (287 million kilometers) away. The first attempt had been delayed a week because of a software error.

When the news finally came, the operations center filled with applause, cheers and laughter. More followed when the first black and white photo from Ingenuity appeared, showing the helicopter’s shadow as it hovered above the surface of Mars.

“The shadow of greatness, #MarsHelicopter first flight on another world complete!” NASA astronaut Victor Glover tweeted from the International Space Station.

The helicopter hovered for 30 seconds at its intended altitude of 10 feet (3 meters), and spent 39 seconds airborne, more than three times longer than the first successful flight of the Wright Flyer, which lasted a mere 12 seconds on Dec. 17, 1903.

To accomplish all this, the helicopter’s twin, counter-rotating rotor blades needed to spin at 2,500 revolutions per minute — five times faster than on Earth. With an atmosphere just 1% the density of Earth’s, engineers had to build a helicopter light enough — with blades spinning fast enough — to generate this otherworldly lift. The Martian wind was relatively gentle Monday: between 4 mph and 14 mph (7 kph to 22 kph).

More than six years in the making, Ingenuity is just 19 inches (49 centimeters) tall, a spindly four-legged chopper. Its fuselage, containing all the batteries, heaters and sensors, is the size of a tissue box. The carbon-fiber, foam-filled rotors are the biggest pieces: Each pair stretches 4 feet (1.2 meters) tip to tip.

Ingenuity also had to be sturdy enough to withstand the Martian wind, and is topped with a solar panel for recharging the batteries, crucial for surviving the minus-130 degree Fahrenheit (minus-90 degree-Celsius) Martian nights.

NASA chose a flat, relatively rock-free patch for Ingenuity’s airfield. Following Monday’s success, NASA named the area for the Wright brothers.

“While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and … million miles of space, they now will forever be linked,” NASA’s science missions chief Thomas Zurbuchen announced.

Up to five increasingly ambitious flights are planned, and they could lead the way to a fleet of Martian drones in decades to come, providing aerial views, transporting packages and serving as lookouts for human crews. On Earth, the technology could enable helicopters to reach new heights, doing things like more easily navigating the Himalayas.

Ingenuity’s team has until the beginning of May to complete the test flights so that the rover can get on with its main mission: collecting rock samples that could hold evidence of past Martian life, for return to Earth a decade from now.

The team plans to test the helicopter’s limits, possibly even wrecking the craft, leaving it to rest in place forever, having sent its data back home.

Until then, Perseverance will keep tabs on Ingenuity. Flight engineers affectionately call them Percy and Ginny.

“Big sister’s watching,” said Malin Space Science Systems’ Elsa Jensen, the rover’s lead camera operator.