Monthly Archives: February 2019

Police captain praised, vilified for showing sympathy with Ferguson protesters: report – National

ABOVE: St. Louis County police officers in Ferguson arrest protesters during violent confrontation Thursday night 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Newly released emails, sent to and from Missouri’s top public-safety officials, show that the state police captain placed in charge of security in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death was both vilified and praised for attempting to replace authorities’ militarized approach with one more sympathetic to protesters.

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The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request, also show that police tried to find a way to protect members of the clergy who were in the protest crowds, and that some officers objected to an order to take their meal breaks in public.

The messages offer a small window into the inner workings of Missouri law-enforcement agencies as they tried to quell the tensions that arose following the fatal shooting of the black 18-year-old by white police officer Darren Wilson. The records also illustrate one of the many challenges authorities could face if new protests develop – how to walk a fine line between providing public empathy and security.

There is no specific date for a grand jury decision to be announced on whether to charge Wilson. But anticipation has been mounting because St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said previously that he expects a decision by mid-to-late November.

As early as Labor Day weekend, police were already discussing the need to develop a well-co-ordinated plan for a potential surge in protests when the grand jury decision is announced.

Brown, who was unarmed, was shot after some sort of confrontation with Wilson, who had ordered Brown and a friend to quit walking down the centre of a street. Wilson has told authorities that he realized after initially encountering Brown that he matched the description of a suspect in a convenience store robbery that occurred just minutes earlier, according to reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that cited unnamed sources.

The shooting stirred long-simmering racial tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb where the police force is composed almost entirely of white officers. After a night of riots and looting, police in subsequent days approached protesters in armoured vehicles and used tear gas after some demonstrators threw rocks or Molotov cocktails.

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is black, was put in charge by Gov. Jay Nixon to try to restore calm. He talked and marched with protesters, posed with them for photos and spoke to loud applause at a rally where he apologized to Brown’s family and described his relationship with his own son who wears sagging pants and has tattoos.

Johnson and his supervisors received numerous emails and phone calls complimenting his demeanour from law officers across Missouri and the country.

“Your agency and Captain Johnson are making Troopers all over the country proud,” Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Col. Matt Langer wrote to Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Ron Replogle.

But other current and retired law enforcement officers sharply criticized the highway patrol, asserting that Johnson’s apology and actions implied Wilson was guilty of a crime without the benefit of a trial.

“The actions of Cpt. Johnson have infuriated me,” retired patrol officer Mike Watson wrote to Replogle. “He has single handedly destroyed the reputation of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.”

The emails show that patrol officers occasionally took personal steps to try to ease tensions or problems.

Johnson, for example, received an email from a woman who lived in the apartment complex near where Brown was shot. She complained that she was having difficulty going back and forth to her job because of protests and police blockades. Johnson told her the problem would be corrected within that week.

One officer, acknowledging he was going outside the chain of command, pleaded in an email to supervisors to tell rank-and-file officers that clergy intermingling among protesters were trying to help and should be treated accordingly. He suggested pastors could wear brightly colored T-shirts with the word “CLERGY” on front and back. Replogle, the highway patrol’s top officer, responded by offering to pay for the shirts himself, if necessary.

At other times, officers appeared to bristle at some of the expectations for interacting with residents.

In late August, a lieutenant for the highway patrol sent an email to officers in the St. Louis region detailing their shifts for patrolling Ferguson, with a requirement “to be seen by the public.”

“When eating meals, troopers must patronize the businesses in the area and not congregate at the Ferguson Police Department,” the lieutenant wrote.

Another officer redistributed the email with a note atop, stating: “The Patrol cannot force you to eat lunch with your own money,” and thanking those who attended a lunch hosted by the wives’ of Ferguson police officers.

3 wounded, gunman killed after shooting at Florida State University – National

WATCH: Police are investigating the Florida State campus shooting as more information about the gunman becomes available. Kris Van Cleave has the latest.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A gunman opened fire early Thursday at a Florida State University library sending hundreds of students who had been up all night studying for exams scrambling for cover in the book aisles and barricading themselves in with desks. Three students were wounded before police killed the gunman in a shootout, authorities said.

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Police and FSU officials called the shooting an “isolated incident,” but have not released many details, including how far the suspected gunman made it into Strozier Library. FSU’s compact campus is located less than a mile from downtown Tallahassee and the state capitol.

“This person just for whatever reason produced a handgun and then began shooting students in the library,” FSU Police Chief David Perry said.

The attack started soon after midnight when students inside the multistory library heard about half a dozen gunshots. Students began screaming that someone was shooting at them and flipped over chairs in their race to take cover.

“I ran for my life,” said Allison Kope, a freshman from Cocoa Beach, who was on the library’s first floor. “I ran right out the backdoor. My laptop and everything is still in there. It was shock. It was just instinct. You don’t think about anything else, you just go.”

Other students hid in the book aisles and some barricaded themselves in rooms.

Sarah Evans, a senior from Miami, said she was inside the library and heard a male student say he had been shot. When she looked at him, he was on the ground with blood spreading on his pants leg.

WATCH: Florida Governor Rick Scott praised the work of first responders and told FSU students “your campus is safe once again”

Two of the victims were taken to a local hospital. FSU officials said a third student was only grazed by a bullet and was treated at the scene and released.

Tallahassee and Florida State University police confronted the gunman just outside the library that sits in the middle of the campus and ordered him to drop his handgun, but he fired a shot at them and they unleashed a volley of shots, Tallahassee Police spokesman Dave Northway said.

Hours after the shooting, detectives could be seen inspecting the body of the suspected gunman, who was lying face down at the top of an access ramp just outside the library. A grey baseball cap lay near his head.

The shooting prompted a campus alert that urged students to take shelter and stay away from doors and windows. After the shooting, FSU officials announced classes would be cancelled for Thursday.

WATCH: Video published on YouTube shows FSU students listening to a public address announcement indicating that a shooting has taken place in the school’s library

Daniel Morales, a 19-year-old freshman from Fort Pierce who was in the library during the attack, said that when he first heard someone say “somebody’s got a gun. I thought he was joking.” But after realizing there was a gunman in the library, Morales and others raced to a back room on the second floor where they barricaded a door with desks.

Freshman Nikolai Hernandez said he was in his dorm room across from the library when he heard five or six rapid gunshots.

“It was a consecutive bop, bop, bop, bop, bop,” Hernandez said. “It makes me definitely a little bit nervous. I was supposed to be in the library. I had a paper to do and I got a little bit lazy and decided not to do it.”

Florida State President John Thrasher, who took office earlier this month, said by phone that he was in New York City at the time of the shooting. He said he was scheduled to return to Tallahassee later Thursday.

Associated Press writer Jeff McMurray in Chicago contributed to this report.


Ebola outbreak hampers adoptions in West Africa – National

CHICAGO – The Ebola epidemic has put adoptions in impacted west African countries at a standstill for obvious reasons.

Tessa and Joel Sanborn understand. The arrival of their 5-year-old adopted son Devine, who is in an orphanage in Liberia, is on hold, indefinitely, as the state of emergency continues there.

“We love Liberia, and we want what’s best for the country as a whole,” says Tessa Sanborn, who lives with her husband and their six other children in Maple Valley, Washington, just outside Seattle.

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But the waiting is still difficult, as it is for other parents in a similar predicament. And even as some families keep their commitment to adopt, despite the Ebola threat, the numbers of children in west African orphanages who’ve lost parents is only increasing because of the deadly virus.

READ MORE: How does Ebola spread? 5 things you need to know

Some aid workers also say a shortage of food and supplies is making it difficult to care for those of children, and that fear is hampering efforts to place those who’ve lost parents to Ebola, even within their home countries.

It is just the latest crisis in Liberia, a country that was attempting to overcome the ravages of war before Ebola hit, says Patricia Anglin, executive director and founder of Acres of Hope, a children’s aid organization in Liberia that houses many orphans, including Devine.

“Long after Ebola is even eradicated, we will have the devastation and challenges left behind of these orphans who need to be cared for,” Anglin says.

Anglin, who is American but based in Liberia, is in the United States for a month, trying to raise emergency funds for food and supplies, and to keep her organization going.

Adoptions, while a relatively small part of the organization’s services, help fund it, she says. So with those on hold, she and her staff have stopped taking a salary and are focusing on relief efforts.

“We can’t do it alone,” Anglin tells the philanthropy and school groups she’s been addressing across the Midwest in recent weeks.

Already, the Sanborns have adopted twin daughters from Acres of Hope – 2-year-old Faith and Favour. Faith had a stroke at birth and, with the help of her new parents, is getting therapy to strengthen use of her right hand and foot.

The couple was able to adopt the girls because of Faith’s medical needs. Favor was allowed to come with her. But, though they met him when they went to Liberia last December, Devine had to wait.

READ MORE: Questions and answers about the U.S. Ebola case

Then Ebola hit.

Tessa Sanborn tears up when recalling having to leave him. “It’s never a place a parent wants to be,” she says, sitting with husband Joel at their dining room table.

While they wait, they and other families have organized a food and supply drive for Devine’s orphanage at local restaurant.

It’s difficult, because of the scale of the Ebola outbreak, to calculate the number of children in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea who’ve lost one or both parents to the disease. The current estimate is about 7,000, according to Anglin and other aid workers.

Guinea has never been a significant source of children adopted by Americans, while the number of children from Sierra Leone adopted by U.S. families has ranged from 33 in 2013 to six in 2009.

Liberia used to be a major partner with U.S. adoption agencies, but the situation has changed recently due to complications unrelated to Ebola. According to State Department figures, there were only 12 adoptions from Liberia by Americans in 2013, down from a high of 353 in 2006.

Experts on international adoptions caution that disasters and emergencies, such as the Ebola crisis, should not be occasions to hastily encourage adoptions.

“The first priority is to reunite children with their close relatives or other community members willing to look after them,” says Najwa Mekki, a communications officer with UNICEF. “Children are never more vulnerable than in the contexts of large-scale emergencies… Making permanent decisions about children’s long-term care should be kept to an absolute minimum during this period.”

READ MORE: Canada prepping for potential Ebola cases

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a Virginia-based child-advocacy organization whose partners include many U.S. adoption agencies, has taken a similar stance, as has the State Department.

“We want to avoid the situation where adoptive parents go through the process and then are disappointed,” says Niles Cole, a State Department spokesman.

Anglin, of Acres Hope, fully supports family reunification, but says that has been challenging when a child has been exposed to the virus, even if they haven’t contracted it.

“Those that have extended families, some of those extended families are afraid to reach out to them,” she says. “Often times, the traditional thinking is that those children will always be contagious.”

The nature of this crisis – and fear that people who go to help will get sick – also makes it much more difficult to send aid workers to help reunify families, says Stephanie Francois, the director of international programs at Adoption Link, an adoption agency in Oak Park, Illinois.

Her organization sent a social worker to Haiti, as did others, after the 2010 earthquake there to help children find their families.

But that has not as possible in this crisis.

So Francois says fundraising efforts like Anglin’s are especially important – and give people a way to help “without the fear factor.”

Anglin, meanwhile, continues to track the status of orphans such as Devine, so she can update his parents. The impact of Ebola can be difficult to explain to a young child, she says.

“He’s, I guess, doing as well as can be expected, but every day, asks, ‘When do I get to go? When do I get to go to America and be with my family?”‘ Anglin says.


David Crary in New York City and Ted S. Warren in Seattle contributed to this report.

Facebook shuttle drivers vote to unionize – National

MENLO PARK, Calif. – Facebook shuttle bus drivers voted Wednesday to unionize in an attempt to get better pay and working conditions, a move that experts say could lead other service workers in Silicon Valley to unionize.

Drivers with Facebook’s shuttle bus contractor, Loop Transportation, voted 43-28 to join the Teamsters Local 853.

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“This is the change we’ve been waiting for, but we’ll see what happens when we start negotiating a contract,” elated driver Cliff Doi told the San Jose Mercury News. “We just hope the rest of the shuttle drivers around the Bay Area will join us in our fight.”

Facebook drivers have complained for months about how their $18-an-hour wage and split shifts make surviving in one of the nation’s most expensive regions a daily struggle.

Many drivers say they have to sleep in their cars or at Loop’s shuttle yard in the hours between bringing Facebook employees to work each morning and then picking them up in the afternoon.

That the average Facebook software engineer makes almost $120,000 year, according to Glassdoor苏州夜网, made their own modest wages seem even more offensive, the drivers said.

San Jose State University sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton said he thinks the joining of a union by the 84 full- and part-time drivers could signal to other lower-wage workers that union representation may be a way to narrow the income gap in the Valley.

“Wages have remained stagnant while these top tech icons are booming and showing record profits,” Myers-Lipton said. “Average Americans are saying that they just want to share in the growth that’s going on around them, especially here in Silicon Valley.”

For some activists, the shuttles that transport thousands of city workers each day to Silicon Valley have become a symbol of economic inequality, rising housing costs and evictions in San Francisco and they have targeted them while protesting gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area.