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History > 2014 > USA > Gun violence (II)




Saury Rojas

outside his apartment with a photo of his father, Angel Rojas.


Josie Guerrero, a cousin of Mr. Rojas’s, is at left.


Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times


 Boy, 14, Is Charged With Murder in Stray Shooting on Brooklyn Bus


















Capital Looks to Next Step

After Defeat on Gun Rights


JULY 29, 2014

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — Gun rights advocates have been working for years to undo the District of Columbia’s tough restrictions on firearms ownership. Now they have won a new legal victory — one that has thrown city officials into a tailspin over the prospect of gun owners carrying weapons on the streets of the nation’s capital.

At issue is the city’s decades-old ban on carrying handguns in public. Over the weekend, a Federal District Court judge struck down that ban, declaring it unconstitutional. On Tuesday, the same judge, responding to a request from lawyers for the city, put a 90-day hold on his ruling.

Now District of Columbia officials must decide whether to appeal the decision — a move that gun rights advocates say they would welcome, on the theory that it might give rise to an eventual Supreme Court case — or write a new law laying out specifications for who could carry a gun and under what circumstances.

City officials said Tuesday that no decision had been made. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is expected to address the issue at a news conference on Wednesday morning. But the ruling in the case, Palmer et al. v. District of Columbia, alarmed gun control advocates and left gun rights advocates elated.

“One could read this ruling as allowing rampant carrying of firearms in the District of Columbia,” said Jonathan E. Lowy, legal director for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, adding that would be “a nightmare scenario for law enforcement particularly given the high-profile targets, the foreign dignitaries, tourists, public officials” who visit.

The Palmer case is the outgrowth of a carefully planned strategy by gun rights advocates to roll back restrictions on gun ownership across the nation. It was first filed in 2009, backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, a small nonprofit organization based in Bellevue, Wash. In 2008, the same group won a landmark Supreme Court Case, District of Columbia v. Heller, that overturned the city’s ban on gun ownership.

“D.C. has been on our list for a long time,” said Alan Gottlieb, the organization’s founder. Of the latest ruling, he said: “We’re ecstatic. This case now opens up doors for us for even additional litigation, and we’re quite excited about it.”

In the Heller case, the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment, which invokes the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated militia,” extended to individuals. In a subsequent decision, the justices overturned Chicago’s citywide gun ownership ban and extended the Heller decision to the states.

While those cases eliminated all handgun bans in the country, they left open the question of whether other gun restrictions, such as prohibitions on carrying weapons in public, were constitutional. One by one, mostly through legislative action in the states, but also as a result of court rulings, such bans have fallen, typically replaced with laws giving law enforcement officials the authority to decide who can carry guns in public.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

The District of Columbia’s ban was the last such law in the nation. Ruling on Saturday in the Palmer case, Senior Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., who ordinarily sits in Syracuse, struck down the law, saying “there is no longer any basis” on which he could construe the ban as constitutional “under any level of scrutiny.”

That a judge from outside the District of Columbia decided the case created a minor uproar here. The Palmer case was initially assigned to the federal court in the District of Columbia, which has jurisdiction, but that court has a backlog. So in July 2011, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — who as the overseer of all federal courts must ensure that cases move through the system — reassigned it, along with other cases, to Judge Scullin.

In Washington, where multiple law enforcement agencies — including the local police and a separate federal force that safeguards the Capitol — operate in concert, the decision created immediate confusion, which prompted the city to ask for the ruling to be placed on hold.

“Under the current ruling, possession of a firearm outside of the home or business in and of itself MAY NOT be criminal,” Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department wrote in a memo to her officers on Monday, using capital letters for emphasis. But, she added, “District residents are still PROHIBITED from possessing a firearm that is not legally registered in the District.”

The mayor’s office said law enforcement officials still had the authority to restrict guns on city property, including schools, recreation centers and City Hall. A spokesman said Mr. Gray “remains committed to having reasonable gun safety measures in the District.”

Going forward, if the city does not appeal, its officials will have to decide just what those measures should be. Mr. Lowy said the court acknowledged that “guns can be banned in sensitive places.” He added, “And there’s no question, that there are many sensitive places in D.C.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 30, 2014,
on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline:
Capital Looks to Next Step After Defeat on Gun Rights.

    Capital Looks to Next Step After Defeat on Gun Rights, NYT, 29.7.2014,






Two Lives Collide, and End,

at an Elvis Shrine


JULY 17, 2014

The New York Times



HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — Late on Tuesday night, Dwight David Taylor Jr. walked past the stone lions, the grove of blue Christmas trees and the pillars topped by spray-painted basketballs and stood on the front porch of Graceland Too.

Showing up here late at night was not in itself unusual as Graceland Too, a deliriously baroque shrine to all things Elvis Presley and many things less obviously germane, was advertised as ready to give tours at any hour. Over the past 24 years, it has become a destination for drunk fraternity brothers in the middle of the night and international tourists on the Elvis pilgrimage from Tupelo (for the birthplace) to Memphis (for the other Graceland), while its resident, Paul McLeod, has gone from eccentric proprietor to main attraction.

It is still unclear what brought Mr. Taylor, 28, to the house on Tuesday, but by 10:45, he was dead, shot by Mr. McLeod in his front room, apparently after having forced his way in. Less than two days later, Mr. McLeod was dead, too, found around sunrise on Thursday in a chair on his front porch, apparently succumbing to natural causes, perhaps compounded by the traumas of the past 36 hours.

There were plenty of people here in Holly Springs who knew Mr. Taylor as someone almost perpetually down on his luck, living in an abandoned house and knocking on doors looking for odd jobs or a little money, and they feared a bad end.

There were plenty more who knew Mr. McLeod, the town’s biggest tourist draw even among the genteel antebellum homes, and they worried that his failing health and eccentric lifestyle — he drank two dozen Coca-Colas a day — would catch up to him. But no one could have foreseen quite this collision, like a Flannery O’Connor story set in the present day, between two neighbors, one living in a world of surreal and unlikely renown, the other trying to create any kind of a world at all.

“It’s a sad story,” said Tim Liddy, a pharmacist who knew them both. “You had these two guys, and both of them weren’t all there.”

What was there for Mr. McLeod was there in excess. In his two-story, often repainted, home, which one could tour for $5, were Elvis posters, Elvis candy wrappers and Elvis postage stamps, photographs of famous people with Elvis and photographs of famous people who did not know Elvis but who had been in the same city at some point, a homemade electric chair meant to evoke “Jailhouse Rock” and scraps of carpet that came (he told visitors) from Graceland, and which you could buy for $20 a square inch. There were giant stacks of TV Guides, every issue that referred to Elvis, and a bank of constantly playing TVs, where Mr. McLeod would carefully mark down every mention of Elvis and store each note in a growing library of binders.

“For example: 1991, ‘Arsenio Hall Show,’ a mention of Elvis,” said Bronson Pharr, 23, who had been a friend of Mr. McLeod’s since 2007.

Over the years, Graceland Too evolved from an Elvis shrine into a kind of tribute to the museum itself, with mounted photographs of every person who came in the door; portraits of celebrities who visited, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s daughters; and even, Mr. Pharr said, panties that Mr. McLeod claimed were gifts from his female admirers.

He also bragged of a large gun collection, but no one thought much of it.

“We were standing in the back room of his house before you go into the backyard,” recalled Adam Flaherty, a senior at Ole Miss. “He said something the effect of, ‘If someone came in there, I’d show them this right here.’ ” Mr. McLeod flashed a handgun, but Mr. Flaherty figured it was all for dramatic effect, which, friends say, most things were.

While Mr. McLeod’s tours were known for his free-associating and almost indecipherably rapid monologues, his family situation was somewhat enigmatic. Mr. McLeod’s friends said he was 70 years old, but they were not absolutely sure. Many people knew his former wife, who was from Holly Springs, but she left decades ago, apparently crowded out by his obsession.

His son, Elvis Aron Presley McLeod, worked alongside his father for years at Graceland Too, but one day years ago he disappeared. Mr. McLeod said he had gone to New York, but Sarah Taylor, a friend who is unrelated to the victim, said she thought that might have been only a guess.

“I think Elvis just left,” she said. “Probably changed his name.”

Phillip Knecht, a lawyer who had agreed to represent Mr. McLeod on Wednesday in the shooting, said he had managed to track down the former wife as well as two grown daughters, none of whom lived nearby. Mr. Knecht stood on the front porch of Graceland Too in the morning as men sent by the bank padlocked the house. What will become of the collection is anyone’s guess.

The story of Mr. Taylor — young, black, poor, in and out of jail, and trying to get by in a small town — was not as peculiar in rural Mississippi.

“He was a good character and a bad character,” said his brother, Marco Taylor. “He struggled like we all did, but you know he tried to change his life.” Dwight Taylor’s family told Memphis television stations that Mr. Taylor went over to Mr. McLeod’s house because he was owed money for work he had done there.

Shannon McNally, a roots and blues musician, said Mr. Taylor and his wife often came to her house looking for work; she would pay them to do some gardening. He was unable to find a steady job and struggling to stay out of jail. He showed up at odd hours, she acknowledged, but as a musician she did not mind that as much as others in town might.

“I felt him really trying,” she said. In recent weeks, though, separated from his wife and nervous about going to jail, Mr. Taylor appeared to her to be “slipping further and further away.” He was at Ms. McNally’s house on Tuesday night. She said she had a bad feeling: He seemed unusually rattled, so they sat on her porch and performed breathing exercises. Then he left.

The police, who had questioned and released Mr. McLeod, are investigating the shooting, but few expect any charges to be brought. The episode seems less like a criminal mystery than a tragedy about two men whom everyone seemed to know, while perhaps few actually did.

“People looked at him and thought he was crazy, but he was not crazy,” Annie Moffitt said of Mr. McLeod, who used to go to her home cooking restaurant nearly every day for spaghetti and meatballs and Cokes. “I used to tell people the only time you look down on a man is when you’re trying to pick him up. You can’t read a book by its cover. You have to open it in order for you to read what’s there.”



Correction: July 17, 2014

Because of an editing error, a caption misstated the year that a photograph of Paul McLeod, the proprietor of the Elvis Presley museum Graceland Too, was taken. It was 2012, not 2007.

Lacey Russell contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on July 18, 2014, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Two Lives Collide, and End, at an Elvis Shrine.

    Two Lives Collide, and End, at an Elvis Shrine, NYT, 17.7.2014,






Jersey City Officer Is Fatally Shot

While Responding to Robbery Report


JULY 13, 2014

The New York Times




JERSEY CITY — When he was a teenager, Melvin Santiago was held up at gunpoint by a robber outside a gas station on the city’s west side. The experience made him want to become a police officer so that he could help make the neighborhood safer for his younger brother and the cousins he would go bowling with every other weekend.

Just seven months after joining the force, Officer Santiago, 23, responded to a report on Sunday morning of an armed robbery at a Walgreens store not far from that gas station. Riding in the passenger seat of a police car, he and his colleague were the first to reach the store around 4 a.m.

As Officer Santiago opened the door to step out, a gunman ambushed him and opened fire, the authorities said.

Moments before killing the officer, the gunman, Lawrence Campbell, 27, had told a witness outside the store to watch the news later because he was going to be famous, the mayor, Steven M. Fulop, said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Mr. Campbell never robbed the store. Upon entering, he asked the guard where he could buy a greeting card. He walked in the direction of the cards, then left the store and circled back, armed with a knife. He attacked the guard and took his gun, Mr. Fulop said.

He waited about four minutes for the police to arrive before approaching Officer Santiago and shooting him in the head at close range, the mayor said. The gunman then fired three more times at a second police car, he said, intending to kill two other officers inside.

Officers at the scene returned fire, killing the gunman, Mr. Fulop said.

On Sunday, Officer Santiago’s family was mourning the loss of the determined young man who had followed in his uncle’s footsteps in joining the local police force. Standing outside her apartment, less than two miles away from the Walgreens store, his mother, Cathy McBride, said her son “died doing what he loved.”

“My brother’s a retired police officer, and he wanted to be like my brother,” she said. “And he was just like my brother. He was honest and he was good, and he was respectful and he was dedicated.”

Ms. McBride called the gunman a coward and said his hope of becoming famous from the shooting did not deserve to be fulfilled.

“My son is gone because of that,” she said, adding, “He didn’t have a chance to see what was coming.”

Mr. Campbell was one of three suspects in another killing in Jersey City that remained under investigation, the mayor said. In the last few days, the police had aggressively searched for the suspects in that case, including another man, Daniel Wilson. The mayor’s office released a photo of Mr. Wilson on Sunday and said the authorities were still searching for him.

Officer Santiago was the first Jersey City police officer killed in the line of duty since Detective Marc DiNardo died in July 2009 after a shootout at an apartment in which four other officers were injured.

“It is a tragic situation when any officer is killed in the line of duty,” Mr. Fulop said. “Melvin was an officer who represented everything one would want to see in a police officer.”

For a lifelong admirer of police work, Officer Santiago’s first few months on the job were a thrill, his aunt, Aggie Santiago, said. He savored them all the more because he had struggled with the tests and exercises required to reach his goal.

Once on the job, no neighborhood mischief was too small to escape his notice. Even family members were not exempt. Ms. Santiago, 42, recalled him telling an 18-year-old cousin: “Make sure you’re in tiptop shape. If I see you doing something wrong, you’ll be arrested.”

The city’s west side in particular is plagued by violence and drug crimes, Officer Santiago’s second cousin, Abraham Lopez, said. That danger was the reason he had asked to serve there.

“He chose that district knowing it was a hot district,” Mr. Lopez, 29, said.

Officer Santiago was so serious about his young career, Mr. Fulop said, that an officer who took him out for pizza recently joked with him that he needed to smile a bit more.

On Sunday morning, Officer Santiago’s family arrived at Jersey City Medical Center, where he had been pronounced dead. His mother, the mayor said, “kept repeating his badge number and saying, ‘It’s not possible.’ ”

Benjamin Mueller reported from Jersey City,

and Emma G. Fitzsimmons from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on July 14, 2014,

on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline:

Jersey City Officer Is Shot to Death by Gunman;

Police Kill Suspect.

    Jersey City Officer Is Fatally Shot While Responding to Robbery Report,
    NYT, 13.7.2014,






Man Being Held in Killing of Six in Houston


JULY 10, 2014

The New York Times



A 33-year-old man was being held Thursday on six counts of murder after the police said he shot four children and two adults inside a house in a Houston suburb as part of a domestic dispute.

The police said that it was not clear how the gunman, identified by the authorities as Ronald Haskell, was related to the victims, but that he was married to a relative of the homeowners, who were among those killed.

“It was a domestic situation involving a divorce, but beyond that, we’ve had no statement from him,” Ron Hickman, a Harris County constable, said.

Mr. Hickman said that on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Haskell drove to the relatives’ house in Spring, Tex., “gathered up the children that were here and awaited the arrival of the parents.”

Mr. Haskell, the police said, then shot and killed six people, whose names or ages have not yet been released. Five members of the family were found dead by the police when they arrived at the house. A sixth victim died at a hospital.

A 15-year-old girl who was in the house and was wounded after being struck by a bullet in the head called the police and told them that Mr. Haskell was probably on his way to a house where other family members lived. The police arrived at the second house first, and Mr. Haskell led them on a low-speed pursuit, the authorities said.

Eventually, officers shot out the tires of Mr. Haskell’s car, and he pulled into a cul-de-sac, where he was surrounded by the police. Several hours later, after speaking to a hostage negotiation team, Mr. Haskell surrendered, the police said. A handgun was found in his car.

The 15-year-old girl who had been wounded was airlifted to a hospital for emergency surgery, the authorities said.

    Man Being Held in Killing of Six in Houston, NYT, 10.7.2014,






Oregon Shooting

Draws Obama’s Outrage on Gun Laws


JUNE 10, 2014
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Obama, speaking hours after a gunman killed a student and wounded a teacher at an Oregon high school, said Tuesday that his failure to push through stricter gun laws was the greatest frustration of his presidency, declaring, “We’re the only developed country on earth where this happens.”

Speaking in blunt and bitter terms about a bloody trail of shootings in the last month, Mr. Obama said: “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on earth that would put up with this.”

While the president said he had undertaken several executive actions to tighten existing regulations, the failure to require a background check for buyers of guns left the nation vulnerable to an unending series of mass shootings. “The bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to,” Mr. Obama said to a young audience at a White House question-and-answer session sponsored by the social media site Tumblr.

The string of shootings continued on Tuesday when a gunman at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., killed a 14-year-old student and wounded a physical education teacher. The authorities in Troutdale, a Portland suburb, did not immediately identify the gunman, who was armed with a rifle and later found dead at the scene. It was unclear if he was a student or knew either of the victims.

The student who was killed, Emilio Hoffman, was a freshman at the school. The teacher, Todd Rispler, was wounded in the hip, officials said, but the injury was not serious.

The president’s emotional remarks later in Washington were specifically in response to a question from a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where six students were killed late last month by Elliot O. Rodger.

“What are you going to do?” the student asked. “What can we all do?”

Mr. Obama replied that passing federal legislation would require a shift in public opinion big enough to move Congress, where he said most members “are terrified of the N.R.A.”

“Until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say: ‘Enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t, sort of, the price we should be paying for our freedom,’ ” Mr. Obama said, “sadly, not that much is going to change.”

The president expressed little hope for a change in sentiment, noting that even his push for background checks for would-be gun buyers fell short in the wake of the 2012 schoolhouse slaughter in Newtown, Conn.

“The fact that 20 6-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me,” the president said.

In Troutdale, the high school had tried to prepare for such a shooting by conducting a dry run in a test of its emergency plan, Mayor Doug Daoust said. “This has been a very unsettling day for our precious city,” he said.

The gunman entered a building that houses the school’s gymnasium and shot Mr. Hoffman in the boys’ locker room, the police said. The gunman’s body was found in a separate bathroom. The Troutdale police chief, Scott Anderson, thanked Mr. Rispler, who despite being injured, was able to make his way to the school’s office to begin the lockdown procedure. After the early morning shooting, students were crying as they filed out of the school, hands atop heads, before being bused to a Fred Meyer supermarket, where they were reunited with family members waiting behind police tape. And as in the Santa Barbara area, Las Vegas and Seattle, trauma counselors were called out to help the survivors.

Alex Santos, a pastor at the Apostolic Church in Portland, said he had dropped his daughter at the school around 8:05 a.m. and heard what he thought was a car backfiring. Within minutes, he said, “I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw police vehicles coming down the street.”

“I saw them go to the gym,” Mr. Santos added, “and then I heard pop, pop, pop.” He immediately texted his daughter, who was safe.

One student was arrested when officers found a handgun while they were patting down students as they left their classrooms. Chief Anderson, said the person with the handgun was not involved in the shooting, but had been arrested.

Mr. Obama has used some of the strongest language of his presidency in addressing the issue of gun violence, although he had remained quiet during the recent spate of shootings, until Tuesday. “The country has to do some soul-searching about this,” he said. “This is becoming the norm. And we take it for granted in — in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.” The nation, he said, should be ashamed of its inability to pass even mild restrictions.

Referring to those who argue that gun violence is caused by untreated mental illness rather than lax gun laws, Mr. Obama said, “You know, the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

“It’s not the only country that has psychosis,” he added. “And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses.”


Mark Landler reported from Washington,

and Lee van der Voo from Troutdale, Ore.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Timothy Williams

contributed reporting from New York.


A version of this article appears in print on June 11, 2014,

on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline:

Obama Speaks of Frustrations After Oregon Shooting.

    Oregon Shooting Draws Obama’s Outrage on Gun Laws,
    NYT, 10.6.2014,






Five Dead in Shooting Rampage

in Las Vegas


JUNE 8, 2014
The New York Times


In a shooting rampage that left five people dead, two assailants killed two Las Vegas police officers on Sunday at a pizza restaurant and fatally shot a third person at a nearby Walmart before dying in a suicide pact, the authorities said.

The attackers, one male and one female, ambushed the two police officers as they were eating lunch at a CiCi’s Pizza around 11:20 a.m., Sheriff Douglas Gillespie of Clark County said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon.

The sheriff identified the officers as Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, and said that one of them fired at the attackers before he died, but that it was unclear whether the officer struck either assailant.

The attackers took the officers’ weapons and ammunition before they fled across the street to a Walmart store in the same plaza. There, they fatally shot one other person inside the entrance, Sheriff Gillespie said. Officers responding to the shooting confronted the man and the woman and exchanged gunfire with them, then they heard several shots, the sheriff said.

The female suspect is believed to have shot the male suspect before killing herself, Sheriff Gillespie said. Larry Hadfield, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said earlier on Sunday that investigators believed the couple had a suicide pact.

Some witnesses reported that the couple had shouted “This is a revolution!” while firing on the officers at the pizza restaurant. But Sheriff Gillespie said he could not confirm that.

The CiCi’s Pizza is about nine miles from the Las Vegas Strip. The restaurant and the Walmart are in a shopping plaza in the Las Vegas Valley that was bustling with activity on Sunday morning.

Police officers and deputies who gathered outside the restaurant where Officer Beck and Officer Soldo were attacked stood in small clusters, many of them hugging one another. Some wept. “We have lost two officers with young families, and a family of law enforcement who cares very much about them, as well as the innocent citizen that lost their life,” Sheriff Gillespie said at a news conference. “What precipitated this incident we do not know. My officers were simply having lunch when the shooting started.”

Both of the officers who were killed were veterans of the police department. Officer Beck, 41, who had been with the department since 2001, had a wife and three children. Officer Soldo, 31, who joined the department in 2006, had a wife and a baby.

“It’s a tragic day,” Sheriff Gillespie said. “It’s a very difficult day.” The victim shot inside the Walmart has not been identified, he said. The sheriff did not identify the assailants.

Shere-e Burns, 48, said she had gone to CiCi’s after church. She said she was sitting behind the police officers, who had just finished their meals and were chatting, when a man approached who appeared to be headed for the soda fountain across the aisle.

Ms. Burns said the man had just passed the officers when he turned, pulled out a gun and shot one of them in the head. She said she ducked under her table and crawled around a wall dividing the dining room. She peeked up and saw the man reach around the officer and take his gun and ammunition.

“They didn’t have a chance,” she said in a telephone interview. “I thought I was in a bad movie. That’s how fast it went.”

Ms. Burns said she could not recall hearing a second shot or seeing a second assailant.

“I went to the floor,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for anyone else.” Ms. Burns said. After the attacker left, she said, she got up, saw one of the officers with blood running from his head and ran out of the restaurant.

Pauline Pacheco, a shopper in the Walmart, said in an interview with KLAS, a Las Vegas television station, that she saw the armed man enter the store and grabbed her father so they could escape.

“We saw when the man was walking, he was shouting, yelling bad words, and suddenly he had a gun,” Ms. Pacheco said. “It was terrible, it was terrible. That man was crazy.”

Walmart issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying: “We express our deepest condolences to everyone who has been affected by this senseless act of violence. Our store is currently closed. This is still an active investigation and we are working with local police.”

After the shooting, businesses closed as police cordoned off the scene. About a block and a half of Nellis Boulevard, one of the main roads in Las Vegas, was closed to traffic as cones and yellow tape sealed its entrances from north of Stewart Avenue and south at Charleston Boulevard.

Only police officers and witnesses remained at the scene on Sunday evening. About a dozen police cars and a few ambulances sat in the parking lot of the Walmart. The sheriff said that officers who had been patrolling the area alone had been instructed to partner with colleagues while the police investigated the case.

“We still have a community to police and a community to protect,” Sheriff Gillespie said. “We will be out there doing it with our heads held high but an emptiness in our hearts.”


Maria Agreda contributed reporting from Las Vegas.


A version of this article appears in print on June 9, 2014,

on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline:

Five Dead, Including Two Police Officers,

in Shooting Rampage in Las Vegas.

    Five Dead in Shooting Rampage in Las Vegas, NYT, 8.6.2014,






Gunman Attacks Georgia Courthouse

and Dies in Firefight, Authorities Say


JUNE 6, 2014
The New York Times


CUMMING, Ga. — A man was shot to death on Friday by law enforcement officials after he brought an arsenal, including an assault rifle and a large supply of ammunition, to the county courthouse here and tried to mount what the authorities described as a “frontal assault” on the building.

Sheriff Duane K. Piper of Forsyth County said that the man, Dennis R. Marx, who had described himself in a court document as a “Glock armorer” who took part in gun shows across the South, was killed Friday during a three-minute firefight with sheriff’s deputies that briefly transformed part of this quiet Georgia city into a battleground. Mr. Marx had been scheduled to appear in court for a hearing about a pending case involving drug and weapons charges.

“It was very close to being a major catastrophe,” Sheriff Piper said at a Friday afternoon news conference after reviewing surveillance tapes of the confrontation, which he said would eventually be made public.

Sheriff Piper described a chilling plot that the authorities believed had been in the works for days.

According to the sheriff, Mr. Marx drove to the courthouse on Friday morning, set down spikes intended to puncture tires — an effort to hinder the emergency response — and wanted to drive through the building’s front entrance. An unidentified deputy sheriff, a 25-year veteran of the force, was outside, and Sheriff Piper said Mr. Marx had tried to hit the man with his vehicle.

The deputy was wounded in the leg as he exchanged gunfire with Mr. Marx, who fired from his vehicle, where the sheriff said he had amassed smoke and tear gas grenades. Other deputies, including some inside the courthouse, quickly joined the gunfight, and Mr. Marx, who Sheriff Piper said was carrying explosive devices, was killed in the volley of bullets.

“He was shooting into the courthouse; they were shooting back out,” Sheriff Piper said. “The deputies actually took the time not just to stand right there at the front door. They actually went into other offices and broke windows and were shooting from different places inside the courthouse to get different angles on him.”

Investigators said they believed that Mr. Marx, who had water and plastic handcuffs in his vehicle, had intended to take control of the courthouse. He also had two handguns, Sheriff Piper said.

“We have to assume that he was there to occupy the courthouse,” the sheriff said, although he acknowledged that the authorities did not know whether Mr. Marx was after a specific person.

After the shootout, the area surrounding the courthouse in this city of about 5,600 was closed to traffic. Law enforcement vehicles blocked roads, and crime scene tape was visible.

Officials were planning to search Mr. Marx’s home into the night, and Sheriff Piper said investigators had found explosives on the property.

Mr. Marx, who worked for the Transportation Security Administration more than a decade ago, had a history of interactions with the sheriff’s office, and he filed a federal lawsuit last year against the office over a 2011 raid on his home that he said had violated his constitutional rights.

Ann T. Shafer, a lawyer who represented Mr. Marx for about six months in his criminal proceeding, told WXIA-TV that her former client was a gun trader who had made veiled threats to her while she was handling his case.

“I thought he was, at times, a little not stable in his understanding of the law or the consequences, and always seemed dissatisfied with whatever was going on,” said Ms. Shafer, who said that Mr. Marx had dismissed her because he was unsatisfied with her work.

The wounded deputy was being treated and was expected to survive. Sheriff Piper said the deputy was responsible for preventing more bloodshed.

“It’d be a guess to think how many lives he saved,” the sheriff said. “Had he not engaged him right there, Mr. Marx’s intention was to get in that front door and take hostages.”


Alain Delaquérière contributed research from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on June 7, 2014,

on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline:

Gunman Attacks Georgia Courthouse and Dies in Firefight,

Authorities Say.

    Gunman Attacks Georgia Courthouse and Dies in Firefight,
    Authorities Say,
    NYT, 6.6.2014,






Shot Yards Away From Police Station,

a Teenager Collapses and Dies


JUNE 3, 2014
The New York Times


After he was shot Monday afternoon in Brooklyn, LaQuan Nelson, 16, staggered toward the 88th Precinct, collapsing on the sidewalk next to the redbrick police station house. But no one could save the teenager.

Gunfire had erupted shortly before 6 p.m. as LaQuan walked near his home on Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill, about 100 yards from the police station. Officers came to his aid and summoned an ambulance. But LaQuan was pronounced dead a short time later at Brooklyn Hospital.

He had been walking with a cousin, according to the police, when the pair encountered a group of young people. Words were exchanged, the police said, and one of the group opened fire.

At least five shots rang out, the police said, and at least one struck LaQuan in the lower torso.

No arrests had been made as of late Tuesday in connection with the shooting, the police said. LaQuan is listed in a law enforcement database of gang members, according to the police, but it was not known whether that affiliation was connected to the shooting.

The news of LaQuan’s death devastated Shirley Nelson, 64, a cousin who was raising LaQuan in Lafayette Gardens, a public housing complex. She had planned to take him to South Carolina on Tuesday night for her grandson’s graduation. LaQuan called her “Grandma.” She called him “Popcorn,” because of the tight curls that covered his head when he was a child.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this,” she said, standing in his bedroom, a tidy space with red curtains, a view of a tree-lined avenue, and four pairs of size 9.5 sneakers lined at the foot of the bed. “He didn’t deserve it. They took my baby from me.”

After the shooting, a teenage girl rushed to the elevator inside LaQuan’s apartment building, took a slow ride up to the 16th floor, and knocked on Ms. Nelson’s door.

“Ms. Shirley, Ms. Shirley, Popcorn’s been shot,” Ms. Nelson recalled the girl saying. “I said, ‘No he’s in his room.’ And I looked in the room, and he was gone.”

A 16-year-old, who said he was on Classon Avenue when the shooting occurred, said in an interview that although LaQuan was not a member of a gang or a crew, “he hangs out with the people that had something to do with it.” The 16-year-old would not give his name, saying he feared retaliation from neighbors.

Ms. Nelson, sitting at her kitchen table on Tuesday, described a basketball-obsessed boy, who attended William H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn and dreamed of joining the N.B.A.

“He would say, ‘Grandma: I’m going to get you out of the projects,’ ” she said.

She showed off a science fair award and a sports award, and thumbed through stacks of baby pictures. Phone calls came in from teachers who knew him. Friends crowded into the kitchen.

His favorite basketball player? “Himself,” said Christine Davis, 45, who had known LaQuan since he was a toddler.

Downstairs, residents of the building stopped to scrawl notes of dedication on the lobby walls. “Love You Bro. RIP POP.”

“He wasn’t involved with anything,” said Leah Brown, 30, a friend of LaQuan’s.

“In these projects, it’s ‘I don’t like you cause you live in the front and I live in the back’ .”



J. David Goodman contributed reporting.


A version of this article appears in print on June 4, 2014,

on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline:

Shot Yards Away From Police Station,

a Teenager Collapses and Dies.

    Shot Yards Away From Police Station,
    a Teenager Collapses and Dies, NYT, 3.6.2014,






Guns and Mental Illness


JUNE 2, 2014
The New York Times
The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist


It is difficult to read stories about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old man who went on a murderous spree in Isla Vista, Calif., last month, without feeling some empathy for his parents.

We know that his mother, alarmed by some of his misogynistic YouTube videos, made a call that resulted in the police visiting Rodger. The headline from that meeting was that Rodger, seemingly calm and collected, easily deflected the police’s attention. But there was surely a subtext: How worried — how desperate, really — must a mother be to believe the police should be called on her own son?

We also learned that on the day of his murderous rampage, his mother, having read the first few lines of his “manifesto,” had phoned his father, from whom she was divorced. In separate cars, they raced from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara hoping to stop what they feared was about to happen.

And then, on Monday, in a remarkably detailed article in The New York Times, we learned the rest of it. How Rodger was clearly a troubled soul before he even turned 8 years old. How his parents’ concern about his mental health was like a “shadow that hung over this Los Angeles family nearly every day of Elliot’s life.”

Constantly bullied and unable to fit in, he went through three high schools. In college, he tried to throw a girl off a ledge at a party — and was beaten up. (“I’m going to kill them,” he said to a neighbor afterward.) He finally retreated to some Internet sites that “drew sexually frustrated young men,” according to The Times.

Throughout, said one person who knew Rodger, “his mom did everything she could to help Elliot.” But what his parents never did was the one thing that might have prevented him from buying a gun: have him committed to a psychiatric facility. California’s tough gun laws notwithstanding, a background check would have caught him only if he had had in-patient mental health treatment, made a serious threat to an identifiable victim in the presence of a therapist, or had a criminal record. He had none of the above.

Should his parents have taken more steps to have him treated? Could they have? It is awfully hard to say, even in retrospect. On the one hand, there were plainly people who knew him who feared that he might someday harm others. On the other hand, those people weren’t psychiatrists. He was a loner, a misfit, whose parents were more fearful of how the world would treat their son than how their son would treat the world. And his mother, after all, did reach out for help, and the police responded and decided they had no cause to arrest him or even search his room, where his guns were hidden.

Once again, a mass killing has triggered calls for doing something to keep guns away from the mentally ill. And, once again, the realities of the situation convey how difficult a task that is. There are, after all, plenty of young, male, alienated loners — the now-standard description of mass shooters — but very few of them become killers.

And you can’t go around committing them all because a tiny handful might turn out to be killers. Indeed, the law is very clear on this point. In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that nondangerous mentally ill people can’t be confined against their will if they can function without confinement. “In California, the bar is very high for people like Elliot,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who founded the Treatment Advocacy Center. In a sense, California’s commitment to freedom for the mentally ill conflicts with its background-check law.

Torrey believes that the country should involuntarily commit more mentally ill people, not only because they can sometimes commit acts of violence but because there are far more people who can’t function in the world than the mental health community likes to acknowledge.

In this, however, he is an outlier. The mainstream sentiment among mental health professionals is that there is no going back to the bad-old days when people who were capable of living on their own were locked up for years in mental hospitals. The truth is, the kind of symptoms Elliot Rodger showed were unlikely to get him confined in any case. And without a history of confinement, he had every legal right to buy a gun.

You read the stories about Elliot Rodger and it is easy to think: If this guy, with all his obvious problems, can slip through the cracks, then what hope is there of ever stopping mass shootings?

But, of course, there is another way of thinking about this. Instead of focusing on making it harder for the mentally ill to get guns, maybe we should be making it harder to get guns, period. Something to consider before the next mass shooting.


A version of this op-ed appears in print on June 3, 2014,

on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline:

Guns and Mental Illness.

    Guns and Mental Illness, NYT, 2.6.2014,






Before Brief, Deadly Spree,

Trouble Since Age 8

Elliot O. Rodger’s Killings in California

Followed Years of Withdrawal


JUNE 1, 2014
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — It was the summer of 1999, and the parents of Elliot O. Rodger were battling over the boy’s deep and puzzling psychological problems as they struggled through a divorce.

Mr. Rodger’s mother, Li Chin, filed an affidavit describing Elliot as a “high-functioning autistic child,” and said she needed more child support to care for him. His father, Peter Rodger, countered with a Beverly Hills doctor, Stephen M. Scappa, who challenged that diagnosis, saying it failed to acknowledge the possibility of “depression or anxiety.” Dr. Scappa said that Elliot, almost 8 at the time, should be sent to a child psychiatrist for more examination and treatment.

Last week, days after Mr. Rodger killed six people on May 23 in a rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., before firing a bullet into his head, his estranged parents released an anguished statement, expressing their distress as they grappled with the final chapter of their 22-year-old son’s long struggle with emotional problems. “It is now our responsibility to do everything we can to help avoid this happening to any other family — not only to avoid any more innocence destroyed, but also to identify and deal with the mental issues that drove our son to do what he did,” the statement said. The parents declined to be interviewed.

For as long as anyone close to them can remember, the parents had faced concerns about the boy’s mental health — a shadow that hung over this Los Angeles family nearly every day of Elliot’s life. Confronted with a lonely and introverted child, they tried to set him up on play dates, ferried him from counselor to therapist, urged him to take antipsychotic medication and moved him from school to school. His mother gave her son the car he thought would help improve his stature — a black BMW — when he went off to college in Santa Barbara; he used it for his lonely explorations of the California coast, as a setting for his chilling farewell video and finally as a weapon as he sprayed bullets from the window and plowed down bicyclists that Friday night.

It is almost impossible to tell if a person struggling with any mental disorder might ever turn violent; the vast majority never do, even those who make threats and preparations to do so. “Most people who go through these steps never act out in a violent way, never go beyond contemplation of it,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist in San Diego and an editor of the International Handbook of Threat Assessment. “You can’t predict who will and who won’t.”

Peter Rodger told a friend the other day that his son had been an enigma to the family — distant, remote, unknowable. “He’s such a good liar that I didn’t even know he knew how to lie,” the friend recalled the father saying. Yet throughout his teenage years, friends of the boy and his family saw signs that something was wrong.

Simon Astaire, an author and agent who has been a family friend for over 10 years and has been acting as the family’s spokesman, described attending a Christmas party at Peter Rodger’s hillside home in Woodland Hills and wandering out into the cool night to come across Elliot, then 12, staring into the black sky. He said Elliot had lowered his head and started sharing his loneliness before turning back wordlessly toward the heavens.

“He wasn’t just a little withdrawn,” Mr. Astaire said. “He was as withdrawn as any person I ever met in my life.”
Continue reading the main story

Cathleen Bloeser, whose son knew Elliot from elementary school, described him as an “emotionally troubled” boy who would come over to their house and just hide. “If I could have picked anyone who would have done this, it would have been Elliot,” she said. “My husband and I didn’t want our son to stay with Elliot.”

He fled two high schools after begging his parents, in tears, to rescue him from what he described as a bullying environment. When he was a sophomore, a school administrator said, he suffered a panic attack — standing immobilized in the hallway — until a teacher went outside to ask his mother, waiting in a car, to come get him. He apparently never returned to the school.

The older he got, the more his parents worried about his future.

“They were concerned: Could he be easily taken advantage of? Could he be an easy target for some kind of a scam or whatever?” said Deborah Smith, a Los Angeles high school principal who encountered Mr. Rodger at two of the schools he attended. “Would he be able to navigate the world on his own?”

He seemed to have grown only more withdrawn after he left home for college. After Mr. Rodger returned to his apartment one night after being beaten up at a party — he had, by his account, tried to shove a girl off a ledge — Chris Pollard, a neighbor, sought to calm him.

“He started saying: ‘I’m going to kill them. I’m going to kill them. I’m going to kill myself,’ ” Mr. Pollard recalled.

Eleven months later, Mr. Rodger acted on that pledge.

Torment in Schools

Ms. Smith, the principal at Independence Continuation High School in Van Nuys, a small public school with intensive individual attention from which Mr. Rodger eventually graduated, awoke May 24 to the reports of the massacre and, later that Saturday, a text message from a teacher: “Did you see the news?” it asked. “That’s our Elliot.”

Mr. Rodger’s parents sent him to Independence as a sophomore, but it was already his third high school. He had begun at Crespi Carmelite High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Encino. In a 140-page account of his life that Mr. Rodger sent out by email right before the killings, he recalled bursting with excitement at the prospect.

But that turned to dread the first day his father drove him to school and he spotted the “huge high school students” walking around. “I cried in the car for a few minutes, telling my father that I was scared to get out,” he wrote.

Before long, he withdrew from class work into World of Warcraft, the online interactive video game that had become his obsession. He waited for the halls to clear before walking to class. “They threw food at me during lunchtime and after school,” he wrote. “What kind of horrible, depraved people would poke fun at a boy younger than them who has just entered high school?”

His parents removed him at the end of the year, and sent him to Taft Charter High School, a 2,700-student public school in Woodland Hills. Almost immediately, he complained of being shoved against lockers and belittled by other boys in front of girls. Ms. Smith was working as a behavioral specialist for the school district and was assigned to help Mr. Rodger. One afternoon, she said, he was seized by an anxiety attack as he tried to leave school, stopping dead in his tracks in a hallway.

“He panicked,” she said. “He just couldn’t move.”

Ms. Smith said she did not recall ever seeing him at the school again. “We tried to get him to go back, but we were not successful,” she said. “It was too big, too overwhelming for him.”

He moved to Independence, a school of about 100 students with just three or four hours of instruction a day and a mission to help troubled children. The boy hardly spoke, spending even more time immersed in his video game; at home, he fought with his stepmother when she told him to get offline.
Continue reading the main story

Ms. Smith, who became the principal of Independence the year Mr. Rodger was a junior, said he had displayed classic symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome: He was socially awkward, had trouble making eye contact and was very withdrawn, if very smart. “Sometimes at lunch, kids would encourage him to join their tables,” she said. “Sometimes he would. But even when he did, he would just kind of be present.”

His longest conversations seemed to be with one of the special-education assistants, with whom he would discuss World of Warcraft.

“He had this push and pull between his desire to engage socially and his fear of rejection,” Ms. Smith said.

Yet he was liked at Independence. Ms. Smith said that some of the students had felt protective of him, and that staff members had referred to him as “our Elliot.”

They lost track of him after he graduated and headed to Pierce College, one of a series of colleges he attended before landing in Isla Vista. About a year later, Ms. Smith said, the boy’s parents sent an email with an upbeat report on Elliot. It was the last time anyone gave “our Elliot” much thought, until he emerged 10 days ago, defined by his 140-page manifesto and videos.

“That’s not the kid that I knew,” Ms. Smith said. “He presented as very innocent, very soft-spoken. He never even raised his voice.”


Vagaries of Hollywood

At first glance, Elliot Rodger appeared to be a privileged son of Hollywood — the red-carpet movie premieres, the $500 Neiman Marcus sweaters, the Armani shirts and the Gucci sunglasses, the BMW. He was one of two children from the marriage; he had a younger sister. But divorce filings and interviews suggest a life colored less by Hollywood glamour than by the boom-and-bust cycle that came with his father’s career as a freelance photographer and director.

Peter Rodger worked often on television commercials and spent a few days directing extra shots for “The Hunger Games,” a job that got Elliot a seat at the movie’s splashy premiere two years ago. Elliot Rodger’s stepmother, Soumaya Akaaboune, is an actress who last year had a small role in “Lovelace,” an independent film. Its executive producers included John Thompson, who was among the show business acquaintances mentioned in his manifesto.

His mother, Li Chin, was a unit nurse on the 1989 film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” for which George Lucas was an executive producer; that connection gave her son an entree to other red-carpet premieres. He boasted in his manifesto that his mother was a friend of Steven Spielberg’s and even dated Mr. Lucas briefly. (Representatives of Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg had no comment when queried about the connections last week.)

Peter Rodger’s career directing commercials was jolted when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks depressed the industry. In a quest that was partly spiritual and partly a failed business venture, friends said, he decided to make a documentary. He visited 23 countries in two and a half years, shooting a film in which he asked people as famous as Ringo Starr and as obscure as Asian schoolchildren a single question: “What is God?”

The film, “Oh My God,” sold only a handful of tickets when released in November 2009 and cost Peter Rodger as much as $200,000 of his own money, drawn from equity in a home, according to his ex-wife’s court filings, in addition to years of lost income. “If only my failure of a father had made better decisions with his directing career instead wasting his money on that stupid documentary,” his son wrote.

During this period, the boy’s family seemed to be trying all the more frantically to help him. “His mom did everything she could to help Elliot,” said Philip Bloeser, who attended Topanga Elementary Charter School with him. Mr. Astaire, the family friend and spokesman, said that whenever he visited, his first question was about Elliot’s well-being. He said he had once explicitly asked Peter Rodger whether the boy could prove a threat to the public, and had been assured no. Still, Mr. Astaire said, he always worried that Elliot would one day take his own life.

While his parents saw a loner who would not leave his room, the manifesto and videos show a far more agitated young man. Mr. Rodger wrote of feeling tortured as he pined for “young blondes” and of heading out to a mall to buy designer clothes that he thought would make him more appealing. At one point, he set about to become a millionaire, planning a scheme to win the lottery and making several trips to Arizona, where he spent hundreds of dollars trying to win the Powerball jackpot.

He described seeing “two hot blonde girls” waiting at a bus stop. He flashed a smile at them and was ignored. “In a rage,” he wrote, “I made a U-turn, pulled up to their bus stop and splashed my Starbucks latte all over them. I felt a feeling of spiteful satisfaction as I saw it stain their jeans.”

Mr. Rodger also wrote of watching “a flock of beautiful blonde girls” playing kickball one day with “fraternity jocks” in a public park. The sight so enraged him that he drove to a local Kmart and purchased a water gun, filling it with orange juice. He described what happened next, after he returned to the park: “I screamed at them with rage as I sprayed them with my super soaker.”

The obsessively detailed self-published account of his life inevitably raises questions of how much was real and how much was hopelessly distorted by the filter of illness. Still, its writing is clear and precise. “It has none of the raving quality that you see in the writing of people with psychosis,” such as Jared L. Loughner, who opened fire on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011, said Dr. Michael Stone, a New York forensic psychiatrist who looked at the manuscript but has no connection to the family.


Retreating Into the Internet

In his last years in Isla Vista, Mr. Rodger had stopped going to classes and his life appeared to be conducted entirely online. There had always been World of Warcraft, but now there were posts on sites that drew sexually frustrated young men — including PUAhate, an online forum where participants ranted against “pickup artists” who had more success with women.

On PUAhate, a site that was taken down after the murders, Mr. Rodger expressed his disgust at women, questioning how they could resist his charms. He would urge other “incels” — or involuntary celibates — to fight back. “One day incels will realize their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system,” he wrote. “Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”

The videos he posted on YouTube and Facebook were theatrical, even hammy, with him narrating scenic drives under palm trees, winking at the camera as he bobbed his head to bouncy songs like “Walking on Sunshine” — all to demonstrate to women how absurd it was that they did not find him alluring. “They should be on me,” he wrote.

Others in Mr. Rodger’s new community sometimes expressed solidarity with him, but soon turned on him: He was attacked as desperate, insecure, pretentious, entitled, bitter and whiny. And at times, as happened in high school, they mocked him for his small stature. (He was, by his account, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 135 pounds.) One taunted him as “an average looking manlet,” provoking a response from Mr. Rodger.

“I am a drop-dead gorgeous, fabulous, stylish, exotic gem among thousands of rocks,” he wrote.

As Mr. Rodger’s “Day of Retribution,” as he called it, approached, there were signs of what he was plotting. One poster on Bodybuilding.com, another website where he shared his views, noted that Mr. Rodger had taken down a video titled “Why Do Girls Hate Me So Much?” This person said the video had made him look like a serial killer. “I’m not trying to be mean, but the creepy vibe that you give off in those videos is likely the major reason that you can’t get girls,” he wrote.

Mr. Rodger’s response now seems particularly chilling.

“My parents discovered the videos, so I temporarily took them down,” he wrote. “They will be back up in a few days, along with more videos I’ve filmed.”

On the night of the killings, members of Mr. Rodger’s online world instantly drew the connection between the violence in Isla Vista and the man they had been jousting with online.

“Could someone tip off the police just in case?” one wrote, even as six people had already died at Mr. Rodger’s hand.

“Why?” another asked.

“Don’t,” someone else posted. “Whatever happens. We didn’t do anything so just let it happen if it does.”


Correction: June 2, 2014

Two picture captions with an earlier version of this article misstated the surname of Elliot O. Rodger's father. He is Peter Rodger, not Peter Chin.

Adam Nagourney, Michael Cieply and Ian Lovett reported from Los Angeles, and Alan Feuer from New York. Jennifer Medina contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Benedict Carey from New York.


A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2014

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since Age 8.

    Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since Age 8
    Elliot O. Rodger’s Killings in California Followed Years of Withdrawal,
    NYT, 1.6.2014,






The Arms Struggle in Chicago


MAY 29, 2014
The Opinion Pages | Editorial


The city of Chicago, bedeviled by street gang violence, refuses to give in to ever more restrictive court rulings against enactment of sensible gun safety laws. The Supreme Court’s misguided 2010 decision ended the nearly 30-year-long ban on handguns in Chicago. In January, a federal judge ruled that the city’s ban on retail gun shops was unconstitutional.

Instead of rolling over, Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded this week with some reasonable proposals designed to pass constitutional muster while upholding the city’s basic obligation to protect citizens. This time, zoning regulations would be used to limit gun shops to less than 1 percent of the city’s geographic area, with tight auditing of the shops, sales limited to one handgun per customer per month, a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and the simple videotaping of gun sales to deter buyers from using false identification.

The proposals do not answer the full scope of Chicago’s gun problem since 60 percent of the weapons used in crimes in the city are traceable to legal outlets in surrounding states and suburbs with weak-to-nonexistent controls on gun sales. But they do attempt to stop buyers who shop in volume and funnel guns into the underworld.

These sensible efforts underscore how difficult it is for local governments to protect the public from gun violence when obstructionist politicians in Washington blithely refuse to enact federal laws closing gaps and loopholes in state and federal laws that feed the nation’s gun mayhem.

In contrast to Chicago’s attempt to ensure a modicum of law and order, Congress is barely reacting to the latest mass shooting spree in California, where a disturbed young man, legally armed with three high-powered weapons and knives, killed six people and himself. There is no call by the leadership to do something serious, only a little-noticed attempt in the House to put some teeth into a federal records rule that is supposed to help prevent people with mental illness and felony records from buying guns — a rule that most states have treated lightly since its passage after the Virginia Tech massacre left 33 dead in 2007. There is, however, a regressive Republican proposal to curtail the government’s efforts to look for straw buyers in shops along the Mexican border.

The Chicago proposals are rooted in proven reforms that Congress should be considering nationally. In 2006, New York City sued 27 out-of-state firearm dealers that were major sources of guns used in city crimes. In a settlement, the dealers agreed to videotape sales and train their staffs to recognize straw buyers, who are in the business of reselling weapons. Follow-up studies showed a major drop in crime-scene guns that came from the shops that had been feeding the underworld pipeline.

Washington lawmakers’ disgraceful surrender to the gun lobby was clear last year. The Senate defeated gun safety reforms despite public outrage at the carnage in Newtown, Conn. There usually comes a point after a mass shooting when the word “closure” is invoked and the politicians move on. It looks as if those in Congress can’t embrace closure soon enough, particularly as this year’s electoral cycle heats up.

A version of this editorial appears in print on May 30, 2014,

on page A26 of the New York edition with the headline:

The Arms Struggle in Chicago.

    The Arms Struggle in Chicago, NYT, 29.5.2014,






After Attack Near Campus,

California Weighs Gun Bill


MAY 28, 2014
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — Just days after a 22-year-old killed six college students and himself near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, state lawmakers are championing legislation that would permit law enforcement officials and private individuals to seek a restraining order from a judge that would keep people with a potential propensity for violence from buying or owning a gun. The process would be similar to the one currently used for restraining orders in cases of domestic violence.

The legislation is being introduced this week in response to the attack on Friday by Elliot O. Rodger, who was able to buy three guns and go on a rampage despite warnings from his family and mental health professionals that he was unstable and possibly dangerous. It is unclear, however, if the measures contained in the bills could have prevented his actions if they had been law.

Although mass shootings have not translated into stricter gun control laws nationally, they have prompted changes on the state level — largely limiting access to guns, but in some cases loosening existing laws, which gun advocates say give people more leeway to arm themselves against criminals. After a mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., Connecticut and New York passed bans on assault rifles and created stricter background checks.

But California, which already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, could go even further. The legislation, known as a gun violence restraining order, would allow people to notify courts or law enforcement officials if they are concerned that a family member or friend is at risk of committing violence. Gun control advocates have recently started pushing for such restraining orders in statehouses across the nation, expanding on similar laws that have passed in Connecticut, Indiana and Texas.

“Always after a mass shooting, the question comes up: How could we have prevented this?” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. “In most cases, my response has to be there isn’t anything we could have done. In this case, this law might have prevented this from happening, and it will absolutely be useful for the future. This addresses the question of what do we do about the people who have not faced some diagnosis and who might just fall through the cracks.”

But even in California, with an overwhelmingly Democratic majority in both houses of the Legislature, it could prove difficult to get the bill passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. In addition to expected opposition from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates, the bill is also likely to face challenges from those concerned about limiting civil liberties of those dealing with mental illness.

A spokesman for the N.R.A. declined to comment because he had not seen the bill language.

And Mr. Brown, a Democrat and gun owner himself, has vetoed gun control legislation in the past, including bills last year that would have done more to limit the sale of semiautomatic rifles and further limited gun ownership.

Darrell Steinberg, president pro tem of the California Senate, said in an interview on Wednesday that he was not familiar with the details of the restraining order legislation, though he foresaw concerns being raised about civil liberties. Such a bill “would have to be very carefully crafted, because you do not want the law to get into the middle, or just to be used as a pretext or excuse for leverage in an intergenerational family fight,” he said. “You could see the potential for abuse.”

On the other hand, Mr. Steinberg said: “There might be circumstances where it is appropriate for this additional protection. I think this is worthy of a real serious conversation.”

In other developments on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County sheriff said that the department was investigating whether Mr. Rodger — who stabbed to death three people in his apartment before shooting his remaining victims from his car — may have drugged the initial victims before he stabbed them.

Since the attack on Friday, Richard Martinez, the father of one of the victims, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, has become a vocal and emotional proponent for gun control legislation.

At a memorial service on Tuesday at the university, Mr. Martinez led thousands of students gathered in a chant of “not one more,” which has become a rallying cry in social media for gun legislation.

“The problem with piecemeal legislation is it’s like building a car out of parts from different manufacturers, and expecting it to run effectively,” Mr. Martinez said in an interview on Wednesday. “That’s not an effective way to approach such a complicated problem.”

Mr. Martinez has said he wants to meet with Peter Rodger, the father of the attacker, and work with him to push for more gun control. A spokesman for Mr. Rodger said Wednesday that the two men were trying to arrange a meeting.

Backers of the California legislation say that the law would work in much the same way domestic violence restraining orders do — with a petitioner directly requesting a restraining order from the courts, or asking law enforcement officials to do so. A judge would be required to have a full hearing to decide whether to grant the restraining order within seven days and then rule on the length of time it would be in effect. Law enforcement officials would then be able to temporarily seize any firearms the person owned and place him or her on a list of people prohibited from purchasing weapons.

Nancy Skinner, a Democratic assemblywoman from Berkeley and the author of the legislation, said she had been working to shape the legislation for months, but the attack on Friday gave urgency to the effort, particularly because Mr. Rodger’s mother had alerted the authorities about her son a month earlier.

“We’ve heard that she was very aware about her son’s well-being, and so concerned that she asked the police to go to him,” Ms. Skinner said. “She should have been able to go to law enforcement and say, ‘Here’s the evidence and — sadly — my son is a threat and could create violence.’ Knowing that in this case a parent tried to intervene and didn’t really have an effective tool is tragic.”

After the shooting in Connecticut, New York passed a legislative package that included expanding an assault weapons ban, doing more to keep guns away from people with mental illnesses and imposing tougher sentences on people who use guns in crimes. Connecticut also toughened its gun laws, requiring buyers to pass a national criminal background check, banning high-capacity magazines and expanding the list of banned weapons.

Still, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and is one of the few states to prohibit anyone from buying guns if a psychiatrist reports to law enforcement officials that the individual has made a credible threat to a “reasonably identifiable” individual.

“This is a relatively new area of legislation aimed at prevention, with details still being fleshed out,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which lobbies for stricter gun control across the country. “Generally we see this discussed and enacted in response to violence that could have been prevented. We need to prevent access for individuals who are at an elevated risk, regardless of whether the cause is mental illness or drug abuse or something else.”

The legislation will have its first hearing in the State Senate’s public safety committee next month. If it is approved by the committee, the Legislature is likely vote on the bill before it adjourns at the end of August.


Norimitsu Onishi contributed reporting from Sacramento,

Ian Lovett from Isla Vista, Calif.,

and Adam Nagourney from Los Angeles.



A version of this article appears in print on May 29, 2014,

on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline:

After Attack Near Campus, California Weighs Gun Bill.

    After Attack Near Campus, California Weighs Gun Bill, NYT, 28.5.2014,






Limits to Law and Information Sharing,

Despite Gunman’s Danger Signs


MAY 26, 2014
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — Elliot O. Rodger was a young college student who had few friends, detested his roommates and spent much of his time alone, reveling in the isolation of a local golf course or the beaches near Isla Vista, where he lived.

But a review of the three years leading up to Friday night, when Mr. Rodger killed six people and injured 13 others before shooting himself near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggests a series of flash points where his often bizarre and unsettling behavior might have drawn the attention of the authorities and, potentially, signaled his violent plans.

Mr. Rodger, 22, had been planning his “Day of Retribution,” as he called it, for all three years he was in Isla Vista, a period in which he had been under the treatment of therapists; gotten beaten up after trying to shove women off a ledge at a local bar, drawing a visit by the local police; and posted videos on various sites, including one for virgins and another for bodybuilders, that — if not as explicitly threatening as the one he posted the day of the attack — nonetheless showed an extremely disturbed young man.

His behavior alarmed his parents, who had alerted the police, but they found that he did not meet the legal criteria for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. He stopped attending classes at Santa Barbara City College before his behavior might have caught the attention of behavior therapists there.

In the end, for all these early warning signs, it is hardly clear that much could have been done to stop this tragedy. Mr. Rodger, like so many mass killers before him, stands as evidence to limits in the laws and regulations — and the network of communications between police authorities and schools — intended to flag potentially dangerous figures. That was one reason he was able to legally buy three semiautomatic handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Robert Fein, a psychologist whose specialty is targeted violence and an author of a 2002 report by the Secret Service on school shootings, said warning signs about disturbed individuals preparing for some kind of mass attack are almost always present, but often do not come to the attention of the authorities.

“If you look back at any kind of bad situation, there are generally people who have information, but they don’t know what to do with it,” Dr. Fein said.

Public debate after a mass killing inevitably focuses on shortfalls in gun regulations or state laws that govern when someone can be involuntarily held for psychiatric reasons. But no less important, according to law enforcement and mental health experts, would be to improve the sharing of information about potentially violent people among the police, schools, mental health professionals and relatives.

And mental health practitioners themselves may unwittingly impede that process, experts say.

Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Center for Threat Assessment, who is a consultant to law enforcement and mental health agencies and schools in the United States, said legislation governing professional practice contains provisions that “make it clear, if we have reasonable grounds to believe an individual may pose a significant threat to their own safety or to others, that we have an obligation to share the information without consent.”

“Many professionals have let the pendulum swing so far that they believe their primary mandate is to protect privacy at all costs,” he said.

Still, the missed opportunities, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, are at once frustrating and understandable.

Mr. Rodger’s mother had seen some of the earlier videos posted on his Facebook page and alerted mental health officials, who in turn sent the police. But Mr. Rodger, for all his inner turmoil, displayed to deputies who showed up at his doorstep the kind of outwardly balanced behavior not uncommon for troubled people when confronted by authority figures.

“The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts,” he wrote in a 140-page manifesto explaining his plans for mass murder. “I tactfully told them that it was all a misunderstanding, and they finally left.”

The police determined they had no grounds to hold him for psychiatric examination — or, perhaps more significant, to search his apartment, where he had hidden three automatic handguns and a trove of ammunition. Once the police left, Mr. Rodger took down the videos.

Mr. Cameron said that visit illustrated a common error often made in situations of potential threat. “They rely too heavily on how they feel about the person at the time they interview him,” he said. The deputies, he said, should have “cared less about how he behaved in the moment they were talking to him than on the data that brought them there in the first place.”

Mr. Rodger rejected attempts by his parents and therapists to treat him. “I don’t know why my parents wasted money on therapy, as it will never help me in my struggle against such a cruel and unjust world,” he wrote in his manifesto. A doctor prescribed him risperidone, an antipsychotic drug, but Mr. Rodger wrote that after researching the drug, he had refused to take it.

Under California law, if Mr. Rodger in speaking to a therapist had expressed the violent thoughts found in his manifesto or last video, the therapist would have been required to report it to the authorities. The man Mr. Rodger identified as his therapist in his manifesto did not return telephone calls or emails seeking comment on Monday.

A friend of the family, Simon Astaire, said he did not know if any such report was made. Mr. Astaire said he had spent time with Mr. Rodger, whom he described as withdrawn but showing no sign of violence. His father, Peter Rodger, was a Hollywood director, and worked as an assistant director on the movie “The Hunger Games.”

“Elliot never spoke about guns,” Mr. Astaire said. “Never. Never. Wasn’t part of his character. There was no fascination with it. He didn’t like violent movies as such. That was not part of his character.”

Laws that set down a mental health professional’s duty to warn the authorities of a specific threat from a client are often narrowly interpreted by practitioners, Mr. Cameron said. In truth, such laws offer latitude for therapists to inform not only the person who is a target but the police and other public agencies.

His final video, “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” which left no doubt as to his murderous plans, was not posted until the day attack began, according to Google officials. It was unclear who, if anyone, might have seen it before he mailed out his manifesto to his parents, friends and therapists on Friday night just before the attack began.

A spokeswoman for Google, which owns YouTube, said the video had been removed on Saturday because it violated the service’s guidelines against acts like stalking, intimidating behavior and the making of threats. The spokeswoman said most videos marked for removal are first flagged by viewers and then examined by special review teams that determine whether they meet the site’s guidelines. Google did not have immediate details on how many people might have seen it before it was taken down.

Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, said YouTube had no legal obligation to monitor videos posted to its site for warning signs of violent behavior or report them to law enforcement.

“YouTube may have an ethical obligation to monitor postings,” he said. “But there are so many postings every day that that becomes truly impossible.”

Mr. Rodger had been a student at Santa Barbara City College, and many, if not most, colleges these days have a committee or individual in charge of threat assessment, a person who in theory might have responded to unusual behavior by a student. In more sophisticated systems, the college police are in touch with the local police and other schools to share information. But more often than not, that does not happen.

Santa Barbara City College has a “strong crisis intervention response structure and team” and provides extensive personal counseling to students, said Lori Gaskin, the president of the school.

“However, Elliot Rodger’s connection to the college was limited,” she said in an email on Monday. “After completing three courses at Santa Barbara City College during 2011, he enrolled at various times, including for the recently completed semester, but then either stopped attending or withdrew on each occasion. We have found no record of any discipline or other issues.”


Adam Nagourney reported from Los Angeles,

and Erica Goode from New York.

Ian Lovett contributed reporting from Los Angeles,

and Hilary Stout and Jennifer Preston from New York.



A version of this article appears in print on May 27, 2014,

on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline:

Limits to Law and Information Sharing,

Despite Gunman’s Danger Signs.

    Limits to Law and Information Sharing, Despite Gunman’s Danger Signs,
    NYT, 26.5.2014,






Even in a State With Restrictive Laws,

Gunman Amassed Weapons

and Ammunition


MAY 25, 2014
The New York Times


ISLA VISTA, Calif. — Even in California, with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, Elliot O. Rodger was able to amass a stash of weapons and ammunition, despite having struggled with mental health issues for years.

The authorities in Santa Barbara County said Mr. Rodger, 22, went on a rampage Friday night that killed six people and injured 13. Mr. Rodger was found dead in his car after the rampage, and the police said he had apparently taken his own life. In the car, the police said, were three semiautomatic handguns, along with magazines loaded with more than 400 rounds of ammunition — all bought legally at local gun stores.

In the aftermath of the shooting, questions have arisen about whether the authorities followed proper procedures in dealing with Mr. Rodger and whether they had missed warnings of the potential danger.

Under federal law, someone who is involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment is barred from possessing firearms. But California’s stricter laws impose temporary bans if individuals are deemed a threat to themselves or others and placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, or make a serious threat of violence against a “reasonably identifiable” person or persons to a licensed psychotherapist, who must then report such a threat to law enforcement.

The Santa Barbara County sheriff, Bill Brown, said Sunday that Mr. Rodger, who was visited by sheriff’s deputies in April as part of a check on his welfare, offered no indications that he was “a danger to himself or anyone else.”

“He just didn’t meet the criteria for any further intervention at that point,” Sheriff Brown said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “He was able to convince the deputies that this was all a misunderstanding, that although he was having some social problems, he was probably not going to be staying in school and going to be returning home. And he was able to make a very convincing story that there was no problem, that he wasn’t going to hurt himself or anyone else.”

In a lengthy manifesto he wrote, Mr. Rodger had a long list of people he said he wanted to kill, including his stepmother and half brother. And while his psychologist, along with his mother and several others, received a copy of the document outlining the threats, it came shortly before the shooting — too late to stop him from buying the guns.

Mr. Rodger purchased the first gun in November 2012 for $700, a Glock 34 semiautomatic pistol at Goleta Valley Gun and Supply, just a few miles from his apartment, using money he had gotten from family members meant to pay for his college classes.

“I did this quickly and hastily,” he said in the manifesto of the gun purchase, which he called “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger.” He added that he had chosen that particular gun because it was an “efficient and highly accurate weapon.”

After picking it up a few weeks later, he said, he “felt a new sense of power.”

“Who’s the alpha male now?” he added. He said he then had locked the pistol in his safe before going on vacation with his mother in England.

After his mother saw a bizarre rambling he posted on YouTube last month, she worried he was suicidal. As a result of her concern, seven deputies showed at his apartment on April 30, finding Mr. Rodger polite, if awkward. They had no search warrant to look inside his apartment, and apparently no probable cause to look for weapons.

They left shortly after. Mr. Rodger recounted the episode with relief in his rambling document.

“If they had demanded to search my room,” Mr. Rodger wrote, “that would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.”

Sheriff Brown said that while he wished “that we could turn the clock back and maybe change some things,” there was little more that the authorities could have done. Judging from Mr. Rodger’s writings, Sheriff Brown said, “it’s very apparent that he was able to convince many people for many years that he didn’t have this deep, underlying obvious mental illness that ultimately manifested itself in this terrible tragedy.”

Sheriff Brown said it was unclear on Sunday whether officers had specifically checked for weapons during the April visit.

Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher Michaels-Martinez was killed in the shooting, spoke to the news media on Saturday, blaming “craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.” for the deaths.

California has some of the nation’s strictest laws limiting the gun rights of people with mental illness, going much further than the federal standard. Still, it was unclear if the police would have even had the authority to search Mr. Rodger’s home for weapons when they went to check on him. California law permits law enforcement to confiscate firearms in such situations only if the person is admitted to a mental health facility on a so-called 5150, or a 72-hour psychiatric hold for evaluation.

California has banned high-capacity magazines, but Mr. Rodger had at least 41 low-capacity magazines, with more than enough ammunition to unleash a deadly attack, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, who is an expert in gun laws.

“The lesson here is that there is not necessarily some magic bullet that is going to stop these mass shootings, though I wish there were,” Mr. Winkler said.

More important, he said, is that people need to take threats made on social media more seriously.

“He was advertising to people that he was a threat; if more people had acted on it and reported it, it’s possible law enforcement would have acted differently,” Mr. Winkler said.

Mr. Rodger wrote that he had bought a second handgun in the spring of 2013, a Sig Sauer P226. “It is of a much higher quality than the Glock and a lot more efficient,” he wrote. He paid $1,100 for the gun, $400 more than he had paid for his first gun.

“These prices were of no concern to me,” he wrote, because he had more than $5,000 in his bank account meant to fund what he called his “Day of Retribution.”

At the start of this year, Mr. Rodger said, he decided to buy a third gun in case one of his other two jammed. “I needed two working handguns at the same time, as that was how I planned to commit suicide, with two simultaneous shots to the head,” he said.


Correction: May 26, 2014

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people

fatally shot by Elliot O. Rodger on Friday in Isla Vista, Calif.

Three of his victims were stabbed and three were shot;

they were not all shot.

A version of this article appears in print on May 26, 2014,

on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline:

Even in a State With Restrictive Laws,

Amassing Weapons and Ammunition.

    Even in a State With Restrictive Laws,
    Gunman Amassed Weapons and Ammunition, NYT, 25.5.2014,






YouTube Removes Video

Posted by Shooting Suspect


MAY 24, 2014
The New York Times


As news spread of a shooting in California that left at least seven people dead, YouTube on Saturday afternoon took down a video clip that the police have connected to the rampage. The website was seemingly caught between its mission and its morals, between making information available to all and spreading material that could be construed as offensive, even dangerous.

The video, titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” was uploaded by Mr. Rodger on Friday, the day of the shooting. In it, Mr. Rodger, sitting in his car and speaking to the camera, bemoans the fact that he is still a virgin and promises to take revenge on women for rejecting him. (He also posted the video on his Facebook page and on his blog.) He was tentatively identified by a family lawyer on Saturday as the gunman who was found dead after shooting six people in the Isla Vista section of Santa Barbara.

A spokeswoman for Google, which owns YouTube, said the video had been removed because it violated the service’s guidelines against acts like stalking, intimidating behavior and making threats. The spokeswoman said that most videos marked for removal are first flagged by viewers and then examined by special review teams that determine whether they meet the site’s guidelines.

YouTube has a slightly different policy for videos that are posted in the context of news or as documentary artifacts because, the spokeswoman said, the website wants to be a place “where people come to understand what happened.”

YouTube prohibits hate speech, which it defines in its community guidelines as speech that “attacks or demeans a group” based on race, religion or other defining characteristics. Facebook, too, prohibits hateful postings that attack others on the basis of their identity.

It was not the first time — nor is it likely to be the last — that social media has found itself at the center of a violent and rapidly developing news story. In 2012, for example, an anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube ignited anger across the Muslim world and was subsequently removed from the site.

Technology companies have in the past censored themselves, and others. Two years ago, for instance, both Apple and Google discontinued a smartphone app produced by Hezbollah. And in 2010, YouTube removed links to several speeches by the radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in which he advocated violence.

Mr. Rodger’s videos on YouTube did not counsel others to act violently, but his language in them was disturbing enough that his parents, according to their lawyer, contacted the police about a month ago to express concern. The other videos remain on his YouTube channel. In one clip posted shortly before the shootings, Mr. Rodger recorded himself parked in his BMW at the beach, observing an unsuspecting couple as they kiss on a park bench.

In the final video he posted, he looks into the camera and says, “After I’ve annihilated every single girl in the sorority house, I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there.” At another point, seemingly addressing women who rejected him, he says, “If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood.”

In addition to their violent imagery and misogyny, Mr. Rodger’s videos were marked by his self-loathing. The title of one: “Why Do Girls Hate Me So Much?”

    YouTube Removes Video Posted by Shooting Suspect,
    NYT, 24.5.2014,






Video Rant, Then Deadly Rampage

in California Town


MAY 24, 2014
The New York Times


ISLA VISTA, Calif. — A college student who posted videos that documented his rage against women for rejecting him killed six people and wounded 13 others during a spasm of terror on Friday night, the police said. He stabbed three men to death in his apartment and shot the others as he methodically opened fire on bystanders on the crowded streets of this small town.

The gunman, identified by the police as Elliot O. Rodger, 22, was found dead with a bullet wound to his head after his black BMW crashed into a parked car following two shootouts with sheriff’s deputies near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The police said he had apparently taken his own life. Three semiautomatic handguns, along with 41 loaded 10-round magazines — all bought legally at local gun stores — were found in his car.

Barely 24 hours before the killing spree, Mr. Rodger, a student at Santa Barbara City College, had posted a video on YouTube in which he sat behind the steering wheel of his black BMW and for seven minutes recounted the isolation and sexual frustrations of his life, pausing for an occasional self-mocking laugh.

He spoke of the women who rejected him, the happiness he saw around him, and his life as a virgin at the age of 22. He called his message “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” and said it was the last video he would post.

“It all has to come to this,” Mr. Rodger says, his voice at once placid and chilling. “Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day I will have my retribution against humanity. Against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. In those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness.”

“I do not know why you girls aren’t attracted to me,” he said, “But I will punish you all for it.”

On Friday, at 9:27 p.m. in this town just north of Santa Barbara, the police said that Mr. Rodger started what turned out to be the second part of his revenge, which began shortly after he left his apartment, the first of the 12 crime scenes along Mr. Rodger’s route.

Witnesses said they saw three body bags being taken out from the apartment complex; the police said all three victims had been stabbed multiple times. Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County described it as “a pretty horrific crime scene.”

In addition to the video, Mr. Rodger had prepared a 141-page manifesto laying out his plan for the killings, starting with luring potential victims to his apartment.

“We have obtained and are analyzing written and videotaped evidence that suggests that this atrocity was a premeditated mass murder,” Sheriff Brown said.

Mr. Rodger’s decision to target young women — in his video, he spoke bitterly of “stuck-up blonde” women who had refused his advances, preferring the “obnoxious young brutes” he saw walking on the beach or the tree-lined campus — was particularly chilling. This was what should have been a festive Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer; instead, the day was filled with images of women sobbing. In one case, a young woman recounted how a bullet had narrowly missed her head.

Kyle Sullivan, 19, a student at Santa Barbara City College, told CNN that he saw three women sprawled in the grass in front of the Alpha Phi sorority house. Only one of them appeared conscious and she had called her mother on her cellphone and told her in a frantic voice that she was not sure if she would survive.
Continue reading the main story

In his manifesto, which he called “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger,” Mr. Rodger said the police had visited his apartment in April, acting on the complaints of his mother, who was alarmed by videos he had posted online. He said he had managed to convince the police that there was nothing to worry about, and quickly took down the videos — posting them again in the days before what he called his “Day of Retribution.”

The sheriff acknowledged that deputies had visited Mr. Rodger’s apartment on April 30, but said he had appeared courteous and polite, and did not meet the conditions that would have permitted them to confine him.

“You’ve got to understand that this is a fairly routine kind of call that is quite commonplace,” he said. “The deputies are well trained and are adept at handling these kind of calls.”

They reported two other encounters with Mr. Rodger, including once when he reported that he had been attacked and once when he called because he wanted to file charges against a roommate for stealing three candles with a value of $22.

In his videos, a blog, his Facebook and the manifesto, Mr. Rodger portrayed himself as a loner in a perpetually sunny college town on the California coast. He spoke of going to beaches and watching with rage as couples held hands or kissed and of escaping to serenity on the local golf course because he knew, he said, he would not see a couple there.

He posted on sites where other young men shared their rages and frustrations at being virgins, and complained to classmates about the difficulty of meeting women. He referred to himself as an “INCEL,” short for “involuntary celibate.”

“Why do girls hate me so much?” was the name of one of the videos he posted. His agitation appeared to grow over time.

His father, Peter Rodger, who is British and lives in Los Angeles, has written screenplays and was the second unit director on the film “The Hunger Games.” His son boasted, on his Google Plus page, of attending the world premiere of that and other films.

The family, through a lawyer, issued a statement expressing their sympathy for the victims.

“We offer our deepest compassion and sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy,” said the statement, read by the lawyer, Alan Shifman. “We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain and our hearts go out to everyone involved.”

Mr. Rodger was, from a young age, emotionally disturbed, particularly since the divorce of his parents when he was in first grade, family friends said. Patrick Connors, 23, a former classmate at Crespi Carmelite High School, a Catholic school for boys in Los Angeles, said Mr. Rodger had left school before graduation. He said that Mr. Rodger was treated by his classmates as an oddball and that students mocked him and played jokes on him; once when Mr. Rodger fell asleep in his seat, classmates taped his head to his desk, he said.

“We said right from the get-go that that kid was going to lose it someday and just freak out,” he said. “Everyone made fun of him and stuff.”

George Duarte, who attended a mathematics laboratory with Mr. Rodger at the college, said he complained about his roommates for having a water pipe in the room, but mostly about girls.

“He kept talking about how annoying the girls were,” Mr. Duarte said. “He was stuck on the same topic.”

Kathy Bloeser, a family friend of Mr. Rodger’s, said he was “emotionally troubled.”

“We used to have him over here almost every day with his sister,” she said. “He would hide. He wouldn’t say much, I think he was bullied a bit.”

She said Mr. Rodger had recently posted on Facebook that he was a virgin and was met with a barrage of taunts, so he took the post down. “He was so tired of being made fun of,” she said.

The six people killed, as well as Mr. Rodger, were declared dead at crime scenes scattered across the grid of streets he traveled. In addition to the three killed at his apartment, Mr. Rodger killed two women in front of the Alpha Phi sorority at the University of California campus — leaving another woman there severely wounded — and one young man eating at the IV Deli Mart on Pardall Road, a Friday night gathering spot.

The sheriff said Mr. Rodger, apparently trying to act on what he threatened to do to sorority women in his video and manifesto, headed to the sorority and banged on the door for two minutes. When no one answered he fired on people outside.

The identities of the victims were slowly emerging, some in distraught posts on Facebook by devastated parents. “Veronika Weiss. 1995-2014. Innocent victim of the Goleta shooting rampage last night,” read a post by Bob Weiss. Another was Katie Cooper, whose death was confirmed by her mother, Kelli, in a telephone conversation before she broke down in tears and said she could not talk anymore.

The father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, the man killed in the delicatessen, offered a wrenching denunciation of gun advocates and policies that he said lead to the death of his child.

“This death has left our family lost and broken,” said the father, Richard Martinez. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?”

On Saturday evening, posts on Twitter said people were gathering for a candlelight vigil at a park here.

Witnesses said bystanders, confused at first by the pop-pop-pop of gunshots, began diving to the ground or running for cover as Mr. Rodger drove through the neighborhood.

Ian Papa, 20, a student at Santa Barbara City College, said he was going to get a slice of pizza when he encountered Mr. Rodger, who drove his car swiftly and wildly through the streets, at one point knocking down two bicyclists and mangling the leg of one of them.

“We saw a BMW driving slowly, and then in seconds it hit the accelerator — it was going 60-plus,” Mr. Papa said. “He hit two bikes. One he barely grazed. The other was plowed down. The biker went through the windshield, and the driver took off.”

The university is about 10 miles from downtown Santa Barbara and has just over 22,000 students.

Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies pulled dozens of bags of evidence out of his apartment complex. The bags were labeled “handwritten journal,” “2 machetes, 1 knife, 1 hammer,” and “Bags of empty Ammo boxes found under bed.”
Correction: May 24, 2014

An earlier version of this article misstated one word in the name of the college where Elliot Rodger was a student. It is Santa Barbara City College, not Santa Barbara Community College. ​In addition, a picture caption with this article misstated the name of the college campus near the shooting. As the article correctly notes,​ ​it is the University of California, Santa Barbara — not ​​the University of Santa Barbara.​


Ian Lovett reported from Goleta,

and Adam Nagourney from Los Angeles.

Reporting was contributed by Kimiya Shokoohi

from Woodland Hills, Calif.,

Matt Kettmann from Santa Barbara

and by Alan Feuer, Joan Nassivera

and Jennifer Preston from New York.

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.


A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Deadly RAMPAGE In College Town After Video Rant.

    Video Rant, Then Deadly Rampage in California Town, NYT, 24.5.2014,






Gunman Kills 6 in Drive-By Shooting

Near U.C. Santa Barbara


MAY 24, 2014
The New York Times


Six people were killed on Friday night in a series of drive-by shootings near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in what the authorities referred to as a premeditated case of “mass murder.”

The suspect in the shootings, who has not yet been identified publicly, also died, though law enforcement officials said they were uncertain whether he had taken his own life or was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers.

The violence unfolded over 10 chaotic minutes in the Isla Vista section of Santa Barbara, in an area where some sororities and fraternities associated with the university are located. At a news conference Saturday morning, the Santa Barbara County sheriff, Bill Brown, said the shootings had been “the work of a madman.”

The sheriff said investigators had recovered written and videotaped evidence suggesting that the attacks had been planned in advance. The evidence, he said, indicated that the suspect was “severely mentally disturbed.”

The police in Santa Barbara first received reports about multiple gunshots being fired at 9:27 p.m. on Friday, Sheriff Brown said. He said that sheriff’s deputies in the area also heard the shots and that as they responded on foot, they discovered several injured victims.

Minutes later, he said, a separate group of officers encountered the suspect fleeing in a car, which some witnesses described as a black BMW. The suspect opened fire on the officers and the officers returned fire, the sheriff said.

Within seconds, there was another exchange of fire between the suspect and law enforcement officers, and the suspect crashed his vehicle into a parked car, Sheriff Brown said. When the officers approached the car, they discovered the suspect dead inside with a bullet wound in his head. A semiautomatic handgun was recovered from the scene, the sheriff said.

Aside from the six fatalities, seven people were wounded in the attacks. At least one person had life-threatening wounds.

    Gunman Kills 6 in Drive-By Shooting Near U.C. Santa Barbara,
    NYT, 24.5.2014,






Killings Surge in North Bronx,

Testing New Police Tactics


MAY 18, 2014
The New York Times


A teenager gunned down next to a Bronx playground. A U-Haul truck riddled with bullets after a deadly shootout that involved as many as five gunmen. A tattooed 25-year-old from Massachusetts executed, with three shots to the head, one to the back, on a housing project roof.

“Bury me with Satan,” one tattoo read.

The seasonal return of gun violence — a foreign idea to some New Yorkers but a familiar one in the city’s crime-troubled communities — has come early this year to the northernmost neighborhoods of the Bronx: eight killings, five this month, compared with a single murder at this time last year. The number of shootings has nearly doubled.

For residents, it is a grim departure from the trend in most of the city, where the homicide rate continues its decline, and an alarming omen of what the summer may bring.

“This is the just the beginning,” said Darion Ennis, 30, who found himself running with his mother and children this month after shooting erupted in the playground across the street from their East 215th Street home, days before the killing next to that playground.

For the New York Police Department, the surge in violence in the 47th Precinct, which extends from East Gun Hill Road to the border with Mount Vernon, N.Y., presents an early field test for Commissioner William J. Bratton’s hands-off approach to local commanders.

Told to experiment, the precinct commander here is doing so aggressively, and, in the process, providing a blueprint for how Mr. Bratton’s airy rhetoric of “collaborative policing” might be translated to the street. “We want people who think on their feet,” Stephen Davis, the department’s top spokesman, said. “This style of thing is going to be something that Bratton is in favor of.”

Starting this week, every patrol officer, on foot or in cars, will begin making some sort of contact with a family on every block in the precinct, said the commander, Deputy Inspector Ruel R. Stephenson. And he has also proposed changes to the department’s Operation Impact program, started in 2003, that would allow more local control over when and how crime hot spots are flooded with officers.

That immediate solutions are needed could be heard in conversations across the vast Bronx precinct, which covers neighborhoods known to many as the last stops on the subway lines that stretch there: Woodlawn, Wakefield, Eastchester. There are a handful of public housing developments, but the area is mostly made up of low-lying apartment buildings and single-family homes, many of which are owner-occupied, with cars parked in front. It was apparent on Wednesday, at a packed community meeting with Inspector Stephenson, who took command here last month after leading a precinct in Harlem.

“It’s absolutely insane,” said Brenda M. Francis, vice president of the precinct’s community council. “There’s been violence before, but not like this.”

The suburban-style sprawl of the landscape, which is bordered with highways and cut through by the elevated 2 and 5 trains, is apparent from the settings of the violence: a gas station, a highway access road, a strip-mall barbershop in January. In that case, none of the barbers at Dome Groomers were injured, nor was the intended target.
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And no one, on Wednesday, would discuss the shooting. “If he comes back, are you going to protect me?” said one barber, declining to give his name. The area has long been plagued by pockets of violence, residents and the police said. Though other areas of the Bronx have historically been more problematic, this year’s crime spike is the worst in the borough. A rise in killings so far this year across the Bronx — to 27 from 21 — could be attributed entirely to those in this precinct.

“The 47 problem is a significant problem,” the borough’s police commander, Assistant Chief Larry W. Nikunen, said at the community meeting.

No one factor can explain the violence, officials said. It is not a single clash between groups, confined and contained, so much as an accumulation of robberies, deadly family squabbles and turf battles between local crews and marijuana dealers that are scattered across neighborhoods.

Several of the shootings have been solved by detectives, often without any assistance from the victims. Others, like the killing of the Massachusetts man, Joshua Bressette of North Adams, present mysteries.

From the rooftop in the Gun Hill Houses where his body was found, the towers of Midtown Manhattan appeared distant in the spring haze. Elevated trains rumbled below, drowning out the jangle of circling ice cream trucks.

It took days for officers to attach a name to the body. Fliers appeared with images of his tattoos and a description of his clothing: a Misfits T-shirt and hat, skateboard-style shoes. Mr. Bressette had been arrested in February on heroin possession charges in Massachusetts, the police there said, and was reported missing this month.

No arrest has been made in his killing, nor in that of Jahbar Campbell, 22, who died in late April in a hail of bullets as he ran with two other men from a group of armed pursuers. There were four or five guns in all. The U-Haul truck sped off but came to a stop nearby, on Reeds Mill Lane. “There is some gang nexus in that case,” Inspector Stephenson said of Mr. Campbell’s killing. Specifically, he added, the Slut Gang, a crew based in the Boston Secor Houses, just off Boston Road.

Rivalries between groups of young men spurred a series of shootings on East 215th Street that culminated in the May 11 killing of Quashawn Thomas, 19, whom the police described as an affiliate of the Big Money Bosses, a local crew feuding with a group called the Young Shooter Gang. There had been gunfire twice on the corner that week, residents said, as young men fired wildly around the park.

“The craziness, it’s an everyday thing,” said Tonya Williams, 29, who moved from North Carolina to the block. Leaning out her second-story window to speak to a reporter on the street, Ms. Williams said she kept her 4-year-old daughter safe by staying indoors and planned to move as soon as possible. “Queens or Staten Island, where it’s quieter,” she said.

Nearby, a pair of patrol officers stood sentry on a street corner as both marked and unmarked police cars passed periodically. “It’s a violent neighborhood,” one explained, declining to be identified. “Be safe,” the other cautioned. “It’s almost dark.”

In an interview, Inspector Stephenson explained his plan to have such officers get to know local families as part of their regular duties. Each would be expected to stop for 10 minutes or so with a family at least once a week, gathering names, numbers and email addresses for collection into a database, he said.

“I’m not trying to create people who are going to snitch,” he said, likening the program instead to a sort of early warning system. “We want to get to the smaller quality-of-life stuff first from the people. We want them to tell us what’s wrong.”

As for officers who may balk at the new requirements, the commander said he would personally ride around with officers who could not make contacts and help them.

On the enforcement side, Inspector Stephenson requested the authority to move around some of the 58 Operation Impact officers who are soon to be assigned to his precinct. He said he would take about half of those officers and place them in small problem pockets as they emerge.

“I have always complained about Impact,” he told the community meeting on Wednesday night. “For example, if I see a shooting by one group and I know that the other feuding group may retaliate, we can defuse it by placing people in those areas to prevent any sort of retaliation. Historically, you weren’t able to do that with an impact zone.” The department’s upper echelons are currently considering the proposal and have yet to approve it.

If approved, it would be the second round of changes to the program, which places groups of young officers in high-crime areas chosen at Police Headquarters. (Mr. Bratton said in January that he would steer away from putting officers who just graduated from the Police Academy into impact zones, sending them first to precinct assignments.)

Whether these measures will have much effect on crime, or improve police relations with the area’s working-class communities and many Caribbean immigrants, will take time to tell.

Some, like Mr. Ennis, who have had to take shelter from gunfire this month, are not sticking around to find out. “My girl is looking for a different apartment,” he said. “I don’t want to live in this area anymore. Too much shooting.”


A version of this article appears in print on May 19, 2014,

on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline:

Killings Surge in North Bronx, Testing New Police Tactics.

    Killings Surge in North Bronx, Testing New Police Tactics,
    NYT, 18.5.2014,






In Youth’s Death,

Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong


MAY 7, 2014
The New York Times


MISSOULA, Mont. — Teenagers call it garage hopping. The goal was to sneak into an open garage, steal some beer or other items and slip away into the night. It was dumb and clearly illegal. It was not supposed to be deadly.

Around midnight on April 27, a 17-year-old exchange student from Germany named Diren Dede left the host home where he played Xbox and drained cans of Sprite to set off with a friend through his dark hillside neighborhood. They passed a home whose garage door hung partially open. Using a cellphone for light, Mr. Dede headed in.

Inside the house, motion sensors alerted Markus Kaarma, 29, to an intruder’s presence. Two recent burglaries had put Mr. Kaarma and his young family on edge, his lawyer said, and he grabbed a shotgun from the dining room and rushed outside. He aimed into the garage and, according to court documents, fired four blasts into the dark. Mr. Dede’s body crumpled to the floor.

German consular officials have called for justice. In an interview with a German news agency, Mr. Dede’s father criticized what he called an American cowboy culture as contributing to his son’s death. In Mr. Dede’s hometown, Hamburg, hundreds of his stunned relatives, friends and soccer teammates attended memorials, holding photos of Mr. Dede and unfurling a banner that read, “Our brother is dying while America is looking on.”

In Montana, which has one of the country’s highest rates of gun ownership, the killing has renewed criticism of the state’s “castle doctrine” laws, which allow residents wider latitude to use force to defend their homes.

Nearly every state has a law on the books giving residents the legal right to defend their homes, but Montana is among several that have gone further. With backing from the National Rifle Association and the support of the state’s Democratic governor, Montana passed a stronger law in 2009 that placed the burden on prosecutors to rebut claims of self-defense.

Under the old laws, residents were justified in using force only if an assailant tried to enter their home in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.” The new law eliminates that language and makes it clear that residents can use force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent an assault on themselves or someone else in the home.

These laws are expected to play a crucial role in the criminal case that has been filed against Mr. Kaarma, who is out on bond and is to be arraigned Monday. His lawyer, Paul Ryan, says Mr. Kaarma feared for his family’s safety and panicked that night.

“He doesn’t know who’s there, what they’ve got, anything,” Mr. Ryan said. “He just didn’t know what was going on. Then he started to shoot.”

“I’m a liberal legislator from Montana, and I have a handgun in my closet,” she said. “We are proud of our gun-owning tradition, but enough is enough. It’s like a license to kill. People are walking around exercising vigilante justice.”

Steve Daines, a Republican congressman running for the United States Senate, recently told a veteran’s group he supported the laws as they stand, a view echoed by gun enthusiasts. His opponent, Senator John Walsh, a Democrat, supports them as well.

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said, “I think it’s working just fine.”

In times of emergency in Montana, Mr. Marbut said, the police are often an hour’s drive away. “Self-defense is a natural right. It is part of the nature of being a free person that your life has value and you can protect that life. It’s just not going to work to change Montana to a Chicago-style culture.”

But here in Missoula, a liberal college town ringed by snow-capped peaks, Mr. Dede’s classmates and neighbors as well as other residents have expressed sympathy for him and tried to distance their community from the bloody events of that night. Scores of people attended a vigil for Mr. Dede, and ribbons bearing the red, gold and black of the German flag hang around nearly every mailbox post in his neighborhood, a winding subdivision where deer leap through backyards and children play driveway basketball at dusk.

“This is not us,” said Randy Smith, one of Mr. Dede’s host parents. “It’s not our neighborhood, it’s not our country. It’s not Montana.”

It was Mr. Dede’s first trip to the United States, and his teachers and friends, host family and soccer coach said he had seemed to thrive here. He played on two soccer teams and was so devoted to the sport that he insisted on attending a grueling team run up a mountainside on his first night in Missoula.

The son of Turkish immigrants, he often talked about straddling two cultures, and listened to German hip-hop and Turkish pop music on his phone. He took trips to Hawaii and Yellowstone and talked about wanting to return here to crisscross the country in a motor home.

But just up the road, two recent burglaries had made Mr. Kaarma and his partner, Janelle Pflager, feel like targets inside their home, Mr. Kaarma’s lawyer said. Someone had entered their open garage — the couple kept it open so they could duck out to smoke cigarettes — and stolen a wallet and credit cards, Mr. Ryan, the lawyer said. The break-ins rattled the couple, who are first-time parents with a 10-month-old.

“They’re feeling invaded,” Mr. Ryan said. “They thought they were being watched in their own neighborhood.”

Ms. Pflager bought motion sensors and a video camera to track the intruders should they return, and put a purse with some marked belongings inside, so that they could be traced to anyone who stole them. Mr. Ryan said the purse was sitting in the back of the garage and had not been placed there to lure anyone in.

A hairstylist named Felene Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma had come into the Great Clips salon three days before the shooting and talked about how he had been waiting up with his shotgun for three nights “to shoot some kid.” Ms. Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma was being “extremely vulgar and belligerent,” according to court documents.

Mr. Kaarma told the police that in the moments before Mr. Dede’s death, he heard the sound of metal touching metal as he stared into the pitch-black garage, and swept the gun across the width of the garage as he fired. Ms. Pflager told the police she heard a few yells of “Hey!” or “Wait!” from inside the garage, and then gunshots. It all happened in less than 10 seconds, the couple told the police.

They did not see who was in the garage until it was all over, Mr. Ryan said. The friend accompanying Mr. Dede that night, an exchange student from Ecuador, stayed outside the home.

The police are investigating whether Mr. Kaarma was under the influence of marijuana or other substances at the time of the shooting. Investigators found a glass jar of marijuana in his kitchen pantry, according to a search-warrant application filed in the case. A neighbor also told the police that Mr. Kaarma smoked marijuana in the garage, and that marijuana and marijuana pipes had been stolen in one of the earlier burglaries.

Investigators have tested Mr. Kaarma’s blood for drugs, but the results have not been released. Mr. Ryan said that Mr. Kaarma had also been tested for alcohol use after the shooting, and that those results were negative.

Mr. Dede’s host parents, Mr. Smith and Kate Walker, who say they have never locked their doors and have never been burglarized, have spent the last week grieving for a 17-year-old who had begun to feel like a family member.

“Whatever happened to turning the lights on and yelling, ‘Hey kids, go home’?” Mr. Smith said.

Ms. Walker added, “Or closing the garage door?”


A version of this article appears in print on May 8, 2014,

on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline:

In German Student’s Death, Some See a Law Gone Wrong

in Montana.

    In Youth’s Death, Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong,
    NYT, 7.5.2014,






Ex-Officer Killed Wife, Police Say;

Children Ran for Help


APRIL 19, 2014
The New York Times


A former New York City police officer fatally shot his wife in their Queens home on Saturday while their two young children were in the house, according to the police and neighbors.

Officers responding to a 911 call around 11 a.m. at the family’s home in Ozone Park found a 40-year-old woman who had been shot several times in the torso, the police said. The victim, Jessica D. Mera-Canty, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, according to the police.

The man, identified as Kevin Canty, 43, a former transit officer, was taken into custody a short time later about a mile from the house, the police said.

The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, ran from the house, looking for help. A neighbor took them to a nearby deli.

“The kids were disturbed,” Fez Atlas, the owner of Little Casablanca Deli, said. “The little girl knows what happened. And the boy told me that there was blood on the wall.”

Mr. Atlas said he hid the children behind the counter in an alcove covered by a wooden door, and kept an eye on the security camera video for their father.

“I didn’t know if he had a gun, but I did know that if he came to look for the kids that I had a knife and I know how to use it.”

The police could not yet say whether the children had witnessed the shooting. The boy and girl were taken into police custody and given a medical evaluation before they were turned over to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services for questioning, the police said.

The couple and their children lived at 97-44 104th Street. Donna Schultz, a neighbor who lives on the same block, said: “He looked like a normal person. He would wave at you on the street.”

Mr. Canty worked for the Police Department between 2008 and 2013, according to city payroll data.

In 2012, Mr. Canty was praised on the department’s Facebook page after he and three fellow officers helped to save the life of a man who had suffered a heart attack at the Union Square subway station.


Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.


A version of this article appears in print on April 20, 2014,

on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline:

Ex-Officer Killed Wife, Police Say; Children Ran for Help.

    Ex-Officer Killed Wife, Police Say; Children Ran for Help,
    NYT, 19.4.2014,






Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centers

in Kansas City Suburb


APRIL 13, 2014
The New York Times


A man opened fire outside a Jewish Community Center and a nearby retirement community in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday afternoon, killing three people before he was taken into custody.

The man, who was identified as Frazier Glenn Cross of Aurora, Mo., in Johnson County booking records. He was charged with first-degree murder and was scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon.

The suspect, 73, is a former Ku Klux Klan leader with a history of anti-Semitism and racism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups. It identified him as Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, commonly known as Glenn Miller, and said he was the founder and grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The shootings took place in Overland Park, Kan., a major suburb located just across the state line from Kansas City, Mo. Overland Park is the second-biggest city in Kansas and has a population of about 170,000.

A doctor and his 14-year-old grandson were killed in the parking lot at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and a woman was killed a short time later in a parking lot at Village Shalom, a senior living community about a mile away, the police said.

Mr. Miller was taken into custody on Sunday afternoon at a local elementary school near Village Shalom, the police said. In video taken by KMBC, a local television station, the suspect yelled “Heil Hitler!” while sitting in a police car.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it sued Mr. Miller in the 1980s for intimidating African-Americans, and he has had several run-ins with the law since then. He served six months in prison after he was held in criminal contempt for violating the terms of the court order that settled that lawsuit. He also served three years in federal prison for weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of the center’s founder, Morris Dees. As part of his plea bargain, he testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 trial.

The police said it was too early in the investigation to determine whether the attacks were a hate crime.

Mr. Miller made several unsuccessful runs for public office, including a bid for the Senate in 2010. He kept a website where he espoused views of white supremacy and eschewed racial mixing. He was a fan of David Duke, a white nationalist and a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Louis Farrakhan, the former leader of the Nation of Islam who blamed Jews for slavery in America.

In a 2010 interview with Howard Stern, the radio shock jock, who is Jewish, Mr. Miller was asked who he hated more, Jews or African-Americans. Mr. Miller answered “Jews. A thousand times more. Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions.”

Prodded to explain, he said Jews controlled the federal government, mass media and the Federal Reserve Bank. “And with those powers, they’re committing genocide against the white race,” he said.

In the same interview, Mr. Miller said he had “a great deal of respect for Muslim people” and called Adolf Hitler “the greatest man who ever walked the earth.”

Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said she spoke with Mr. Miller’s wife, Marge, on Sunday and Ms. Miller said that the police told her that her husband had been arrested as the gunman.

Ms. Miller, who has no apparent ties to the white supremacist community, according to Ms. Beirich, told her that she last saw her husband at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, when he left to go to a casino. He called her at about 10:30 on Sunday morning to say that his winnings were up, Ms. Beirich said, and that was the last Ms. Miller heard of him. At a news conference several hours after the shootings, the Overland Park police chief, John Douglass, said that the suspect was not a local resident and was not known to the Police Department before Sunday’s attacks.

“Today is a very sad and tragic day,” Chief Douglass said. “There are no words to express the senselessness of what happened this afternoon.”

When asked at a news conference whether Mr. Miller had yelled “Heil Hitler!” as he was arrested, Chief Douglass said it was too early to discuss what the suspect did or did not say.

Two of the victims were identified on Sunday night as Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Reat was a freshman at Blue Valley High School and an Eagle Scout, according to a statement from their family. Dr. Corporon was a “well-loved physician in the Johnson County community,” and he and his wife had been married for almost 50 years. Both victims were members of the nearby United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

President Obama released a statement on Sunday evening, saying he offered his thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims.

“I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation,” he said. “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking.”

The Anti-Defamation League called the attacks a “cowardly, unspeakable and heinous act of violence.”

“While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause,” Karen Aroesty, the group’s St. Louis regional director, said in a statement.

The attacks came during an unusually busy day at the Jewish Community Center, because first-round auditions were planned for the afternoon for a singing competition called KC SuperStar. When the shooting was reported around 1 p.m., more than 100 people fled into a hall inside the center, where they were held for about an hour and a half.

A high school student, Sophia Porter, arrived at the center for her singing audition only five minutes after the shooting. Sophia, 17, said she saw police cars arriving before she was ushered into the lockdown area with dozens of adults and children.

“I was definitely shellshocked when I heard what had happened,” she said. “It was horrifying to think of the person who would be responsible for that.”

The Jewish Community Center is the main hub for about 20,000 Jewish people living in the Kansas City metropolitan area, said Herbert Mandl, a retired rabbi and a local police chaplain.

“It’s a very trying time for the community,” he said. “We’ll pull together. We’ll survive.”

The attacks started at a parking lot in the back of the sprawling community center near a theater, the police said. The suspect fired several shots and left. Several minutes later, an emergency call came from the retirement community reporting shots fired.

Images from local television stations showed a heavyset, bearded man wearing glasses being led away in handcuffs by police officers.

Mr. Mandl said he thought it was “suspicious” that both of the targets were places used mostly by the Jewish community, but said he understood that officials were being cautious in determining a motive.

Village Shalom representatives said Sunday evening that they had few details about what had happened. The retirement community was established in 1912 by a benevolent society of Orthodox Jews in Kansas City, according to their website. The campus has a cafe with kosher food, a dental clinic, a day spa and a library.

At the Jewish Community Center, the back doors had substantial damage from gunfire, the police said. The center released a statement on Sunday evening saying it would be closed on Monday.

“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day,” the statement read. “Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support.”


Correction: April 13, 2014

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a man who says the gunman fired at him. He is Dr. Mark Brodkey, not Brodky.


Ashley Southall contributed reporting from New York and John Eligon contributed from Detroit.

A version of this article appears in print on April 14, 2014, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centers in Kansas City Suburb.

    Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centers in Kansas City Suburb, NYT, 13.4.2014,






Adding Insult to Gun Injuries,

Police Often Handcuff Victims


APRIL 11, 2014
The New York Times


Two days after he was shot, Andre Daly woke in a haze with a police officer standing by his hospital bed in Brooklyn.

“I’m thinking he’s going to talk about the incident that happened to me — how I got shot,” Mr. Daly, 29, recently recalled. But the officer was not there to interview Mr. Daly. He had come to arrest him over an unpaid summons.

“He’s telling me now I’m a prisoner of New York City because I have a warrant,” Mr. Daly said.

Mr. Daly spent more than a week immobilized, not just by his three bullet wounds, but also by a set of handcuffs and ankle restraints — all because of an unpaid $25 fine for possessing a cup of wine in public.

“That’s the procedure,” the department’s chief spokesman, Stephen Davis, said, explaining that the “patrol guide says prisoners will be handcuffed at all times.”

“We’re not handcuffing him by virtue of him being a victim,” Mr. Davis said, referring in general to instances where shooting victims were arrested on minor warrants. “But if he has a warrant, it would require him to be in our custody.”

Patients who are arrested on warrant violations are typically held by the police under harsher conditions than those who are wounded while either committing crimes or struggling with the police. In those cases, suspects are often provided a lawyer comparatively quickly, and fall under the supervision of the Correction Department, whose rules limit the use of restraints.

However, the Police Department patrol guide says that its “policy is to handcuff all hospitalized prisoners to ensure the safety of persons present and prevent escape.” The patrol guide does recognize a few exceptions, including prisoners who are comatose or paralyzed. In nearly all cases, an officer is assigned to guard the prisoner.

Police officials said they did not keep statistics regarding how many of the city’s 1,299 shooting victims last year were arrested on warrants. It is standard police practice to check them for warrants, Mr. Davis, the police spokesman, explained, “as part of the victimology” — a police phrase for researching the background of a crime victim.

That can offer clues on who might have menaced the victim in the past as well as help detectives assess the victim’s credibility as they put together a case.

“When someone is shot, and when they go to investigate, they will run him for warrants,” Mr. Davis said.

But victims and their lawyers say that it is one thing to look into a victim’s background; it is quite another to use a warrant as grounds to shackle people for days or weeks while they are recovering from gunshot wounds.

“It’s particularly egregious where they have minor offenses,” said Seymour W. James Jr., the lawyer in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal practice, which represents many of the hospitalized prisoners. “They consider everybody who has a warrant a fugitive.”

After inquiries by The New York Times, Susan Herman, a deputy police commissioner who is examining ways for the department to improve its interactions with crime victims, said in a recent interview that she intended to review the department’s practice of handcuffing shooting victims held on minor warrants. “I think it’s a policy that we absolutely will be reviewing,” Ms. Herman said.

Warrants for unpaid tickets are not uncommon, particularly among young black men in high-crime neighborhoods, where the police focus their enforcement efforts. According to the court system, there are 1.2 million outstanding warrants coming from the city’s Criminal Court, which handles only violations and misdemeanors. Many are for unpaid summonses.

The policy can cause health complications. Dr. John Raba, who has been appointed by a federal judge in New York to monitor the treatment of hospitalized prisoners in the custody of the Correction Department, said immobilizing prisoners could generally impede healing and increase the risk of blood clots.

Lequint Singleton had been shot in the back but was being held by the police because of two outstanding warrants: one for an open container of alcohol, and another for a disorderly conduct summons. Mr. Singleton said he recalled that as he was being prepared for surgery in August to stanch internal bleeding, he had to wait while “the doctors were arguing with the cop” about the handcuffs. “The doctor tells him: ‘It has to come off. There’s no way it’s staying on. He’s going into surgery.’ ”

The handcuffs were removed during surgery, but by the time Mr. Singleton woke, he found himself handcuffed and shackled again — and would remain so for about three weeks, he said.

“It wasn’t like they were serious cases — it wasn’t like I was on the run,” Mr. Singleton said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I got shot.”

One 19-year-old man who had been shot several times on Feb. 16, but was arrested in the hospital on a warrant over a disorderly conduct summons, said that after a week of being handcuffed to the hospital bed, he urged the police to take him to court even though he was still wounded.

“I was like, ‘I got to get out of here,’ ” said the man, who asked to be identified as Roy, a shortened version of his middle name, because he feared retaliation.

Roy said he was so weak that an officer had to support his slight frame as they entered the courtroom. “It was hard for me to walk,” he said.

A judge told him to stay out of trouble and released him, recalled Roy’s lawyer, Bharati Narumanchi, who confirmed Roy’s account of his detention at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn. The lawyer added that Roy did not have the strength to immediately leave the courthouse; he first lay down on a bench to rest.

Another shooting victim, Kenneth Briggs, 53, was handcuffed at Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s hospital for several weeks while he was in a medically induced coma, after he was shot on July 28. He said the police had told him he was handcuffed because of three outstanding warrants, all for nonviolent offenses.

“I woke up and tried to move, but they had me handcuffed,” Mr. Briggs recalled during a recent interview at Rikers Island, where he is serving a sentence for the sale of counterfeit Knicks tickets.

He said that after he woke up from his coma, the restraints remained on for many days, delaying his physical therapy. As soon as the restraints came off, he said, he began to hobble around his room and the hospital, relearning how to walk. “They didn’t start physical therapy until after I was uncuffed,” he said.

Asked if he was bitter about the whole experience, Mr. Briggs responded, “I’m mainly bitter about being shot.”

The policy also affects the relatives of people in custody, forcing visitors to get a permission slip from the police, which is good for only one visit. Mr. Daly’s mother, Thelma Coley, said that when Mr. Daly underwent surgery at Brookdale Hospital on Dec. 15, she was barred from seeing her son that day.

“An officer said we can’t come because he’s under arrest and we have to go to the precinct,” Ms. Coley said.

Mr. Daly said his warrant stemmed from an episode last summer. He said that while at a barbecue, he walked outside to talk on the phone and placed a cup of wine on the yard’s fence, which led to a summons from a passing officer. He missed his court date, he said, because he could not find a sitter for his 4-year-old son.

After his arrest in the hospital, Mr. Daly said, shackles were placed on his ankles, and his one good hand was handcuffed to the bed. (His other hand had been shattered by a bullet, requiring the insertion of pins.) The restraints left him unable to move much. He could not scratch an itch or adjust the colostomy bag that he was using as a result of a bullet that passed through his stomach.

When doctors wanted to examine an exit wound on his backside, they had to first ask the officer to uncuff him so that he could be turned over. A new officer came to guard him every eight or 12 hours. A captain, Mr. Daly said, would periodically “stick his head into the room to make sure I’m handcuffed and shackled.”

Mostly, the officers passed the time playing games on their cellphones; Mr. Daly said he could hear the sounds of the game Candy Crush.


A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Adding Insult to Gun Injuries, Police Often Handcuff Victims.

    Adding Insult to Gun Injuries, Police Often Handcuff Victims,
    NYT, 11.4.2014,






Justice Dept. Issuing Report

on Albuquerque Police Shootings


APRIL 10, 2014
The New York Times


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Justice Department is set to announce on Thursday the results of an investigation into allegations of excessive use of force by the Albuquerque Police Department, whose officers’ involvement in a series of shootings has raised questions about the adequacy of their training and cast a spotlight on the challenges faced by law enforcement in handling people with severe mental disorders.

The findings will arrive amid street protests and cries for reform that erupted after James Boyd, a homeless man with a long history of violent outbursts and mental instability, was shot dead by heavily armed police officers last month. Mr. Boyd was the 37th person shot by the police here since January 2010 and the 23rd fatality.

City officials, mindful that calls for reform were inevitable, had already started to make changes of their own, like mounting video cameras on police officers’ helmets and lapels. One of those cameras recorded the dispute in the Sandia Foothills that ended in Mr. Boyd’s death. But by releasing the video in the name of transparency, the police department also stoked outrage in many residents, setting off protests that brought hundreds of people to the streets and, on one day, ended in violent confrontations.

At a news conference last week, Richard J. Berry, the mayor of Albuquerque, unveiled other measures, among them hiring a deputy police chief to oversee the implementation of the Justice Department’s expected recommendations. Calling Mr. Boyd’s death a “game changer,” the mayor also outlined his goal of having all of the police department’s field officers trained and certified in crisis intervention, which would better equip them to handle situations involving people who are mentally disturbed, a common characteristic among most of the victims of the fatal shootings.

“I’m calling on our legislators to take action as well,” Mr. Berry told reporters, “to craft laws to help individuals living with mental health issues, particularly individuals who have a propensity to do harm to themselves or others.”

Workers for the Justice Department interviewed dozens of rank-and-file officers over 16 months, as well as community leaders and relatives of some of the victims as the agency carried out an investigation that some people here had been seeking for years.

As a result of similar inquiries, other police departments, like those in Detroit and New Orleans, have had to operate under federal oversight and spend millions of dollars to abide by the changes ordered by the Justice Department. Mr. Berry has already asked the City Council to set aside $1 million for compliance, while saying that the money is unlikely to be enough.

    Justice Dept. Issuing Report on Albuquerque Police Shootings,
    NYT, 10.4.2014,






Gunman Had ‘Clean Record,’

With No Violent Sign, Officials Say


APRIL 3, 2014
The New York Times


Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez had seen a military psychiatrist as recently as last month. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and had been prescribed Ambien to help him sleep. He had come back from a four-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 and told superiors he had suffered a traumatic head injury there. But military officials said he had never seen combat, and there was no record of any combat-related injury. He was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

Still, military officials said, they had seen nothing to indicate that Specialist Lopez, 34 — who killed three people and himself and wounded 16 others on Wednesday in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex. — was violent or suicidal.

“He had a clean record,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Thursday morning in testimony before a Senate panel in Washington. “No outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we’re yet aware of.”

Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Fort Hood commander, said Thursday at a news conference that there were “very strong indications” that there had been a “verbal altercation” between Specialist Lopez and one or more other soldiers in the minutes before the shooting started, but the authorities were still investigating what role, if any, that played in the attack.

“We have very strong evidence looking into his medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric condition,” General Milley said.

Friends from his hometown in Puerto Rico said that Specialist Lopez was angry with the Army when he returned home for his mother’s funeral in November. Ismael Gonzalez, a former schoolmate who had kept in contact with Specialist Lopez on Facebook, said the soldier was very upset that he had initially been given only 24 hours to attend the funeral.

In addition, Mr. Gonzalez said, Specialist Lopez, who was earning $28,000 a year, told him that he was “in a precarious economic situation” trying to support his family in Texas and two children in Puerto Rico from his first marriage. And he was angry that the Army would not allow him to move his family onto the base at Fort Hood, Mr. Gonzalez said.

None of this had found its way into Specialist Lopez’s official record, though.

“This was an experienced soldier,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff. “He spent actually nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard before coming on active duty, so he’s a very experienced soldier.”

Those who knew Specialist Lopez as a young man, obsessed with the high school band, were even more stunned to learn what he was suspected of doing.

“I cannot believe you are speaking about the same guy,” said Sgt. Maj. Nelson Bigas, one of Specialist Lopez’s superiors in the National Guard. “He was the most responsible, obedient, humble person, and one of the most skillful guys on the line.”

For a year beginning in 2006, Specialist Lopez was deployed with his guard unit on the Sinai Peninsula, watching the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

But, the authorities say, it was Specialist Lopez who went into Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., near Fort Hood on March 1 and bought the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was used in the shootings on Wednesday.

It was the same gun store where Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, had bought at least one of the weapons used in a 2009 mass shooting on the base.

So information was emerging slowly on Thursday about Mr. Lopez. He was raised in the small fishing village of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. While there, he attended the School of Asunción Rodríguez de Sala, where he was active in the band and an enthusiastic drummer.

In 1999, he joined the National Guard, where he also played in the band. Later, he joined the Puerto Rico Police Department and became a member of its band. Officials said his record with the force was clean, with no disciplinary or behavioral problems.

His main job for the police was visiting schools and hospitals around Puerto Rico to give demonstrations on his percussion instruments. After he finished, other police officers would speak to the students or patients about gun violence, drugs and bullying, said Jeann Correa, the director of the unit for which he worked. His pay was $2,400 a month.

In 2010, getting a special leave from the police force, he shifted into the Army as a private first class and was quickly promoted to specialist and stationed with the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex. He was an infantryman there but his military record shows that in November, because of an unspecified “medical condition,” he moved to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he trained to become a truck driver. In February 2011 he was posted to Fort Hood in that capacity.

Specialist Lopez had been married twice, first to Dimaris Cancel, whom he met in high school. They had two children and divorced. In El Paso, he met a community college student named Karla Machado; they married and had at least one child.

Xanderia Morris, who lives directly below the Lopez residence in Killeen, called them a “typical, happy couple.” She said she comforted the grief-stricken woman, who learned of her husband’s death from a newscast she heard through the open doorway of Ms. Morris’s apartment.

“I brought her inside and sat her down on the couch,” she said. “I just wanted to console her.”

About 15 minutes later, several law enforcement officers arrived and the woman left with them, Ms. Morris said.

“She gave me a big hug and thanked me,” Ms. Morris said. “I haven’t seen her since.”

Ms. Morris said neighbors told her that Ivan Lopez was home for lunch just hours before the shooting and showed no signs of distress.

Residents of Guayanilla, many of whom knew Specialist Lopez and his family well, were also stunned by the news. “Everyone is very sad, astonished and worried,” said Mayor Edgardo Arlequín of Guayanilla. “We are all wondering why this happened.”

Mr. Lopez grew up in a strict Catholic family, the son of Carmen Lopez, a nurse who died of a heart attack in November, and Ivan Lopez, a musician.

“He was not one of those isolated students who one would think would have problems,” said Jose A. Maiz Pagan, one of Mr. Lopez’s high school Spanish teachers. He described him as bright, friendly and “very normal.”

Mr. Arlequín had also been the band director at Mr. Lopez’s school and knew him well from those years.

“He was a quiet boy, always very obedient,” the mayor said. “He was not one to cause problems or disruptions. He always followed instructions.”

Glidden Lopez, a spokesman for the family but not a relative, said that “everybody is in a state of shock.” Mr. Lopez said that when Specialist Lopez returned to Puerto Rico for his mother’s funeral, the soldier had been upset about the 24-hour leave, but it was subsequently extended to 48 hours.

The spokesman said the family believed that his mother’s death “psychologically impacted him a bit.”

Mr. Pagan said that he had kept in regular contact with Specialist Lopez, often through Facebook. He said he had not detected a hint of trouble. “For Guayanilla, he was a hero,” Mr. Pagan said.

Mr. Lopez’s Facebook page, on which he identifies himself as “Ivan Slipknot,” includes several photos of him in uniform and with his family. In one, he brandishes a .50-caliber sniper rifle. His Facebook cover photo had been changed on March 15 to one of the Puerto Rican flag superimposed with the words that included a common Spanish-language profanity that roughly translates as “keep calm and don’t mess with me.”

Although little is known about the specific treatment Specialist Lopez may have received, a soldier who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, as Specialist Lopez apparently was, would be interviewed by a mental health practitioner and asked to fill out questionnaires about symptoms, mental health specialists said. The clinicians would then decide if the symptoms could be attributed to trauma during the soldier’s military service.

Although Specialist Lopez apparently reported that he had a traumatic brain injury, Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center, said that the symptoms of traumatic brain injury often overlap with those of post-traumatic stress disorder. Diagnosing the problem relies heavily on self-reporting, he said.

Dr. Marmar said that most soldiers with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury were not violent. “It would be tragic to tar the vast majority of war fighters, with or without PTSD or T.B.I., who would never commit acts of mass violence, with this act,” he said.


Reporting was contributed by Elivan Martinez, Eric Schmitt,

Michael S. Schmidt, Dave Montgomery, Timothy Williams,

Jennifer Preston, Erica Goode, Jack Begg

and Jacqueline Baylon.



A version of this article appears in print on April 4, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Gunman Had ‘Clean Record,’ With No Violent Sign,

Officials Say.

    Gunman Had ‘Clean Record,’ With No Violent Sign, Officials Say,
    NYT, 3.4.2014,






Soldier’s Attack at Base

Echoed Rampage in 2009


APRIL 3, 2014
The New York Times


KILLEEN, Tex. — In the aftermath of a deadly rampage at Fort Hood here in November 2009 that left 13 people dead, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a Pentagon review of the shooting to help ensure, he said, that “nothing like this ever happens again.”

Nearly five years later, it did, in eerily similar fashion.

On Wednesday, when a troubled Iraq war veteran — Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez, 34 — killed three people and wounded 16 others at Fort Hood before taking his own life, he did so in Army uniform after sneaking a high-powered handgun onto the base, just as the 2009 gunman had done. Specialist Lopez bought his gun at the same shop near the base where the 2009 gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, bought his weapon. Each shooting started in a medical support area for troops, and each ended when the gunman confronted a female police officer rushing to the scene.

But the replay of a mass shooting at Fort Hood, particularly coming on the heels of the shooting spree in September that left 12 people dead at the Washington Navy Yard, raised questions about what lessons Army officials had learned from the 2009 rampage; how effectively military installations can keep out unauthorized guns; and how prepared they are to deal with threats from within, including from soldiers or contractors intent on doing harm to others on the base.

At Fort Hood, which sprawls for 340 square miles over the Texas prairie, Specialist Lopez was being treated for behavioral and mental health issues. To enter the base, he would have undergone no security screening beyond showing his identification and would have passed through no metal detectors.

Military personnel who are not police officers are not allowed to carry privately owned weapons on Army bases. Soldiers on post must register their firearms, which Army officials said Specialist Lopez failed to do with the handgun he used in the attack. Fort Hood’s rules rely in large part on the honor system, and require all personnel bringing a privately owned firearm onto the base in a vehicle to declare that they are doing so and state why.

“Fort Hood is a big installation,” the base’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve got a population well over 100,000 here. It would not be realistic to do a pat-down search on every single soldier and employee on Fort Hood for a weapon on a daily basis.”

Those who work at or visit the base agreed that it was not feasible for a post like Fort Hood to check thoroughly for guns. Fred Burton, a former counterterrorism agent at the State Department who is now a security analyst for an international intelligence firm, Stratfor, said he had visited the base the day before the shooting to do research for a book he is writing. “Nobody at the main entrance was asking me if I had a gun, and nobody was checking,” he said.

On Thursday, as the flags on base flew at half-staff and as military officials and federal investigators began to search for a motive and examine Specialist Lopez’s past, there remained more questions than answers.

Around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Specialist Lopez, who had transferred to the base in February from Fort Bliss in El Paso and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, started firing on soldiers in the area of the First Medical Brigade. Two soldiers wounded in the shooting made the first call to 911 at 4:16 p.m. A chaplain shielded soldiers and broke the window of a building to get them to safety.

A military police officer arrived four minutes after the 911 call, officials said. Specialist Lopez approached her and put his hands up, but then pulled out his weapon. She fired her weapon, and he placed his gun to his head and fired, officials said. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, and the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, provided some detail about the soldier accused of killing three people at Fort Hood on Wednesday.

General Milley did not release the officer’s name, but commended her heroism. Her role echoed that of Sgt. Kimberly D. Munley, a member of Fort Hood’s civilian police force, who waged a gun battle with Major Hasan in 2009 that helped end the rampage.

The secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that Specialist Lopez had been examined by a psychiatrist in the last month but had shown no signs that he might commit a violent act. “The plan forward was just to continue to monitor and treat him as deemed appropriate,” Mr. McHugh said.

General Milley emphasized that the primary factor in the shooting appeared to be Specialist Lopez’s mental health issues, and that the military had evidence that he had “an unstable psychiatric or psychological condition.”

In response to the 2009 attack, Army and Pentagon officials reviewed deficiencies in the procedures for identifying service members who might be a threat, assessed the military’s mental health programs, and examined how the Defense Department responds to “mass casualty” events at its facilities.

Their final report recommended that the department devote the same energy to protecting its personnel from internal threats as it does to protecting them from external dangers; develop guidance and awareness programs so that commanders can better identify risky behavior within the ranks; share information about potential internal threats across the military bureaucracy; and develop more sophisticated and agile responses to emergencies like the shooting at Fort Hood.

The Navy Yard shooting led to a second review of military facilities, including security clearances for access.

Just two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced new security measures at United States military installations in light of a review that, he said, found “troubling gaps” in the Defense Department’s ability to protect service members and employees from threats from within. Like the former defense secretary, Mr. Gates, did in 2010, Mr. Hagel promised new measures to ensure that people working on military bases do not pose a danger to their colleagues.

On Thursday in Honolulu, Mr. Hagel struggled to address why those security measures either had not been put in place or had not been effective. “Obviously, something went wrong,” he said. “Anytime we lose an individual, something’s gone wrong.”

The independent review two weeks ago that examined the Navy Yard shooting called the overall security process at military installations outdated, saying it focused too much on keeping a secure perimeter against outside threats and not enough on potential threats from people granted security clearances. The review recommended that the Pentagon examine the number of people with clearances and consider revoking at least 10 percent.

A Pentagon official said on Thursday that the recommendations had not yet been put into effect at Fort Hood. There, very little had changed from 2009 regarding security procedures for soldiers at the entrance gates.

Dan Corbin, the mayor of Killeen and a Vietnam veteran, said on Thursday that it would be impossible to prevent unauthorized weapons from being brought onto the base.

“If you were to search every one of those cars thoroughly enough, think of how many man hours this would take,” Mr. Corbin said. “Think of all the cars backed up for miles to get in. People would have to leave for work four hours in advance. You do what you do now, which are things like random checks and checking for IDs. If you are a soldier and you have your ID and a Fort Hood sticker on your car, you are in and you could conceivably carry in guns.”
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan Credit Bell County Sheriff's Office

Specialist Lopez was living in an apartment off-base with his wife and child. Investigators have interviewed his wife, who said she was surprised that he had violently lashed out. “The wife told investigators that she was surprised and saw no clues coming into this,” a senior law enforcement official said.

The gun the authorities found in Specialist Lopez’s hands — a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol — was bought March 1 at Guns Galore, where the authorities said Major Hasan bought the main weapon he used in the 2009 attack, a FN Five-seven semiautomatic handgun.

Hours after the shooting on Wednesday, federal agents went to Guns Galore to conduct an after-hours interview with the manager, a spokesman for the store told reporters on Thursday. He declined to give details, citing the continuing investigation.

It was the third time in nearly five years that reporters had descended on the shop. In 2011, an Army private, Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, was arrested and accused of trying to detonate an explosive device at a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers. Private Abdo allegedly went to the store to buy ingredients for the bomb.

Greg Ebert, the Guns Galore employee whose call to the police to report his suspicions about Private Abdo foiled the 2011 plot, defended the store. “I’m tired of our manager getting hate mail over something we have no control over,” Mr. Ebert said. “We’re a business, a legitimate business. I don’t want to sell a firearm to anybody that’s not going to handle that firearm responsibly.”

After the 2009 shooting, Army officials conducted a widespread evaluation of Fort Hood’s security protocols, as well as its mental health system for soldiers.

Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a brigadier general who is now retired from the Army, went to Fort Hood as part of a crisis team in 2009. At that time, he said, the base had high rates of suicide and domestic violence, deaths from motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol, and other problems.

“It was a stressful environment,” he said, adding that the size of the base was a factor, with thousands of young men and women coming and going, many of them heading for or returning from difficult deployments.

General Milley said the Army was looking into whether Specialist Lopez had received all of the mental health treatment he needed or whether there were gaps in the system he had fallen into. “He was under treatment,” he said, “so he was in the system and he was being looked at.”


A version of this article appears in print on April 4, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Soldier’s Attack at Base Echoed Rampage in 2009.

    Soldier’s Attack at Base Echoed Rampage in 2009, NYT, 3.4.2014,






Iraq Veteran

at Fort Hood Kills 3 and Himself




APRIL 2, 2014
The New York Times


KILLEEN, Tex. — A soldier who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 16 before killing himself, the authorities said. The shooting set off a huge police response and shut down the sprawling Army base, the same facility where a deadly rampage by an officer resulted in 13 deaths in 2009.

Fort Hood’s commanding general said the gunman, an Army specialist who had served in Iraq and was being treated for behavioral and mental health issues, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The commander, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, told reporters that the soldier’s motive remained unclear, but that the shooting did not appear to be related to terrorism.

A Pentagon official said the suspected gunman was Army Specialist Ivan Lopez. General Milley, while not identifying Specialist Lopez by name, said the gunman had served four months in Iraq in 2011 and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition. There were indications that he had self-reported a traumatic brain injury when he returned from Iraq, General Milley said.

Reports of the shooting sent dozens of local, state and federal law enforcement officials rushing to the base in Killeen as they had in November 2009. In Chicago, President Obama said that White House and Pentagon officials were following the events closely. “We are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” the president said. “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, said that many questions remained but that officials’ focus was on supporting the victims and their families. “This is a community that has faced and overcome crises with resilience and strength,” he said in a statement.

The episode appeared to have unfolded around 4:30 p.m. at a medical support building. Witnesses described chaos as gunshots rang out.

The base was put on lockdown, as Army officials took to Twitter and Facebook to alert soldiers there to shelter in place and stay away from windows. The injured were transported to Fort Hood’s medical center and other area hospitals.

The authorities said Specialist Lopez appeared to have walked into one building, then gone inside a vehicle and fired shots from the vehicle with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that had recently been bought in the Killeen area. He got out of the vehicle, walked into another building and opened fire again, and then engaged with a female military police officer before shooting himself.

He put his hands up, General Milley said, then reached under his jacket. The female officer pulled out her weapon, and then Specialist Lopez put his weapon to his head and fired. General Milley described the officer’s actions as “clearly heroic,” adding: “She did her job. She did exactly what we would expect of U.S. Army military police.”

Specialist Lopez had arrived at Fort Hood in February from another installation, officials said.

Scott and White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Tex., said it had received eight patients and expected one more. Three victims were in critical condition, and five others were expected to be upgraded from serious to fair condition overnight. The injuries included gunshot wounds to the abdomen, chest and neck.

Tayra Dehart, 33, stood outside the visitor center at Fort Hood’s main gate Wednesday evening, anxiously awaiting word from her husband of 10 months, a 30-year-old sergeant who was caught in the lockdown.

“I jumped out my skin,” Ms. Dehart said, telling of her reaction when she heard the news of the shootings from the couple’s home nearby. Declining to give her husband’s name for security reasons, Ms. Dehart said she had immediately sped to the base and had been trying unsuccessfully to reach her husband on his cellphone.

“I’m like a waiting bird,” she said in describing her vigil just inside the base gate.

After a tense wait of more than three hours, she finally heard from him and said he was safe.

Traffic at the main gate of the base was at a standstill as the authorities scanned exiting vehicles and blocked cars from entering. A Central Texas College campus four miles away was also placed on lockdown. Shortly before 9 p.m., the lockdown at the base was lifted. All-clear sirens sounded and traffic resumed in and out of the main gate.

The heightened alert brought back memories of the previous shooting at Fort Hood.

On Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire inside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, shooting unarmed soldiers and commissioned officers as they tried to hide under desks and tables. Major Hasan, a military psychiatrist and a Muslim, shot and killed 12 unarmed soldiers and one civilian and wounded or shot at 30 other soldiers and two police officers. Prosecutors said one of his motivations was to kill as many soldiers as he could to wage jihad on American military personnel. A Senate report called it the worst act of terrorism on American soil since the Sept. 11 attacks.

After a military trial that was held at the base last year under tight security, a jury of 13 senior Army officers found Major Hasan guilty and sentenced him to death. He was transferred after the trial to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, home of the military’s death row and death chamber.

In addition to the shooting in 2009 and the one on Wednesday, Fort Hood was the site of a planned attack that was foiled by the authorities.

A 22-year-old Army private, Naser Jason Abdo, was arrested in July 2011 and charged with trying to detonate an explosive device at a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers. Private Abdo was found at a hotel room near the base with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, bomb-making materials and an article describing how to make a bomb in a kitchen. He had been involved in disputes with the military over his Muslim beliefs and his coming deployment to Afghanistan. He was convicted by a federal jury of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, among other charges.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the three episodes had given him concern that the base was “becoming a target for potential jihadists.”

In Washington, intelligence officials said they were investigating potential terrorist connections to the shooting, but so far had no evidence to suggest any.


Dave Montgomery reported from Killeen, Tex., Manny Fernandez from Houston and Ashley Southall from New York. Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.



A version of this article appears in print on April 3, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

Iraq Veteran at Fort Hood Kills 3 and Himself.

    Iraq Veteran at Fort Hood Kills 3 and Himself, NYT, 2.4.2014,






An 8th Grader,

a Gun and a Bus Rider in the Way


MARCH 31, 2014
The New York Times


Kahton Anderson had all the status symbols a 14-year-old in his world could want: Air Jordans and Reeboks, sometimes a new pair every month. Name-brand sports clothes. A new PlayStation 4.

And, lately, a silver .357 revolver.

The gun flashed recently at rush hour on the B15 bus, crossing from Clinton Hill to Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn, when Kahton fired toward another teenager, the police said, instead striking a 39-year-old man on his way home. The man died soon after. Though Kahton had not yet graduated from middle school, he was taller than the detective escorting him out of the local precinct house.

With Kahton to be prosecuted on murder charges as an adult and the victim, Angel Rojas, buried by his family in the Dominican Republic, New York City has been left to wonder how what the police said was a petty turf war between “crews” of children barely into their teens could breed such random, deadly violence, particularly since the murder rate, especially killings by strangers, has dropped so much in recent years.

Yet in the narrow world these teenagers inhabit, in the poorest patches of Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and Brownsville, Brooklyn, violence is as thick as smog, alliances as fluid as water, quarrels as big as the Internet. The grievances behind their bullets make sense only to them.

The police say clashes between teenage crews, mini-gangs that grow out of blocks or housing projects, now account for 30 percent of all shootings in the city. But most of the time, those caught in the crossfire are rivals and friends, other combatants in the ceaseless struggle for dominance. On March 20, the dead man was an innocent bystander.

“I swear to God, I feel sorry for” Mr. Rojas’s family, Kahton’s father, who gave his name only as Mr. Anderson, said outside the Brooklyn courtroom where Kahton was indicted on second-degree murder charges on Wednesday.

But he defended his son, saying he was simply protecting himself: “Kahton is a child, who thinks like a child. Kahton’s a tall child. He’s a boy; I’m a man.”

Mr. Rojas, who was on his way home between his two jobs when he was shot, “did not deserve to die so tragically, and we will hold the defendant Kahton Anderson responsible for taking the life of this innocent and hard-working man,” said Kenneth P. Thompson, the Brooklyn district attorney, in a statement. Kahton is being held at a juvenile detention center in the Bronx. The police identified him as Kathon, but his lawyer and family said his name is Kahton (pronounced kah-TAHN).

Kahton did not grow up in a housing project, but he was drawn there anyway. His crew at the Tompkins Houses, where some of his schoolmates lived, was called the Stack Money Goons: a name that spoke to the bravado of the teenagers who adopted it, vowing to make money, somehow, and to let nothing get in their way. Their name was scrawled on the walls, their fights and gun battles the soundtrack to summer nights.

Among all his friends at Tompkins and at his former school, Middle School 57, Kahton, an eighth grader, seemed to be one of the least needy.

He lived in a small, tidy apartment on Gates Avenue with his mother, a United States Postal Service letter carrier who regularly attended parent-teacher conferences. On his PlayStation, earned, a relative said, through schoolwork and chores, he played NBA 2K and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 with friends.

A forward on the basketball team with a decent shot, a height more like that of a 17-year-old than a 14-year-old and a love for the Denver Nuggets and the Chicago Bulls, Kahton spent many lunchtime and after-school hours playing pickup games with friends.

He was popular with girls and boys alike, a clown who invented nonsense sounds in class just to make his friends laugh. After school, he would stop at the bodega for a can of mango-flavored Arizona Iced Tea and packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to share.

“Kahton, you wouldn’t think he’d have a gun,” said Katoya Williams, 14, who was passing by the Stack Money Goons’ sidewalk haunt on Thursday afternoon. “Of all the boys, I wouldn’t expect him to have one. He’s real decent.”

Several students at M.S. 57 said Kahton had been president of the student council and took honors classes. Yet he was frequently in trouble. Sometimes it was for violating the school’s uniform code or disrespectful chatter in class, a school official said. Sometimes it was worse: He had a sealed arrest from 2011, and often, high-school-age members of a crew students knew as “R&B” or “RB’z” — the initials stand for “Rich Boys” — loitered outside the school, waiting to fight him.

About three weeks after he got into a fight near school last year, he was transferred to Elijah Stroud Middle School in Crown Heights, at least in part because of the threatening presence of the teenagers who continued to wait for him, some friends said.

But he seemed to do no better at Elijah Stroud, where he had been suspended from the early fall until very recently, said a sixth-grade English teacher at the school who asked not to be named because she was prohibited from speaking publicly about individual students. Such suspensions are common, she said. Under Education Department policy, only students with serious infractions, such as injuring or trying to injure other students or teachers, can be suspended for more than 10 days.

It is unclear whether Kahton took classes at an alternative learning center during his suspension, as is standard under department policy. But all fall and winter, he had a more consuming preoccupation than school or even basketball: his crew’s escalating war with a rival group of teenage boys.

A block from where Kahton and his friends passed time on the sidewalk of Tompkins Avenue — teasing girls, eyeing passers-by and running around — are the Marcy Houses, visible down Stockton Street. They look just like the Tompkins Houses. But proximity has bred enmity for years, since before Jay-Z, Marcy’s favorite son, rapped about the Tompkins boys who were “foul just like us.”

The Stack Money Goons had recently homed in on one Marcy crew, the Twan Family. It was named in remembrance of Antoine White, a 17-year-old who died after being shot by an off-duty police officer Antoine was trying to rob, said Shanduke McPhatter, a former member of the Bloods gang who now runs an anti-gang outreach group.

The Twan Family and S.M.G., as other teenagers called it, began crystallizing about a year and a half ago, said Deputy Inspector Michael LiPetri, the commanding officer of the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn. Like other crews, which can form by breaking off from more established groups or which can reflect new friendships, they mushroomed according to a logic of their own.

“There’s a new one coming up today, one going down tomorrow,” Mr. McPhatter said. And unlike gangs like the Bloods that could operate as tightly as an organized-crime ring, with hierarchies, rules and a mission, he said, these groups are less defined. “There is no ‘for,’ there is no common purpose, there is no goal. It’s basically survival, it’s basically safety, it’s protection. Some may do it because they don’t have that leadership at home, and they just want to have people around that they feel comfortable with.”

Crew members often get guns from older neighbors or buy weapons by selling stolen smartphones, said Tony Herbert, the president of the Brooklyn East chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

It is an environment where petty slights, from a challenging glance to jealousies over a girl, have enormous consequences. A territorial battle between Marcy and Tompkins crews left one teenager dead and three more injured in July. Several members of S.M.G. and Twan Family have been shot in the past, and the crews exchanged gunfire at least once within the past month, Mr. LiPetri said.

Facebook and other social-media sites amplify the grievances, with photos of crews sneaking into rival groups’ territory and videos of past fights circulating until they muscle everything else from a teenager’s online landscape. Past embarrassments and triumphs that can leave one side fuming and the other crowing linger on social media, stoking resentments.

Kahton’s conflict with the Twan Family seemed rooted in little more than the territorialism and animosities of his crew, but boys from the other crew had been needling Kahton for months in person and on Facebook, said a relative who would not give his name because the family had decided not to speak to reporters.

“They keep on picking at you, picking at you every day, telling you they want to kill you,” the relative said. The shooting weighs on Kahton, who has told his family that he did not mean it. He said he was “just protecting his life.”

Yet Kahton’s family never realized how “magnified” the situation had become, the relative said.

The conflict came to a head that Thursday evening, when girls riding the B15 told members of the Twan Family that Kahton was sitting in the back. After sending scouts to check, Kahton’s rivals boarded the bus, a police official said. In a security video of the scene, one of them pulled at his waistband, as if for a gun.

One shared flash of recognition later, a bullet was on its way.


J. David Goodman, Michael Schwirtz

and Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on April 1, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:

An 8th Grader, a Gun and a Bus Rider in the Way.

    An 8th Grader, a Gun and a Bus Rider in the Way, NYT, 31.3.2014,






Man and Woman

Shot to Death in Queens


MARCH 27, 2014
The New York Times


A man and a woman were found shot to death inside their apartment in Queens on Thursday in what the police said they were investigating as a double homicide.

Officers responding to a 911 call around 6:30 p.m. in Ridgewood found Natalie Mejia-Tavares, 21, and an unidentified man in the apartment at 1815 Summerfield Street, the police said. Ms. Mejia-Tavares was shot in the torso and the man was shot in the head. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The police believe Ms. Mejia-Tavares and the man were a couple and that they lived together in the apartment, said officials who requested anonymity because an investigation was continuing.

No gun was recovered at the scene, Lt. John Grimpel said. A relative of one of the victims discovered the bodies and called the police, he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the police responded to another killing in Queens, at a barbershop in Laurelton. Emergency responders took Carl Richardson, 19, to Franklin General Hospital around 2 p.m., where he was pronounced dead. The police arrested a suspect, 34-year-old Cedric Simpson, and charged him with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.


A version of this article appears in print on March 28, 2014,

on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline:

Man and Woman Shot to Death in Queens.

    Man and Woman Shot to Death in Queens, NYT, 27.10.2014,






Amid Wave of Pro-Gun Legislation,

Georgia Proposes Sweeping Law


MARCH 24, 2014
The New York Times


ATLANTA — Pro- and anti-gun forces do not agree on much, but they do agree on the breathtaking sweep of the Georgia legislation allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports that is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was critically wounded in a mass shooting in 2011, calls it “the most extreme gun bill in America” and the “guns everywhere” legislation. The National Rifle Association, which lobbied for the bill, calls it “the most comprehensive pro-gun” bill in recent state history, and described the vote at the Capitol on Thursday as “a historic victory for the Second Amendment.”

More than a year after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut elicited a burst of gun-control legislation, the Georgia bill shows just how far the counterreaction has spread as lawmakers, mainly in Republican-controlled states in the South and West, pass laws allowing weapons in all corners of society while strengthening so-called Stand Your Ground laws.

Critics say the victories may come at a price as pro-gun legislation pushes up against the limits of public opinion.

“I do think they’ve overreached,” said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Georgia bill, she said, is “so extreme and people do have such a strong reaction to it. I don’t think over all it’s a victory for them.”

The bill was opposed not only by gun-control groups, but also by the state’s police chiefs association and restaurant association, Episcopal and Catholic churches, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A majority of Georgians also opposed it, according to several polls.

Mr. Deal, a Republican, who is expected to sign the bill, is up for re-election this year, but there is no sign of a political backlash against him or anyone who voted for the legislation. The governor’s Democratic opponent, State Senator Jason Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, also voted for the bill.

“I don’t think it will backfire,” said Jerry Henry, director of Georgia Carry, one of the main local groups that promoted the bill. “You can bet those politicians who voted for it knew what their constituents wanted.”

What they wanted, in this case, would be a veritable gun-lobby shopping list.

The bill allows people with a weapons permit to carry loaded guns into bars, as long as they do not consume alcohol — although the bill does not say how that caveat would be enforced.

It allows guns in public areas of airports and eliminates criminal charges for permit holders caught with guns at airport security. It authorizes school districts to appoint staff members to carry guns at schools, ostensibly to defend students in case of an attack.

It allows felons to claim the Stand Your Ground defense — in which someone who “reasonably believes” his life is in danger has no duty to walk away and may instead shoot to kill. And that is just the beginning.

Georgia lawmakers backed off a provision allowing guns on college campuses and weakened the section allowing guns in churches, permitting them only if a church expressly decides to do so. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in January found that more than 70 percent of voters opposed both measures. The poll did not ask about guns in bars, but polls in other states have found 70 percent or more of the public opposed the idea.

Many bar owners said they were taken by surprise.

“I don’t have any problems with people owning guns, but I do have a problem with guns and alcohol,” said Melissa Swanson, owner of the Rail Pub in downtown Savannah. “Everybody could be in here having a good time, but all you need is one bad drunk with a gun and it could be a bad situation.”

Backers of the bill say the aim is not to flood bars with guns.

“This is a private property issue,” said State Representative Rick Jasperse, the bill’s original sponsor. “We’re not going to decide what goes on inside a bar. Let the bar owner decide.”

While the Georgia legislation is notable for its breadth, many of its provisions have been promoted by the National Rifle Association for several years and have cropped up separately in other states.

In the past year alone, 21 states have passed laws expanding the rights of gun owners, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Three allow guns in churches, two allow them on college campuses, four in bars and eight in schools.

Some states have become so eager to be seen as gun-friendly that there are few limits on matters deemed worthy of legislative attention.

The so-called Pop-Tart Bill, which the Florida House passed last week and is under consideration in Oklahoma, would shield schoolchildren from being punished for making a gun out of a breakfast pastry. The Second Amendment threat the bill seeks to remedy was that of a Maryland second grader who was sent home from school last year after biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun.

If the new frontiers prove unpopular, the gun lobby may be a victim of its success. Every state now allows people to carry guns in some public places, 42 allow assault rifles and no major federal gun control laws have been passed since 1994. So gun-rights groups have focused on carving out niches to expand where one can legally carry a gun.

There was a flurry of gun-control legislation after 26 children and educators were shot to death in Newtown, Conn., by a well-armed, mentally disturbed 20-year-old. But in the 12 months immediately afterward, states passed 39 laws to tighten gun restrictions and 70 to loosen them.

On Thursday, the day the Georgia bill was passed, a fight broke out in a gray, windowless shack called Milo’s Bar in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb. As the brawl spilled into the parking lot, at least three guns were drawn. Shots were fired, and a bystander was wounded.

It is not clear whether the new law would have changed anything. Milo’s already had “No Weapons” signs posted. Anyone there with a gun was already violating existing law as well as the bar’s policy.

“The people you have to worry about are not the ones who have gone to the trouble to have applied for a license and gotten a background check,” said Mr. Henry of Georgia Carry. “The ones you have to worry about are the criminals who are not going to abide by the law anyway.”

Gun control advocates counter that even people authorized to carry weapons can lose their temper, with potentially deadly results. Two recent cases in Florida appear to bear out that point: In one case, a man was shot dead in an argument over texting in a movie theater, and in another, a teenager was killed in a dispute over loud music.

The issue is a simple one for Barbara Lawson. On Saturday, the 53-year-old Sandy Springs resident went to Milo’s to tape posters with her son’s picture on the bar’s exterior, demanding it be closed. Her son, Tekilum Terrell, 34, was killed there last April. “My son was killed in a bar with a 9-millimeter gun,” she said. “Without that gun, we’d still have him here. Do we need more guns in bars? After this? Seriously?”


A version of this article appears in print on March 25, 2014,

on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline:

Amid Wave of Pro-Gun Legislation,

Georgia Proposes Sweeping Law.

    Amid Wave of Pro-Gun Legislation, Georgia Proposes Sweeping Law,
    NYT, 24.3.2014,






Boy, 14, Is Charged With Murder

in Stray Shooting on Brooklyn Bus


MARCH 21, 2014
The New York Times


He sat toward the front of the bus, facing forward, immersed in a cellphone conversation, unaware that his life was about to end.

Angel Rojas was on a break between his two jobs on Thursday evening, riding the B15 through northern Brooklyn as he often did, taking time to stop at home to hug his children and grab a quick bite. When three young adults stepped aboard the bus, he most likely thought nothing of it.

Several rows back, the police say, a 14-year-old boy, a member of a street gang called the Stack Money Goons, had a visceral reaction. At least one of the three young adults belonged to a warring crew; there was a shared flash of recognition, and then, the police say, the 14-year-old pulled out a .357 revolver and fired one shot inside the bus.

The bullet missed the intended target but struck Mr. Rojas in the back of the head. Mr. Rojas had no time to react; there were few if any words exchanged, and police officials said a video of the encounter showed Mr. Rojas’s head simply slumping forward after sustaining the mortal wound.
Saury Rojas outside his apartment with a photo of his father, Angel Rojas. Josie Guerrero, a cousin of Mr. Rojas’s, is at left. Credit Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

Mr. Rojas, 39, was rushed to Woodhull Medical Center, where he died a short time later, the police and emergency workers said.

Relatives at Mr. Rojas’s home in East Flatbush said he came to the United States about four years ago from the Dominican Republic with his wife, Maria Lopez, 41, their son, Saury, 12, and their daughter, April, 8.

On Friday, the 14-year-old, Kathon Anderson, was charged with second-degree murder, criminal use of a firearm and criminal possession of a weapon. Because of the gravity of his crime, authorities said he would be tried as an adult.

Kathon was arraigned on Friday evening in Brooklyn Criminal Court. Lindsay Gerdes, an assistant district attorney, said that after the shooting Kathon “made statements admitting his participation in the crime.”

Kathon’s lawyer, Frederic Pratt of the Legal Aid Society, said that he and his client sympathized with the Rojas family. “I’m just going to ask everyone not to rush to judgment,” Mr. Pratt said.

After Kathon fired the shot aboard the bus, he and the three young adults ran off the bus; five more shots were fired outside, said Stephen Davis, the Police Department’s top spokesman. None of those bullets struck anyone; the police recovered the revolver, and all six rounds had been fired.

Mr. Davis said that it appeared their meeting was a chance encounter, and that the shooting most likely was not premeditated. The suspect’s rivals boarded the bus near Lafayette Avenue, seven blocks from where Kathon had gotten on, the police said.

When the bus driver realized that a passenger had been shot, she drove the bus to a volunteer ambulance corps a couple of blocks away, said Ron Carter, the chairman of the East New York bus depot where the driver is based.

The driver, whose name was not released, was treated for trauma. Reached by telephone, she said she was “very hurt about this and still shocked.”

The shooting appeared to have stemmed from a continuing dispute between Kathon’s crew and a rival group called the Twan Family.

The members of both crews are mostly teenagers who reside in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the shooting occurred, the police said.

Such gangs are typically associated with a particular housing project or neighborhood block, and are a major source of gun violence in the city, officials say. Their turf wars can be as combustive as they are petty, with a misplaced glance on the street or a slight on Facebook quickly escalating to bloodshed.

“The stupidity of those gangs that basically over nothing are trying to kill each other, and unfortunately in the process kill innocents, as they did with this hardworking young man trying to raise his family,” Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said on Friday. “A life needlessly lost, taken by a 14-year-old who felt it necessary to carry a gun on a city bus and shoot. Amazing.”

The Stack Money Goons are affiliated with the Tompkins Houses, a housing project about a block away from the Marcy Houses, where the Twan Family is based. It is not clear how Kathon, whose home is several blocks away, came to join the Stack Money Goons.

Both gangs emerged about a year and a half ago, and members of the crews have exchanged fire at least once in the last month, said Deputy Inspector Michael LiPetri, the commanding officer of the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn. Though no members of the two groups had been arrested on homicide charges, several members of both have been shot and at least one member of the Stack Money Goons has been arrested for a past shooting, he said.

The crews are small, numbering only a few dozen members, Inspector LiPetri said.

At the Tompkins Houses, the crew’s name is scrawled all over the walls, and residents said they were afraid to speak of them. One young man would not answer questions and pointed at the windows of the housing project beside him, to indicate crew members might be watching.

“One thing I’m going to tell you, those little kids, they ain’t to be messed with,” he said.

Kathon had attended the Whitelaw Reid Junior High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant but was recently transferred to Intermediate School 353 in Crown Heights, according to students at both schools.

It was common knowledge, his former classmates said, that Kathon had been transferred for his own safety; they recalled how groups of youths would often be waiting for him outside of school, looking to fight him.

For the Rojas-Lopez family, much is still unknown.

A Dominican organization will cover the costs of sending Mr. Rojas to be buried in his home country, said Josie Guerrero, a cousin. The family is working to raise money so that his wife and their children can travel as well, she said.

Saury, Mr. Rojas’s son, said he was concerned about how his family would stay in their small apartment at the top of a narrow flight of steps, where a golden cross hangs above the door. Mr. Rojas was the family’s main wage-earner. His wife works part-time as a home attendant.

“She’s worried about the rent,” said Saury, speaking of his mother. “If we don’t pay the rent, she says we don’t know where we’re going to end up.”

Ms. Guerrero said, “You can’t even get on the bus and feel safe in a city where the bus is one of the main forms of transportation.”

“This morning I didn’t want to get on a bus,” she said. “I took a cab.”


Al Baker, Sarah Maslin Nir

and Kate Pastor contributed reporting.


A version of this article appears in print on March 22, 2014,

on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline:

Boy, 14, Is Charged With Murder in Stray Shooting

on Brooklyn Bus.

    Boy, 14, Is Charged With Murder in Stray Shooting on Brooklyn Bus,
    NYT, 21.3.2014,






14-Year-Old Kills Rider on Bus in Brooklyn,

Police Say


MARCH 20, 2014
The New York Times


A 14-year-old gunman opened fire during a dispute on a New York City bus in Brooklyn on Thursday evening, fatally shooting a 39-year-old passenger in the head, the authorities said.

The attack happened about 6:20 p.m. on a B15 bus on Marcus Garvey Boulevard near Lafayette Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The police said there was an argument involving several teenagers on the bus, though they did not know what it was about. The gunman fired more than one shot, the police said, and witnesses described hearing three or four.

The victim, identified by the police as Angel Rojas of East Flatbush, was rushed to Woodhull Medical Center, where he died a short time later, the police and emergency workers said. It was not clear whether he was an intended target, the police said. No other injuries were reported.

The teenager was taken into custody, and authorities said they seized a revolver from him. No charges had been filed as of late Thursday night.

Relatives at Angel Rojas’s home said late Thursday night that he came to the United States about four years ago from the Dominican Republic with his wife, Maria Lopez, 41, their son, Saury, 12, and daughter, April, 8.

Mr. Rojas barely saw his family. He worked at two grocery stores and would take the B15 home in between shifts to hug his children and get something to eat, according to his family.

On Saturday evenings, he would loudly play bachata music for his family and neighbors, who would dance around the apartment and in the hallways. The family attended church on Sunday, Mr. Rojas’s day off.

“That was very bad of him,” Saury said of the teenager in custody. “He’s too small to be with a gun. If he didn’t have that gun, my dad would be alive now.”

Mr. Rojas’s cousin Josie Guerrero, 26, also expressed shock that her cousin might have been killed by a teenager. “It was a 14-year-old,” she said. “I feel like two lives have been taken.”

The police said they believed that the teenager was the only shooter and were reviewing surveillance footage from a laundromat near the site of the shooting.

Sultan Alshami, 27, who works at the Van Buren Deli Grocery near where the shooting happened, said he heard gunfire as the bus passed on Marcus Garvey Boulevard, and he dropped to the floor. “I thought someone was robbing the store or they were having a war outside,” he said.

When Mr. Alshami got to his feet, he saw people outside running away from the bus. The police arrived shortly afterward and surrounded the bus, he said.

The bus stopped in front of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Commanding Officer Shanida Robinson, who was on duty at the time, said two emergency medical technicians and three cadets rushed to aid the victim and took him to the hospital.

“He was alive but nonresponsive,” she said, adding that she saw an entry wound in the man’s head.

Christopher Womble, 40, was among the emergency technicians who boarded the bus after the shooting. He saw a woman under a bench — and the wounded man bleeding from the back of the head. “In this area,” he said, “this is kind of common.”

Georgette Benjamin, 39, who lives a block away from where the shooting occurred, was home with her young daughter when she heard the shots. “I figured it was gunfire,” she said.

The shooting happened less than a month after a New York City police officer was shot in both legs by a man he and his partner had just pulled off a bus in Crown Heights for failing to pay the fare. The police had stepped up patrols of city buses, at the request of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, because of an increase in assaults on bus drivers and other crimes.


A version of this article appears in print on March 21, 2014,

on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline:

14-Year-Old Kills Rider on Bus in Brooklyn, Police Say.

    14-Year-Old Kills Rider on Bus in Brooklyn, Police Say, NYT, 20.3.2014,






Reduce Gun Penalties


MARCH 14, 2014
The New York Times
The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Contributor


CHICAGO — IN May of 2002, a 23-year-old man named Michael Brandon Shuler was sentenced in federal court to 15 years in prison for illegally possessing a gun — something that even the prosecutor acknowledged was a “rather benign act.”

Mr. Shuler’s lengthy sentence may seem cruel, but sadly it wasn’t unusual. It came courtesy of the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for people who possess a gun and have three prior convictions for certain crimes. These crimes include drug offenses and “violent” crimes, a category that encompasses a range of charges, such as breaking and entering, that may involve no actual physical violence.

The latter situation was the case with Mr. Shuler. At 18, having grown up in a poor Appalachian town in Virginia and struggled with mental health problems, he broke into several schools to steal prescriptions for pills to which he had become addicted. He was arrested and convicted on charges of larceny and breaking and entering. The sentencing judge described Mr. Shuler’s crimes as “nonviolent.” He served about a year in jail.

Then, when Mr. Shuler was 22, his mother died in a car accident, and he inherited from her a pistol and shotgun. After he picked them up, he visited someone whose home was raided (while Mr. Shuler was present) by members of the local Sheriff’s Department, looking for drugs. They happened upon Mr. Shuler’s guns, and several months later, Mr. Shuler was questioned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He was eventually arrested and charged with violating the Armed Career Criminal Act. Because his prior offenses counted as violent crimes under the law, the judge had no option but to sentence him to 15 years.

We are accustomed to hearing about exorbitant mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, but similar sentencing for gun possession is less frequently mentioned, though its effects are often just as devastating, especially for poor people and people of color. In fact, a black person is nearly twice as likely to face a mandatory minimum carrying charge than a white person who is prosecuted for the same conduct.

When judges combine mandatory sentences for relatively minor, nonviolent charges, people convicted of gun possession offenses can receive prison terms lasting decades. In Texas in 2006, DeJarion Echols, a young black college student with no prior convictions, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison: 10 years thanks to a mandatory minimum for possession of a small amount of crack cocaine (40 grams); and 10 more years thanks to a mandatory minimum for possession of a firearm in connection with a drug-trafficking charge. “This is one of those situations where I’d like to see a congressman sitting before me,” the sentencing judge said, in evident frustration.

Federal law is not unique in its use of minimum gun sentencing: Many states require mandatory sentences for illegal firearm possession and possession of a firearm during a felony. In New York, having an illegal firearm will get you at least three and a half years behind bars; a similar penalty was recently deemed “cruel and unusual punishment” when the Court of Appeal in Ontario, Canada, struck down three-year mandatory sentences for illegal gun possession as unconstitutional.

Mandatory minimum gun laws have historically been favored by gun control advocates and gun rights proponents alike. Supporters insist that mandatory minimums diminish violence via incapacitation (putting potential shooters in prison) and deterrence.

But there is no good evidence that mandatory minimum gun laws actually have this effect. A recent report issued by the Bluhm Legal Clinic of the Northwestern University Law School concluded that “decades of empirical evidence and evaluations of specific state experiences demonstrate that mandatory sentences will not reduce gun violence.” Studies of the impact of such laws in Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia and Michigan found no discernible effect on violent crime rates. In return for issuing these sentences, society reaps only the heavy burdens that come with lengthy incarceration, perhaps the least of which is higher costs to taxpayers.

Opposition to mandatory sentencing for drug-related offenses is steadily growing. Now we must widen our criticism to encompass mandatory minimums for firearms. These laws are not reducing violence. They’re simply fueling a different kind of violence: the banishment and isolation of large numbers of people, especially people of color and poor people, tearing apart their lives, families and communities.


Maya Schenwar, the executive director of Truthout

is the author of the forthcoming book “Locked Down,

Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work

and How We Can Do Better.”


A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 15, 2014,

on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline:

Reduce Gun Penalties.

    Reduce Gun Penalties, NYT, 14.3.2014,