A man alleged to have lured two US volunteer firefighters to their deaths in Webster, New York left a long note outlining his plans, police say.
No motive was given but the note left by William Spengler, identified as the gunman said he was planning to “do what I like doing best – killing people.”
Police searching Spengler’s burnt-out house say they have found human remains – believed to be those of his sister.
The firefighters were shot dead as they arrived to tackle a fire on Monday.
At a news conference on Tuesday, police said Spengler, 62, had three guns and aimed to burn down his neighborhood.
William Spengler spent 17 years in prison for killing his grandmother
Seven homes on a narrow stretch of land beside Lake Ontario were destroyed by the fire. Another two firemen and an off-duty police officer were wounded in the attack.
Police Chief Gerald Pickering told reporters that Spengler, who apparently shot himself in the head, had used a .38 calibre revolver, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Bushmaster .223 calibre rifle with flash suppression.
The same make and calibre rifle had been used in the murder of 26 teachers and children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on 14 December, he said.
The police chief told reporters in Webster that a two- to three-page note from the gunman had been found in which he said: “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighbourhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best – killing people.”
At a later briefing, Mr Pickering said human remains were found in the house Spengler shared with his 67-year-old sister, Cheryl.
Police believe the remains are hers.
Spengler and his sister lived with their mother until her death in October.
Spengler had served 17 years in jail for killing his grandmother with a hammer but had done nothing to attract the authorities’ attention since being granted parole in 1998.
As a convicted criminal, he was not allowed to own weapons.
Police said he appeared to have set “a trap” by setting fire to his home. His older sister, Cheryl, whom he reportedly hated, is missing.
Two of the firefighters who responded to the call, Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, and Mike Chiapperini, aged 43, were shot dead in what was described as a “clear ambush” on emergency services.
Their two wounded colleagues are said to be in a stable condition with gunshot wounds.
The off-duty police officer, who was also shot and wounded as he came to their aid, was praised by the police chief for saving people’s lives.
Gerald Pickering cited “mental health issues” as a possible factor for the attack, which came months after the death of Spengler’s mother.
The Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, killed his mother with her own guns before launching his attack on Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
His murders of 20 children aged six and seven have prompted a national debate on gun ownership and mental health.
“It’s sad to see that that this is becoming more commonplace in communities across the nation,” Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn told AP news agency after the attack in New York state
Two volunteer firefighters have been shot dead and two injured while responding to an emergency call in the town of Webster in New York state.
It appears the four were fired upon as they arrived at the scene of a fire early on Monday morning.
The blaze broke out just before 06:00 local time (11:00 GMT) and the shooting reportedly prevented firefighters putting it out for several hours.
A gunman has been found dead at the scene, local police say.
“Upon arrival of the first… engine company and some firefighters in their personal vehicles, they underwent gunfire from a location unknown,” Webster’s Fire Marshal Rob Boutillier told reporters.
The two dead firefighters were named by police as Tomasz Kaczowka and Mike Chiapperini.
An off-duty policeman who was driving by the scene at the time received shrapnel wounds and was also being treated, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering told reporters.
Police spokesmen said the area was “an active crime scene” but that no more shooters were believed to be present.
Police teams moved in to evacuate residents after the shooting.
Firefighters were then able to return to the scene and are now tackling the blaze.
“All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
“The contributions made by the fallen and injured officers in Webster will never be forgotten,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
“As this investigation unfolds, we stand with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that lethal weapons are out of the hands of dangerous people, so that the brave New Yorkers who risk their lives every day to protect us are not exposed to additional danger,” he added.
Also on Monday, a policeman was shot dead in the city of Houston, Texas after the driver of a car he pulled over opened fire on him.
The debate on gun violence in the US was rekindled earlier this month by the shootings at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
It was one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
“There’s a heightened awareness to this kind of violence in light of what happened in Connecticut,” said Maggie Brooks, leader of the local administration in Monroe County, the area which includes Webster.
“We have first responders and we have families who are in pain and crisis today and we need to, as a community, keep them in our thoughts and prayers,” Mrs Brooks said, adding that it was a “very, very difficult day”.
President Obama has promised to push for action on gun control while the National Rifle Association (NRA) has called for armed security in all American schools.
Thomas “Tres” Caffall, the man who police say killed two people–including a Texas constable–in a shooting near the Texas A&M University campus on Monday was a “ticking time bomb,” his stepfather says.
“He was crazy as hell,” Richard Weaver, Caffall’s stepfather, told KPRC-TV. “At one point, we were afraid that he was going to come up here and do something to his mother and me.”
Caffall, 35, opened fire as the Brazos County constable, Brian Bachmann, was attempting to serve him an eviction notice, College Station police said. Officers responded to the off-campus house shortly after noon following reports of shots fired, and found the 41-year-old Bachmann on the ground.
Caffall was shot during what police described as a 30-minute “gun battle.” Bachmann and Caffall were taken to College Station Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.
Scott Smith was likely trying to emulate the horrific Colorado shootings when he brought a gun, extra ammo, and several knives to a late night showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Luckily his performance was cut short when an observant manager and a security guard noticed him.
Off-duty Officer Jeremiah Bullins, that night’s security guard, approached Smith in the Crocker Park, Ohio theater where he was sitting and asked to check his bag. Smith complied which is when Bullins saw the weaponry.
Smith was charged with crimes related to carrying the weapons, especially given his personal status.
Prosecutors are charging Smith with carrying a weapon under disability, reports WKYC. The claim is that his prescription medications prevent him from owning firearms under any circumstances.
If proven, Smith will be in trouble for owning the weapons, never mind carrying them into a theater.
But that’s not the only charge against him. Smith is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
Ohio, like many states, has laws requiring gun owners to get a special permit to carry a concealed weapon. Even if Smith turns out to be a lawful gun owner, it does not appear that he has a permit to carry concealed weapons.
For states that require a permit for concealed weapons, any gun owner who does not have a permit must keep their guns in view at all times while carrying them in public. Several states ban concealed weapons entirely.
Theater personnel have been on high alert since James Holmes gunned-down movie goers last month. Scott Smith’s foiled attempt is evidence that their efforts are not in vain.
(Reuters) – The white supremacist gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the FBI said on Wednesday.
A police officer shot and wounded the gunman, Wade Page, 40, in the stomach outside the temple in Oak Creek on Sunday, said Teresa Carlson, an FBI special agent in charge.
“Subsequent to that wound, it appears that Page died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” she told a news conference.
Police had said Page had been shot to death by an officer responding to the attack at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee.
Carlson said she had seen a video of the police officer wounding Page with a squad rifle. “It’s an amazing shot, and thank goodness,” she said.
Federal authorities have said they are treating the attack as a possible act of domestic terrorism. Page, an Army veteran, was a musician who played in white power punk-metal bands. He was armed with a 9mm handgun during the attack.
Turban-wearing Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims in the United States. The Sikh faith was founded in the Punjab area of India and Pakistan and has an estimated 500,000 or more adherents in the United States.
President Barack Obama called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to express his condolences over the temple shooting.
Carlson said investigators had not found any motive for the attack, which also wounded four people, including a police officer shot eight or nine times after responding to a 911 call.
The wounded officer, Lieutenant Brian Murphy, is up and walking, Carlson said.
Investigators have conducted more than 100 interviews with Page’s relatives, employers and associates, Carlson said. They are also following 101 leads worldwide and have issued 180 federal grand jury subpoenas.
Police have arrested Page’s former girlfriend, Misty Cook, on a weapons charge. Carlson said the arrest took place at Cook’s Milwaukee home late on Sunday and was unrelated to the shooting investigation.
Police said on Tuesday that a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm would be sought against Cook, 31. [ID:nL2E8J80OC] (Additional reporting by Paul Thomasch; writing by Ian Simpson; editing by Vicki Allen and Mohammad Zargham)
The shock and trauma from the images and stories from Aurora are still very much with us, and it is impossible to put into words the pain being felt by families and friends of the victims.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out. In the wake of this massacre, it’s time to put aside politics and reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons.
After the news broke last Friday, President Barack Obama said that “there are going to be other days for politics, this I think is a day for prayer and reflection.” Governor Mitt Romney said, “I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband, and American.”1 Both of their campaigns asked networks to pull their negative advertisements.
The gestures from the two men who are running for President were welcome steps. But, we need more than sympathetic words. We need real leadership to start to address the senseless gun violence that holds our communities hostage.
One of the principal weapons used by the shooter in the horrific Aurora massacre was an AR-15 assault rifle.2 This weapon features a magazine that holds 100 rounds of bullets, and its trigger is capable of firing 50-60 rounds per minute.3
The federal assault weapons ban which was passed in 1994, banned the sale of guns like the AR-15.4 Unfortunately, that ban expired in 2004 as a result of fierce lobbying by the NRA. It’s long past time to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons like the AR-15.
CREDO members worked to pass the federal assault weapons ban in 1994. And we fought to stop its expiration in 2004. And we continue to advocate for a federal ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the Aurora massacre.
Massacres on the scale of the tragedy in Aurora happen in part because our federal gun laws make it easy for civilians to obtain military-level firepower. We need to pass and enforce sensible federal gun laws restricting ready access for civilians to assault weapons. Reinstating a strong version of the federal ban on assault weapons known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act is where we should start.
We’re not so naïve as to think that sensible gun laws are all that’s needed to stop the killings. There are many things that need to change in American culture to stop the next Aurora-like massacre. But we do know one thing we should put at the top of the list — keeping military-level assault weapons like the AR-15 with a high capacity clip out of the hands of civilians. Click below to automatically sign the petition.
CREDO Action from Working Assets
2. Zack Beauchamp, “Expired Assault Weapons Ban Would Have Covered Rifle Used In Colorado Shooting,” ThinkProgress.org, July 20, 2012.
3. Caroline Hedley, “It Was Shockingly Easy For The Batman Shooter To Buy A Massive Arsenal,” BusinessInsider.com, July 21, 2012.
4. Beauchamp, “Expired Assault Weapons Ban Would Have Covered Rifle Used In Colorado Shooting.”
AURORA, Colo. (AP) — The University of Colorado said Sunday it was investigating whether shooting suspect James Holmes used his position as a graduate student to order materials in the potentially deadly booby traps that police said they found in his apartment.
Holmes, 24, got deliveries over four months to his home and school, authorities have said. The university is looking into what was received at the school to assist police with their investigation, said spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery.
The suspect was described as a budding scientist, brimming with potential, who pursued a graduate program even as he planned the attack with “calculation and deliberation,” police said.
Investigators spent hours Saturday removing explosive materials from inside Holmes’ apartment a day after police said he opened fire and set off gas canisters in a movie theater minutes into a premiere of the “The Dark Knight Rises.” The massacre left 12 people dead and 58 injured.
His apartment was booby trapped with jars of liquids, explosives and chemicals that could have killed “whoever entered it,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said, noting it would have likely been one of his officers.
Inside the apartment, bomb technicians neutralized a “hypergolic mixture” and an improvised explosive device containing an unknown substance, said James Yacone, an FBI special agent. There also were containers of accelerants, creating “an extremely dangerous environment,” he said.
Oates said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he had never seen a booby trap as elaborate as what was found in the apartment.
By late Saturday afternoon, all hazards had been removed from the apartment and residents in surrounding buildings were allowed to return home, police said.
The exception was Holmes’ apartment building, where authorities were still collecting evidence. Authorities covered the windows of Holmes’ apartment with black plastic to prevent anyone from seeing in. Before they did, a man in an ATF T-shirt could be seen measuring a poster on a closet that advertised a DVD called “Soldiers of Misfortune.” The poster showed several figures in various positions playing paintball, some wearing masks.
Police left the apartment building carrying a laptop computer and a hard drive about 8 p.m. Saturday.
Holmes was in solitary confinement for his protection at a Denver-area county detention facility, held without bond on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder. He was set for an initial hearing on Monday and has been appointed a public defender.
President Barack Obama was scheduled to travel to Colorado on Sunday to visit with the families of victims. The city of Aurora planned a vigil to remember the dead and wounded in the shooting later in the evening.
Among the dead was a 6-year-old girl and a man who died on his 27th birthday and a day before his wedding anniversary. Families grieved and waited at hospitals, with police reporting 11 people still in critical condition as of Saturday.
While authorities continued to refuse to discuss a possible motive for one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, details about Holmes’ background as a student and would-be scientist trickled out.
Holmes had recently withdrawn from the competitive graduate program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver, where he was one of six pre-thesis Ph.D. students at its Neuroscience Program to be funded by a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health. The program of 35 students is dedicated to training outstanding neuroscientists and academicians who will make significant contributions to neurobiology, the university said in a statement.
In the first year of the five- to seven-year program, students take classes and complete three, three-month research rotations in the labs of different professors.
Professors who worked with him either did not return calls or declined to comment, saying police and university officials had told them not to speak to the media.
At one point in the year, Holmes was engaged in research about RNA and was to present a paper May 8 about RNA Biomarkers, according to a class schedule. It was unclear if he presented the paper.
Holmes recently took an intense, three-part oral exam that marks the end of the first year. Those who do well continue with their studies and shift to full-time research, while those who don’t do well meet with advisers and discuss their options, including retaking the exam.
University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.
The university said Holmes gave no reason for his withdrawal, a decision he made in June.
“The focus of the program is on training outstanding neuroscientists and academicians who will make significant contributions to neurobiology,” the university said. The doctoral program usually takes five to seven years to complete, it said.
Holmes was not allowed access from the institution after his withdrawal, which was “standard operating procedure” because he was no longer affiliated with the school, Montgomery said. Holmes had no contact with university police, she said.
In a resume posted on Monster.com, Holmes listed himself as an “aspiring scientist” and said he was looking for a job as a laboratory technician.
The resume, first obtained in Holmes’ home state of California by The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, paints a picture of a brilliant young man brimming with potential: He worked as a summer intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla in 2006 and mapped the neurons of Zebra finches and studied the flight muscles of hummingbirds while an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside.
He also worked as a cabin counselor to underprivileged children at a summer camp in Los Angeles in 2008. In a statement, Camp Max Straus confirmed Holmes had worked there for eight weeks. The camp provided no other details about Holmes but said such counselors are generally responsible for the care and guidance of roughly 10 children.
Ritchie Duong, a friend who has known Holmes for more than a decade, told the Los Angeles Times that in high school he liked to play cards and video games. They both attended undergraduate school at the University of California, Riverside, where they saw each other once a week to watch the TV show “Lost.”
Duong last saw Holmes in December when they met for dinner in Los Angeles and saw a movie together. His friend seemed fine, he told the newspaper.
Academics came easily to Holmes both at high school and at the UC Riverside, Duong said.
“I had one college class with him, and he didn’t even have to take notes or anything. He would just show up to class, sit there, and around test time he would always get an ‘A,'” said Duong, 24.
During the attack early Friday, Holmes used the military-style semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on the unsuspecting theater-goers, Oates said. Holmes had bought the weapons at local gun stores within the past two months. He recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.
The semiautomatic assault rifle used by the gunman jammed during the attack, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press, which forced the shooter to switch to another gun with less fire power.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to in order to discuss the investigation, said the disabled weapon had a high-capacity ammunition magazine. Police have said that a 100-round drum magazine was recovered at the scene and that such a device would be able to fire 50 to 60 rounds a minute.
Holmes also bought an urban assault vest, two magazine holders and a knife for just over $300 on July 2 from an online supplier of tactical gear for police and military personnel, according to the company.
Chad Weinman, CEO of TacticalGear.com, said his company processes thousands of orders each day, and there was nothing unusual in the one that Holmes placed.
The Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. “The Dark Knight Rises” earned $30.6 million in the midnight screenings, and, according to industry estimates, roughly $75 million on that day as a whole. That put it on track for a weekend total of around $165 million, which would be the second-highest opening weekend ever, following “The Avengers.”
The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.
Across the street from the movie theater, a man who placed 15 crosses near Columbine High School after a 1999 massacre there has returned to Colorado with 12 crosses for the victims of Friday’s shooting.
Greg Zanis, of Aurora, Ill., began putting up the 3 1/2-foot-tall crosses Sunday on a hill across the street from the Century 16 theater.
Associated Press contributors to this report include Mead Gruver, Thomas Piepert, Kristen Wyatt, Steven K. Paulson, Ivan Moreno, P. Solomon Banda and Gillian Flaccus in Aurora; Dan Elliott, Colleen Slevin in Denver; AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York; M.L. Johnson in Chicago; Brian Skoloff in Salt Lake City; Monika Mathur and Jennifer Farrar at News Research Center in New York; and Eileen Sullivan in Washington.
Twelve people were killed and 59 were injured in Aurora, Colo., during a sold-out midnight premier of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” when 24-year-old James Holmes unloaded four weapons’ full of ammunition into the unsuspecting crowd.
The number of casualties makes the incident the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Holmes, a graduate student at a nearby college with a clean arrest record, entered the movie auditorium wearing a ballistics helmet, bullet-proof vest, bullet-proof leggings, gas mask and gloves. He detonated multiple smoke bombs, and then began firing at viewers in the sold-out auditorium, police said today.
Bullets from the spree tore through the theater and into adjoining theaters, where at least one other person was struck and injured. Ten members of “The Dark Knight Rises” audience were killed in theater, while two others died later at area hospitals. Numerous patrons were in critical condition at six local hospitals, the Aurora police said this afternoon.
Holmes was apprehended within minutes of the 12:39 a.m. shooting at his car behind the theater, where police found him in full riot gear and carrying three weapons, including a AR-15 assault rifle, which can hold upwards of 100 rounds, a Remington 12 gauge shot gun, and a .40 Glock handgun. A fourth handgun was found in the vehicle. Agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are tracing the weapons.
According to police sources, Holmes told the officers arresting him that he was “The Joker,” referring to the villain in the second installment of the Batman movie trilogy, “The Dark Knight.” He also warned police that he had booby-trapped his apartment, leading officers to evacuate the Aurora apartment building.
Police Chief Dan Oates said today that police and bomb squads have found a large number of explosive devices and trip wires at Holmes’ apartment and have not yet decided how to proceed without setting off explosions.
“The pictures we have from inside the apartment are pretty disturbing considering how elaborate the apartment is booby trapped,” police said outside of the apartment complex today. The “flammable and explosive” materials could have blown up Holmes’ apartment building and the ones near it, police said.
The apartment complex is home exclusively to University of Colorado Medical Center students, patients, and staff members, residents tell ABC News.
Moviegoer Christopher Ramos today recalled the real-life horror of the midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in Aurora, Colo., as a gunman decked in riot gear set off smoke bombs and opened fire on the unsuspecting audience.
“People were running everywhere, running on top of me, like kicking me, jumping over me. And there were bodies on the ground,” Ramos said. “I froze up. I was scared. I honestly thought I was going to die.”
“The image in our heads is stuck in there. I still have the ticket right here and honestly, I’m never going to forget this night at all. Because it was the first time I saw something that was real. Like a real-life nightmare that was there, not dreaming of,” Ramos told ABC News today.
Witnesses in the movie theater said Holmes saw smoke and heard gunshots that they thought were part of the movie until they saw Holmes standing in front of the screen, after entering from an emergency exit. Holmes methodically stalked the aisles of the theater, shooting people at random, as panicked movie-watchers in the packed auditorium tried to escape, witnesses said.
At one point the shooter exited the theater only to wait outside the doors and pick off patrons as they tried to exit, witness Jennifer Seeger told “Good Afternoon America.”
“You just smelled smoke and you just kept hearing it, you just heard bam bam bam, non-stop. The gunman never had to reload. Shots just kept going, kept going, kept going,” one witness told ABC News.
“I’m with coworkers and we’re on the floor praying to God we don’t get shot, and the gunshots continue on and on, and when the sound finally stopped, we started to get up and people were just bleeding,” another theatergoer said.
The suspected shooter will face his first court appearance next week, according to district attorney Carol Chambers.
Holmes, originally of San Diego, moved to Aurora to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado medical center, living just blocks from the hospital in an apartment that police say is now laced with explosives and being searched by HazMat teams.
Federal law enforcement sources tell ABC News that Holmes bought a ticket to the movie, slipped out of the theater once it began and propped open the emergency exit before gathering his weapons and gear and coming back into the theater. Once inside, he opened fire.
A San Diego woman identifying herself as James Holmes’s mother spoke briefly with ABC News this morning.
She had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.
“You have the right person,” she said.
“I need to call the police,” she added. “I need to fly out to Colorado.”
The woman and her husband later released a statement saying their “hearts go out to those who involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy.”
The highly-anticipated third installment of the Batman trilogy opened to packed auditoriums around the country at midnight showings on Friday morning, and features a villain named Bane who wears a bulletproof vest and gas mask. Trailers for the movie show explosions at public events including a football game. Though many moviegoers dressed in costume to attend the opening night screening, police have made no statements about any connection between the gunman’s motives and the movie.
Read More: NRA Deletes Tweet After Shooting
Police in New York have intensified security around showings of the film throughout the five boroughs today, with Police Commissioner Ray Kelley saying that “as a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado, the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where the ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is playing.”
The Paris premiere of the movie has been cancelled in the wake of the shootings. “Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time,” the movie’s producers said in a statement.
Witnesses watching movies in theaters next to the one where the shooting took place said bullets tore through the theater walls and they heard screaming.
Read More: Obama and Romney Respond to Shooting
“The suspect throws tear gas in the air, and as the tear gas appears he started shooting,” said Lamar Lane, who was watching the midnight showing of the movie with his brother. “It was very hard to breathe. I told my brother to take cover. It took awhile. I started seeing flashes and screaming, I just saw blood and people yelling and a quick glimpse of the guy who had a gas mask on. I was pushed out. There was chaos, we started running.”
One witness said she saw people dropping to the ground after the gunshots began.
“We were maybe 20 or 30 minutes into the movie and all you hear, first you smell smoke, everybody thought it was fireworks or something like that, and then you just see people dropping and the gunshots are constant,” witness Christ Jones told ABC’s Denver affiliate KMGH. “I heard at least 20 to 30 rounds within that minute or two.”
A man who talked to a couple who was inside the theater told ABC News, “They got up and they started to run through the emergency exit, and that when she turned around, she said all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing at people, just picking random people,” he said. “The gunshots continued to go on and on and then after we didn’t hear anything…we finally got up and there was people bleeding, there was people obviously may have been actually dead or anything, and we just ran up out of there, there was chaos everywhere.”
Witnesses and victims were taken to Gateway High School for questioning.
Hundreds of police and FBI agents are involved in the investigation. A senior official who is monitoring the situation in Washington said that early guidance based on the early snapshot of this man’s background indicated that this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism.
Dr. Comilla Sasson, at the University of Colorado Hospital where many of the victims were taken, said they are currently operating on nine critical patients and have treated 22 in all. She called the hospital “an absolutely terrifying scene all night.”
“The good news is that the 3-month-old has actually been discharged home and is in the care of their parents
In a statement, President Obama said, “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded.”
The American Rifleman, the official journal of the National Rifle Association, has deleted a tweet that appeared to make light of Friday’s shootings in Aurora, Colo., during a midnight screening of “Dark Knight Rises.”
“Good morning, shooters,” the message, published at 9:20 a.m. ET on the American Rifleman’s Twitter feed, read. “Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”
Not surprisingly, the tweet sparked considerable outrage, with hundreds of users–including Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann–pointing their followers to it.
The American Rifleman deleted the tweet several hours later but has yet to issue a formal apology.
It’s unclear whether the tweet was intentionally insensitive, or if the magazine’s tweeter was unaware of the shootings that left 12 dead and 50 wounded.
“Is there a way they wrote this without seeing the news?” Audrey Wauchope asked on Twitter.
“This is what happens when you don’t read the news,” the Columbia Journalism Review said.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for the NRA said that “a single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context.”
The NRA wasn’t alone in appearing insensitive to the tragedy.
CelebBoutique.com–“the online boutique loved by your fave celebs”–took the “Aurora” trending topic as an opportunity to promote its Kim Kardashian-inspired dress
Violence like the massacre that happened in Aurora, Colo., today is a staple of action films, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. A similar, now haunting, scene unfurls in “The Dark Knight Rises” when a masked villain leads a violent gang into a packed football stadium and deploys guns and explosives on the unsuspecting crowd.
While there has been no indication as to the motives of James Holmes, the suspected 24-year-old shooter who is now in custody, new evidence suggests that he was inspired by the Batman series of comic books and/or movies.
Law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News that Holmes said “I am the Joker” when apprehended by authorities. His hair was painted red, the same hair color of Heath Ledger’s Joker at one point in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”
There are more parallels. In Frank Miller’s iconic 1986 comic book series, “The Dark Knight Returns,” the Joker murders a television studio audience by deploying “smile gas.” Holmes began his massacre by setting off smoke bombs throughout the theater.
In the same book, Arnold Crimp, a disturbed man who just lost his job, pulls out a handgun in an adult film theater and kills three people. A scene from the strip shows a news anchor saying, “Three slain in Batman-inspired porn theater shoot-out.”
Seventy-one people were shot during today’s early morning massacre; 12 have died.
Christopher Irving, author of “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics,” cautioned against blaming an iconic, fictional character for today’s tragedy.
“There have been thousands of Batman stories published, and I don’t think pinning a specific comic book story to the tragic happenings as an inspiration is fair, or likely anything beyond a sad coincidence,” he said.
Death sentence handed down in Tucson against Shawna Forde, a resident of Washington State who headed the Minutemen American Defense group. She was convicted Feb. 14 of first-degree murder for orchestrating the killings of Brisenia and Raul Junior Flores of Arivaca, Ariz., a small community just north of the Mexican border.
“I think that the nation as a whole sees us as the wild, wild West, that things like that are going to be OK with us,” says Angie Thomas, who sat on the jury. “And they’re not.”
The case has drawn back the curtain to reveal the dark side of the debate raging in Arizona over illegal immigration.
Ms. Thomas and fellow jurors were told during the trial that Ms. Forde and accomplices gained entry to the Flores home with the expectation of finding drugs there, which could be sold to finance Minutemen American Defense’s border-control operations. Finding no drugs, the intruders made away with inexpensive jewelry but, prosecutors said, not before fatally shooting young Brisenia and Mr. Flores. Both victims were American citizens born in the US.
“I see Shawna Forde as someone who would have liked to have been the face of a movement,” Thomas says.
Arriving at the death sentence was difficult, Thomas says, but it was aided by a picture of Brisenia presented during trial that was etched in her mind: “A little girl, with bright red fingernails; she’s wearing a white T-shirt and turquoise-colored pajama bottoms. She’s on a love seat. It’s a perfect, innocent picture until you realize that half of her face has been blown off.”
Brisenia’s mother and Mr. Flores’s wife, Gina Gonzalez, was wounded during the shooting but survived. She testified that her daughter was shot point-blank as the girl pleaded for her life.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the lawlessness that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan left people feeling unsafe. Prodded by the National Rifle Association, under its first female president Marion Hammer, Florida launched the “stand your ground” movement in 2005.
The fatal encounter between a 17-year-old black teenager and a mixed-race neighborhood watch volunteer has created a furor over “stand your ground” laws, which have been enacted in more than 20 states; legislation is pending in others. That Florida, the epicenter of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case, was the first to pass the law in 2005 adds to the debate. But for George Zimmerman, this defense might not even apply, according to some legal experts.
Regardless, the case has led to legislators second-guessing the law—including the men who sponsored and signed the Florida bill, and major businesses are backpedaling from a lobby group that has helped promote the defense.
Is “stand your ground” actually relevant to George Zimmerman? In terms of legal defense, maybe not. “Stand your ground” is an expansion on the so-called Castle Doctrine, the right to defend one’s homestead. Instead of defending yourself on your own personal property, though, “stand your ground” lets you carry that immunity into public property, which can include places of business, like a bar.
I don’t think based upon Zimmerman’s explanation to the police that he has a valid Stand Your Ground claim. He’s not saying that he was assaulted frontally and then made a decision not to retreat because he thought he had to use deadly force.
He’s basically saying old-fashioned self-defense: I was struck, I was knocked down, I was on the ground, and I had to physically defend myself. There’s nothing added to his claim by the Stand Your Ground law, and I would love to have legislatures around the country look at it and say, you know, this worked for 220 years and we don’t need to add anything to it. If you’ve got a right of self-defense, great. And if you don’t have a right to defend yourself, if you think it’s OK to shoot somebody because their dog pooped on your lawn, then we don’t agree with that, and it’s a crime. (Former assistant state attorney (Florida) Abe Laser, April 12, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR)
Supporters such as former Republican senator Durell Peaden and Rep. Dennis Baxley, who co-sponsored the bill, or former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who signed the bill into law, have said Zimmerman lost his right to this defense when he sought out Martin. Bush stated that “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”
But since the law may be confusing to enforcement—the controversy blew up when Sanford police declined to make an arrest—it has bolstered critics ranging from State Senator Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to call for widespread reform.
Who makes the decision? Rather than ask how relevant “stand your ground” is in the Martin-Zimmerman case, the real question may be who makes the decisions in the first place. The Sanford city manager claimed that the law “prohibited” police from making an arrest. Should police make the arrest and leave it to the district attorney to bring charges, as would happen in self-defense cases? Should such cases appear before a judge? Does a jury make the call?
The mother of a 15-year-old boy with autism who was fatally shot by police in his home Wednesday is facing off with suburban Chicago police officers who say the officer acted appropriately.
Stephon Watts, 15, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 9, had had 10 previous interactions with Calumet City, Ill. police in the last two years, including at least one where police discharged Tasers to subdue him, the Chicago Tribune reports. Watts’ father called the police Wednesday after arguing with his son, who didn’t want to go to school, having been instructed by social workers that Watts should be handled by authorities when agitated.
Asperger’s syndrome interferes with social skills, but sufferers often have normal to high intelligence. Police say they found Watts armed with a knife in the basement of his parents’ home, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. When one officer sustained a defensive wound to his left forearm, two other officers on the scene fired their weapons. Steven Watts, Stephon’s father, says his son was shot once in the leg, and then again in the head.
(Reuters) – Two men suspected of killing three people and wounding two others in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the weekend were ordered held on bail of more than $9 million each in their first court appearance Monday morning, according to local media.
Roommates Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested early Sunday.
Authorities are charging both men with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single complaint of possession of a firearm while committing a felony, the Tulsa World reported on its website.
Shortly before the killings, which took place on Friday, England had lamented on his Facebook page that two years had passed since his father was killed by a black man, who he referred to with a racial slur.
The victims of the killings were black while England and Watts are white. Harris said hate crime charges would be considered if the evidence supported it.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called for an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Pillay said she was shocked the gunman, George Zimmerman, was not arrested. She also expressed concern about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force in situations where there is a belief of a threat.
Trayvon Martin’s family wants federal scrutiny of the case to extend to the actions of a state prosecutor who declined to press charges
By Michael Vasquez
The former prosecutor assigned to the Trayvon Martin case participated in a “suspicious” meeting with police on the night of the disputed shooting, Martin’s family alleged on Monday.
In a letter sent to sent to the U.S. Department of Justice — which is already reviewing Trayvon’s Feb. 26 death — Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump accused State Attorney Norm Wolfinger of holding a meeting with Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee just hours after Martin had been killed. It was in that meeting, Crump wrote, that the two men “disregarded the lead homicide investigator’s recommendation to arrest George Zimmerman for manslaughter.”
Wolfinger’s response to this new allegation was fast and forceful: the prosecutor insisted that “no such meeting or communication occurred,” and he blasted the Martin family’s letter as “outright lies.”
“I have been encouraging those spreading the irresponsible rhetoric to stop,” Wolfinger said in a written statement.
Crump also addressed an police surveillance videotape of Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford Police station – a video that ABC News said it enhanced for improved quality. The enhanced video shows what appear to be injuries to the back of Zimmerman’s head.
Even if Zimmerman was injured in a scuffle with Trayvon, “is that enough to justify killing an unarmed teen?” Crump said.
Prior to Monday’s letter by the Martin family, the Department of Justice had already started an investigation into Trayvon’s death. But this new letter revealed the family wants federal scrutiny to extend beyond the circumstances of the teen’s death, and into the actions of Wolfinger, who two weeks ago recused himself from the case.
In the early aftermath of the shooting, Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee defended Zimmerman’s actions, but it has become clear in recent days that Sanford investigators closer to the ground wanted to press charges.
Crump, the Martin family attorney, wrote in Monday’s letter that the lead homicide investigator in the case, Chris Serino, has in fact signed an affidavit documenting his opinion that Zimmerman should be arrested on manslaughter charges.
Trayvon, of Miami Gardens, was visiting his father’s girlfriend, who lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community, a newer, multi-ethnic development about five miles away from the old historic part of town.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/26/2730089/sanfords-image-take-a-blow-against.html#moreb#storylink=cpy
Even if Treyvon fought to defend himself he? is still on the right.
Tensions between police in Sanford, Fla., and the black community were already strained before the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“It’s easy to label this as an act of white racism, but it’s really an act of stereotyping, which many groups are capable of and it is occurring in the context of extraordinarily permissive laws,” said Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
On Twitter, there was genuine confusion about Zimmerman’s race. Is he Latino or white? Is Hispanic a race, or not? Shouldn’t he, a Latino, have known better than to engage in racial profiling? Might he be Jewish, based on his last name? Many said his Hispanic lineage had nothing to do with the fact that the justice system had failed Martin, while some said Zimmerman’s identity was very important.
“I’m actually happy that George Zimmerman is Hispanic so the usual white people are all guilty by virtue of their skin color stuff won’t work,” said a March 22 tweet by John Hawkins, who described himself as a professional blogger at Right Wing News.
Hispanic people can be black, white, Asian or mixed. Some 18 million Latinos checked the “some other race” category on their 2010 Census forms – which admonished in bold letters that Hispanic is not a race. So many Hispanics identified themselves as white, the overall number of white people in the United States increased.
“We sit in this in between place in the United States. In the U.S., when we think about race, it’s usually black and white. … Latinos complicate that dichotomy,” said Cynthia Duarte, associate director of research for the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame.
On voter registration forms, George Zimmerman identified himself as Hispanic, as did his mother. His father, Robert, listed himself as white on voter registration forms. Zimmerman’s mother, Gladys, is originally from Peru.
Ethnicities in Peru run the gamut. Descendants of the original people or Amerindians of Peru, those who were under rule of the Inca empire, are the largest ethnic group, followed by those who are a mix of Spanish and Amerindian ancestry, also known as mestizos. Whites are about 15 percent of the population, followed by blacks, Asians and other groups. Class distinctions based on race and language persist in Peru, with whites at the top of the societal hierarchy and indigenous people often at the bottom, a vestige of Spanish colonialism.
Neither Zimmerman nor his family members were available to comment about their family history. Beyond what’s in the police report, Zimmerman has yet to give his side of what happened the night of Feb. 26, when he called police to say he was following a “suspicious” person he believed was on drugs, while Martin, wearing a hooded sweat shirt, walked through the gated Sanford, Fla., townhome community where Zimmerman lives. Police have not charged Zimmerman, who told them he shot Martin in self-defense, something considered justified homicide under Florida’s “stand your ground law.”
George Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, appeared on an Orlando-area news broadcast to defend his son, and told a reporter that Trayvon Martin said to his son: “you’re going to die tonight.”
Zimmerman’s father outlined the scuffle that was part of Zimmerman’s report to the police, which was made public yesterday. The threat the elder Zimmerman attributes to Martin did not appear in that report.
Zimmerman told police that on the night of the shooting that a fight began after Martin sucker-punched him, climbed on top of him, and repeatedly banged his head into the ground.
“After nearly a minute of being beaten, George was trying to get his head off the concrete, trying to move with Trayvon on him into the grass. In doing so, his firearm was shown. Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of ‘you’re going to die now or you’re going to die tonight,’ something to that effect. He continued to beat George and at some point, George pulled his pistol and did what he did.”
According to Tampa Bay Fox affiliate WTVT-TV, what the witness says he saw could bolster Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Martin in self-defense:
“The guy on the bottom who had a red sweater on was yelling to me: ‘help, help…and I told him to stop and I was calling 911,” he said.
Trayvon Martin was in a hoodie; Zimmerman was in red.
The witness only wanted to be identified as “John,” and didn’t not want to be shown on camera.
His statements to police were instrumental, because police backed up Zimmerman’s claims, saying those screams on the 911 call are those of Zimmerman.
“When I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point,” John said.
On Friday night, Zimmerman attorney Craig Sonner appeared on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” and said he client sustained a broken nose and a head laceration on the night of the incident.
“His nose was broken, he sustained injury to his nose and on the back of his head he sustained a cut that was serious enough that probably should have had stitches…it was an injury that was done by Trayvon Martin,” Sonner said.
When police approached Trayvon’s body on the grassy path between the townhouse back porches, they found no I.D. on him. Police ran his fingerprints, but found no record that would help identify him.
When he didn’t return back to the townhouse, there would be another 12 hours before Tracy Martin found out his son was dead.
“I started making calls to see if he was arrested,” he said.
Calls to 911 led him to missing persons, where he left a description of his son. Soon a marked patrol car followed by detectives arrived at Green’s rented townhouse.
“It was drizzling a bit, I said, ‘lets go in the house.’ He [the detective] pulled out a card and said he was from major crimes. Then he said he wasn’t sure, he had sketchy details, but there was an altercation, and Trayvon was shot once in the chest.”
The special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case said that the Sanford Police Department asked the state attorney’s office for an arrest warrant to charge George Zimmerman early in the investigation, but the state’s attorney’s office decided to wait.
The Miami Herald reported that the local police initially went to the Seminole State Attorney with a request to file charges and the police report labeled the case as “homicide/negligent manslaughter.”
“The state attorney impaneled a grand jury, but before anything else could be done, the governor stepped in and asked us to pick it up in mid-stream,” Angela Corey, the special prosecutor on the case said.
Chris Serino, the lead detective on the case, expressed doubts around Zimmerman’s account of the shooting, according to ABC News. Serino filed an affidavit on the night of the shooting in which he said that he was unconvinced of Zimmerman’s version of events.
“I never foresaw so much hate coming from the president, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP,” he said. “Every organization imaginable is trying to get some notoriety or profit from this some way. But there’s so much hate. I’ve never been involved in hate and George hasn’t. It’s really unbelievable.”
“I just hope at one point, they’re willing to go beyond the hate that they have.”
But Robert Zimmerman’s detailing of the altercation between his son and Martin aired the same night that ABC News broadcast police surveillance video showing Zimmerman the night of the shooting which seems to contradict his son’s story. A handcuffed Zimmerman is shown being led by police into the station, and he has no visible injuries or blood stains on his body.
Before George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, a 911 call recorded the voice of someone screaming. Whether that person was Martin or Zimmerman — who police say claimed he was attacked by Martin before the fatal incident — has been an open question since the calls were released by the Sanford, Florida police department.
Also, it’s important keep in mind that all of this footage was taken after Zimmerman received treatment from an EMS team at the scene.
I would presume that in a fight as severe as the one described by Zimmerman, the injuries would have to be substantial. One would expect to see Zimmerman with an obviously broken nose, facial abrasions and head bandages, but we aren’t seeing any of that yet.
Much of what I’ve written has centered around the narrative that Zimmerman was in a situation where he was being pinned down and severely beaten by Trayvon Martin. Those were his statements, they have been supported by at least one witness, and especially by his voice screaming for help on 911 recordings.
If Zimmerman was not injured badly enough for it to be obvious on police station tapes, why was he screaming bloody murder on the 911 calls?
Reports from the EMS team who treated him at the crime scene and other medical personnel will be critical in deciding how injurious this attack really was, and whether Zimmerman’s reaction can be considered appropriate.
Let’s hope someone in Sanford was competent enough to have documented Zimmerman’s injuries properly.
The Orlando Sentinel consulted two voice experts to try to settle the debate, and both came to the same conclusion: The cries could not have come from George Zimmerman.
Yesterday, the special prosecutor in the case said that police at the scene requested a warrant for Zimmerman’s arrest, but were rebuffed and told to wait.
In the video, apparently taken by surveillance cameras outside and inside the police station, Zimmerman’s face and head are clearly visible and show no injuries consistent with the kind of fight Zimmerman’s statement described.
Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community, is seen arriving in a police cruiser. He gets out of the car with his hands cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is clean-shaven and appears several pounds lighter than in ubiquitous mug shot of him taken in 2005 when he was arrested on a charge of assaulting a police officer.
The video’s release comes amid shifting public perception of Martin, whose baby-faced image has become the face of the so-called “Trayvon Martin movement for Justice” that has captivated much of the U.S. Earlier this week, school officials in Miami released Martin’s disciplinary record, showing that he had been on a 10-day suspension when he was killed. According to reports, school officials found an empty baggy that contained marijuana residue. Meanwhile, some websites have replaced widely circulated family photos of Martin with pictures of him sporting removable gold tooth caps. Other websites have picked seemingly random photos of other youth in questionable or offensive poses and claimed that they are of Martin.
Martin’s family has called the counter-offensive an assault on Martin’s character and a “smear campaign.” Tracy Martin, the teen’s father, told HuffPost earlier this week, “I refuse to let them assassinate my son’s character.” He added: “The question should not be why was he suspended from school, it should be why did this man kill him in cold blood.”
Zimmerman shot Martin to death the night of Feb. 26. Martin had been walking toward his father’s girlfriend’s house shortly after 7 p.m. and Zimmerman spotted him and called 911 to report a “suspicious” person. Zimmerman followed Martin, disregarding a police dispatcher who told him “we don’t need you to do that.” Police said early in the investigation that Martin noticed he was being followed, asked Zimmerman what he wanted, and a physical encounter ensued.
In the recently released police reports, Zimmerman told police he got out of his vehicle to follow Martin, but lost sight of him. As he walked back to his vehicle, Martin attacked him from behind, punched him in the nose, knocked him down and began smashing the back of his head into the sidewalk, police reports say Zimmerman told officers. During the tussle, Zimmerman pulled the 9 mm handgun he carried and shot Martin in the chest, he told police.
Lawyers for the Martin family said Zimmerman was the aggressor. The lawyers said Martin’s girlfriend in Miami was on the phone with him just moments before he was killed. The girlfriend has told ABC News and family lawyers that Martin told her someone was following him. She said she heard someone ask Martin something, then what sounded like someone pushing him. The phone sounded like it was then knocked to the ground and went dead, the girl said.
The funeral director who handled Martin’s funeral said there were no cuts or bruises on the teen’s hands that would suggest a violent struggle or fight.
“I didn’t see any evidence he had been fighting anybody,” Richard Kurtz of Roy Mizell and Kurtz Funeral Home in Fort Lauderdale, told television talk show host Nancy Grace.
Police took Zimmerman into custody after they arrived. He was questioned and released later that night. He remains free as the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office reviews the police investigation and decides whether to file charges. The U.S. Justice Department also is investigating.
Zimmerman, the 28-year-old Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin to death last month, was fired from a job securing illegal house parties for “being too aggressive,” according to the New York Daily News, which quoted a former colleague of Zimmerman’s. According to the co-worker, Zimmerman worked for two agencies that provided security for house parties from 2001 to 2005.
“Usually he was just a cool guy,” said the former co-worker, who the newspaper didn’t name. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When dude snapped, he snapped.” The Daily News said Zimmerman earned $50 to $100 a night for the parties. He was fired for being too aggressive with patrons.
“He had a temper and he became a liability,” the newspaper quoted the former co-worker as saying. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted,” he said. “It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”
Where Zimmerman may fit within the range of Hispanic identity is another matter. Although Robert Zimmerman described his son as “Spanish speaking,” it’s clear from the 911 call made that night that George Zimmerman is comfortable speaking English. Some Latinos may not consider Zimmerman to be truly Latino, since only one of his parents is Hispanic.
Some Hispanics, mostly in the Southwest, will say they are Spanish to make clear they identify with Spanish explorers who came to the Americas in the 1500s. In Texas, Latino has only recently become an identifying term; Tejano, Chicano or Mexican American have been more common. Cubans, who make up a large share of Hispanics in Florida, are more likely to identify as white than Puerto Ricans, whose presence is growing in Florida.
Why didn’t the Sanford, Fla., police arrest George Zimmerman after he shot Trayvon Martin Feb. 26? That’s a question that today is more relevant than ever amid reports the lead investigator in the case thought Mr. Zimmerman should be charged with manslaughter for his actions. The investigator, Chris Serino, was unconvinced by Zimmerman’s assertion that he resorted to deadly force in self-defense, according to ABC News. Mr. Serino filed an affidavit to that effect on the night of the killing. But Serino’s superiors, in turn, were apparently unconvinced by Serino’s reasoning. They did not take Zimmerman into custody because of two words: “probable cause.” “The Sanford police said this is why they did not arrest Zimmerman: they did not have probable cause to believe that he had broken the law,” writes legal analyst Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, on the widely read legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy. Florida’ Stand Your Ground law would have been legally irrelevant to this determination, according to Mr. Kopel. Florida has other statutes that allow the use of force against a criminal attack, as do virtually all states. Zimmerman’s story has been that he was doing exactly that: defending against an assault by Martin. In his version of events, Martin knocked him down, then straddled him and pounded his head on the ground. He did not have an opportunity to retreat, he told police.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday that Martin’s killing reflects “the classic struggle of our time” and said it echoes the slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was murdered in 1955 while visiting Mississippi by a group of white men. No one was ever convicted, but Till’s killing galvanized the civil rights movement. An Orlando criminal defense attorney who says he represents Zimmerson told CNN on Friday that his client isn’t racist and the facts will show he acted in self-defense after a fight with the teen. “I don’t believe that George Zimmerman’s a racist or that this was motivated by a dislike for African-Americans,” said Craig Sonner. Tracy Martin often recounted how his son saved his life. The elder Martin had begun heating up some oil to fry fish and fell asleep. The grease caught fire, and when Tracy Martin awoke and tried to put out the flames, he spilled the oil on his legs, severely burning himself. Trayvon Martin pulled his father out of the home and called 911. Martin’s parents kept a close eye on him, but they didn’t have to be too strict, since he stayed out of trouble, Collins said. However, he had recently been suspended from school for five days for tardiness, his English teacher, Michelle Kypriss, told the Orlando Sentinel. School officials did not respond to a request for comment. Martin’s father was not happy and grounded the teen for the duration of the suspension. Trayvon “knew he was wrong,” Horton said. Under state privacy law, only serious felonies appear on juveniles’ public criminal records, and Martin did not have one. Citing the same law, Sanford police Sgt. David Morgenstern said he could neither confirm nor deny the family’s statement that Martin had never gotten in legal trouble. Martin dreamed of becoming a pilot. He had flown on school vacations to various places around the country with his mother, skiing in Colorado one year, going off to Texas another. “There’s no little black kids that want to be pilots,” Horton joked with him when he was about 13. “Well, I’ll be the first one,” the teen replied.
Our son didn’t deserve to die. Trayvon Martin was just 17 years old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon wasn’t doing anything besides walking home with a bag of Skittles and some iced tea in his hands. What makes Trayvon’s death so much harder is knowing that the man who confessed to killing Trayvon, George Zimmerman, still hasn’t been charged for Trayvon’s killing. Despite all this, we have hope. Since we started to lead a campaign on Change.org, more than 1,400,000 people — including you — have signed our petition calling for Florida authorities to prosecute our son’s killer. Our campaign is already starting to work. The FBI and Department of Justice announced they were investigating our son’s killing. Newspapers around the globe are reporting that it’s because of our petition. And the Sanford Police Chief even stepped aside temporarily because of pressure around his handling of the case. But our son’s killer is still free, and we need more people to speak out if we want justice for Trayvon. Can you please share our petition on Facebook and ask your friends and family to sign? Click here to share. You can also click here to email your friends and ask them to sign that way. We aren’t looking for revenge, we’re looking for justice — the same justice anyone would expect if their son were shot and killed for no reason. Thank you so much for all you’ve done to support our family. – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton
George Zimmerman was kicked out of Seminole State College today, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. “Due to the highly charged and high-profile controversy involving this student, Seminole State has taken the unusual but necessary step this week to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrollment,” according to a statement from the college. “This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.” Zimmerman, 28, first enrolled at the college in 2003 and was working toward a vocational certificate to become an insurance agent. He re-enrolled in 2009 and was working toward an Associate in Arts degree in a general studies program, according to the college.
A Florida police chief criticised over the investigation into the shooting of an unarmed black teenager has announced he will temporarily step down. Bill Lee has been censured by officials in Sanford, an Orlando suburb, over the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Florida Governor Rick Scott, meanwhile, announced he had appointed a new prosecutor to lead the investigation. Mr Lee explained his decision at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process,” he said. “Therefore I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself.” He added: “I do this in the hope of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks.” Later on Thursday, Governor Scott announced that state attorney Norman Wolfinger would stand aside from the case. In a letter to the governor, Mr Wolfinger said his move was aimed at “toning down the rhetoric and preserving the integrity of the investigation“. The governor also appointed a task force led by Lt Gov Jennifer Carroll, an African-American, to conduct hearings on the case and to make recommendations for any changes to state law. Police chief Lee’s decision to stand aside comes a day after city commissioners in Sanford issued a vote of no-confidence in him. They voted 3-2 to censure the police chief, who has held his position for just 10 months. Hundreds of people attended a mass rally led by civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton on Thursday evening in Sanford to demand justice for the 17-year-old. Tracy Martin, the victim’s father, was cheered as he told demonstrators: “The temporary step down of Bill Lee is nothing. We want an arrest, we want a conviction.” Mr Martin’s parents have met officials from the Department of Justice, who have launched a civil rights investigation into police conduct of the case. Nearly one million people have signed online petitions calling for justice.
When a rash of burglaries and other crimes broke out in and around a gated community in Sanford, Fla., residents wanted some form of protection. Someone raised the possibility of a neighborhood watch group. But only one resident seems to have come forward for the duties: George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, is the focal point for national outrage over the fatal Feb. 26 shooting of an unarmed teen, Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was returning from a sugar run — he’d bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea at a local convenience store — and was reportedly talking on a cellphone to his girlfriend when he crossed paths with Zimmerman. Zimmerman, meanwhile, had spotted the teen and called police to report a young black male acting suspiciously, according to phone logs. What happened next is a matter of debate, and will ultimately be up to a Seminole County grand jury to decide when it convenes next month. The teen’s girlfriend said she could hear someone confronting Martin. But Zimmerman said that Martin was the aggressor — and that he opened fire in self-defense. He was not arrested. The case has taken on racial overtones as it has captured public attention. A Florida grand jury is considering whether there is enough evidence to file charges, and the US justice department has launched a probe into the conduct of the local police investigation. However, further action could be complicated by a Florida self-defence law that allows the use of deadly force if a person “reasonably” believes they or another person are threatened with death or serious harm. A statement from Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte calls the death of Trayvon Martin a “tragic situation”. But he emphasised that officers of the Sanford police department were “prohibited from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time”. ‘Crazy to wait’ Speaking to NBC’s Today programme, Tracy Martin, the victim’s father, said the shooter was suspicious of his son “because he was young, black and with a hoodie”.
If it was the other way around they would have arrested their son on the spot Benjamin Crump Martin family lawyer
The statement from Trayvon Martin’s parents comes amid continuing public outcry against police handling of the case. Appearing alongside Martin’s parents, their lawyer Benjamin Crump said the shooter “needs to be arrested, prosecuted and convicted”. “Now, the state needs to do it. It’s crazy that this family has to wait for grand juries and stuff when, if it was the other way around they would have arrested their son on the spot.”
By Rene Lynch March 20, 2012, 4:41 p.m. Police identified Zimmerman as white, but his family says he’s Hispanic. Critics of how authorities have dealt with the case have launched marches, petitions and demonstrations, and civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton was expected in the area Tuesday night. Earlier in the day Tuesday, black leaders hand-delivered a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott expressing their concerns and displeasure with how the case has been handled so far. According to local media reports, Zimmerman took seriously his volunteer role as captain of the neighborhood watch group in the diverse community. He had aspirations of being a police officer at one point in his life, and had called 911 to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood nearly 50 times in the last year, according to the Miami Herald. “He once caught a thief and an arrest was made,” Cynthia Wibker, secretary of the homeowners association, told the Herald. “He helped solve a lot of crimes.” But others apparently felt uneasy with Zimmerman’s zealousness. One African American resident, Ibrahim Rashada, told the Herald that Zimmerman seemed friendly and helpful, but Zimmerman also circulated a description of a suspect that pulled Rashada up short. “I fit the stereotype he emailed around,” Rashada said. That realization led Rashada to drive downtown whenever he wants to take a walk and stretch his legs. “I don’t want anyone chasing me,” he said. Zimmerman’s father wrote a letter to the Sun Sentinel that insists that his son is neither a racist nor guilty of being the aggressor in the deadly encounter. The statement was published in full on the newspaper’s website. It reads in part: “George is a Spanish speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever…. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth.” The statement goes on to suggest that the public should be outraged over the “extremely misleading” portrayal of Zimmerman, and hinted that there are key facts that have yet to be made public. “The events of February 26 reported in the media are also totally inaccurate. Out of respect for the on-going investigation, I will not discuss specifics. However, the media reports of the events are imaginary at best. At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin. When the true details of the event become public, and I hope that will be soon, everyone should be outraged by the treatment of George Zimmerman in the media.” ABC News has also been delving into what it suggested were irregularities with the investigation to date. For one, ABC reported, Zimmerman was not tested for drugs or alcohol on the night of the shooting, something that the news organization says is routine in many homicide cases. Moreover, a narcotics detective — and not a trained homicide detective — took Zimmerman’s statement in the wake of the shooting, ABC said. Tracy Martin, the father of the slain teen, said police told him that Zimmerman’s background was “squeaky clean.” However, ABC News reported, public records show that Zimmerman was charged with battery against on officer and resisting arrest in 2005, a charge that was later “expunged” from his record. That allowed him to legally obtain the weapon he was carrying the night of the shooting. Zimmerman and his father have temporarily left their home, after they were the subject of death threats, according to media reports. Most of the attention that tape has garnered has been over the portion where the officer specifically tells Zimmerman he’s not to follow Martin. Had Zimmerman followed these instructions (which are also part of the national guidelines for any Neighborhood Watch, which Zimmerman was a part of), Martin would still be alive. However, now the attention has moved to the seconds before that back and forth. In those moments, Zimmerman can be heard moving after Martin (the sounds of his movements are what caused the officer to ask if he was pursuing Martin). In the midst of these sounds, there seems to be a quick comment made under Zimmerman’s breath and some now say is “fucking coons,” coon obviously being a racial slur against blacks.
Our son didn’t deserve to die. Trayvon Martin was just 17 years old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon wasn’t doing anything besides walking home with a bag of Skittles and some iced tea in his hands. What makes Trayvon’s death so much harder is knowing that the man who confessed to killing Trayvon, George Zimmerman, still hasn’t been charged for Trayvon’s killing. Despite all this, we have hope. Since we started to lead a campaign on Change.org, more than 500,000 people — including you — have signed our petition calling for Florida authorities to prosecute our son’s killer. Our campaign is already starting to work. Just last night, the FBI and Department of Justice announced they were investigating our son’s killing. Newspapers around the globe are reporting that it’s because of our petition. But our son’s killer is still free, and we need more people to speak out if we want justice for Trayvon. Can you please share our petition on Facebook and ask your friends and family to sign? Click here to share. You can also click here to email your friends and ask them to sign that way. We aren’t looking for revenge, we’re looking for justice — the same justice anyone would expect if their son were shot and killed for no reason. Thank you so much for all you’ve done to support our family. – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton Police arrived minutes later. After the shooting, Trayvon’s body was bagged and taken to the morgue, where he was tagged as a John Doe. Critics have noted that no one contacted Trayvon’s family even though police had his cell phone in their possession. The Miami Herald reports Zimmerman had taken it upon himself to patrol the neighborhood and had called police 46 times since January 2011 to report suspicious activity or other incidents. Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26th, but it’s only weeks later that his story is gaining national attention after a campaign led by family members and the release of the 911 tapes last week. JASMINE RAND: I mean, I think it just—it shows that the Sanford Police Department—I mean, there was either corruption or just woeful ignorance on their behalf. They were calling the family, after losing their child, harassing the parents over his phone, wanting to get—you know, get to his phone, get in his phone. And they had the phone in their possession the entire time. So, you know, there are a lot of questions that I can’t answer, because they don’t make sense.
In September 2010, Trevor Dooley stormed into a park near his home outside Tampa, angry because a teenager was skateboarding on the basketball court. Dooley was carrying a .32-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his pants, and it was visible to David James, 41, who was in the park with his 8-year-old daughter. James tried to disarm Dooley, who is now 71, and as the two men tussled on the ground, Dooley shot James in the chest, killing him. Prosecutors, not surprisingly, charged Dooley with manslaughter. But if Dooley’s lawyers can convince a judge by next week that he fired the gun because his life was being threatened — that he is therefore protected under Florida’s “stand your ground” law — Dooley may well walk away a free man. A growing number of people hope the judge will make Dooley stand trial on the manslaughter charge. But that sentiment has as much to do with another tragedy that occurred last month, 60 miles (100 km) to the northeast, in Sanford, Fla. That’s the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed the night of Feb. 26 while walking back to the house where he was staying in a gated community. The shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain, was following Martin because he thought the 17-year-old, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, looked suspicious. When the two got into an altercation, Zimmerman fired the gun he was carrying. As astonishing as it sounds, Sanford police have refused to charge Zimmerman — although the state attorney’s office now says it will convene a grand jury next month to investigate the case. The cops have been balking in large part because, under the stand-your-ground statute, they’re virtually obligated to accept his argument that he was acting in self-defense — even if it was Martin who may have felt more threatened, according to recordings of 911 calls by neighbors that were released over the weekend. The 2005 Florida law permits anyone, anywhere to use deadly force against another person if they believe their safety or life is in danger, and it’s the state’s usually futile task to prove that the act wasn’t justified. Little wonder the St. Petersburg Times found that five years after the law was signed by then Governor Jeb Bush — who called it a “good, commonsense anti-crime” bill — claims of justifiable homicides in Florida more than tripled, from just over 30 to more than 100 in 2010. In that time, the stand-your-ground defense was used in 93 cases involving 65 deaths — and in the majority of those cases, it worked. Pro-gun advocates like the National Rifle Association, which pushed hard for stand your ground, say it simply broadens citizens’ capacity for self-defense. But if Dooley and now Zimmerman do walk, there may be an understandable public backlash against a statute that in reality has made the streets, bars and parks of Florida — and of the at least 16 other states that have enacted similar laws since 2005 — more dangerous spaces. Stand your ground, which many Floridians sardonically call “shoot first,” didn’t broaden self-defense as much as it broke with centuries of British and American common (and commonsense) law that absolved such deadly force only in cases involving the “castle doctrine,” that is, defending one’s home against a violent intruder. (MORE: Trayvon Martin’s Murder: Was the Motive Self-Defense or Racism?)
In the final moments of his life, Trayvon Martin was being hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him, according to the teenage girl whose call logs show she was on the phone with the 17-year-old boy in the moments before neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot him dead. Martin’s death Feb. 26 has stirred national outrage and protests, partly prompting the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI to open an investigation into the case. ABC News was there exclusively as the 16-year-old girl told Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump about the last moments of the teenager’s life. “He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man,” Martin’s friend said. “I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run.” Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he’d managed to escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin. “Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again and he didn’t answer the phone.” The line went dead. Besides screams heard on 911 calls that night as Martin and Zimmerman scuffled, those were the last words he said. Trayvon’s phone logs, also obtained exclusively by ABC News, show the conversation occurred five minutes before police first arrived on scene. The young woman’s parents asked that her name not be used, and that only an attorney could ask her questions. Martin’s father, Tracey Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, listened to the call along with ABC News, ashen-faced. “He knew he was being followed and tried to get away from the guy, and the guy still caught up with him,” Tracey Martin said. “And that’s the most disturbing part. He thought he had got away from the guy and the guy back-tracked for him.” The teen was killed by Zimmerman while walking back to his father’s fiancés home after stepping out to buy Skittles and some iced tea during the NBA All-Star Game. After weeks of relentless pressure, the Sanford Police have decided to release emergency and non-emergency calls placed during the incident. “These a**holes always get away,” Zimmerman says in a call to a non-emergency number. Dispatcher: “Are you following him?” Zimmerman: “Yeah.” Dispatcher: “We don’t need you to do that.” An altercation soon ensued. A few moments later a torrent of 911 calls flooded in and Martin was killed by a single bullet. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and has yet to be arrested, stoking outrage and claims of prejudice against the police department. “When George Zimmerman is arrested, tried and convicted I will get a little rest,” Tracey Martin said. According to a statement by the Justice Department, “The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action and the conclusion of the investigation. … The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.” Nearly half a million people have signed an online petition on change.org urging law enforcement officials to step in and arrest Zimmerman. Protests have played out in the Florida town all week with a large gathering expected Thursday. Zimmerman violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual, ABC News has learned. The manual from the Neighborhood Watch program states: “It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers. And they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.” According to Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch program, there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group, which police were not aware of at the time of the incident.
The family of Trayvon Martin is asking the FBI to get involved in the investigation of the killing of the unarmed 17-year-old Florida high school student, who was shot last month by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman outside his stepmother’s home. Martin, a black high-school junior, was making his way home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman spotted him, called a non-emergency dispatch number to report Martin looked intoxicated, followed him, and then minutes later after an altercation, shot him. Zimmerman, 28, who is white, claimed self defense. He was never arrested and has been charged with no crime, sparking national outrage. ABC News has learned police seemed to accept Zimmerman’s account at face value that night and that he was not tested for drugs or alcohol on the night of the shooting, even though it is standard procedure in most homicide investigations. Now Martin family attorney Ben Crump has written a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, and it’s being circulated by several members of congress who are putting pressure on him to get the FBI involved. An FBI spokesman told ABC News: “We are aware of the incident, we have been in contact with local authorities and are monitoring the matter.” The night of Feb. 26, Zimmerman made a non-emergency call to police before fatally shooting Martin, in which he told a dispatcher, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something.” But law enforcement expert Rod Wheeler who listened to the tapes tells ABC News that Zimmerman, not Martin, sounded intoxicated in the police recordings of the 911 calls. “When I listened to the 911 tape the first thing that came to my mind is this guy sounds intoxicated. Notice how he’s slurring his words. We as trained law enforcement officers, we know how to listen for that right away and I think that’s going to be an important element of this entire investigation,” Wheeler said. But Zimmerman was not tested. Martin’s family is now calling on the FBI to take over what they say is a botched investigation. “We’ve got a fair investigation, it was the best we can do, it’s in states attorney hands now,” Sanford Police Department spokesman Dave Morgenstern said.