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History > 2012 > USA > Gun violence (II)




James Eagan Holmes

appears in Arapahoe County District Court on July 23, 2012,

in Centennial, Colo.


Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder,

and could also face additional counts

of aggravated assault and weapons violations

stemming from the mass shooting.


Photograph: RJ Sangosti

The Denver Post/Associated Press/Pool


Boston Globe > Big Picture > Aurora Colorado theater shooting

July 23, 2012















Just After Closing Time,

a Fatal Split Second


September 7, 2012
The New York Times


In the early hush of Friday morning, the manager and his young employee had finished another long shift, shuttered their Bronx bodega and headed home. But the young assistant had forgotten to grab a bar of soap that he needed. They went back, and when they unlocked the door, the thing so feared by those who work in neighborhoods contaminated by crime followed them in.

Three robbers, one of them concealed in a ski mask and wielding a gun, forced their way into the store. Ordering the two men to lie motionless on the floor, they began scooping the bodega’s cash, cigarettes and lottery tickets into a backpack.

Before the criminals could finish, an arriving customer saw what was happening through the window and called the police.

In one of those chilling split-second dramas that become tragedy, the manager got out unharmed but his assistant was killed by a police bullet. The authorities said it was the result of an accidental discharge when the young man collided with a police officer in his frightened haste to escape the criminals.

The dead man was identified as Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, a nephew of the store’s owner. He had worked in the bodega for six months and was helping to support a 3-year-old daughter in the Dominican Republic. Two years ago, his own father was shot to death in the Dominican Republic trying to ward off muggers wanting to steal his jewelry.

Mr. Cuevas’s killing was the third high-profile fatal police shooting in four weeks, although the circumstances on Friday were quite different from the previous two deaths, of a knife-carrying man near Times Square and of a man who killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building.

The episode Friday began shortly before 2 a.m. at the Aneurys Deli on Franklin Avenue at East 169th Street in Morrisania. Felix Mora, 43, the store’s manager for nine years, and Mr. Cuevas had barely opened the door to fetch the soap when the three men descended on them, one of them holding a gun.

“He pointed the gun at us and was saying, ‘Get on the ground!’ ” Mr. Mora said. “We got on the ground.”

The gunman hit Mr. Mora in the head with the butt of the gun. Mistaking the relationship between the workers, he shouted at Mr. Mora, “If you move, we’re going to kill your son.”

The gunman began rooting through Mr. Mora’s pockets, while the two other men went behind the counter to fill the backpack with lottery tickets and the money Mr. Mora kept in a cigar box.

Within minutes of the customer’s 911 call, the authorities said, two officers from the local precinct house and two housing officers converged on the scene.

One of the housing officers peeked through the bodega’s window to assess the situation.

The gunman saw him, Mr. Mora said, and leapt behind the counter with his accomplices and shouted, “Policía, policía, policía!”

Two of the robbers retreated to the rear of the store.

Mr. Mora said that sensing an opportunity, he ran out the front door with his hands up and confirmed that a robbery was in progress. A moment later, he said, Mr. Cuevas sprinted past him on the sidewalk.

“He came out scared,” Mr. Mora said. “Running.”

A gunshot sounded. Mr. Mora looked and saw Mr. Cuevas crumpled on the ground, his right hand pressed against a bleeding wound. A policeman dragged Mr. Cuevas away by the arm. Mr. Mora met Mr. Cuevas’s eyes.

“He said, ‘Ah!’ He put his hand to his chest, and he just looked at me,” Mr. Mora said.

Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner, said an officer with his gun drawn was waiting outside the door when the two workers came out. He said Mr. Cuevas “ran full speed into the officer; the two became entangled, at which point we believe the officer accidentally discharged his weapon.”

The bullet struck Mr. Cuevas in the back of his left shoulder. He was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where he was pronounced dead. The single bullet had traced a harsh trajectory: it managed to damage the left lung, heart and major blood vessels, the medical examiner’s office said.

The arrests of the three suspects took an additional four hours.

The authorities said that Christopher Dorsey, 17, trailed the two employees out of the store and surrendered. The other men — Orlando Ramos, 32, who the police said was the gunman, and Ernesto Delgado, 28 — remained holed up inside.

About 5:30 in the morning, Mr. Delgado emerged and claimed he had been held hostage, but the police did not believe him and arrested him.

According to the authorities, officers from the emergency services unit then went into the store and found Mr. Ramos tied to a pole with yellow rope, also pretending to be a hostage.

The gun, a Harrington & Richardson .32-caliber revolver, was found concealed in a plastic bag behind a bag of birdseed on one of the bodega’s shelves. The police said it was not loaded. They also said they found a ski mask and a gray backpack that contained $718 in cash, several packs of Newport cigarettes, scratch-off lottery tickets and some of Mr. Mora’s documents.

Mr. Kelly would not identify the officer who shot Mr. Cuevas but said that he had been on the force for seven years and had never before fired his gun. The officer was placed on administrative duty, Mr. Kelly said, pending an internal investigation.

“The tragedy here, of course, is that Mr. Cuevas was shot,” Mr. Kelly said, “but I see nothing wrong with the procedure.”

At a news briefing at Police Headquarters, Mr. Kelly played videos from the bodega’s security cameras. They showed the workers being held inside at gunpoint, their flight from the store and the collision between Mr. Cuevas and the officer.

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Kelly met with Ana Cuevas, Mr. Cuevas’s mother, to express his condolences.

The police charged the three suspects with robbery and with second-degree murder, because the crime led to a death. All three have criminal records, and the police said that Mr. Ramos had a prior robbery arrest.

In a related event, a police officer responding alone to the robbery crashed into a car stopped at a red light not far from the store. The authorities said he sustained a broken left femur and a possible fractured nose and underwent surgery; the civilians in the other car had minor injuries.

Once Mr. Ramos, the accused gunman, was unmasked, Mr. Mora said he recognized him as someone who worked for a while at a neighboring bodega. At 2 o’clock Thursday morning, he said, Mr. Ramos came by as Mr. Mora was leaving his deli.

Mr. Mora said Mr. Ramos told him, “I’ll get you tomorrow.”


Reporting was contributed by Daniel Krieger, Colin Moynihan, Wendy Ruderman

and Nate Schweber.

    Just After Closing Time, a Fatal Split Second, NYT, 7.9.2012,






Two Are Fatally Stabbed and Two Are Shot

as Violence Follows Parade


September 3, 2012
The New York Times


The day had been mostly quiet, except for the thunder of police helicopters and the boom of reggae music coming from the colorful floats of the annual West Indian American Day Parade.

But not long after the official festivities ended, sirens started sounding and violence descended on pockets of Crown Heights, on and around the route off Eastern Parkway. By early evening, the police said, two men had been fatally stabbed and at least two people had been wounded in gun violence, breaking the tenuous calm in Brooklyn.

By the time the parade began around noon — a leisurely 60 minutes later than scheduled, bringing all of its feathery finery and island tunes — the New York City Police Department had long been visibly in place.

“There’s more of them than there are us,” said Vanada Miller, 58, who came from Queens and watched the parade from a bench on Eastern Parkway, wearing a shimmering silver top and waving a Jamaican flag. “It’s much too much, it takes away from it all. But I understand it.”

Bronwin Taylor, 32, who lives in Crown Heights and was born in Jamaica, said on Monday night that the parade was not what it used to be because of the violence.

“I don’t know why people decide to come out and ruin other people’s fun with violence,” she said. “I don’t understand it, but it happens every year.”

In a parade marred by several fatal shootings in the previous nine years, the police had made their presence known — and not always in a positive manner.

Last year, some officers posted racist comments on Facebook about patrolling the parade, and others were caught on video dancing suggestively with participants. A city councilman, Jumaane D. Williams, was detained by the police. On Monday, the festivities carried a tense undercurrent of caution.

The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, got a smattering of boos and some cheers when he walked the route in front of the department’s steel drum band float. The group played Bob Marley’s “One Love,” the message of “Let’s get together and feel all right” blaring from the speakers. When the float got to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Mr. Kelly jumped in on the drums.

The celebrations began over the weekend with smaller events and, Mr. Kelly had said Monday afternoon that there had been no reports of violence. He added that he hoped the rest of the day would go just as smoothly.

In recent years, most of the violence had taken place after the parade ended. The official end time for this year’s procession was 6 p.m., and by then the crowds had dispersed.

The police said on Monday evening that around 6:30 p.m., a dispute broke out between two men on St. Johns Place, two blocks from Eastern Parkway. One man, 26, died of stab wounds, and the other, 20, was arrested.

Another man, 27, was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital after being stabbed on Eastern Parkway, around 6 p.m., the police said. And a woman, 24, and a man, 32, were shot about 5:15 p.m. on Eastern Parkway, the authorities said.

Last year, a resident of Crown Heights, Denise Gay, was sitting on her stoop when she was killed in the cross-fire between police officers and a gunman. That came on a Labor Day weekend in the city when 67 people were shot, 13 of whom died.

“It’s always unfortunate when you have a million-plus people here peacefully enjoying the parade and you have a small number who will do a violent act and that becomes the story,” State Senator Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat, said earlier on Monday.

The behavior of individual police officers became as much of a story last year as the violence.

The Police Department came under scrutiny after the revelation that officers had posted on the Facebook page “No More West Indian American Day Detail.” One poster called participants “savages” and “animals,” and another suggested, “Let them kill each other.” Seventeen officers were disciplined.

Eric Gibbs, the chairman of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, said he received an apology from Mr. Kelly after last year’s episodes.

“The statements made on Facebook were out of line,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding about the police, “However, we appreciate all they are doing for us.”

At their morning briefings, officers said, they were instructed only to “act professionally” — just as they are told every year. Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, confirmed that and said the department expected officers to act properly, in balance with having a good sense of humor.

Some officers held a hard line. One woman attending the parade, Chasitiy Potts, 26, danced in a turquoise feather headdress; a turquoise, sequined bikini; and leather boots. She said that on the route at Rogers Avenue, she tried to be playful with a police officer and take a picture with him and other officers. But they would not allow it.

Ms. Taylor said she had been to the last 10 parades or so, and some aspects used to be more fun. It used to be easier to join in and dance alongside the floats, she said, and it used to last longer.

“It’s cops and the violence, but if there wasn’t so much violence, maybe they wouldn’t need so many cops or maybe they wouldn’t need to be so alert,” she said.

Veterans of the parade knew when to make their exit.

“We come early,” said Ms. Miller, who had been attending for 40 years and added that the younger generation often incited violence. “Because later on, when they start running, we can’t run with them. If they start shooting, I call my friend to come pick me up.”


Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

    Two Are Fatally Stabbed and Two Are Shot as Violence Follows Parade, NYT, 3.9.2012,






Arms and the Duck


August 24, 2012
The New York Times


We had a shooting near the Empire State Building. An aggrieved ex-employee of an apparel company killed his former co-worker, and was himself killed by police. Except for the famous-landmark location, it was not actually a very big story. Remember the mass shooting at the lumberyard in North Carolina earlier this year, or the one last October at the California cement plant? No? Neither does anybody else except the grieving families.

Nine passers-by were also wounded, and it seems almost certain that some or all were accidentally hit by the police. This isn’t surprising; it’s only in movies that people are good shots during a violent encounter. In 2008, Al Baker reported in The Times that the accuracy rate for New York City officers firing in the line of duty was 34 percent.

And these are people trained for this kind of crisis. The moral is that if a lunatic starts shooting, you will not be made safer if your fellow average citizens are carrying concealed weapons.

This is not the accepted wisdom in many parts of the country. (Certainly not in Congress, where safety was cited as a rationale for letting vacationers take loaded pistols into federal parks.) Shortly after the mass murder at the movie theater in Colorado, I was waiting for a plane at a tiny airport in North Dakota, listening to a group of oil rig workers discuss how many lives would have been saved if only the other theater patrons had been armed. “They could have nipped it in the bud,” one man told another confidently.

People, try to imagine what would have happened if, instead of diving for the floor, a bunch of those moviegoers had stood up and started shooting into the dark. Or ask a cop.

We are never going to have a sane national policy on guns until the gun advocates give up on the fantasy that the best protection against armed psychopaths bent on random violence is regular people with loaded pistols on their belts.

Is there anything the other side can concede in return? Well, gun control advocates have to be careful not to say anything that demeans hunting. Virtually every politician in America has already gotten that message. (See: Senator Chuck Schumer holding dead pheasants.) But it’s true that some city-dwellers can be snotty on this point.

“You don’t mess with hunting and fishing because that’s part of who we are,” says Kathy Cramer Walsh, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in civic engagement. “A lot of times, talk about regulating guns and ammunition is seen as the outside trying to change who we are.”

I’ve been thinking about guns and Wisconsin lately, especially since Paul Ryan, a big fan of the arm-the-world theory of public safety, was picked to be a vice-presidential nominee.

Wisconsin has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country. (The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives it 3 points out of a possible 100.) It was also, of course, the scene of a terrible mass shooting this month by Wade Michael Page at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.

Page had a high-capacity magazine, which allowed him to shoot at least 17 bullets before reloading. Those magazines tend to be a common theme in all our worst mass shooting incidents. The gunman at the shopping center in Tucson where Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot had one that held more than 30 bullets. The Colorado movie theater shooter had a 100-bullet magazine.

The magazines used to be illegal before Congress let the assault weapons ban elapse. Getting rid of them again would not stop mass shootings, but it would limit the number of victims. And you do not need a high-capacity magazine for hunting. In fact, many states outlaw them for hunting because they don’t want one person mowing down an entire flock or herd.

Under federal law, you only can use guns with a maximum three-bullet capacity if you’re hunting migratory birds. Even the most completely mindless faction in the National Rifle Association appears willing to give that a pass.

“Hunting’s a different thing,” said Jeff Nass, the president of Wisconsin Force, an N.R.A. affiliate. “The ducks and geese can’t shoot back.” Mass shootings, Nass contended, do not occur because crazy people have access to weapons that allow them to hit a large number of people in seconds. “Mass shootings come into play because nobody’s there defending themselves,” he said. “The solution is self-defense.”

So the guy driving toward the Sikh temple with the high-capacity magazine on his gun was legal until he started shooting. The guy sitting in the duck blind, no. Mull that one over the weekend.


Joe Nocera is off today.

    Arms and the Duck, NYT, 24.8.2012,






Gun Used by Shooter Is Known for Its Deadly Power


August 24, 2012
The New York Times


The pistol used by a disgruntled designer to kill a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building on Friday is among the more lethal handguns on the American firearms market.

The police said the shooter, Jeffrey T. Johnson, 58, used a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol that held seven rounds. Law enforcement officials said Mr. Johnson bought the pistol in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly later identified the gun’s manufacturer as Star, a Spanish company that is no longer in business. Mr. Johnson did not have a concealed-carry or residential permit in New York, so his possession of the weapon was illegal in New York City, according to city officials.

The .45-caliber semiautomatic was the standard sidearm for the American armed forces for much of the 20th century. The semiautomatic feature means that the gun reloads automatically after the trigger is pulled and a round is fired; it fires larger rounds than most handguns, making it difficult to handle, but powerful.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably not going to be able to hit the broad side of a barn with it,” said Joseph F. King, a former United States Customs Service special agent. But, he added, “If you can put a round in center mass of the body, or the head, he’s probably not going to make it.” The firearm, powerful as it may be, is not the subject of much of the debate about gun control.

“I can’t think of a current gun law that would have banned the weapon that was used in this shooting,” said Daniel Webster, a director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Elected officials who have been pushing new gun laws pointed to the shooting on Friday as another reason that the issue of gun violence deserved more attention from policy makers. “We are not immune to the national problem of gun violence,” Mr. Bloomberg said, adding, “Once again, there’s an awful lot of guns out there.”



Reporting on the shootings outside the Empire State Building was contributed by Charles V. Bagli, Al Baker, Jack Begg, Penn Bullock, Alain Delaquérière, Alan Feuer, Christine Hauser, Randy Leonard, Sarah Maslin Nir, Sharon Otterman, Jennifer Preston, Emily S. Rueb, Marc Santora, Alex Vadukul and Vivian Yee.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 31, 2012

An article on Saturday about the pistol used by a man to kill a former co-worker in Midtown, using information from the police department, misstated the number of rounds that the pistol held. The .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, one of the more lethal handguns on the market, held seven rounds, not eight.

    Gun Used by Shooter Is Known for Its Deadly Power, NYT, 24.8.2012,






Gunman Dies After Killing at Empire State Building


August 24, 2012
The New York Times


The sidewalks in Midtown Manhattan were swarming with the morning crush of office workers, and crowds of tourists were already pushing their way into one of the world’s most famous buildings. Around the corner, in the shadow of the Empire State Building, stood a 58-year-old man wearing a suit and carrying a black canvas bag. Inside the bag, the police said, was a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

The man, Jeffrey T. Johnson, lurked behind a van parked outside the drab office building that houses the apparel importer that had laid him off almost two years ago. When Mr. Johnson spotted Steven Ercolino, a sales executive at the company who was on his way to work, he made his move.

Mr. Johnson, an office rival of Mr. Ercolino’s who the police said held Mr. Ercolino responsible for the loss of his job, pulled out the gun, fired at Mr. Ercolino five times, put the gun away and calmly walked off, trying to blend into the crowd as Mr. Ercolino lay bleeding on the sidewalk.

Mr. Johnson turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue. A few feet ahead were the shiny front doors of the Empire State Building — and two police officers who had been alerted to the shooting by a construction worker.

From about eight feet away, the officers confronted Mr. Johnson and when he pulled out his gun, they opened fire, shooting a total of 16 rounds. Mr. Johnson was killed and nine bystanders were wounded, perhaps all by police bullets.

The gunfire echoed outside one of New York’s must-see tourist destinations, where visitors were already riding the elevators to the observation decks nearly a quarter-mile up. Suddenly, on the streets below, there was pandemonium: Frightened passers-by were dashing into nearby stores and diving behind racks of merchandise. Construction workers were running for cover. Passengers on buses rumbling down Fifth Avenue were yelling, “Get down, get down.”

“It was like nothing I’d ever heard in my life,” said Joseph Cohen, 27, who was buying coffee in a fast-food restaurant across Fifth Avenue from the Empire State Building. He said he assumed “it was balloons popping or something” until he saw the commotion on Fifth Avenue — and Mr. Johnson’s body lying on the sidewalk.

Of those hit or grazed by bullets, eight were New Yorkers, their ages ranging from 21 to 56. The ninth was a 35-year-old woman from Chapel Hill, N.C. They were taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital and Bellevue Hospital Center, where officials said their wounds were not life-threatening. Six of the nine had been treated and released by Friday night, the police said.

The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said one witness had told investigators that Mr. Johnson had fired at the two officers, “but we don’t have ballistics to support that.” Mr. Browne said “it’s possible” that the officers had shot him before he could return fire.

One officer fired seven times, the other nine times, Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Johnson, 58, and Mr. Ercolino, 41, had a long history of antagonism. They had scuffled in an elevator in April 2011, after Mr. Johnson lost his job at the company. They took their grievance to the Midtown South police station, arriving within 15 minutes of each other, Mr. Browne said. He said that Mr. Johnson claimed Mr. Ercolino had threatened him and that Mr. Ercolino claimed Mr. Johnson had threatened him.

Mr. Ercolino was shot at 9:03 a.m. and Mr. Johnson “minutes later,” Mr. Browne said.

Witnesses said that as Mr. Johnson stepped out from behind a van parked in front of the building where Hazan Imports has its office, at 10 West 33rd Street, he gave no indication of what was about to unfold.

One witness, Darrin Deleuil, said he saw Mr. Ercolino fall to the ground and rushed over to help him up, not realizing he had been shot. “A guy with a briefcase just came and just stood right over him and just kept shooting him — boom, boom, boom,” Mr. Deleuil said.

“He looked right at me,” he said, but never turned the gun on him. “He wanted every bullet for that guy.”

And then the gunman crossed the street and walked toward Fifth Avenue as construction workers standing on scaffolding outside the Empire State Building yelled a warning: “Guy in the gray suit, guy in the gray suit.”

“We see a guy just walking nonchalantly,” said another construction worker on the scaffolding, Guillermo Tarzlaff, an electrical worker.

Mr. Browne said that once Mr. Johnson turned onto Fifth Avenue, he stayed close to the curb, threading his way around large flower pots. “You wouldn’t make him as somebody who had just killed somebody,” Mr. Browne said. As he approached the two officers in front of the Empire State Building, Mr. Johnson took out his gun “and tried to shoot the cops and kill the cops,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters at the scene.

The officers’ bullets struck Mr. Johnson at least seven times.

One security surveillance video clearly shows the encounter.

“It’s great video — you see him drawing on the cops, you see the whole thing,” a law enforcement official said. “The cops had no choice.”

Mr. Browne said neither officer had been involved in a shooting before.

The police blocked off streets around the Empire State Building for hours, disrupting traffic in one of Manhattan’s busiest areas, but reopened them by late afternoon.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Mr. Johnson’s gun was a Spanish-made semiautomatic pistol. Law enforcement officials said Mr. Johnson bought it in 1991 in Sarasota, Fla., where he attended art school.

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Johnson, who appeared to have no criminal record, had worked at Hazan Imports for six years. “During a downsizing at the company,” Mr. Kelly said, “Johnson was laid off.”

Hazan Imports was founded about 40 years ago by two brothers, Isaac and Ralph Hazan. Isaac Hazan died in 2009. By late 2010 or early 2011, with revenue falling, the company did some cost-cutting and laid off Mr. Johnson.

One Hazan Imports employee, who insisted on anonymity for fear of upsetting his colleagues and the victims, said Mr. Johnson appeared to take his layoff in stride. But on Friday morning, he turned to violence.

Hours later one of the people who was wounded — Robert Asika, 23, a ticket seller for Gray Line tours — emerged from Bellevue Hospital Center with his right arm in a sling. “The bullet came in and went out,” he said. “I’m very lucky.”

Mr. Asika said he had been shot by a police officer. Asked how he felt about that, he said, “I guess, you know, stuff happens.”


Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Penn Bullock, Joseph Goldstein,

Randy Leonard, Sarah Maslin Nir, Sharon Otterman, Wendy Ruderman,

Alex Vadukul and Vivian Yee.

    Gunman Dies After Killing at Empire State Building, NYT, 24.8.2012,





Mother’s Precautions Finally Fail, 2 Blocks From Home


August 14, 2012
The New York Times


Paula Shaw-Leary had every reason to believe that the seven children she raised in Harlem were finally clear of the street violence that had worried her for years.

Her youngest son, Matt Shaw, 21, graduated from college in May and was heading to graduate school, following in the footsteps of his older siblings, who already had degrees or marriages that had mostly whisked them away from the persistent shootings in their neighborhood.

But a few hours after the fireworks of July 4, Matt Shaw was fatally shot two blocks from his mother’s home. He was standing with a group of friends in front of the A.K. Houses when another young man fired into the crowd, hitting no one, then chased Mr. Shaw along Lexington Avenue and shot him in the back.

On Tuesday, instead of helping her youngest son shop for school supplies, Ms. Shaw-Leary, 60, was sitting in State Supreme Court in Manhattan watching the arraignment of the man charged with killing him.

“I just miss him so, so, so much, every day,” Ms. Shaw-Leary said through tears outside the courtroom, surrounded by some of her other children.

Ms. Shaw-Leary said prosecutors had told her they believed her son was killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Khalid Rahman, 20, pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges on Tuesday. He has been held without bail on Rikers Island since his arrest on July 13 and faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

“This young man had a bright future ahead of him,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement. “Instead, he will be remembered as a tragic victim.”

Harlem has been particularly struck by gun violence. The corner where Mr. Shaw was hanging out with friends, at East 128th Street and Lexington Avenue, is the same corner where a 17-year-old girl, Cheyenne Baez, was killed by a stray bullet two years ago.

In May, Mr. Shaw graduated from Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, and was looking forward to pursuing a master’s degree in economics this fall at the State University of New York at Albany, Ms. Shaw-Leary said.

His mother, always worried about the guns on the streets, urged him to spend the summer with his sister in Atlanta. But as the Fourth of July holiday approached, Matt grew bored at his sister’s house and came home.

“I just don’t like New York in the summer for children,” Ms. Shaw-Leary said. “They have nothing to do, and everybody has a gun.”

Ms. Shaw-Leary, who works in customer service for Marriott Hotels, said she had made a practice of asking her children what they were carrying in their pockets when they left their apartment, grilling them about where they were headed and enforcing a curfew even in their adult years.

She described all of her children — three other sons and three daughters, the oldest of whom are twin 40-year-olds — as ambitious. One is studying fashion; another, culinary arts. One is a fashion photographer; another has a degree in social work.

“You can’t move out of my house until you have a degree, until you are fully prepared for the world,” she said. “You can’t even get married until you are fully prepared for the world.”

She described Matt as kind and generous. She was working a night shift on July 4 and called him at her apartment just before midnight. He told her he might go back outside.

“I told him to be safe,” she said, choking back a tear.

She said she hoped that more people and politicians from African-American neighborhoods would join leaders like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in their efforts to get guns off the streets.

“Our kids are black and they’re the ones killing each other,” she said.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 16, 2012

Because of an editing error,

an article on Wednesday about the shooting death in Harlem of Matt Shaw,

a young college graduate, paraphrased incorrectly from a statement

the Manhattan district attorney made about the victim.

When Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney,

noted that “he had a bright future ahead of him,”

he was referring to Mr. Shaw, not to “Mr. Brown.”

(There is no one connected to the case named Brown.)

    Mother’s Precautions Finally Fail, 2 Blocks From Home, NYT, 14.8.2012,






Police Fatally Shoot Knife-Wielding Man in Times Square


August 11, 2012
The New York Times


When the tourists and shoppers thronging Times Square on Saturday afternoon first saw the police officers, guns drawn, confronting a knife-wielding man, many thought they had stumbled onto a movie set.

But it was quickly apparent this was no celluloid fantasy.

As the man fled, weaving through crowds and darting between cars, he threatened bystanders, witnesses said. The police gave chase, eventually cornering him near 37th Street and Seventh Avenue and killing him in a fusillade of bullets after, police officials said, he ignored orders to drop his weapon and lunged at officers.

Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said officers used pepper spray six times to try to halt the man, who repeatedly threatened officers with a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade.

“He continued to advance on uniformed officers, refusing officers’ repeated commands to drop his weapon,” Mr. Browne said. “Two officers discharged their weapons at close quarters on Seventh Avenue between 37th and 38th Streets.”

The police did not immediately identify the 51-year-old man, who was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital Center.

“He was swinging at people as he ran,” said Jobby Nogver, 17, visiting from Boston. Mr. Nogver watched as about a dozen police officers finally surrounded the man and shots were fired. “I can’t tell you how many shots,” he said. “It was a lot.”

The police did not say on Saturday how many shots officers had fired.

The confrontation began shortly after 3 p.m. on the pedestrian plaza near the Hard Rock Cafe on 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, in the heart of Times Square.

Lincoln Rocha, 28, and his wife, Priscilla Rocha, 28, visiting from Brazil, were walking toward Toys “R” Us when they saw three uniformed police officers talking to a man on the sidewalk. Mr. Browne said that two officers initially approached the man because he appeared to be smoking marijuana. When the officers tried to arrest the man, he stuck a marijuana cigarette in his pocket, raised the knife over his head and started to put on a blue bandanna.

“Right when he pulled the knife, the cops drew their guns,” Mr. Rocha said. The man was cursing the police, he said, and the officers kept yelling at him to drop the weapon.

Then, the man fled, at first zigzagging around the plaza and then running south on Seventh Avenue. At times, witnesses said, he appeared to be skipping backward down the center of the avenue, which the police had closed to traffic. A group of officers followed, they said, weapons at the ready.

One witness, Brielle Basso, 19, said, “Once we saw what was happening, we just started running.”

By this time, there were dozens of officers in pursuit, both on foot and in police cars and vans.

Jeffrey Gibson, 39, watched the chase unfold. Each time an officer got close, he said, the man would swing his knife. The man dodged each vehicle that tried to block his path.

Karon Rakes, 43, from Cleveland, said the man was taunting the police.

“He just started saying, ‘Come on, come get me,’ ” she said.

Mrs. Rocha said that when people realized the police had their guns drawn, they fled, crouching in doorways, behind newsstands and near parked cars.

“I almost had a heart attack,” she said. “Everyone started running.”

Out-of-towners on a red double-decker tourist bus gawked at the unfolding drama, a bit more of the New York experience than they had bargained for. Nervous onlookers peered out from restaurant and shop windows, the flashing lights of Times Square lending a bizarre atmosphere, which grew even wilder as a crowd gathered, attracted by the commotion.

Times Square, known as the Crossroads of the World, is no stranger to odd scenes. But the chase Saturday was unlike anything in recent memory.

As the police pursued the man, pointing pistols with double-handed grips, they were trailed by dozens of people with cameras and cellphones held above their heads, Mr. Rocha among them.

“Some people were crouching near an office building,” Mr. Rocha said. “But others took out the cellphone cameras to try and capture it.”

As the man ran, police stretched yellow crime-scene tape across the corner of 37th Street and Seventh Avenue, hoping to create a roadblock, Mr. Nogver said.

At this point, the police began trying to clear away civilians. Mr. Nogver said that he saw about a dozen police officers cornering the man on the sidewalk near the Potbelly Sandwich Shop at 37th and Seventh.

He could not clearly see the man, and the next thing he heard were gunshots.

While the police released no details about the victim, some of those who work in Times Square said they had seen him before. Joshua, 23, who sells tickets to comedy shows, said that he thought the man was a regular in the area who often wore a T-shirt that said “Ninjas killed my family” and asked tourists for money.

Joshua, who declined to give his last name, also said that the man would often dress as a ninja.

Dave Basso, 41, of Cleveland, said he thought the police had no choice but to shoot the man.

“He was either going to get shot or he was going to take someone hostage,” he said.


Aaron Edwards, Patrick McGeehan, Michael Schwirtz and Lee Yarosh

contributed reporting.

    Police Fatally Shoot Knife-Wielding Man in Times Square, NYT, 11.8.2012?






Thousands Gather to Mourn Six Dead in Shooting at Temple


August 10, 2012
The New York Times


OAK CREEK, Wis. — One by one, six coffins were rolled into a high school gymnasium here Friday and were surrounded by Sikh men and women singing traditional Punjabi hymns. As they sang, thousands of people from around the world streamed into the gym to mourn the six worshipers who were shot and killed on Sunday at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin here.

The deaths have rocked the town and reverberated throughout the global Sikh community, leading neighbors to skip work and visitors from as far as India to converge at Oak Creek High School for a group memorial service and wake.

“These bullets have hit their hearts,” said Rajwant Singh, chairman of Sikh Council on Religion and Education, who traveled from Washington. “It has become a big family gathering. It is really a shaking moment hitting the core of the community.”

During the visitation, families of the victims stood next to the bodies of their loved ones. Wooden coffins, draped with white cloth, were lined up under the basketball nets. Behind each coffin was a portrait of the victim and flowers.

A line of visitors stretched out the door and into the parking lot.

Though the gym was packed, with bleachers overflowing, the room was completely still as the victims’ names were read over a loudspeaker: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh, 84; and the temple’s president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65.

People of a range of races and faiths wore colored head scarves out of respect for the Sikh religion. Some were red-eyed from crying. Others clutched rosary beads. It was the most recent example of the outpouring of support from a community that has held vigils, sent comforting e-mails, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the victims’ families over the past week.

“I don’t see how we can forget this,” said Barbara Henschel, 41, of who lives in nearby Milwaukee and took time off work to attend the service. “There’s a lot of healing that will have to begin.”

Representatives of the victims’ families, Sikh religious leaders and government officials spoke during the memorial service, among them Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

“No matter what country your ancestors came from, no matter where you worship, no matter what your background, as Americans, we are one,” said Mr. Walker. “When you attack one of us, you attack all of us.”

As he left the gym, Steve Ellis, 35, recalled seeing squad cars zoom past his Oak Creek church last Sunday, sirens blaring. He did not realize they were responding to calls that someone had opened fire in a Sikh temple not far away.

“Something like this hits home,” he said, adding that as a groundskeeper at a cemetery in Milwaukee he is witness to many funeral gatherings. “I’ve seen nothing this big.”

Prabhjot Singh, co-founder and trustee of the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, said it was important that so many people showed up.

“It validates that we are all Americans,” Mr. Singh said. “Hate and the killer were not successful. He wanted to divide, and we have come together.”

Federal officials still do not know why Wade M. Page, a newcomer to the area with ties to white supremacy groups, took six lives and wounded three people, including a police officer, before shooting himself.

“Last Sunday morning, this community witnessed the very worst of humankind,” Mr. Holder said, noting that it was not the first time that Sikhs had seen violence directed at them.

“In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted, victimized simply because of who they are, how they look and what they believe,” Mr. Holder said. He said that law enforcement officials would implement the solutions “that we need to prevent future tragedies.”

After the high school gathering, some of the mourners went to the temple where the shootings occurred for further services. Priests and members of the temple planned to read for 48 hours from the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, cover to cover, taking turns through the night. Funeral services for the victims were private.

Linda Hetzeo, 46, said she lives a mile and a half from the temple, but knew little about the Sikhs. When she heard about the shootings, she and some neighbors prayed together in a living room, the television coverage muted in the background.

“As a Christian, I just need to be a part of this,” she said, adding that she had since learned more about Sikhism. “I guess that could be a reward for this tragedy that has happened.”

    Thousands Gather to Mourn Six Dead in Shooting at Temple, NYT, 10.8.2012,






Mourning Victims,

Sikhs Lament Being Mistaken for Radicals or Militants


August 6, 2012
The New York Times


Sikhs in New York and across the country on Monday mourned the deaths in the shooting rampage at one of their temples outside Milwaukee, and some said the killings revived bitter memories of the period just after the Sept. 11 attacks when their distinctive turbans and beards seemed to trigger harassment and violence by people who wrongly assumed that they were militant Muslims.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg went to a Sikh temple in Queens and praised Sikhs for their contributions to the community. The mayor vowed to maintain security for New Yorkers of all faiths.

Nancy Powell, the American ambassador to India, where the vast majority of the world’s 25 million Sikhs live, visited a temple in New Delhi and expressed horror and solidarity. Elsewhere, Sikhs reflected on the uncomfortable fact that because their appearance sets them apart, they are sometimes mistakenly singled out as targets. Observant Sikh men often wear turbans and do not cut their hair or shave their beards.

“I have been called Osama bin Laden walking down the street, because in the popular imagination a turban is associated with bin Laden and Al Qaeda,” said Prabhjot Singh, who works in the high-tech industry near San Francisco. “But 99 percent of the people who wear turbans in the United States are Sikhs, so they face a disproportionate number of acts of discrimination.”

In collecting data about post-Sept. 11 hate crimes, the Justice Department does not draw a distinction between Sikhs and Muslims, an entirely separate religion. A report from October says, “In the first six years after 9/11, the department investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against persons perceived to be Muslim or Sikh, or of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian origin.”

Sikhism, a monotheistic faith that emerged from the Punjab region of India about 500 years ago, is one of the world’s youngest major religions. It emphasizes self-reliance and individual responsibility and draws its tenets from the words of 10 gurus. The last guru, named Singh, as are many Sikhs today, died in 1708.

More than many other religious practitioners, Sikh men wear a uniform: unshorn hair and a small comb covered by a turban; a steel bracelet; and, for a certain group of initiates, a sword known as a kirpan.

The religion is known for promoting women to positions of power, and has championed social justice.

British colonialists in India tended to favor the Sikhs, viewing them as more Western than the Hindus and Muslims, who made up the vast majority of the population there.

“Historically in India there has been tension between the Sikhs and the ruling elite, whether Muslim or Hindu,” said Harpreet Singh, a Sikh who is finishing a doctorate in South Asian religions at Harvard and helped found the Sikh Coalition in 2001 to help Sikhs stand up for their rights. “The gurus didn’t want to pay the non-Muslim tax. Sikhs grew in numbers and became a political force.”

The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh from Punjab, and on Monday he expressed sorrow and condemnation for the killings of six people at a Wisconsin temple on Sunday by a man who appeared to have ties to a white supremacist movement. The gunman was killed by the police.

Other recent acts of violence against Sikhs — the defacing in February of a temple in Michigan, the beating of a cabdriver in California in late 2010 — involved mistaken references to Al Qaeda or militant Islam. The first post-Sept. 11 killing classified as a hate crime took place in Arizona, where a Sikh was gunned down by a man who is now serving a life sentence.

In the Jackson Heights section of Queens on Monday, Sikh men in russet, black and peach-colored turbans swept leaves from the fronts of stores selling saris and gold jewelry, and offered discounts to passers-by. Many talked about the Wisconsin rampage.

“Very sad. I was shocked,” said Harbinder Singh, who works at a grocery. “We have not done any harm to anyone. Why are we targeted? Maybe some other religions have done harm. They think that we are the same. Maybe that’s the reason.”

Inder Mohan Singh, 73, who owns a Western Union location, lives in Woodbury on Long Island and has been in the United States for 40 years.

“I’m just an ordinary man, just like other people, just like other Americans,” he said. “I should cut my hair? No one is going to change. I’m wearing the turban. I have to do it. I don’t want to say, ‘No, now I’m not going to wear my turban because of this man.’ ”

He added: “This is our religion. We cannot leave our religion for one man.”

Sarah Maslin Nir, Sharon Otterman and Kate Taylor contributed reporting.

    Mourning Victims, Sikhs Lament Being Mistaken for Radicals or Militants, NYT, 6.8.2012,






Wisconsin Killer Fed and Was Fueled by Hate-Driven Music


August 6, 2012
The New York Times


His music, Wade M. Page once said, was about “how the value of human life has been degraded by tyranny.”

But on Sunday, Mr. Page, an Army veteran and a rock singer whose bands specialized in the lyrics of hate, coldly took the lives of six people and wounded three others when he opened fire with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., the police said. Officers then shot him to death.

To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. Mr. Page, 40, had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organizations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy. The authorities have said they are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

In Oak Creek and in nearby Cudahy, Wis., south of Milwaukee, where Mr. Page lived in the days before the attack, the magnitude and the nature of what had happened were only beginning to sink in, grief competing with outrage. A company flew its flag at half-staff. A Christian minister offered his parishioners’ help to a Sikh gathering at the Salvation Army.

At a news conference on Monday, Teresa Carlson, a special agent for the F.B.I., which is leading the investigation, said, “We don’t have any reason to believe that there was anyone else” involved in the crime. Law enforcement officials said earlier on Monday they wanted to speak with a “person of interest” who was at the temple on Sunday, but by late afternoon they had ruled out any connection between him and the shooting.

Oak Creek’s police chief, John Edwards, speaking at the news conference, identified the five men and one woman who died at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh, 84; and Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, who was the center’s president.

Peter Hoyt, 53, a neighbor of Mr. Page’s in Cudahy who often stopped to chat with him during morning walks, said he was “stunned” that the man he had known could have done something so violent. Mr. Page, he said, told him that he had broken up with a girlfriend in early June.

“He didn’t seem like he was visibly upset,” Mr. Hoyt said about the breakup. “He didn’t seem angry. He seemed more emotionally upset. He wasn’t mad. He was hurt.”

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Mr. Page had come to the center’s attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance.

“The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies,” Mr. Potok said. He added that in 2000, Mr. Page tried to buy unspecified goods from the National Alliance, which Mr. Potok described as a neo-Nazi organization that at the time was one of the country’s best organized and best financed hate groups.

But Mr. Potok said the center had not passed any information about Mr. Page to law enforcement.

“We were not looking at this guy as anything special until today,” he said. “He was one of thousands. We were just keeping an eye on him.”

Although little known among music fans, a steady subculture of racist and anti-Semitic rock bands has existed on the margins of punk and heavy metal in Europe and the United States since at least the 1970s. Hate groups sometimes use some of the bands and their record labels for fund-raising and recruiting, according to the law center and the Anti-Defamation League.

In an interview posted on the Web site of the record company Label56, Mr. Page mentioned going to Hammerfest, an annual white-supremacist festival well known to civil rights advocates. He also said he played in various neo-Nazi bands, including Blue Eyed Devils, whose song “White Victory” includes the lines: “Now I’ll fight for my race and nation/Sieg Heil!” The company removed the interview from its site on Monday.

Analysts for the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security routinely monitor violent extremist Web sites of all kinds, including those attracting white supremacists, according to former officials of both agencies. But the department’s work on the topic has been criticized. In 2009, conservatives in Congress strongly objected to a department report titled “Rightwing Extremism,” which speculated that the recession and the election of a black president could increase the threat from white supremacists.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, withdrew the report and apologized for what she called its flaws. Daryl Johnson, the homeland security analyst who was the primary author of the report, said last year that after the flap, the number of analysts assigned to track non-Islamic militancy had been reduced sharply. Homeland Security Department officials denied his assertion and said the department monitored violent extremism of every kind, without regard to its religious or political bent.

J. M. Berger, an author and analyst on counterterrorism who runs the Intelwire Web site, said Mr. Page “clearly had a history with the white supremacist movement.” A song called “Welcome to the South” by Definite Hate, another band that Mr. Page played in and that Mr. Berger found online, refers to “our race war” and asks, “What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?” Mr. Berger said the lyrics and album art of Definite Hate echo the views and vocabulary of the Hammerskins, or Hammerskin Nation, a white supremacist group founded in Dallas in 1988.

According to the SITE Monitoring Service, which follows white supremacist trends, Mr. Page had an extensive presence on Hammerskin and other white nationalist Web sites, including Stormfront, where he favored the names of his bands as user names and “frequently included white supremacist symbolism” in his postings. He concluded one posting with “88,” a number frequently used by neo-Nazis and skinheads to mean “Heil, Hitler,” according to SITE. (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.) He also used “14,” the number of words in the rallying slogan of the white supremacist movement.

Although Mr. Hoyt, his neighbor, said Mr. Page had claimed that he enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, Army records show that he separated from the military in 1998, completing his basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and serving at Fort Bliss in El Paso and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Listed as a psychological operations specialist, he was never deployed overseas, according to the records, although Mr. Hoyt said he had talked about combat.

“He said, ‘You go there, and one minute you’re with your buddies and the next minute you’re dead,’ ” Mr. Hoyt recalled.

A source familiar with Mr. Page’s military history, who had not been authorized to speak about the case, said Mr. Page had received an “other than honorable” discharge from the Army. Pentagon officials said Mr. Page had also been demoted, from sergeant to specialist, before leaving the service.

In June 1994, while he was at Fort Bliss, the El Paso police arrested Mr. Page and charged him with criminal mischief. He was intoxicated and playing pool at a bar called the Attic when he “began kicking large holes in the Sheetrock wall with his boots,” said Renee Railey, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County district attorney.

Mr. Page pleaded guilty to the charge, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, though he was allowed to fulfill the sentence through 180 days of probation. He paid $645 in fines and court costs, and was ordered to complete 24 hours of community service.

After leaving the Army, Mr. Page, a native of Colorado, lived for several years in North Carolina, where he owned a property that Wells Fargo foreclosed on in January. In a statement, the bank said that it had no dealings with Mr. Page other than routine notifications, and that the property was vacant when the foreclosure process began last August.

Mr. Page’s former stepmother, Laura Page, 67, who divorced his father more than a decade ago, said that growing up, he was “a precious little boy, a very mellow and soft-spoken person.”

In an interview in Denver, where she lives, Ms. Page said she had known her stepson since he was 10. As a child, she said, he worshiped the guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. His aspirations and dreams centered on music.

“Wade, his father and me would go camping and fishing in Colorado and have just a wonderful time, and we would play games at home, like cards and Monopoly,” Ms. Page said. “We just did the normal things that a family does.”

For most of his childhood, Ms. Page said, Mr. Page lived in the Denver area with his mother, a dog groomer, but she died when he was 13 or 14, and “he took it very hard.” He was not close to his father, she said, and moved in with a grandmother and an aunt who were also in Colorado. He enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.

“I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine what made him do this,” Ms. Page said.

While residents in Oak Creek struggled to understand, the three wounded victims were struggling to survive. Among them was Lt. Brian Murphy, the first officer to arrive at the temple after 911 calls began flooding the Oak Creek Police Department at 10:25 on Sunday morning.

Lieutenant Murphy, 51, took in the scene and then stopped to tend to a wounded victim in the parking lot. When he looked up, an armed man was standing over him. The gunman fired eight or nine shots at close range, striking Lieutenant Murphy in the neck, Chief Edwards said. But when other officers rushed to help him, he waved them on — the victims in the temple came first.



Reporting was contributed by Jack Begg, James Dao, Dirk Johnson, Jennifer Preston,

John Schwartz, Scott Shane, Thom Shanker, Ben Sisario and Steven Yaccino.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 6, 2012

An earlier version of this article referred to Wade M. Page in multiple references

as Mr. Wade.

    Wisconsin Killer Fed and Was Fueled by Hate-Driven Music, NYT, 6.8.2012,






Gunman Kills 6 in Wisconsin Before Dying in Shootout


August 5, 2012
The New York Times


OAK CREEK, Wis. — The priests had gathered in the lobby of the sprawling Sikh temple here in suburban Milwaukee, and lunch was being prepared as congregants were arriving for Sunday services.

Instead of worshipers, though, an armed man stepped through the door and started firing.

In an attack that the police said they were treating as “a domestic terrorist-type incident,” the gunman stalked through the temple around 10:30 a.m. Congregants ran for shelter and barricaded themselves in bathrooms and prayer halls, where they made desperate phone calls and sent anguished texts pleading for help as confusion and fear took hold. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage.

Jatinder Mangat, 40, who was on his way to the temple when he heard reports about the shooting, said he had tried to call his uncle, the temple’s president, but reached the head priest, Gurmail Singh, instead. “He was crying. Everyone was screaming,” Mr. Mangat said. “He said that my uncle was shot and was lying on the floor and asked why you guys are not sending an ambulance and police.”

Mr. Singh, he said, had locked himself in a bathroom with four other people, including two children.

Six people were killed and three others were wounded on Sunday at the 17,000-square-foot Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, a city of about 35,000 just south of Milwaukee, officials said.

The gunman’s rampage ended when one of the first police officers to arrive shot and killed him. Another police officer, who tried to aid a victim, was ambushed by the gunman and shot multiple times. He was in critical condition but was expected to survive, the authorities said.

The police did not release any details about the gunman or a possible motive for the shooting, beyond raising the prospect of terrorism. Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the killer was a 40-year-old white man.

John Edwards, the police chief in Oak Creek, said at a news conference that weapons had been found at the scene. He said the F.B.I. would lead the investigation.

“This remains an active investigation in its early stages,” Teresa Carlson, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Milwaukee division, said in a statement. “While the F.B.I. is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time.”

The shootings reverberated from this small community to Washington and beyond, including India, where the religion was founded and many of the congregants have family ties.

President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, released statements on Sunday expressing sorrow.

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin,” the president said. “At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded.”

Mr. Romney called the shootings “a senseless act of violence and a tragedy” that he said should never befall any house of worship.

“Our hearts are with the victims, their families and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community,” Mr. Romney said. “We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead.”

Many members of the close-knit Sikh community here said the attack had shattered their sense of security.

“Everyone here is thinking this is a hate crime for sure,” said Manjit Singh, who goes to a different temple in the region. “People think we are Muslims.”

Though violence against Sikhs in Wisconsin was unheard of before the shooting, many in this community said they had sensed a rise in antipathy since the attacks on Sept. 11 and suspected it was because people mistake them for Muslims. Followers of Sikhism, or Gurmat, a monotheistic faith founded in the 15th century in South Asia, typically do not cut their hair, and men often wear colorful turbans and refrain from cutting their beards.

“Most people are so ignorant they don’t know the difference between religions,” said Ravi Chawla, 65, a businesswoman who moved to the region from Pakistan in the 1970s. “Just because they see the turban they think you’re Taliban.”

There are around 314,000 Sikhs in the United States, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. The temple in Oak Creek, one of two large congregations in the Milwaukee area, was founded in 1997 and has about 400 worshipers.

Threats against Sikh-Americans have become acute enough that in April, Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Indians and Indian-Americans, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. urging the F.B.I. to collect data on hate crimes committed against them. In the previous year alone, he said in the letter, two Sikh men in Sacramento were slain, a Sikh temple in Michigan was vandalized, and a Sikh man was beaten in New York.

“The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice,” Mr. Crowley said in a statement at the time.

By Sunday evening, the F.B.I. had cordoned off a street in Cudahy, a town about five miles from the temple, where it was executing a search warrant related to the shooting, Ms. Carlson said at a news conference. “It’s going to be a long night,” she said, declining to give further details. A law enforcement official said some residents on the street had been ordered to leave their homes.

At a news conference, Chief Edwards described a dramatic scene when officers arrived at the temple soon after the first 911 call. After the gunman ambushed the first officer, Chief Edwards said, another police officer exchanged fire with the gunman, bringing him down.

Bradley Wentlandt, the chief of police in nearby Greenfield, said the wounded officer was a 20-year veteran whose actions probably saved many lives.

Four bodies were found inside the temple and three outside, including that of the gunman, Chief Wentlandt said.

Three men with gunshot wounds were admitted to Froedtert Hospital, the Milwaukee region’s main trauma center, said Nalissa Wienke, a spokeswoman for the hospital. One victim had been shot in the head and extremities and another in the abdomen. The third was described as having neck wounds.

There were initially conflicting reports about whether there was more than one gunman and whether hostages had been taken inside the temple. Local news agencies, citing text messages from people inside, reported that two or more gunmen could have been involved.

“The best information is that there was only one gunman,” Chief Edwards said at a news conference.

The shooting came about two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded nearly 60 in an attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

In response to the shooting on Sunday, the police in New York said security was being increased at Sikh temples in the city. “There is no known threat against Sikh temples in New York City; however, the coverage is being put in place out of an abundance of caution,” the New York police said in a statement.

Outside the temple here, friends and relatives were struggling to understand what had happened. Many in the community had contacted friends and family who were in the temple when the violence broke out.

Harpreet Singh, a nephew of the temple president, said his aunt, the president’s wife, was in the kitchen with other women preparing food for services when they heard gunshots.

“She said they heard a bang, bang, bang,” Mr. Singh, 36, said in a telephone interview from the basement of a bowling alley near from the temple, where the police and F.B.I. agents were interviewing survivors.

Mr. Singh, recounting the shooting as told to him by his aunt Satpal Kaleka, said the women had hidden in a nearby pantry. The women escaped, witnessing the gunman’s carnage along the way, he said.

Mr. Singh was on his way to services with his wife, his two children and his parents when the police stopped them outside the parking lot. “There were police cars running into the complex,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago, some kid had set off a fire alarm, so we thought something like that had happened.”

People begin gathering at the temple as early as 6:30 a.m. on Sundays, but most arrive around 10:30 or 11 for services, Mr. Singh said. He believed about 30 to 35 people were inside when the shooting began, but had the gunman arrived just 15 minutes later, Mr. Singh said, 100 to 150 people would have been inside.


Steven Yaccino reported from Oak Creek, and Michael Schwirtz and Marc Santora

from New York. Ray Rivera and Jack Begg contributed reporting from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 5, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of a congregant

who was on his way to the temple when the shooting began.

He is Jatinder Mangat, not Jatindev.

    Gunman Kills 6 in Wisconsin Before Dying in Shootout, NYT, 6.8.2012,






Competence Was Linchpin for Both Sides in Tucson Case


August 5, 2012
The New York Times


PHOENIX — From the outset, the case against Jared L. Loughner carried risks for both the prosecution and the defense.

Legal experts said there was ample evidence to prove that Mr. Loughner was the man behind last year’s shooting rampage in Tucson, which killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives who was holding a constituent event in the parking lot of a supermarket.

But a conviction was far from certain. Even if Mr. Loughner was deemed legally sane to stand trial, jurors could conclude that he was not when the shootings occurred, the legal experts said.

His lawyers were hoping to push for an insanity defense, but if convicted, Mr. Loughner, 23, would most likely face a death sentence. Instead, he is scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday, after psychiatric evaluations and notes from his court-ordered treatment at a federal psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Mo., established that he was fit to stand trial, according to two people briefed on the developments who were granted anonymity to discuss a legal proceeding.

The plea would bring an abrupt resolution to a case that for some time seemed ensnarled in doubts over Mr. Loughner’s mental health and a seemingly steadfast resolve among prosecutors to bring him to trial.

“I think everybody concluded it’s a better resolution,” said A. Bates Butler III, a former federal lawyer in Arizona who has been closely following the case.

A plea deal would carry none of the costs, dangers or emotional toll of a trial, he said, and would probably spare Mr. Loughner from the death penalty.

“He’s alive,” a favorable outcome for his lawyers, Mr. Butler said, “and from the government’s point of view, he’ll be off the streets.”

Several of the people who were wounded in the shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, declined to comment on Sunday, saying they would rather wait to see what might happen in court on Tuesday. Others, like Patricia Maisch, a constituent of Ms. Giffords’s who was not wounded and wrested a magazine of bullets from Mr. Loughner as he tried to reload his pistol, seemed surprised by the developments.

“I have just heard that news from the media,” Ms. Maisch wrote in a text message.

Representative Ron Barber, a senior aide to Ms. Giffords who was hurt in the shooting and won a special election in June to fill the remainder of her term after she retired, did not return telephone messages. Ms. Giffords is vacationing in Europe with her husband and did not respond to an e-mail on Sunday.

Three of the shooting’s survivors — Ms. Maisch; Pam Simon, another Giffords aide; and Bill D. Badger, who helped subdue Mr. Loughner — star in a new advertisement sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition. In the ad, which began airing on Sunday, they urge President Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to reveal their plans to reduce gun violence.

Mr. Loughner faces 49 criminal charges, including first-degree murder. A 9-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green, and a federal judge, John Roll, were among the people killed.

The guilty plea would require approval by Judge Larry A. Burns, who is presiding over the case in Federal District Court in Tucson, and would be likely to result in a life sentence.

Mr. Loughner had pleaded not guilty, but on May 25, 2011, Judge Burns halted the legal proceedings by ruling him incompetent to stand trial. Psychiatrists who had interviewed Mr. Loughner said he had random and disorganized thoughts, offered nonsensical answers to questions and appeared to suffer from schizophrenia. He delivered a loud and angry rant that day before officers dragged him out of the courtroom.

Four months later, he sat still and expressionless during a hearing that lasted seven hours, seemingly under the effects of the psychotropic drugs he had been forced to take. The psychologist who has been treating him, Christina Pietz, said at the time that Mr. Loughner was still not fit for trial, but that she thought he could improve if his treatment proceeded.

The hearing on Tuesday had been scheduled for weeks as just another step toward a trial. On July 19, though, Judge Burns ordered the defense to turn over the personal notes kept by Dr. Pietz on Mr. Loughner’s treatment. Defense lawyers had argued that the notes could “inform the government’s decision whether to seek the death penalty,” according to Judge Burns’s ruling.

Before a guilty plea is accepted, federal court rules require that Mr. Loughner answer questions from the judge in open court to make sure he understands his decision.


Reporting was contributed by Steven Lee Myers and Michael S. Schmidt

from Washington, and Sarah Garrecht Gassen from Tucson.

    Competence Was Linchpin for Both Sides in Tucson Case, NYT, 5.8.2012,






Guilty Plea Is Expected in Rampage That Wounded Giffords


August 5, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, is expected to plead guilty in a Tucson court on Tuesday, a person in Washington familiar with the case said.

The person confirmed that the federal government believed Mr. Loughner was competent to stand trial and that it would argue that in court on Tuesday. Mr. Loughner is willing to change his plea to guilty at the previously scheduled hearing, the person said.

Psychiatric experts who have examined Mr. Loughner were scheduled to testify in a hearing on Tuesday that he was competent to stand trial and understood the 49 charges against him, The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

The team of four lawyers representing Mr. Loughner did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment on Saturday.

Ms. Giffords, an Arizona Democrat seen as a rising star in the party, was holding one of her regular “Congress On Your Corner” meet-and-greet events outside a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot in the head at close range. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were killed, and 12 others were wounded.

Mr. Loughner, 23, faces 49 criminal charges, including first-degree murder, in the rampage. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last year.

The Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Mr. Loughner would plead guilty, said Tuesday’s mental status hearing had been changed to a change-of-plea hearing, citing an official familiar with the case.

If United States District Judge Larry A. Burns were to determine at Tuesday’s hearing that Mr. Loughner was fit for trial, he could face the death penalty.

The Los Angeles Times said the details of the plea arrangement were not clear, nor was whether Mr. Loughner would plead guilty to all or just some of the charges in exchange for prison time rather than risk a death sentence at trial.

Tuesday’s hearing would have been Mr. Loughner’s fourth to determine his competence. Judge Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense lawyers who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency.

Mr. Loughner was determined unfit in May 2011 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

He has been held at a United States Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Mo., where he is being forcibly medicated.

Ms. Giffords resigned from the House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide Ron Barber won a special election in June to fill her seat and must win re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

    Guilty Plea Is Expected in Rampage That Wounded Giffords, NYT, 5.8.2012,






Colorado Suspect Faces 142 Counts in Shooting Rampage


July 30, 2012
The New York Times


CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Colorado prosecutors formally charged James Eagan Holmes on Monday with 142 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosives charges in the shooting rampage at a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month.

Mr. Holmes, making his second court appearance, was formally charged with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder — two for each of the 12 people killed and 58 wounded. For each victim, Mr. Holmes was charged once for showing deliberation, and once for showing extreme indifference to human life.

He was also charged with illegally possessing explosives, a nod to the hive of explosive booby traps that police found inside Mr. Holmes’s apartment after he was arrested outside the movie theater.

During the hearing, which lasted less than one hour, Mr. Holmes, 24, sat impassively, much as he had during his first court appearance last week.

He stared at the ceiling lights and at the floor and showed no reaction as the charges were being read, even when the judge told him that he could face the death penalty.

His hair, dyed orange, was slicked down to his head. He did not enter a plea.

According to court documents filed by his lawyers last week, Mr. Holmes, 24, was being treated by Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist, who is also the medical director of student mental health services at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus, where Mr. Holmes had been a student.

The court papers did not discuss the nature of the treatments, but Dr. Fenton’s research interests include psychotherapy and the neurobiology of schizophrenia.

According to the court filings, Mr. Holmes had sent a package to Dr. Fenton before the shooting, but the doctor never received it. The package was seized by the authorities from a university mail room after the shooting and the police have not said what the package contained.

On July 20, the authorities say, Mr. Holmes — a former honors student who was in the process of withdrawing as a neurosciences graduate student at the Anschutz Medical Campus — entered a sold-out theater at the Century 16 movie multiplex through an exit door, minutes after “The Dark Knight Rises” had started playing.

Armed with an assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40-caliber handgun — and cloaked in full body armor and gas mask — Mr. Holmes set off two smoke devices before he began roaming the aisles of the theater, randomly shooting at an audience full of teenagers and families who had come with young children, according to the authorities.

The police say Mr. Holmes fired first from the Remington shotgun, before shooting people with the Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle until its 100-round barrel magazine jammed. He concluded the rampage with the .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol. A second .40-caliber Glock handgun was found in his car.

Among the 12 dead was a 6-year-old child. Fifty-eight other people were wounded. Ashley Moser, the mother of the 6-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, had a miscarriage last week, her family announced on Sunday. (Colorado law does not treat unborn children as murder victims.)

Moments after the attack, Mr. Holmes was arrested near his car, which he had parked outside the theater’s emergency exit.

Mr. Holmes had also booby trapped his Aurora apartment with explosives fashioned to tear through the body of anyone who opened the front door, the authorities said, and which were powerful enough to bring down the entire building. He had left the door unlocked and music blaring, in an apparent effort to lure someone inside, the police said.

After the evacuation of five neighborhood buildings and more than a day of painstaking work by bomb experts, the devices were safely deactivated.

The police have said they believe that Mr. Holmes began plotting his attack at least four months before, when he began legally acquiring guns and ammunition. Over the Internet, he was able to purchase 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for the semiautomatic rifle, and 350 shells for a 12-guage shotgun.

On July 23, during Mr. Holmes’s initial court appearance, he seemed dazed, staring down at the courtroom floor, his eyes sometimes opening wide, sometimes nearly closed. After the hearing, he was returned to the Arapahoe County Jail, where he is being held in isolation.

Don Lader, 27, who was in the movie theater with his wife on the night of the shooting, sitting about 15 yards from the exit when Mr. Holmes strode through, was among those at the courthouse Monday morning to watch the hearing. He said he and his wife had escaped with minor scrapes and bruises.

“We’re here, we feel, to represent strength that the community has,” Mr. Lader said. “We’re here to represent a lack of fear of what this individual tried to cause. The man was a coward. We’re here to show we have strength and now we’re willing to fight back.”

When asked prior to the hearing what it would be like to be in the same courtroom as Mr. Holmes, he said:

“I’ve seen him once before. I can see him again.”


Timothy Williams contributed from New York.

    Colorado Suspect Faces 142 Counts in Shooting Rampage, NYT, 30.7.2012,






In Colorado,

Remembering Lives That Were,

and Might Have Been


July 27, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — One by one, in churches, tree-lined gardens and hushed funeral homes, the victims of a shooting rampage inside a Colorado movie theater are being remembered for who they were, and who they will never get to become.

There was Alexander J. Boik, known as A. J., buried here on Friday, who aspired to be an art teacher. And Alex Teves, who was working to become a physical therapist. Micayla Medek was saving money to fulfill a dream of traveling to India. Jessica Ghawi hoped to become a sports broadcaster. There was Rebecca Wingo, who will never see her two daughters grow up, and Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who will never turn 7.

Families and friends are saying goodbye to all of them. From Texas to Illinois and across this city of half-lowered flags, they are gathering now for funerals and memorials to mark the 12 lives that ended July 20, when a black-clad gunman walked into a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and calmly opened fire on the sold-out crowd.

Thousands come. The governor, the mayor and the police chief. Former teachers and co-workers, friends and friends of friends. They come to light candles on a high school football field, or loft bouquets of balloons into the afternoon sky. To wear hot pink ribbons on their lapels in remembrance of Ms. Medek, 23, or recall the last hugs they received from Alex Sullivan, 27.

Politicians promise to remember the losses. Priests ponder how God could have allowed such bloodshed. Family members tell stories of their loved ones’ funny quirks and chaotic last moments. How Gordon Cowden, 51, had shouted “I love you” to his teenage daughters during the melee (they escaped unharmed), or how at least four of the young men slain apparently died after diving to shield friends or girlfriends from the gunfire.

On Friday, at the funeral for Mr. Boik, the 18-year-old aspiring art teacher, hundreds of family members and friends walked into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora to hear another round of stories about him. They wore purple ties, purple ribbons and purple shirts.

They told stories about how he had grown from a skateboarding kid to a wisecracking teenager with a scraggly mustache to a young man, still wisecracking but also passionate about art and music and pottery.

“What he brought to the world is goodness,” his uncle Dave Hoover said in a eulogy. “My heart is breaking.”

Gov. John W. Hickenlooper joined thousands of people across this shaken city in asking the question “How could this happen?” “There’s no right answer,” he said. “There is no one answer.”

Prosecutors and the police have offered no insight into what the shooting suspect, James E. Holmes, 24, may have been thinking as he assembled an arsenal of explosives, ammunition, combat-style gear and weapons in the months before the rampage. They have refused to discuss his motives or his mental health history.

But on Friday, court papers revealed that Mr. Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist who studied schizophrenia, Dr. Lynne Fenton, at the University of Colorado-Denver. Mr. Holmes had sent a package to Dr. Fenton before the shooting, and news reports quoting unnamed law enforcement officials have said its contents included plans to carry out the killings.

Inside the memorials, nobody discusses Mr. Holmes. His name is stricken. Mr. Hickenlooper referred to him as Suspect A at a recent vigil. President Obama, in brief remarks after visiting with survivors and victims’ families, refused to mention the defendant by name. They say the only names worth remembering are those of the victims.

They were people like Mr. Teves, 24, who was shot in the head as he flung himself over his girlfriend, sustaining a wound so gruesome that his parents said they were warned by the funeral director not to view the body.

His parents had a funeral in Colorado on Tuesday, and his friends showed up in the trademark white T-shirt and bluejeans that their son had worn every day in high school.

In the days since, people from all over the world have e-mailed them photos of themselves wearing that same familiar outfit, they said.

His parents are now also planning memorials in New Jersey and Phoenix — he made friends everywhere he went.

“He was our hero,” said his mother, Caren.

Friends and family also buried Mr. Sullivan on Friday. A bartender at a local Red Robin restaurant, he attended the movie with several co-workers. Seven of them were among the 58 people wounded.

In the days leading up to his funeral, Mr. Sullivan’s family and friends told stories about his trips to Las Vegas with his father, or his love of quoting the movie “Caddyshack.”

A close family friend, Dave Miller, talked about how the 6-foot-5-inch Mr. Sullivan would often refuse to shake hands with friends, instead wrapping them in his football player’s arms with the gentle admonishment that “Sullivans hug.”

“He wanted to live his life as a good person, no matter what he did,” Mr. Miller said.

It was almost impossible to imagine, Mr. Miller said, that such an irrepressible smile and big laugh had been stilled forever.


Dan Frosch contributed reporting.

    In Colorado, Remembering Lives That Were, and Might Have Been, NYT, 27.7.2012,






Colorado Shooting Suspect Was Getting Psychiatric Care


July 27, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — James E. Holmes, the Colorado man accused of gunning down 12 people at an Aurora movie theater last week, was being treated by a psychiatrist whose research interests include psychotherapy and the neurobiology of schizophrenia, according to court papers filed by Mr. Holmes’s lawyers on Thursday, the first documented glimpse into his mental health condition.

Mr. Holmes, who was in the process of withdrawing from a graduate program at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus, was being treated by Dr. Lynne Fenton, medical director of the school’s student mental health services, the documents said.

According to the court papers, Mr. Holmes had sent a package to Dr. Fenton, which was ultimately seized by the police after a search warrant was executed on Monday.

The package contained what the court filings called “communications” from Mr. Holmes to Dr. Fenton, but no specifics were given. Mr. Holmes’s lawyers said information about the package was being leaked to the news media despite being protected by laws governing confidentiality between patients and doctors and a gag order in the case issued by Judge William Sylvester.

In a response filing, Carol Chambers, the district attorney for Arapahoe County, said news media reports on the contents and seizure of the package supposedly leaked by law enforcement had been rife with inaccuracies.

Specifically, Ms. Chambers cited a Fox News report that the F.B.I. had taken possession of the package, when in fact it had been taken by the Aurora Police Department. News reports had said the package contained a notebook with violent drawings by Mr. Holmes. But Ms. Chambers said the package’s contents were not examined and had been held for further review.

“The media is getting information from hoaxers, fraudsters, or maybe from nobody at all,” she said in the court filing.

Dr. Fenton could not be reached for comment. She has served as head of the university’s student mental health service since 2009 and is a member of the faculty.

In September 2004, Dr. Fenton received an admonition from Colorado’s board of medical examiners for prescribing medications — including the allergy medication Claritin, the sleeping pill Ambien, two tranquilizers and the narcotic painkiller Vicodin — for a few colleagues and her husband on several occasions, and failing to keep proper documentation of the prescriptions. The board noted in its admonition letter that Dr. Fenton was no longer writing prescriptions for people who were not her patients.

A hearing on the defense motion will take place on Monday.

In the 60 days leading up to the shooting, Mr. Holmes bought four guns legally at local gun shops, law enforcement officials have said. He also bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet.

Merely seeing a psychiatrist, even for a serious case of mental illness, would not trigger any of the safeguards for gun purchases, which are governed by federal law, said Daniel Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “There are no federal restrictions on the purchase of firearms for the mentally ill unless the person has been adjudicated by a court as being dangerously mentally ill,” he said.

When a court rules that a person is dangerously mentally ill, he said, the records should then be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the potential buyer would be classified as a prohibited purchaser — along with felons, domestic abusers and others.

Each state is supposed to maintain its own database of residents who have been declared dangerously mentally ill by a court, but in fact the Brady Center, after the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, found that millions of records were missing from the databases.


Erica Goode contributed reporting from Aurora, and John Schwartz from New York.

    Colorado Shooting Suspect Was Getting Psychiatric Care, NYT, 27.7.2012,







Judge Bans Release of School Records in Shooting


July 26, 2012
The New York Times


A judge has barred the University of Colorado Denver from releasing any records about James E. Holmes’s year studying neuroscience as a graduate student there. Mr. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., last week. He entered the science program in June 2011, but dropped out a year later. Several news media organizations filed requests for school records, but Judge William Blair Sylvester of District Court in Denver declined to allow their release, saying that letting such information become public would “impede an ongoing investigation.” Judge Sylvester had already issued a gag order barring lawyers and the police from discussing the case publicly and sealed the case file. Mr. Holmes is expected to appear in court on Monday to be charged formally. (AP)

    Colorado: Judge Bans Release of School Records in Shooting, NYT, 26.7.2012,






An Arms Race We Can’t Win


July 25, 2012
The New York Times


In 1999, I was a student at Chatfield High School, in Littleton, Colo., where students from nearby Columbine High were diverted after 13 people were killed in the April 20 massacre there. After graduating, I joined the Army. When friends and family asked why, I replied that the tragedy made me realize that the people you love can’t always protect themselves. Serving, I thought, was a way to help them.

My career as an infantry officer included two years in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of miles from Aurora, Colo., where my dad, my brother and his fiancée now live, less than a mile from the movie theater where James E. Holmes fatally shot 12 people last week. And they’re just the kind of fun-loving, adventurous people who would go to a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

After years of training and war, I’m left wondering: can you ever really protect people you care about?

As a veteran, should I register for a concealed-carry license and always be armed? Even then, would I, as a trained rifleman, really be able to shoot a single person through a cloud of tear gas in a movie theater full of people screaming and running? What if I started shooting and there was another person with a gun in the crowd?

Or should I lobby for increased gun control?

For months after the Columbine massacre, people were constantly telling one another: “I wish I’d been there, I would’ve tackled that guy.” My Chatfield classmates and I would stand on the steps of our school and watch as Columbine survivors limped into class on their crutches. The reality, of course, is that we wouldn’t have tackled the shooters. Shooters aren’t tackled until their clips are empty, and by then it’s too late.

Serving in a combat zone means constant vigilance against unseen enemies. It means wearing heavy body armor, no matter what the weather is doing. It means taking weapons with you when you eat or use the restroom. It means, quite literally, never putting them down. The common argument made by gun-rights advocates is that they “don’t want to be in a one-way firefight,” which argues for not restricting the sale of things like semiautomatic weapons, high-capacity magazines and tear-gas grenades. Their contention is that the only real way to stop dedicated shooters is for there to be plenty of other shooters around.

Those who truly believe that need to be carrying a gun right now, wherever they are. They need to keep it closer than I kept my weapon in Iraq. In Iraq my fellow soldiers’ lives were on the line. Soldiers’ lives are important — but our families’ safety is even more precious.

Those who truly believe that anyone should be able to buy semiautomatic weapons will need a gun at soccer practice, at church, at “Batman” movies. That’s the only logical choice. And civilian life will feel almost like being in Iraq.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has compiled a 62-page list of mass shootings since 2005. What’s striking is that there isn’t a single example of a concerned bystander with a concealed-carry permit who stopped a mass shooting. I believe that what I learned in Iraq holds true for the United States: constantly carrying weapons is harder than it sounds, and a determined gunman will orchestrate a mass shooting precisely where and when we are least prepared for it.

We’re also excessively pessimistic about our ability to control firearms in the United States. Since 9/11, federal officials have done an excellent job of restricting the fertilizers and chemicals required to produce homemade explosives. Were we to enact a ban on semiautomatic weapons, we would eventually be able to recover enough of the existing gun inventory to make a difference. Providing for the safety and security of its citizens is any government’s core function. We should urge our government representatives to immediately enact more stringent restrictions on firearms ownership and to increase enforcement of existing gun laws.

There will always be violent loners. If they don’t kill with guns, they’ll find some other way to do it. Semiautomatic weapons, however, are what enable them to shoot dozens of people in a movie theater. Is someone’s right to buy an assault rifle worth having to carry a weapon yourself, every moment you’re outside your home, for the rest of your life?

Andrew Jensen served for five years as an infantry officer in the United States Army.

    An Arms Race We Can’t Win, NYT, 25.7.2012,





Candidates Cower on Gun Control


July 26, 2012
The New York Times


At a moment when the country needs resolve and fearlessness to reduce the affliction of gun violence that kills more than 80 people a day, both presidential candidates have kicked away the opportunity for leadership. On Wednesday, reacting to the mass murder in Colorado last week, Mitt Romney and President Obama paid lip service to the problem but ducked when the chance arose to stand up for their former principles.

That’s not terribly surprising in the case of Mitt Romney, who has built an entire campaign around an avoidance of specifics and a refusal to take unpopular positions. The governor who once showed mettle by banning assault weapons in Massachusetts told Brian Williams of NBC News that he now believes the country needs no new gun laws and no government action at all.

“Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential,” Mr. Romney said, though he provided not a clue on how he plans to reach that heart and help reduce the nation’s tolerance of violence. He didn’t even seem to understand the gun laws that are in place, saying the Colorado shooter “shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons.” In fact, all of the shooter’s purchases, including an assault rifle, were perfectly legal in the state.

Though Mr. Romney expressed faith in the federal requirement for background checks before buying a gun, he didn’t acknowledge how porous the federal system is — largely by allowing unchecked sales at gun shows — and how much more effective tighter state regulations have been in restricting trafficking in places like California.

States with strict gun-control laws have significantly fewer firearms deaths, according to studies of federal data. Policies like banning assault weapons and requiring trigger locks and safe storage actually work, though few politicians can be heard advocating them.

In a way, President Obama’s remarks were even more disappointing because he fell far short of offering a solution even though he clearly demonstrated an understanding of the problem.

“For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans,” he told the National Urban League convention. “For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.”

But his plan to address the problem appeared to consist of summer jobs for young people and crime reduction programs in cities — perfectly fine ideas but much too weak to reduce the tools of urban bloodshed. He talked about enhanced background checks to weed out criminals and the mentally ill but said nothing about closing the gun-show loophole or the ease with which the mentally ill can get their gun rights restored. (The National Rifle Association insisted on making it easy, a position that the president could fight against without fear of significant opposition.)

The N.R.A. has even blocked federal studies on how to improve background checks, or the effect of high-capacity ammunition clips, as The Times found last year. At a minimum, the president could demand better research and solid data to help make the case for strengthened legislation.

Instead, Mr. Obama spoke largely in platitudes. AK-47s should be in the hands of soldiers, not criminals, he said. Well, yes. Automatic military weapons like the AK-47 have been banned since 1934, making any civilian who possesses one a criminal. The more pressing issue is semiautomatic rifles like the extremely popular AR-15 in combination with high-capacity clips, used by the gunman in Aurora to fire multiple high-powered rounds at moviegoers.

Both candidates once favored banning these kinds of assault weapons. What happened to their courage?

    Candidates Cower on Gun Control, NYT, 26.7.2012,






I Carried a Gun, and It Was Heavy


July 25, 2012
The New York Times



AS the families of James E. Holmes’s victims continue to deal with this senseless tragedy, anti- and pro-gun groups are exchanging their standard barbs on gun control in America. Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, recently suggested that if this incident had occurred in his state, where many citizens carry concealed weapons, the crazed shooter could have been quickly terminated. I wonder if the congressman considered the confusion and terror that occurs in a real-life firefight?

I spent over 30 years as a police officer in the Chicago area, and I was required to carry a weapon both on and off duty. A few years after 9/11, laws were extended to allow officers to carry their weapons across state lines and retired officers to continue to be armed, the logic being that those men and women had been screened and trained and knew when and how to use their weapons in emergencies. Excluding our brave military personnel, police officers are probably the only individuals who rush toward the sound of gunfire.

I’ve faced people with guns many times and arrested violent, armed offenders for such crimes as robbery and homicide. Although my gun often left its holster on those occasions, I am grateful that I never had to shoot anyone. I never lost sight of the responsibility of carrying a weapon. Despite what many people think, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

Illinois is the only state that does not allow ordinary citizens to carry concealed firearms. A few years back, I was visiting my father at the laundromat where he worked, when one of the regulars, who knew I was a cop, asked if I was “strapped.” When I said yes, he complained that he should have the right to carry a gun, too, since he was “a law-abiding citizen.” I’d heard this knucklehead spout off about minorities on numerous occasions and didn’t think he was a good candidate to be packing a weapon in public, though in many states, he could have been. The Trayvon Martin case shows the consequences of an untrained person with a gun. Police officers must go through psychological screening and a lot of training before they’re allowed to carry a weapon, and even then problems sometimes arise.

I once told a rookie that you never forget the first gun you take off the street. Mine was taken from a guy named Homer in 1978. It was close to midnight, and we got a call reporting two men trying to break into an apartment building. I pulled up and caught the guys — Homer and a friend — at the doors. It turned out that the caller was an ex-girlfriend of Homer’s who lived in the building and had made it clear that he was not welcome. Homer had a record — and a .22-caliber handgun in his pocket.

A month later, he saw me outside the courtroom and cordially waved. “It ain’t nothing but a misdemeanor,” he said, which at that time was true. “I’m just gonna plead it out and get rid of it.” And that’s what he did.

The last shooting incident I was involved in happened at 3 in the morning on Dec. 26, 2010, my last Christmas before I retired. We responded to a report of two men arguing, one threatening to shoot the other. My radio blared, “Shots fired! Man with a gun.” When I reached one man, running in the darkness between two houses, he had already been shot by another officer. When the officer had ordered the man to stop and identify himself, the man had pointed a pistol at him. The officer ducked behind his car door and fired half the bullets in his Glock 21 before finally hitting the offender once in the left buttock. We eventually found the shooter’s silver semiautomatic deep in a snowdrift.

The suddenness and confusion of that moment points out the folly of the politician’s belief that an armed civilian could have easily taken out James Holmes. Imagine the scene: speakers blasting, larger-than-life heroes and villains on the screen, and suddenly real gunshots, a man in a gas mask firing one of three weapons — a shotgun, handgun and rifle, with extended magazines for extra ammo capacity — into the panicking crowd. Even a highly trained, armed police officer would have been caught off guard. Try adding a bunch of untrained, armed civilians into the mix — this type of intervention could have made things much worse.

Illinois is routinely called the “most repressive state” by gun rights groups. It requires everyone to obtain a firearm owner’s identification card before purchasing firearms and ammunition. This gives the police another tool to work with if an armed crook is caught without a card. It also creates a paper trail for repeated, in-state purchases. Perhaps if some kind of effective tracking safeguard had existed in Colorado, James Holmes’s purchases — all of which were legal — might have been flagged.

The pro- and anti-gun groups need to sit down and let common sense rule. We register automobiles and require proof of driving proficiency before granting driving licenses. Is it so unreasonable to consider a national or state-by-state registry for firearms? While I’m not totally opposed to concealed carry laws, why not require comprehensive background checks, psychological screening and training? And while it might be considered un-American to prevent an ordinary citizen from owning an assault rifle, would it be too much to ask why he needs to have a specially modified 100-round magazine?

As a former policeman, I know that such measures would help law enforcement do its job. As an American, I hope that they could help us head off the next tragedy of this type.


Michael A. Black, a retired police officer, is the author of “I Am Not a Cop,”

with Richard Belzer, and the forthcoming book “Sacrificial Offerings.”

    I Carried a Gun, and It Was Heavy, NYT, 25.7.2012,






Obama and Romney

Do Not Change Course Over Outcry on Gun Violence


July 23, 2012
The New York Times


President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, echoed each other in embracing the role of national grief counselor in the wake of the deadly rampage in Colorado last week, offering stirring words of condolence and comfort.

But neither has responded to calls for a renewed debate over how to prevent gun violence. Asked on Sunday whether Mr. Obama favored new gun control initiatives, his spokesman, Jay Carney, twice said the main focus of the president — who four years ago called for an assault-weapons ban — was to “protect Second Amendment rights.”

“He believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons,” Mr. Carney said on Air Force One as the president flew to Colorado to meet with survivors of the mass shooting.

“If he had said almost anything else it would be used in a fund-raising appeal by the N.R.A.,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon. “There are very few political leaders that think there is any opportunity in a constructive way to do something in this political climate.”

For his part, Mr. Romney reiterated Monday that he saw no need to renew the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

“I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy,” Mr. Romney told CNBC.

Both candidates have supported gun control in the past, but their views shifted as Americans have backed away from stricter gun laws, and both men have felt a political sting from earlier positions.

Mr. Obama’s remark in 2008 that rural voters “cling to guns or religion” wreaked political damage on him four years ago, exposing him to charges of elitism.

Mr. Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, signed a ban on assault weapons and quadrupled the fee for gun licenses — positions used to attack him in the primary race and pry away support by the Republican base.

Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who favors a federal ban on the type of assault weapon used in the shooting in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 people died and 58 were wounded, said even lesser gun control measures had no future in Congress.

“The political reality is at this point the American people have made the decision that gun control is ineffective, that people have the right to have weapons, and the government can’t be trusted and they’d rather trust themselves with a gun,” Mr. King said.

Surveys show support for gun control has never been lower. An annual Gallup poll of the issue in October last year found that for the first time, a majority, 53 percent, opposed a ban on semiautomatic guns, or assault rifles, and a record low 26 percent favored banning handguns. Support for stricter laws were down in all subgroups, with 64 percent of Democrats favoring stricter laws, 37 percent of independents and 31 percent of Republicans.

The reason gun control is seen as a political loser in both parties, said Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles law school, is that while few advocates of restrictions are single-issue voters, many opponents will vote and donate money based on the issue.

“Romney doesn’t want to offend the base he needs to turn out,” said Mr. Winkler, who wrote a book last year, “Gunfight,” about the political battle over gun rights. “Obama doesn’t want to offend the swing voters who might base their vote on the right to bear arms.”

Calls for a renewed debate over gun violence arise regularly after horrific shootings, including those at an Army post in Fort Hood, Tex., and at a political event held last year by Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

But in the last few years, bills have been introduced — to restrict sales of 100-bullet magazines or to tighten background checks — that do not go anywhere.

Supporters of gun control regularly point to the power of the National Rifle Association, whose 4.3 million members make it one of the most effective advocacy groups in Washington.

“Politicians go to the N.R.A., Democrats and Republicans, and they basically read a script, which is not much different from a hostage video,” said Steve Schmidt, an experienced Republican strategist.

At this year’s N.R.A. convention in April, Mr. Romney raised the prospect of Mr. Obama, in a second term, appointing another Supreme Court justice less favorable to the Second Amendment, and he pledged support of controversial “stand your ground” laws.

But Mr. King said that the gun-rights lobby was not the primary impediment to tighter gun laws. There has been a cultural shift in the country, he said, since traumatic gun violence in the 1960s, including political assassinations, led to gun restrictions. “It’s taken me a while to figure this out,” Mr. King said. “The majority of American people are very attached to their guns. They look on any attempt to regulate or control them as an infringement.

“It’s almost something not debated,” he said. “It is just accepted.”

    Obama and Romney Do Not Change Course Over Outcry on Gun Violence, NYT, 23.7.2012,   






6,000 Bullets


July 23, 2012
The New York Times


With the ease of downloading a song, anyone with a computer and a credit card can order thousands of bullets and shotgun shells on the Internet, along with tear-gas canisters and speed loaders. They can get the same high-capacity ammunition clips that infantry soldiers use. They can even get bulletproof vests and SWAT helmets. All without fear of a single background check.

No one is paying attention to whether buyers have criminal histories or mental-health records. No one is monitoring bulk sales of ammunition to see who might be building an arsenal. Even after a young man in Colorado buys 6,000 rounds by mail order and uses them to commit mass murder, it is the rare politician who proposes to make the tools of terror slightly harder to obtain.

When he was campaigning for office in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to reinstate the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004. That would have prohibited the AR-15 rifle used in the Colorado theater shooting on Friday, along with the large 100-round magazine attached to it. But as president, Mr. Obama has made no attempt to do so. Mitt Romney banned assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts and undoubtedly saved many lives, but now he opposes all gun control measures. He never repeats what he said in 2004 when he signed the ban:

“Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts,” he said. “They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

Both men fear the power of gun ideologues, particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina, where many voters have fallen under the spell of a gun lobby that considers any restriction an unthinkable assault on the Constitution. Senator Ron Johnson, the Tea Party favorite from Wisconsin, spoke for the Republican Party (and many Democrats) when he said that limiting high-capacity magazines would infringe on a basic right. “When you try and do it, you restrict our freedom,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Freedom to do what, precisely? To fire off 100 rounds without reloading? A few sport shooters may enjoy doing that on a firing range, but that’s hardly sufficient reason to empower someone else to do it in a movie theater. It has nothing to do with the basic right of home protection and self-defense found by the Supreme Court in 2008.

A Democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, is one of the few officials courageous enough to propose a better idea: A ban on clips that hold more than 10 bullets, which are not needed to hunt, practice or protect oneself. He first proposed this last year, after a gunman in Tucson used a 33-round magazine to shoot 18 people, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six. The shooter was tackled when he had to reload.

The ban went nowhere and will undoubtedly be laughed off by gun advocates this year, too. In 1993, they killed a proposal by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York to impose a heavy tax on handgun ammunition, especially the bullets that expand and cause heavy tissue damage. A few years ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed a law requiring identification to buy handgun ammunition and forbidding mail-order sales. A group of gun sellers sued and won a trial-court ruling that the law was too vague. (The state attorney general, Kamala Harris, appealed the ruling in February.)

But the gun lobby’s legal and political victories can’t obscure the facts. The assault weapons ban didn’t clearly reduce crime, the best study of the measure found, but allowing high-capacity magazines would “result in more shots fired, more persons hit, and more wounds inflicted per victim than do attacks with other firearms.” Sensible restrictions on ammunition and clips won’t eliminate mass shootings; they may make them less likely and reduce their level of violence.

Many politicians of both parties know this. To overcome their fear of the gun lobby, they need only look at the faces of the victims in Aurora, Colo.

    6,000 Bullets, NYT, 23.7.2012,






A Gun for Every Person


The New York Times
Taking Note - The Editorial Page Editor's Blog
July 23, 2012
5:01 pm


Every time there is a bloodbath like the one in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, opponents of gun control laws argue that no law could have prevented that one man from entering that one theater with three weapons and opening fire on the crowd. They're right, just as no law could absolutely prevent criminals from obtaining weapons, shooting at each other near a Bronx playground and killing a 4-year-old boy, as happened on Sunday.

But that is no excuse for making it steadily easier for people to buy, carry and use weapons, or for our political leaders' continuing refusal to take obvious steps like banning the unrestricted sale of weapons at gun shows, or sales of slightly modified military assault weapons, or unregulated Internet sales of ammunition and ammunition drums that can hold 150 high-damage rounds.

The accused killer in Colorado had one of those modified military weapons, had purchased more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet, along with body armor, other non-sportsman gear and a high-capacity drum that could hold up to 100 rounds and shoot 50 or 60 rounds a minute.

Nearly twenty years ago, in 1993, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the best way to attack gun violence was to restrict the sale of ammunition. (This is also known as the Chris Rock solution: "If a bullet cost $5,000 there'd be no more innocent bystanders.") He said that there was a 200-year supply of guns in this country but only a four-year supply of ammunition. I'm sure those numbers have not changed for the better. His proposal went nowhere.

That same year, Senator Dianne Feinstein called for an assault weapons ban, which included high-capacity magazines. It became law in 1994, but it was watered down first, and it expired in 2004 under President George W. Bush.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, has since tried to revive the high-capacity magazine law, without success, as well as seeking passage of laws that prevent the unrestrained sale of weapons at gun shows.

The Brady Network has a list of 12 bills introduced in the last three Congresses to limit gun show sales; block terrorists from owning weapons (how is that controversial?); increase penalties for "straw purchasers" who buy guns for resale to criminals; raise the age of eligibility to buy a handgun; and ban high-capacity magazines or reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Only one of these laws passed, a 2008 measure that made it harder for convicted criminals, the mentally ill, spouse and child abusers, and illegal aliens to buy guns.

Gun control opponents argue that there are so many guns that trying to control them is a waste of time. That's what they have been saying for decades, with the result that there are now an estimated 1.1 guns for every man, woman and child in the United States. That should be a call to action, not an excuse for failure.

    A Gun for Every Person, NYT, 23.7.2012,






Obama Consoles Aurora as City Begins Healing


July 22, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — President Obama came to this city on Sunday to meet with survivors of the shooting rampage at a movie theater last week, visiting the victims and their families and leading the country in mourning the 12 people killed in the attack.

“Even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong,” Mr. Obama said. He described sharing hugs, tears and laughs as he heard stories about loved ones lost and acts of heroism.

“I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband,” he said.

Across the city, residents gathered at makeshift memorials to grieve as a community while condolences poured in from near and far, from Hollywood to the Vatican. As the families of victims struggled with their loss, new details emerged about the shooting suspect, James E. Holmes, and what happened when a gunman fired into a crowded theater during a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday.

The carnage could have been worse, but one of Mr. Holmes’s weapons, a high-powered semiautomatic rifle, jammed during the shooting, a law enforcement official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said Sunday.

Police Chief Dan Oates of Aurora said that while they were making progress in the case, the investigation would take time.

“We’re focusing on how he got the materials that he got that were used in the shooting, that were used in the apartment,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re focusing on anyone who knew him and statements he may have made. We’re building a case to show that this was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this.”

The police believe that Mr. Holmes began planning his rampage for months, when he began acquiring the materials that he would use in both the shooting and to rig his apartment.

There were also clues as to how Mr. Holmes might have paid for the weapons and other materials he acquired. He was receiving a $26,000 stipend, in monthly installments of $2,166, for a National Institutes of Health neuroscience training grant for the graduate program he was enrolled in at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, a spokeswoman said. Mr. Holmes withdrew from the program last month without explanation, the university said.

Mr. Holmes was being held in solitary confinement at an Aurora jail, awaiting his arraignment Monday morning.

Mr. Obama never mentioned Mr. Holmes by name during his remarks, instead referring to “the perpetrator of this evil act.”

“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” Mr. Obama said.

The president focused his remarks on the “remarkable” stories he was told.

“Most of the conversation was filled with memory,” Mr. Obama said. “It was an opportunity for families to describe how wonderful their brother or their son or daughter was, and the lives that they had touched and the dreams that they had held for the future.”

He told the story of one girl he met, Allie Young, 19, who was shot in the neck. She survived, Mr. Obama said, because her 21-year-old friend, Stephanie, laid by her side and stanched her bleeding even as shots continued to ring out.

“Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go,” the president said. “Because of Stephanie’s timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs and she is going to be fine.”

The president spoke at the University of Colorado Medical Center, where 23 of the victims from the shooting were treated. By the time he arrived on Sunday, one was dead, 12 had been released, leaving 10 patients: 7 still in critical condition and 3 in good condition, a hospital spokesman said.

The president, along with his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, suspended all campaigning for the weekend. Mr. Romney, speaking at a fund-raiser in San Fransisco Sunday night, praised Mr. Obama’s decision to travel to Aurora.

Condolences poured into the small Colorado city from across the country and around the world. Pope Benedict XVI added his condolences during his Sunday morning blessing.

“I was deeply shocked by the senseless violence,” he said.

In Aurora, hundreds of people gathered throughout the day around a growing memorial across the street from the theater. A collection of teddy bears, flowers, posters, candles and notes steadily grew as friends, families and strangers gathered, seeking solace in community.

In the evening, thousands of people, including families of the victims, members of the military and elected officials, attended a prayer vigil held at the Aurora Municipal Center

Several young people wearing Batman T-shirts lined up and held a sign that read, “Like the Dark Knight we will rise again.”

“His story was that we’re all capable of rising above tragedy and being great heroes, and that’s the message we’re trying to portray,” said Kronda Seibert, 26, who was wearing one of the T-shirts.

On top of a small hill overlooking the memorial by the theater, Greg Zanis erected 12 white crosses in honor of each of the dead.

It was a familiar task for Mr. Zanis. After the Columbine High School shooting more than a decade ago, he delivered 15 crosses to Littleton, Colo., for those who had died. Mr. Zanis, who builds electric cars for a living, has made it a weekend hobby to build and deliver crosses to people around the country who have experienced tragedy. He said he had received calls asking him to bring crosses to Aurora, so he constructed them Saturday morning and then made the 16-hour drive from his home in Aurora, Ill.

Lori Furman, 53, laid a bouquet of gladiolus on the memorial Sunday morning when she visited with her husband, Ray. Both wore black ribbons that they got at church earlier in the morning.

“It’s been a hard summer,” Ms. Furman said. “We had friends, acquaintances who lost their homes in the fire. Now this.”

Standing next to the memorial, Jeannie Donelson removed her sunglasses and dried her eyes with a scrunched tissue. This tragedy was close to home. One of the boys who died was a friend of her niece and nephew. The 6-year-old victim was related to a friend of her niece’s.

“I guess just to be able to say goodbye,” Ms. Donelson, 49, said of why she visited the memorial. “Bring some closure.”

Moses Kalemba and his wife, Theopista, arrived from New Hampshire hours after the shooting for a wedding on Sunday. “I wouldn’t say we felt obligated,” Mr. Kalemba said of their visit to the memorial. “We just felt it was the right thing to do. I think this kind of tragedy is one of those things that really gets to you.”

Residents who had been displaced by the threat of explosives in Mr. Holmes’s apartment were looking to return to their normal routines.

Lugging his work uniform and a shopping bag with leftover chicken and cheesecake, Jimmy Davis said the end was in sight, literally, as he strode toward his small apartment building early Sunday after spending two nights in a nearby motel.

“I feel like a hurricane victim or something,” he said. “But now I am going home, turning on the air-conditioner and chilling out.”

Dmitri Shchekochikhin, 27, an international fellow and researcher from Moscow who is studying heart and kidney disease at the same university Mr. Holmes had attended, was not so fortunate. He lived in Mr. Holmes’s building and on Sunday was allowed only to recover some essentials: two cellphones, a computer, a thumb drive, a pair of shoes and a bag of clothes.

Unshaven and seeming agitated, Mr. Shchekochikhin, who has been staying with friends, said he took only his passport, wallet and plane tickets with him after the police instructed him to evacuate in the early hours of Friday.

“I had finished a big project and then drank a bottle of dry, red wine and fell asleep,” he said. Several hours later, the police banged on his door.


John Eligon and Serge F. Kovaleski reported from Aurora,

and Marc Santora from New York.

Reporting was contributed by Dan Frosch, Jack Healy, Helene Cooper

and Erica Goode.

    Obama Consoles Aurora as City Begins Healing, NYT, 22.7.2012,






Batman Sales High Despite Shootings


July 22, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — The mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater on Friday dented ticket sales for “The Dark Knight Rises,” but not by much. The film, which is the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, took in about $162 million in North America over the weekend.

That huge No. 1 total fell below prerelease expectations of ticket sales totaling about $190 million, an indication that some moviegoers were either not in the mood to watch a violent comic book caper or worried about theater safety after the carnage in Aurora, Colo.

Still, the highly anticipated “Dark Knight Rises” managed to score one of the best opening weekends at the box office. “Marvel’s The Avengers” took in $207.4 million over its first three days in May, and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” opened with $169.2 million in ticket sales last summer.

Hollywood was publicly silent about box-office results on Sunday; studios, citing respect for the 12 people killed on Friday at a midnight viewing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” declined to report totals. Rentrak, which collects the data from theaters and provides them to studios, and other aggregators like Hollywood.com also declined to report figures.

“Putting an emphasis on grosses at this time just doesn’t feel appropriate,” said Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com.

But the money at stake was too big for moviedom to ignore, and studio officials with access to box-office numbers provided them to The New York Times. Those officials, in private, spent the weekend seemingly marveling at the ability of “The Dark Knight Rises” to maintain much of its momentum in the wake of the killings.

The movie’s distributor, Warner Brothers, did have the benefit of strong advance ticket sales. Many shows for Friday night sold out long before the killings, and there were reports of ticket scalpers, a rarity for the movies. “The Dark Knight Rises” also benefited from well-behaved patrons and sensible theater managers. After the shootings studio executives were concerned about potential copycats or sensitive theater managers evacuating auditoriums and prompting media coverage. Security was increased dramatically at many theaters, and there appeared to be no major incidents.

Warner officials had no comment on Sunday. The studio and its production and financing partner, Legendary Entertainment, spent an estimated $250 million to make “The Dark Knight Rises,” with marketing costs pushing the total cost of this PG-13 movie over $400 million.

The film’s sales total, which included exceptionally strong results at Imax theaters, came from 4,404 locations in North America, or about 80 percent of the available theaters. Second place for the weekend went to “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (20th Century Fox), which took in a solid $21 million, for a two-week total of about $90 million, according to multiple studio officials with access to box-office data.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” (Sony Pictures Entertainment) was third, selling about $11 million in tickets and lifting its three-week total to about $229 million. The raunchy comedy “Ted” (Universal Pictures) chugged away in fourth place, taking in an estimated $10 million, for a four-week total of $180 million. Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” was fifth in its fifth week, selling about $6 million in tickets, for a new total of $209 million.

“The Dark Knight Rises,” which stars Christian Bale as Batman and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, inspired a sense of awe in many reviewers, who found its nearly three hours a worthy conclusion to this three-film cycle. Ms. Hathaway’s saucy performance in particular won rave reviews. (Mr. Bale released a statement on Saturday about the killings, reading, in part, “Words cannot express the horror that I feel.”)

In exit polls audiences scored “The Dark Knight Rises” an A, an indication that strong word of mouth may help ticket sales in the weeks ahead. But like many movies in this Hollywood age the film’s ultimate fortunes rest with overseas audiences, and there was no information available on Sunday about how it was performing there. The Colorado shootings, which left more than 50 injured, generated global headlines, and Warner canceled a planned red-carpet premiere in Paris for Friday night.

About 47 percent of the $1 billion in global ticket sales for “The Dark Knight” in 2008 came from international theaters, but “Rises” was expected to do much better, partly because of interest in expanding markets like Russia.

Warner was already working to reimagine Batman for another film series, although a reboot would not come before 2015 at the earliest, given the production cycle these kinds of effects-driven movies require. Mr. Nolan has said he would not be involved, and The Los Angeles Times recently reported that he declined a Warner overture to be involved with the studio’s “Avengers”-style “Justice League” project.

Next summer Warner will release “Man of Steel,” featuring an updated version of Superman and produced by Mr. Nolan. But beyond Batman the studio has lately been unable to figure out how to successfully bring its stable of DC Comics superheroes to theaters, even as the rival Marvel — now owned by the Walt Disney Company — has scored over and over.

That helps to explain why Warner — privately — was exhaling deeply on Sunday.

    Batman Sales High Despite Shootings, NYT, 22.7.2012,






Suspect Bought Large Stockpile of Rounds Online


July 22, 2012
The New York Times


DENVER — Unhindered by federal background checks or government oversight, the 24-year-old man accused of killing a dozen people inside a Colorado movie theater was able to build what the police called a 6,000-round arsenal legally and easily over the Internet, exploiting what critics call a virtual absence of any laws regulating ammunition sales.

With a few keystrokes, the suspect, James E. Holmes, ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun — an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites — in the four months before the shooting, according to the police. It was pretty much as easy as ordering a book from Amazon.

He also bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and a high-capacity “drum magazine” large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute — a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.

Mr. Holmes, a graduate student in neuroscience with a clean criminal record, was able to buy the ammunition without arousing the slightest notice from law enforcement, because the sellers are not required in most cases to report sales to law enforcement officials, even unusually large purchases. And neither Colorado nor federal law required him to submit to a background check or register his growing purchases, gun policy experts said.

A few states like Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento, have passed restrictions on ammunition sales, requiring permits for buyers or licenses for sellers, or insisting that dealers track their ammunition sales for law enforcement.

But in Colorado, and across much of the United States, the markets for ammunition — online and in storefronts — are largely unregulated, gun-control advocates say.

Law-enforcement officials have refused to say whether Mr. Holmes bought the ammunition from multiple sources or spaced out the purchases over several weeks to avoid drawing attention.

But as investigators combed through the contents of his apartment on Sunday — its explosive booby traps now defused — new details began to emerge of his activities in the weeks leading up to the rampage. They sketch a picture of man once captivated by the science of the human mind growing increasingly interested in weapons and how to use them.

On June 25, Mr. Holmes e-mailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range, prompting the owner, Glenn Rotkovich, to call back, more than once, to invite him to a mandatory orientation meeting. Nobody ever answered, but Mr. Rotkovich described the voice message as nearly incomprehensible.

“It was this very guttural, very heavy bass, deep voice that was rambling incoherently,” Mr. Rotkovich said. “It was bizarre on a good day, freakish on others.”

Mr. Holmes never called back about joining.

In early July, Mr. Holmes ordered a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, a knife and two magazine holders from a Web site called Tactical Gear, according to an order slip provided by the company’s chief executive, Chad Weinman. He chose expedited two-day delivery to his apartment in the eastern Denver suburb of Aurora, where the shootings took place early Friday, just a few miles from Mr. Holmes’s apartment.

“I think it conveys a sense of urgency and shows premeditation,” Mr. Weinman said in an interview, adding that the company was “deeply saddened” its gear had apparently been used in a mass killing.

Three weeks after that purchase, stunned and bleeding witnesses outside the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora would describe how a man dressed in a black commando-style outfit and a gas mask strode into the theater where they were watching a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” tossed some gas-spewing grenades into the packed auditorium and opened fire.

A law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue said that local investigators in Aurora believed the gunman’s semiautomatic rifle jammed as he was spraying the theater with bullets, forcing him to switch to a slower weapon. Had the gun not jammed, the official said, many more could have died.

The police apprehended Mr. Holmes outside the theater minutes after the shooting, still wearing the body armor. He had four guns with him. A law enforcement official said he also had tablets of Vicodin, a painkiller, in his possession.

Chief Daniel Oates of the Aurora police praised the arresting officers on the CBS program “Face the Nation” for noticing that Mr. Holmes’ gear was not quite like that of the other S.W.A.T. officers or he might well have escaped, mistaken for one of the responders.

Gun-control groups said the purchases of the ammunition demonstrated how easily anyone could build a veritable arsenal without attracting attention from state or federal law-enforcement officials. Gun groups replied that stricter controls would not make the nation safer, but would only restrict constitutional rights.

Only a handful of states and cities have passed any laws requiring that gun dealers keep track of who is buying ammunition.

“It’s a wide-open marketplace,” said Tom Mauser, a gun-control advocate in Colorado whose son was killed in the 1999 Columbine shootings. “The Internet has really changed things. You don’t have to show your face. It’s anything goes.”

Some top law-enforcement officers were among those calling for more restrictions on ammunition sales.

“I have an issue with people being able to buy ammunition and weapons on the Internet,” Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey of the Philadelphia police said on the ABC program “This Week” on Sunday. “I don’t know why people need to have assault weapons. There needs to be reasonable gun control put in place.

“And we talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens, because many of our legislators, unfortunately, at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything.”

The ammunition and arms Web sites are prolific online. They work like any small hubs of e-commerce, only with warnings to patrons that, under federal laws, they must have clean criminal records and must consult local laws before making their purchases. Buyers can pick up cases of bullets, clips, speed loaders, targets and a wealth of other gear associated with shooting, hunting or target practice.

A 1999 bill in Congress aimed at regulating Internet sales of ammunition was never adopted. Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced measures to restrict the sales of large-capacity magazines, but neither measure has gained any traction with the House controlled by Republicans, who tend to be strong supporters of gun rights, and election-year politics shunting politically volatile issues like gun control to the side.

“It is a war tool,” Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, said of the 100-round drum that the police say Mr. Holmes purchased online. “They’re meant to kill. They’re meant to kill as many people in as short a period of time.” Ms. McCarthy’s husband was among six people killed in 1993 by a gunman on a commuter train.

But after the Colorado shooting, Democrats and Republicans cast doubt on whether tougher laws could have averted the killing, diminishing the political stomach for any immediate changes in gun laws. Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the killer might have built a bomb or found some other lethal device if no assault weapons had been around. And Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, defended people’s rights to own large-quantity ammunition magazines.

“The fact of the matter is, there are magazines, 30-round magazines, that are just common all over the place, and you simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals that want to do harm,” Mr. Johnson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedoms.”

To gun groups, such an unfettered marketplace stands as a bulwark of their Second Amendment rights.

Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said there was no need to track sales of ammunition or require ammunition dealers to follow the same strictures as gun dealerships. He said law-abiding sportsmen and target shooters often bought ammunition in bulk to save money, and may keep rounds on their shelves for years. He said they can easily blow through 400 or 500 rounds in one vigorous day at a shooting range.

“I call 6,000 rounds of ammunition running low,” he said.


Dan Frosch and Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting from Aurora, Colo.

    Suspect Bought Large Stockpile of Rounds Online, NYT, 22.7.2012,






Police at Home of Colorado Suspect Disarm Major Threats


July 21, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — Law enforcement officials said Saturday that they had successfully disabled the most dangerous explosives and incendiary devices at the apartment of James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people at a movie theater here.

But officials cautioned that dangers remained for the specialists who must enter the apartment to collect evidence.

One crucial task, officials said, was to piece together how the suspect was able to accumulate the weapons used in the shooting as well as the materials needed to assemble the complex web of traps and explosive devices in the apartment.

The Aurora police chief, Dan Oates, said at a news conference on Saturday that the goal of the person who booby-trapped the apartment was apparent: to kill whoever entered. And he said that the most likely targets were the police and first responders.

James F. Yacone, the special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, described the challenges that explosive specialists faced as they tried to disarm the various weapons in the apartment.

The first step, he said, was to figure out how to get a remotely controlled robot through a front door that had been wired with an improvised explosive device.

Once that trigger was disarmed, around 10:3o a.m. local time, and the robot entered the apartment, the next challenge was to render harmless a potent cocktail known as a hypergolic mixer — essentially fuel and an oxidizer that when mixed have a violent reaction.

At each stage, they used the robot to remove evidence from the apartment so that they could analyze what they were dealing with to better understand the best way to proceed.

“It was an extremely dangerous environment,” Mr. Yacone said.

After the field tests, the evidence removed is being sent to F.B.I. headquarters in Quantico, Va., for further analysis, Mr. Yacone said. He declined to give specifics as to the components used in either the explosive devices or the incendiary devices.

Multiple containers were rendered safe, Mr. Yacone said. “It went very, very well,” he said, but he noted that the threat has not been completely eliminated.

While the devices were sophisticated, Mr. Yacone said, much of the information about how to assemble them could have been found on the Internet.

Chief Oates said that they were getting a better picture of how the gunman had acquired all the deadly equipment, including four weapons bought legally over the last 60 days and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition purchased legally over the Internet.

For more than four months, Chief Oates said, the suspect had been getting large mail-order deliveries both at his home and at his place of work.

“What we are seeing here is evidence of some calculation and deliberation,” he said.

In the city of Aurora, initial spasms of shock and anger turned to raw, open sadness on Saturday as the police completed the grim task of informing families whose relatives were among at least a dozen people who died in the shooting early Friday during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Many people took to Facebook and Twitter to express their grief, a sign of the increasing importance of social media during mass tragedies.

More than 50 people were injured, some critically, during the shooting that upended an evening of excitement that brought families and many young people out for the highly anticipated Batman sequel.

The authorities had worked through the night to identify those killed, and by Saturday morning they said they had notified all the families of victims, including some who had been holding out hope that those missing had been spared. There were still 11 people hospitalized in critical condition, the authorities said.

Before the authorities released a list of the dead, many family members came forward on their own to identify the victims.

Among those identified so far were a 6-year-old, two active-duty servicemen, a 23-year-old community college student, a young man celebrating his 27th birthday, and a sports blogger who a month ago had narrowly avoided a shooting spree at a Toronto shopping mall.

Candlelight vigils were held across the city on Friday night and the tragedy prompted a rare bit of bipartisan accord in Washington.

President Obama used his weekly radio address to again speak out on the shootings, saying, “Such evil is senseless — beyond reason.”

“If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s a reminder that life is fragile,” Mr. Obama said. “Our time here is limited, and it is precious. And what matters in the end are not the small and trivial things which often consume our lives. It’s how we choose to treat one another, and love one another. It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That’s what matters. That’s why we’re here.”

Speaker John A. Boehner gave the Republican response to the president’s radio address, saying that he had planned to speak on the economy, but instead directed his attention to the shootings.

“Words cannot capture the horror, or make sense of something so senseless,” he said. “So I won’t try.”

Led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, law enforcement agents began early Saturday securing the area around the apartment.

Residents in five buildings surrounding Mr. Holmes’s were evacuated on Friday. Sixteen of the evacuated people were taken to shelter at Central High School, where 12 others joined them late Friday night after an unrelated fire at an Aurora apartment building forced them from their homes.

Throughout the afternoon, the authorities went about the delicate task of clearing dozens of other booby traps and improvised explosives.

With each controlled detonation, a low thud could be heard from across the street, where dozens of television cameras remained pointed up at the third-floor window, its glass smashed out and blinds blowing in the breeze.

There was fear that as they tried to disable the devices in the apartment, it might create a secondary explosion, damaging valuable evidence that might be inside the apartment. But the operation was initially successful, with no major explosions or fires.

By the afternoon, law enforcement officials said that many of the threats had been eliminated.

Officials did not release details about how they rendered the various devices safe, but law enforcement officials said that one method used was known as a “water shot,” in which a robot placed a tube of water near a device and, after backing away, set off a detonation.

The shooting stirred memories of the Columbine High School shooting, which took place just 20 miles from here.

“People in Colorado have really been through a lot between the recent wildfires, and now this theater shooting,” said Patricia D. Billinger, a local spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

At the apartment of the suspect, Mr. Holmes, local law enforcement officers and firefighters were being helped by explosives experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as those from the A.T.F.

They faced a situation that Chief Oates said was unlike anything he had seen.

On Friday, he described an apartment littered with jars full of an unknown liquid, other jars full of ammunition and yet more filled with what he said looked like mortar rounds. A series of wires ran between the jars, evidently set to blow up should they be disturbed.

When the police arrested Mr. Holmes outside the movie theater where the shooting took place, he warned them that the apartment was rigged with explosives, the police said.

They swarmed his apartment complex around 2 a.m. Friday, evacuating neighbors and sealing off Mr. Holmes’s apartment. Residents from four other neighboring buildings were also evacuated.

The authorities said that in the last 60 days, Mr. Holmes had legally purchased four guns at local gun shops — an AR-15 assault rifle, two Glock .40-caliber handguns and a Remington 12-gauge shotgun — and acquired through the Internet more than 6,000 rounds of assorted ammunition.

Mr. Holmes is being held at the Arapahoe County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, social media was a tool that people used to update others on their situation and talk about the horror they had witnessed.

“So sorry for your loss,” Debbie Byers Phillips wrote in a post. “We all grieve with you.”

Less than three hours after the shooting, at 3:13 a.m. Friday, Tony Hoang posted on his Facebook page, “I almost died.” Hours later, he added, “i still cant believe i got out alive.”



John Eligon reported from Aurora, Colo., and Marc Santora from New York.

Reporting was contributed by Dan Frosch, Jack Healy, Erica Goode

and Serge Kovaleski from Aurora, Colo.;

and Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jennifer Preston from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 21, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the location of the F.B.I. headquarters.

It is Quantico, Va., not Quanitco. It also misspelled

    Police at Home of Colorado Suspect Disarm Major Threats, NYT, 21.7.2012,






Before and After Massacre, Puzzles Line Suspect’s Path


July 21, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — Killing a dozen people and wounding more than 50 others was apparently not enough for James Eagan Holmes, according to the police. Inside his otherwise ordinary apartment lay an intricate series of explosive booby traps, seemingly designed to kill anyone who entered while pursuing his trail.

Mr. Holmes, 24, who the police say brought terror to a midnight movie screening in this Colorado community, also left behind a litany of questions, many of them focused on how and why a once-promising student could now stand accused of being the lone gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in Colorado since the 1999 Columbine High School attacks.

Mr. Holmes had been a shy, awkward boy who once seemed bound for big things. He was a science student from Southern California who won scholarships and internships, graduated “at the top of the top” from the University of California, Riverside, and moved to Colorado last year to take the next step: a doctoral program in neuroscience.

Mr. Holmes had an appointment at the university under a one-year Neuroscience Training Grant from the National Institutes of Health, a spokeswoman for the university said. The federal grant pays for six pre-thesis doctoral students in the university’s neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus. Such grants are usually quite difficult to obtain, going to only the top students.

But Mr. Holmes struggled through his first academic year at the University of Colorado, Denver, and had dropped out by this spring. Neighbors from his gang-ridden neighborhood in Aurora described him as a solitary figure, recognizable as one of the few white residents of a largely Hispanic neighborhood, and always alone. Alone as he bought beer and liquor at neighborhood shops, as he ate burritos at La California restaurant or got his car fixed at the Grease Monkey auto shop. Alone as he rode his bicycle through the streets.

He appears to have sought companionship through the Web site Adult Friend Finder, posting a photo of himself with bright orange hair and saying that he was “looking for a fling.” In an online profile, he described himself as a nice guy, or as nice as any man “who does these sorts of shenanigans,” though its authenticity could not be independently verified.

Some nights, neighbors heard loud music throbbing in his third-floor apartment, and often complained about it, or noticed a strange purple light in the windows. Sometimes, the windows were masked by newspaper, as if he wanted no one to see inside.

On Saturday, Aurora’s police chief, Daniel Oates, offered an explanation for why that might have been. When the police arrived after apprehending Mr. Holmes outside the theaters where the shootings had occurred, they found an apartment full of explosives and shells. The array had been designed “to kill whoever entered it,” Chief Oates said.

For more than four months, Chief Oates said, the suspect had been getting large mail-order deliveries both at his home and at his college.

“What we are seeing here is evidence of some calculation and deliberation,” he said. After more than a day of efforts involving bomb-defusing robots and painstaking patience, law-enforcement officers said they had defused the main threats inside the apartment by Saturday afternoon. They set off controlled detonations that could be heard from across the street.

By the afternoon, teams of firefighters in heavy gear appeared to be entering the apartment — a place that may hold some hints about Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes’s background was science. Before dropping out he took a class that explored the biological origins of psychiatric and neurological disorders, and was scheduled to give a presentation on “MicroRNA Biomarkers,” according to a class schedule published online. The topic appears to demonstrate an interest in the genetic basis of mental illness.

With his academic career in tatters, law enforcement officials say, Mr. Holmes began to assemble another plan. Over the last two months, he bought two handguns, a shotgun and an assault rifle from local gun dealers. He bought and stockpiled 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. The police said he began to receive large deliveries to his home and work. He outfitted himself with black body armor and a gas mask.

And early Friday morning, the police said, he walked into a darkened multiplex here in Aurora — a sprawling city east of Denver — where a midnight showing of the new Batman movie had just begun, and began firing bullets at the families and teenagers packed into the sold-out auditorium. The police said that when he was arrested, he compared himself to the Joker character in the Batman movies.

Twelve people were killed, and 58 were wounded, and the authorities said that 11 remained hospitalized in critical condition on Saturday.

The initial spasms of shock and disbelief soon turned to open grief and outrage. Memorials sprang up near the site of the shooting. The White House said Saturday that President Obama would fly to Aurora on Sunday afternoon to meet with families of the victims of the killing spree and with local officials.

Neighbors, acquaintances and teachers who knew the suspect found themselves searching for any glimmer that could offer some small clue as to how the quiet man from their memories came to be arrested in such horrific crimes.

Apart from a speeding ticket, Mr. Holmes had no previous encounters with the police in Aurora. He had no history of trouble with the police at college in California. He left no easily identifiable online messages or videos that might offer any insight to his mind-set. It also remained unclear how Mr. Holmes was able to afford the large amount of weapons, ammunition and protective gear he had, and how he learned to booby-trap his apartment. He was being held away from other inmates at the Arapahoe County Jail on Saturday because of the case’s high profile, Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. Mr. Holmes is due to make his first court appearance at 9:30 Monday morning.

In interviews, neighbors and friends from Southern California and Aurora described a young man as anonymous as a glass of water, more Invisible Man than Joker, who left the lightest of impressions on people. He grew up on a pleasant street of Spanish-style tract homes east of San Diego. His mother, Arlene Rosemary Holmes, is a registered nurse. News reports and a LinkedIn profile suggest that his father is a software company manager in the area.

When he was younger, Mr. Holmes dabbled in soccer and running cross-country, but seemed to give them up for academic pursuits. Breanna Hath, 23, a classmate who graduated from Westview High School with Mr. Holmes in 2006, said he had a small group of friends who played video games and were “a little nerdy.”

“He was really shy, really quiet, but really nice and sweet,” Ms. Hath said.

He won merit scholarships to the University of California, Riverside, and graduated in 2010 as an honors student in neuroscience, school officials said.

“I think he was kind of quirky, just the way you expect smart people to be,” the school’s chancellor, Timothy P. White, said in an interview on Saturday. “Quirky in the sense that he probably had a wry sense of humor. He kept to himself more than he socialized. But he was social. He wasn’t a hermit or an introvert. He wasn’t a loner.”

But some friends and neighbors said Mr. Holmes was hesitant to make small talk if seen on the street, slow to smile in conversations with strangers, often seemingly tucked away inside himself. They described him as pleasant and benign.

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the tripwire was about waist high and that among the hazards found in the roughly 800-square-foot apartment were bullets in jars that were rigged to detonate. And there were about 30 aerial shells, typically used in fireworks, which had been fashioned to be explosive devices.

With the major tripwire and explosives defeated, the police said they could soon enter the apartment and search for clues as to what spurred the gunman to go on his shooting rampage.


Reporting was contributed by John Eligon and Erica Goode from Aurora,

Ian Lovett from San Diego, Adam Nagourney from Los Angeles,

and Marc Santora from New York.

    Before and After Massacre, Puzzles Line Suspect’s Path, NYT, 21.7.2012,






We’ve Seen This Movie Before


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


JAMES HOLMES, who opened fire before the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” could not have seen the movie. Like many whose misery is reflected in violence, he may simply have been drawn to a highly publicized event with a big crowd. In cynical terms, he was seeking a publicity tie-in. He was like one of those goofballs waving in the background when a TV reporter does a stand-up at a big story.

James Holmes must also have been insane, and his inner terror expressed itself, as it often does these days, in a link between pop culture and firearms. There was nothing bigger happening in his world right now than the new Batman movie, and in preparation for this day, or another like it, he was purchasing firearms and booby-trapping his apartment. When he was arrested after the shootings, he made no attempt at resistance. His mission was accomplished.

I’m not sure there is an easy link between movies and gun violence. I think the link is between the violence and the publicity. Those like James Holmes, who feel the need to arm themselves, may also feel a deep, inchoate insecurity and a need for validation. Whenever a tragedy like this takes place, it is assigned catchphrases and theme music, and the same fragmentary TV footage of the shooter is cycled again and again. Somewhere in the night, among those watching, will be another angry, aggrieved loner who is uncoiling toward action. The cinematic prototype is Travis Bickle of “Taxi Driver.” I don’t know if James Holmes cared deeply about Batman. I suspect he cared deeply about seeing himself on the news.

Should this young man — whose nature was apparently so obvious to his mother that, when a ABC News reporter called, she said “You have the right person” — have been able to buy guns, ammunition and explosives? The gun lobby will say yes. And the endless gun control debate will begin again, and the lobbyists of the National Rifle Association will go to work, and the op-ed thinkers will have their usual thoughts, and the right wing will issue alarms, and nothing will change. And there will be another mass murder.

That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.

I was sitting in a Chicago bar one night with my friend McHugh when a guy from down the street came in and let us see that he was packing heat.

“Why do you need to carry a gun?” McHugh asked him.

“I live in a dangerous neighborhood.”

“It would be safer if you moved.”

This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.

Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog entry. Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact place he fired from.

“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora. The circle of madness is closing.


Roger Ebert is the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times

and the author of “Life Itself: A Memoir.”

    We’ve Seen This Movie Before, NYT, 20.7.2012,






Guns and the Slog


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


My favorite American heroes are the ones who went for the long slog, even when their cause appeared to be hopeless to the point of ridiculous. Civil rights activists in the 1950s. Generations’ worth of suffragists who trudged around the country collecting signatures on petitions to give women the right to vote.

Also, anybody who works on gun control.

“We do just seem to slog along, from one tragedy to the next,” said Tom Mauser of Colorado Ceasefire.

The gun control advocates were all working the phones on Friday, holding press conferences, sending out e-mails in the wake of the mass shooting in Colorado. They’re uncomfortably aware that they might appear to be taking political advantage of a national tragedy.

“This is the only time you have the opportunity that people will listen to you,” said Representative Carolyn McCarthy, who has spent her entire legislative career fruitlessly attempting to do something about assault weapons that allow crazy people to easily mow down a flock of victims in a couple of minutes.

There was a brief period of time when gun control was a popular issue, but that was before the National Rifle Association mobilized itself into one of the most powerful lobbying forces in the nation’s history. Now the N.R.A. is so feared and so successful that it’s running out of issues and has to keep inventing new ones, like the right to bear arms in airport lobbies.

The gun control advocates, who used to fight for sensible laws on universal background checks and registration, now devote most of their time to stopping states from making it legal to carry concealed weapons in a kindergarten, or to shoot someone you sort of suspect may intend to hurt you.

Lately, even the most terrible gun tragedies fail to make a political dent. After the Columbine shooting, Coloradans voted overwhelmingly in referendum to close the loophole that allowed people to buy weapons at gun shows without a background check. “The legislature wouldn’t pass it so we took it to the people,” said Mauser. But since then, he said, “most of the time we’re just fighting against awful gun bills.”

One of the terrible things about talking to gun control advocates is that so many of them are relatives of gun violence victims. When I interviewed Mauser over the phone, I had no idea that his son had been killed at Columbine until he broke down briefly when I asked him what brought him to the cause.

Then it was on to Representative McCarthy, who lost her husband to a deranged gunman who shot up a Long Island Rail Road car in which he and their son were riding.

“I was up at 5:30 this morning,” she said, on the day when the Aurora shooting hit the news. “You sit there, you go: ‘Oh, my God! It’s happening again.’ I can visualize myself running to the hospital, standing by my son’s bedside, wondering if he was going to make it through the night. It just throws you back to a place you don’t want to go to.”

In our country, the mass shootings come so frequently that most of them go by virtually unnoticed. Did you catch the one last week in Tuscaloosa? Seventeen people at a bar, hit by a gunman with an assault weapon.

People from most other parts of the industrialized world find the American proliferation of guns shocking, but, really, they have no idea. Even most Americans don’t know that Congress has, in recent years, refused to consider laws that would ban the sale of assault weapons capable of firing 100 bullets without reloading, and declined to allow the attorney general to restrict people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing weapons.

The country is not nearly as crazy as its politicians make it out to be. (A survey by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found 82 percent of N.R.A. members opposed letting people on the terrorist watch list buy guns.) Although it could certainly use a little leadership.

After the latest shooting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York laced into Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for limiting their post-Aurora remarks to expressions of sympathy for the victims.

“I feel your pain and I’m working on it,” he snorted in an interview. “Romney passed a ban on assault weapons back when he was governor and now he says he’s against it. Of course, he’s done that on almost everything. Obama, when he was elected, said I want to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and he’s never done it.”

But presidential candidates look at this issue and see the same thing other elected officials do: a rich, fierce, loopy lobby on one side, and, on the other, people with petitions, slogging along.

Everybody, including the gun control advocates, knows that nothing will change unless the people decide to do the leading. Eventually, the American voters come around. Just ask the suffragists.

    Guns and the Slog, NYT, 20.7.2012,






The Shooting in Aurora


July 20, 2012
12:07 pm
The New York Times
Taking Note - The Editorial Page Editor's Blog


With details about the shooting in Aurora still murky, the best available response for now is also the simplest: sympathy-for the victims, for the injured, and for their families.

President Obama asked a crowd in Fort Myers, Florida, "to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy. For the people loved them. For those who are still struggling to recover and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day."

He then returned to the White House and, like Mitt Romney, pulled his political ads off the air in Colorado. We do need to pause, and to wait for more information.

But at some point very soon, we'll need to do more than reflect-we'll need to have a national conversation about gun violence.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York said, "maybe it's time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they're gonna do about it."

I have hunch, though, that that they will not tell us what they're gonna do about it, and that there will be no national dialogue, just as there was no national dialogue after Virginia Tech or after Jared Lee Loughner tried to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords.

Politicians are far too cowardly to address gun violence, and as a society, we keep getting stuck on a theoretical debate about the Second Amendment, which keeps us from taking practical measures to avoid senseless shootings like the one in Aurora.

Whether you believe, as many perfectly reasonable people do, that the amendment gives each individual the right to bear arms, or whether you believe, as our editorial page has often argued, that it is a societal right, that is no reason to ignore the out-of-control gun market.

It may require each side of the Second Amendment argument to give a little, but we need the discussion. What we do not need are people like Rep. Louie Gohmert, the Texas Republican, who babbled something completely incoherent about a connection between this incident and "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs."

He then uttered what may be the single most dangerous thing that opponents of gun control say at moments like this: "It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?"

    The Shooting in Aurora, NYT, 20.12.2012,






Mourning and Mulling


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


America is aching.

There are some events that we never grow numb to, things that weigh heavily on our sense of humanity and national psyche.

Early Friday morning, 24-year-old James Holmes, masked and armed, entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire. After things settled, at least 12 people were dead and 59 were left wounded.

It is on days like this that we are reminded of how much more alike than different we are, when we see that tears have no color, when ideologies melt into a common heart broken by sorrow.

But it is also on days like this that the questions invariably come.

They are questions about the shooter. How deep must the hole have been in his life? How untenable was the ache? How cold must the heart have grown? When did he cross the line from malcontent to monster?

But there are also questions for us as a country and as a people. We are called to question our values and our laws, and those obviously include our gun laws.

My own feelings on the matter are complicated.

I grew up in a small town in northern Louisiana — in the sticks. Everyone there seemed to own guns, even the children. My brothers slept beneath a gun rack that hung over their bed. Women carried handguns for protection. Even now, my oldest brother is an amateur gun dealer, buying and selling guns at his local gun shows.

There are parts of America where guns are simply part of the culture, either for hunting and keeping the vermin out of the garden (there are more humane methods of doing this, of course, but some people simply have their ways), or for collecting.

(According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans have a gun in their home.)

But, as a child, I also saw how guns could be used in a fit of anger or after a few swigs of liquor. And I have seen the damage they do to the fabric of society in big cities where criminals and cowards alike use them to settle disputes and even scores.

While I hesitate to issue blanket condemnations about gun ownership — my upbringing simply doesn’t support that — common sense would seem to dictate that it is prudent and wise to consider the place of guns in modern societies. It has been some time since we have needed to raise a militia, but senseless violence is all too common. The right to bear arms is constitutional, but the right to be safe even if you don’t bear arms would seem universal. We must ask ourselves the hard question: Can both rights be equally protected and how can they best be balanced?

As Howard Steven Friedman, a statistician and health economist for the United Nations, wrote for The Huffington Post in April:

“America’s homicide rates, incarceration rates and gun ownership rates are all much higher than other wealthy countries. While the data associated with crime is imperfect, these facts all point to the idea that America is more violent than many other wealthy countries.” This is not the way in which we should seek to excel.

There are whole swaths of gun owners who don’t use their guns in a criminal way. But many of the people who use guns to commit murder are also law-abiding until they’re not. (Holmes’s only previous brush with the law seems to have been a 2011 traffic summons.) We shouldn’t simply wait for the bodies to fall to separate the wheat from the chaff.

One step in the right direction would be to reinstate the assault weapons ban. Even coming from a gun culture, I cannot rationalize the sale of assault weapons to everyday citizens. (The Washington Post reported that Holmes had a shotgun, two pistols and an AR-15 assault rifle, all legally purchased.)

But this will be an uphill battle because the National Rifle Association has been extremely effective at promoting its agenda and sowing fears that gun rights are in jeopardy even when they are not. Much of that campaign has been aimed at painting President Obama as an enemy of the Second Amendment, and it has been exceedingly successful.

That 2011 Gallup poll, in a reversal from previous polls, found that most people are now against an assault weapons ban. (In general, the desire for stricter gun control laws has been falling for the last two decades.)

We simply have to take some reasonable steps toward making sure that all our citizens are kept safer — those with guns and those without.

We can’t keep digging graves where common ground should be.

    Mourning and Mulling, NYT, 20.7.2012,






Colorado Gun Laws Remain Lax,

Despite Changes After Columbine


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


The news of the horrifying armed assault in Aurora, Colo. — just a half-hour drive from the site of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 — has a freakish resonance in a state that has long played an unsought role in the national debate over gun laws and firearm rights.

As a mountain state, Colorado has a history of broad support for Second Amendment rights. But in the years since the Columbine tragedy, the state’s lawmakers and voters passed some gun restrictions, including requirements governing the sale of firearms at gun shows, a law regulating people’s ability to carry concealed weapons and legislation banning “straw purchases” of weapons for people who would not qualify to buy them legitimately.

Still, James Holmes, 24, the former neuroscience student believed to be the lone gunman in Friday’s shootings in Aurora, armed himself with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun to allegedly kill 12 and wound 59 others, many critically. All were weapons that would probably be legal for him to possess.

“The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Mr. Volokh added, “there’s no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.”

Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus.

People in Colorado are allowed to carry firearms in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, as long as the gun is intended for lawful uses like personal protection or protecting property.

Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, but Colorado is among those states whose rules on permits are relatively lax, said Heather Morton of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Colorado is one of 38 “shall issue” states. She explained that this meant “if a person complies with all of the requirements, then the state must issue a concealed weapons permit.” (By other measures, the number of states whose laws amount to “shall issue” is closer to 41.) Factors that might keep someone from being able to get a permit generally include felony convictions, mental illness or protective orders.

Other states have a tougher “may issue” law, which gives discretion to withhold a permit to an authority like the local sheriff or department of public safety.

Getting a concealed weapon permit in Denver is a relatively straightforward affair, according to materials put online by the Denver Police Department. Information forms and the application are available online; the process costs $152.50, payable by certified check or money order. Denver’s Web page describing the process warns, “Do not bring any weapon with you when you bring your application for review.”

The latest shootings will almost certainly lead to efforts to tighten gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement that laid the blame on lax gun laws: “The horrendous shooting in Aurora, Colo., is yet another tragic reminder that we have a national problem of easy availability of guns in this country.”

On his weekly radio appearance Friday morning, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York called for the presidential candidates to make gun issues a part of their campaigns.

Yet another tragedy is not likely to shift the national debate over guns, said David Kopel, an adjunct professor at the Denver University law school and the research director of the Independence Institute, a libertarian organization in Denver. He noted that gun violence did not seem to bring about national restrictions on gun rights.

“The gun prohibition people tried to use Gabrielle Giffords and the Trayvon Martin case to get their cause going again, and weren’t particularly successful with that,” he said.

At the state level, he added, having fought pitched battles over gun rights since the 1980s, “we’re at a reasonably well settled point,” and “the legislature is not that interested in opening it up again.”

Mr. Volokh said the fragmentary information available so far about Mr. Holmes and the attack did not make a strong case for reform.

“The only weapons-control solution that could do anything about this kind of murder would be a total ban on guns,” he said.

“It’s hard to prevent someone who is really bent on committing a crime from getting them,” he added, and “it’s unlikely that gun laws are going to stop him.”

In the never-ending argument, tragedy can become a talking point. Luke O’Dell, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado-based group that fights gun control measures, said private gun restrictions may well have had “tragic consequences” in the shootings.

He noted that the theater chain that owns the Aurora movie house bans firearms on the premises, and said that if other patrons had been legally able to carry weapons, the death toll might have been less. Mr. O’Dell also said that Mayor Bloomberg’s call for a discussion of gun issues was “exploiting the blood of these innocent victims to advance his political agenda.”

    Colorado Gun Laws Remain Lax, Despite Changes After Columbine, NYT, 20.7.2012,






We’ve Seen This Movie Before


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


JAMES HOLMES, who opened fire before the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” could not have seen the movie. Like many whose misery is reflected in violence, he may simply have been drawn to a highly publicized event with a big crowd. In cynical terms, he was seeking a publicity tie-in. He was like one of those goofballs waving in the background when a TV reporter does a stand-up at a big story.

James Holmes must also have been insane, and his inner terror expressed itself, as it often does these days, in a link between pop culture and firearms. There was nothing bigger happening in his world right now than the new Batman movie, and in preparation for this day, or another like it, he was purchasing firearms and booby-trapping his apartment. When he was arrested after the shootings, he made no attempt at resistance. His mission was accomplished.

I’m not sure there is an easy link between movies and gun violence. I think the link is between the violence and the publicity. Those like James Holmes, who feel the need to arm themselves, may also feel a deep, inchoate insecurity and a need for validation. Whenever a tragedy like this takes place, it is assigned catchphrases and theme music, and the same fragmentary TV footage of the shooter is cycled again and again. Somewhere in the night, among those watching, will be another angry, aggrieved loner who is uncoiling toward action. The cinematic prototype is Travis Bickle of “Taxi Driver.” I don’t know if James Holmes cared deeply about Batman. I suspect he cared deeply about seeing himself on the news.

Should this young man — whose nature was apparently so obvious to his mother that, when a ABC News reporter called, she said “You have the right person” — have been able to buy guns, ammunition and explosives? The gun lobby will say yes. And the endless gun control debate will begin again, and the lobbyists of the National Rifle Association will go to work, and the op-ed thinkers will have their usual thoughts, and the right wing will issue alarms, and nothing will change. And there will be another mass murder.

That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.

I was sitting in a Chicago bar one night with my friend McHugh when a guy from down the street came in and let us see that he was packing heat.

“Why do you need to carry a gun?” McHugh asked him.

“I live in a dangerous neighborhood.”

“It would be safer if you moved.”

This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.

Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog entry. Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact place he fired from.

“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora. The circle of madness is closing.


Roger Ebert is the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times

and the author of “Life Itself: A Memoir.”

    We’ve Seen This Movie Before, NYT, 20.7.2012,






Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate


July 20, 2012
The New York Times


AURORA, Colo. — Anticipation built in the packed, darkened movie theater. Life and its cares began to recede.

Then, just after midnight on Friday, fantasy became nightmare, and a place of escape became a trap, when a man strode to the front in a multiplex near Denver and opened fire. At least 12 people were killed and 58 wounded, with witnesses describing a scene of claustrophobia, panic and blood. Minutes later, the police arrested James Holmes, 24, in the theater’s parking lot.

“It was just chaos. You started hearing screaming. You looked up and people were falling. It was like a dream,” said Jamie Rohrs, 25, who was there with his fiancée, cradling his 4-month-old son, Ethan, in his arms as the movie began. It was the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the latest Batman sequel, at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, about 10 miles from downtown Denver.

Mr. Rohrs jumped between the seats for cover, still holding the baby. He stumbled and crawled trying to figure out what to do, clutching his son to his chest as he went. “Do I run out the door? Is he going to shoot the baby? What am I to do?” Mr. Rohrs said, his voice quavering. But he, his fiancée and the baby eventually made it out.

And so once again, with a squeeze of a trigger, just 20 miles from Columbine High School, scene of the 1999 student massacre, the nation was plunged into another debate about guns and violence.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who has waged a national campaign for stricter gun laws, offered a political challenge. “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio program, “because this is obviously a problem across the country.”

Luke O’Dell of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado group on the other side of the debate over gun control, took a nearly opposite view. “Potentially, if there had been a law-abiding citizen who had been able to carry in the theater, it’s possible the death toll would have been less.”

Some survivors thought at first they were witnessing a promotional stunt. The gunman, wearing what Aurora Police Department officials described as nearly head-to-toe “ballistic gear,” including a throat protector and leggings, plus a gas mask and a long black coat, came in through a parking lot exit door near the screen of Theater 9.

“He walked in so casually,” said a witness, Jordan Crofter, 19, a Batman fan who had gone with a group of friends and had a seat in the front row. The gunman, still perhaps regarded by some as a performer, then released two devices down the theater aisles emitting what the police said was smoke or some sort of irritant.

Witnesses told the police that Mr. Holmes said something to the effect of “I am the Joker,” according to a federal law enforcement official, and that his hair had been dyed or he was wearing a wig. Then, as people began to rise from their seats in confusion or anxiety, he began to shoot. The gunman paused at least once, several witnesses said, perhaps to reload, and continued firing.

Mr. Holmes was detained by the police soon afterward, standing by his white Hyundai. He was identified by the authorities as a former Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado in Denver, and an honors graduate in neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside. He had in the car an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40 caliber Glock handgun, said Chief Dan Oates of the Aurora police, and all three were believed to have been used inside the theater. Another Glock .40 caliber handgun was recovered inside the theater. Chief Oates said that “many, many” rounds were fired, but that there was no count so far.

In the last 60 days Mr. Holmes had purchased four guns at local gun shops, Chief Oates said. And through the Internet, he bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition: more than 3,000 rounds for the assault rifle, 3,000 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition for the two Glocks, and 300 rounds for the 12-gauge shotgun. The guns were all bought legally, a federal law enforcement official said.

Mr. Holmes also purchased online multiple magazines for the assault rifle, including one 100-round drum magazine. “With that drum magazine, he could have gotten off 50, 60 rounds, even if it was semiautomatic, within one minute,” Chief Oates said.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has given information on where and when the guns were purchased to the police in Aurora.

After the chaos — the evacuation, the rush of 911 calls beginning at 12:39 a.m., the mass casualties rushed to area hospitals, the images that witnesses described to authorities of dead or dying friends or loved ones left inside — the emerging details got more mysterious and in some ways more horrifying still.

“Our investigation determined his apartment is booby trapped with various incendiary and chemical devices and apparent trip wires,” Chief Oates said around midday Friday. “We have an active and difficult scene. It may be resolved in hours or days. We simply don’t know how we’re going to handle that.” Federal law enforcement officials said that the apartment had been so extensively booby-trapped that the devices could not be safely defused and that a robot would be sent to trigger them. Late Friday, the dozens of residents in five apartment buildings in the area remained evacuated.

“It is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely,” Chief Oates said. “Personally I’ve never seen anything like what the pictures show us is in there. I’m a layman when it comes to bomb stuff. I see an awful lot of wires. Trip wires. Jars full of ammunition. Jars full of liquid. Some things that look like mortar rounds. We have a lot of challenges to get in there safely.”

In the suspect’s neighborhood of low-slung, red-brick apartment buildings and dusty lots, not far from Children’s Hospital Colorado, where some of the victims were taken, neighbors shook their heads in disbelief as the police and bomb squad vehicles cordoned off the area.

“I think this is a lot like Columbine,” said Jennifer Evans, who lives near Mr. Holmes’s apartment. “This is crazy.”

At one point, as shirtless children played in an overgrown front yard and day laborers stared in disbelief, firefighters in a hook and ladder truck smashed a window in the third story of the building where the police said Mr. Holmes resided.

Whether a violent movie had inspired violence in real life, or was merely the coincidental setting, police authorities in some other cities, including New York, said they were taking no chances and had increased security at theaters showing the movie.

In Paris, Warner Bros. canceled a red-carpet premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” along with other promotional events. On Friday afternoon workers removed a giant Batman mask that had been mounted on the front of a theater along the Champs-Élysées, where the screening was to take place.

Warner Bros., which is owned by Time Warner, released a statement Friday, saying that the company and the filmmakers were “deeply saddened” and “extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.” Several broadcast networks and cable channels stopped running commercials on Friday for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The shooting inevitably stirred memories of Columbine High School and the murders there in April 1999, when two heavily armed students stalked through the hallways, killing 12 students and a teacher as they went, before shooting themselves.

And the psychological echo and the similar feel of the two massacres was palpable: Theater 9 was a place of seeming safety, if not sanctuary, not unlike Columbine’s library, where some of the killings occurred. Both were ordinary settings that became death traps.

Mr. Holmes seemed ordinary too, for the most part, said Billy Kromka, a premed student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who worked with Mr. Holmes for three months last summer as a research assistant.

“There was no way I thought he could have the capacity to commit an atrocity like this,” said Mr. Kromka, who is from Aurora. Mr. Kromka said that Mr. Holmes’s “disposition was a little off” and that he could be socially awkward, one of the quieter people in the lab. He spent much of his time immersed in his computer, often participating in role-playing online games.

His criminal history with the Aurora Police Department consisted before Friday of one traffic summons, for speeding, in October.

A spokeswoman for the University of Colorado Denver-Anschutz Medical Campus, Jackie Brinkman, said Mr. Holmes was in the process of dropping out of school because of academic problems. She said the university was unaware of any incidents with campus police or disciplinary problems involving Mr. Holmes while he was enrolled.

Mr. Holmes grew up in a quiet, middle-class community at the eastern edge of San Diego, where his parents still live. Two-story, Spanish-style tract homes line both sides of the street, all white stucco with red tile roofs and well-kept lawns. His mother, Arlene Rosemary Holmes, is a registered nurse.

One neighbor, Margie Aguilar, said she knew the Holmes family, who she said had lived in the area for at least 10 years. Her son was a little younger than Mr. Holmes and attended the same high school, Westview, which is just up the street.

“The parents are really, really nice people,” Ms. Aguilar said. “This is the last thing you’d expect.”

One of the victims, Jessica Ghawi, was a 25-year-old college student and sports broadcaster active on Twitter under the name Jessica Redfield — a tribute to her red hair. She posted early Friday that she was at the movie screening after convincing a friend to go with her.

Her brother, Jordan Ghawi, said in a blog post on Friday that when the gunfire began, Jessica took two rounds. “My sister took one round followed by an additional round which appeared to strike her in the head,” he wrote.

Her last tweet said the movie would start in 20 minutes.

Just a little more than a month ago, Ms. Ghawi described how she narrowly escaped a shooting rampage at a Toronto shopping mall on June 2. She had been in the food court. Her receipt showed that she made her purchase at 6:20 p.m. before what she said was an “odd feeling” propelled her to step outside.

The shots in Toronto rang out in the food court striking seven people about 6:23 p.m., she recalled. “It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting,” she wrote on her blog.


Dan Frosch reported from Aurora, and Kirk Johnson from Seattle. Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, William K. Rashbaum, Benedict Carey, Jennifer Preston, John Schwartz and Timothy Williams from New York; Jennifer Medina and Michael Cieply from Los Angeles; Michael S. Schmidt from Washington; Ian Lovett from San Diego; and Eric Pfanner from Paris. Jack Begg, Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

    Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate, NYT, 20.7.2012,






Auburn Suspect Turns Himself In


June 12, 2012
The New York Times


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A man accused of killing three people at a party near Auburn University turned himself in Tuesday after a three-day manhunt that included a tense but fruitless search of a Montgomery home by police tactical units.

A Montgomery defense attorney said she arranged for Desmonte Leonard to surrender after getting word that his family wanted her help. Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said the suspect was taken into custody at 7:57 p.m. by a U.S. Marshal at the federal courthouse in Montgomery.

His surrender was a low-key ending to a search that included the inch-by-inch scouring of the house by police armed with tear gas and spy gear. Hours after police conceded Leonard had evaded them at the house, Dawson said the suspect walked up the courthouse steps and surrendered peacefully to the marshal waiting just inside.

"It's been a trying case for all law enforcement involved," Dawson said at a news conference.

Leonard, 22, is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night after a fight over a woman. He is accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn football players, and a current player was among the injured.

Dawson said that Leonard was being booked into a jail in Montgomery and will be moved to Opelika near the university for a first court appearance on Wednesday or Thursday.

After getting word that Leonard wanted help, Montgomery defense attorney Susan James said she contacted U.S. Marshals. Then she and her son, who works for her as an investigator, picked up Leonard. She wouldn't say where except that it was about 50 miles from Montgomery. They drove him to meet investigators at the federal courthouse, where snipers were perched on the roof.

"He was very calm, very tired and very ready to get this over with and very respectful," said James, a well-known attorney whose clients have included disgraced former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

She said they had time to talk while driving to Montgomery and added: "When the full story is told, it may sound different than the perception now."

She said she agreed to help Leonard even though she hasn't been retained. "You don't want a bad end for anybody," she said.

The Auburn police chief said Leonard appeared to be in good health, but he also declined to say where he had been hiding.

"In a case like this there is no relief because those boys aren't coming home tonight," Dawson said.

Auburn University President Jay Gogue commended law enforcement on Leonard's surrender.

"We appreciate the dedication and commitment of the Auburn City Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. This is a difficult time for our campus and community. We're remembering those who lost their lives, and it's important that we pull together to help those who are grieving and recovering," he said.

Two men already have been charged with misleading authorities during their search for Leonard, and Police Chief Kevin Murphy said the man who ferried Leonard to the home could be arrested on similar charges.

Police surrounded a house in Montgomery Monday afternoon thinking Leonard was inside after they received two solid tips. They swarmed the home with tear gas, spy gear and assault rifles, but after a tense, nine-hour search, they discovered Leonard had fled by the time they arrived. At one point, they believed they heard movement and coughing in the attic, but their search that lasted until early Tuesday turned up nothing.

Believing Leonard was hiding in the attic, officers fired tear gas into the rafters and poked through insulation. Investigators said thermal imaging and other technology showed a person was in the attic area.

But after midnight, they acknowledged they hadn't heard coughing noises or movement for several hours. Officials said officers found nothing in the attic — not even an animal that might have fooled detection devices.

After police left, at least two holes were visible in the ceiling and the floor was littered with pieces of drywall and insulation. Scraps of insulation also littered the walkway outside the house. Officials promised to repay the house's owner for the damage.

Leonard had a connection to the house through someone other than the owner, said the city's public safety director, Chris Murphy. He declined to elaborate. The woman is not accused of any wrongdoing.


AP writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report from Auburn.

    Auburn Suspect Turns Himself In, NYT, 12.6.2012,






Three Killed in Shooting Near Auburn University


June 10, 2012
The New York Times


AUBURN, Ala. — Three young men, two of them with ties to Auburn University’s football team, were killed and three others were wounded during a pool party on Saturday night at an apartment complex near the campus here.

Several law enforcement agencies were searching in Montgomery on Sunday for the man they suspected of firing the fatal shots, which were aimed at a few men at the party.

The suspect, whom the police identified as Desmonte D. Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, apparently had no connection to the university, officials said. He has been charged with three counts of capital murder. Court records show that he has a history of gun violence.

The police found his abandoned car near the scene of the shooting, which occurred at the University Heights apartment complex, but would not say how he made it to Montgomery, which is about an hour away.

Chief Tommy Dawson of the City of Auburn Police Department said on Sunday afternoon that he was confident that Mr. Leonard would be found soon, but he would not elaborate. He also urged two other “persons of interest” to step forward.

The police did not release many details of the shooting. But people who were at the party said the fight began in the apartments’ clubhouse area after Mr. Leonard saw a man dancing with a woman he had spent time with earlier.

“They started fussing over a girl, and the fussing escalated to a fight, and the fight escalated to a shooting,” said Richard Trammell, 21.

Mr. Trammell had played high school football against Ladarious K. Phillips, 20, one of the men who was killed, in Roanoke, Ala., and had spent time with him at the apartment complex, which is on a stretch of road that is home to inexpensive off-campus housing.

The police identified the other two men who were killed as Edward Christian, 20, an Auburn offensive lineman whose career was curtailed by a back injury, and Demario Pitts, 20, who lived in nearby Opelika, Ala., and was not affiliated with the team.

Eric C. Mack, a highly regarded offensive lineman for the Auburn Tigers, was among the men who were wounded. Mr. Mack, a junior from St. Matthews, S.C., was hospitalized but was expected to make a full recovery, said Auburn’s head football coach, Gene Chizik.

The other men who were shot were identified as John Robertson, 20, who suffered a gunshot to the head and underwent surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, and Xavier D. Moss, 19, who was treated at a hospital and released. Mr. Robertson’s condition was life-threatening, Chief Dawson said on Sunday afternoon.

A number of Auburn students live at University Heights, and it is not uncommon for four people to split the rent, each paying about $385 a month. In the summer, the population thins out.

Mr. Phillips had been a fullback for the Tigers until he quit the team in April. “He was a good guy who hung out by himself and didn’t drink much or anything,” Mr. Trammell said.

A former coach said Mr. Christian, who was still on scholarship, was finishing his degree and was popular with teammates and coaches. He often joked around and went almost everywhere with a pair of red headphones on his ears, said his friend Jose Garcia, a chemical engineering major.

Mr. Garcia said he almost left his apartment to join the 80 or so people at the party during the half-time break in the N.B.A. playoff game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. He said he was relieved he had not gone. “I have no idea why someone showed up with a gun,” he said.

Auburn records few homicides a year, and the three deaths on Saturday night shook residents. The campus on Sunday was filled with young people who were there for sports camps and with incoming freshmen and their families who were visiting to get familiar with the university.

“This is just not what you think about when you think about Auburn,” said Alex Waldhour, 21, a theater major.

The killings continue a troubled period for the Auburn athletic department. In March, a Yahoo Sports report revealed that the F.B.I. was investigating a former Auburn basketball player, Varez Ward, for potentially shaving points in his college career. Officials at the university acknowledged that it had reported to the F.B.I., but little has been said or reported on the case since.

In April, a former football player, Antonio Goodwin, was convicted of first-degree robbery for his role in an armed holdup.

Mr. Goodwin was one of four former Auburn football players arrested in connection with the robbery. The three other former players are scheduled to appear in court this month. Mr. Goodwin’s trial included testimony that made guns and marijuana appear to be a part of the culture around the Auburn football program.

“The only connection that the Auburn football team has to this is that they are victims of a brutal shooting,” Chief Dawson said at the news conference on Sunday afternoon. “Sometimes the young men get a bad rap, I feel like. But they’re the victims today.”


Campbell Robertson contributed reporting from New Orleans,

Robbie Brown from Atlanta, and Pete Thamel from Boston.

    Three Killed in Shooting Near Auburn University, NYT, 10..6.2012,






Fatal Shooting in Hotel Lobby, Then a Suicide


May 10, 2012
The New York Times


Two men were killed on Thursday in what the authorities described as a murder-suicide in the lobby of a Queens hotel.

The police said that six men, who appeared to be in their 40s, were in the coffee shop in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn on 134th Street, near Kennedy International Airport, at lunchtime when one of the men shot another in the head before doing the same to himself.

The police identified the first man shot as Brian Weiss, 31, of Davie, Fla., and the shooter as Gary Zalevsky, 47, of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. Efforts to contact their families for comment were unsuccessful.

It was unclear what prompted the gunfire. The four other men were being questioned by the police.

Hours after the shooting, guests and workers at the hotel were still unsettled, and streets remained cordoned off into the evening.

Shortly after 7:45 p.m., the medical examiner’s office removed the body of one victim, in a black bag, through the hotel’s east entrance.

“It’s such a shock,” said Gary Bates-Brown, 48, a hotel steward. “That’s really crazy.”

Earl Bolton, 50, a Hilton guest from Maryland, said he had spent time near the location of the shooting earlier in the day.

“It seemed quiet,” he said.

Kimball Hinton, 48, said he was in his hotel room at the Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel when he heard sirens around 12:30 p.m.

He and about 30 other Sheraton guests went to investigate, he said. “Once that started breaking out,” he said of the sirens, “everyone started breaking out.”

Mr. Bates-Brown said the area where the shooting occurred was typically quiet after breakfast. “That area is pretty much for waiting for the shuttle bus,” he said.


Joseph Goldstein contributed reporting.

    Fatal Shooting in Hotel Lobby, Then a Suicide, NYT, 10.5.2012,






Black Man’s Killing in Georgia Eludes Spotlight


April 25, 2012
The New York Times


LYONS, Ga. — Norman Neesmith was sleeping in his home on a rural farm road here in onion country when a noise woke him up.

He grabbed the .22-caliber pistol he kept next to his bed and went to investigate. He found two young brothers who had been secretly invited to party with an 18-year-old relative he had raised like a daughter and her younger friend. The young people were paired up in separate bedrooms. There was marijuana and sex.

Over the course of the next confusing minutes on a January morning in 2011, there would be a struggle. The young men would make a terrified run for the door. Mr. Neesmith, who is 62 and white, fired four shots. One of them hit Justin Patterson, who was 22 and black.

The bullet pierced his side, and he died in Mr. Neesmith’s yard. His younger brother, Sha’von, then 18, ran through the onion fields in the dark, frantically trying to call his mother.

On that day, Jan. 29, 2011, Mr. Neesmith was arrested. The district attorney brought seven charges against him, among them murder, false imprisonment and aggravated assault. On Thursday, Mr. Neesmith is expected to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct, which might bring a year in a special detention program that requires no time behind bars.

Over the past several weeks, the men’s parents, Deede and Julius Patterson, watched news of Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida and focused on the similarities. In both cases, an unarmed young black man died at the hands of someone of a different race.

And they began to wonder why no one was marching for their son, why people like the Rev. Al Sharpton had not booked a ticket to Toombs County. The local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. has not even gotten involved, although Mr. Patterson’s father approached them.

“We are looking into the case,” said Michael Dennard, the president of the chapter, after a reporter called more than a year after the crime. He would not say more.

Why some cases with perceived racial implications catch the national consciousness and others do not is as much about the combined power of social and traditional media as it is about happenstance, said Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic who writes about racial issues.

Several events coalesced to push the Martin case forward: an apparently incomplete police investigation, no immediate arrest and Florida’s expansive self-defense law.

“These stories happen all the time,” Mr. Coates said. “It’s heartbreaking and tragic, but there’s not much news coverage unless the circumstances are truly, truly unusual.”

“Stories like the south Georgia killing don’t have the same particulars,” he said. “One of the great tragedies is that people get shot under questionable circumstances in this country all the time.”

Although the facts surrounding the case in Florida and the case in Georgia are quite different, both involve a claim of legally sanctioned self-defense, a dead young black man and, for the Pattersons and the Martins, deep concern that race played a role in the deaths of their sons.

“I definitely believe racism is why he was shot,” said Mrs. Patterson, who recently left her job as director of operations at a uniform company and moved to another small Georgia town. “And for him to get nothing but a slap on the wrist? There is something wrong here.”

That race played a significant part is not hard to imagine here in a county that was named after Robert Toombs, a general and one of the organizers of the Confederate government. A black woman has never been named Miss Vidalia Onion in the annual festival that begins Thursday. And until last year in neighboring Montgomery County, there were two proms — one for whites and one for blacks.

Still, like so many other crimes where race might be a factor, this one is not so clear-cut. Mr. Neesmith says he felt threatened. He says he aches for the parents but believes none of this would have happened if the young men had not been in his house when they should not have been.

“I think about it every day. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” Mr. Neesmith said as he stood in the doorway of his home. “In two minutes it just went bad. If you ain’t never shot nobody, you don’t want to do it, I’m telling you.”

In the backyard, a pool was ready for neighborhood kids — both black and white — who he said loved to come over after school for a swim. Mr. Neesmith, a former school bus driver, and his late wife had been foster parents to dozens of children.

They took in a great-niece, who has a black parent, when she was a baby. She is now 19 and admitted to investigators that she invited Justin Patterson to their trailer home that night, timing it so Mr. Neesmith would be asleep. The two had been flirting on Facebook and in texts.

When Mr. Neesmith pulled the young men out of the bedrooms, he threatened to call the younger girl’s grandfather, according to court documents and interviews. He asked the two, who both have young daughters, why they were not home with their children. He ranted and waved the gun around.

So the brothers made a run for it. By all accounts, while the younger one struggled to unlock a side door, the older one shoved Mr. Neesmith.

Police testimony in early court documents shows that Justin Patterson pushed him against a table and chairs. In a recent interview and in other documents, Mr. Neesmith said he took a “whipping” that caused bleeding and cuts. He showed a reporter repairs to two holes in the wall that he said came from the struggle.

Mr. Neesmith’s first shots were fired while he was on the floor, according to investigators. One bullet hit the ceiling and the other hit Justin Patterson. Then, as the two ran, Mr. Neesmith went to the porch and fired two more shots. He called a friend, a bail bondsman, who told him to call the police.

Mr. Neesmith said he fired the extra shots as a warning. “Those boys could have come back and killed me in my own bed,” he said.

District Attorney Hayward Altman said he presented the more serious charges to the grand jury because he did not know exactly what he was dealing with. It is easier to reduce charges than add more, he said. And it seemed that a more serious crime had been committed.

“There was no weapon in their hand,” Mr. Altman said in early court documents. That they ran was understandable. It was, he said, “a normal reaction for young men under those circumstances.”

As the case unfolded, however, circumstances became clearer. The other girl in the trailer was 14, though she had told the men she was 18. Mr. Neesmith’s lawyers pointed out that a statutory rape charge could be brought. So could drug charges.

The shots off the porch were something someone in the country might do to make sure the intruders did not come back, Mr. Altman said. Mr. Neesmith, who has a chronic nerve condition in his right arm and hand as well as other health problems, had been woken up in the middle of the night. He was not thinking clearly, Mr. Altman said; he had no record, and by all accounts was a good man.

Moreover, Mr. Altman said in a recent interview in his office, “I couldn’t see that I could find a jury that would convict.” Most people in a rural area with a high percentage of gun ownership would most likely accept that the fatal shot was in self-defense, he said.

“It might not feel fair for the family, and I am sorry for their loss,” he said. “But this is not at all like the case in Florida, other than they are both tragedies.”

At Justin Patterson’s grave, his mother shakes her head. She visited with her son’s preschool-age daughter, whom the Pattersons, though divorced, are helping to raise.

She says things simply do not add up. What made the district attorney change course? And how could her son, who was not even 5-foot-7 and perhaps 120 pounds, be such a threat to Mr. Neesmith, who is 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds?

“If he had just asked them to get out of his house, they would have,” she said. “They are mannerable boys. He took a life he didn’t have to take.”

Julius Patterson, who works maintaining soda vending machines, sees Mr. Neesmith around town. “At the end of the day, really we wouldn’t have gotten a fair trial because everyone knows him,” he said.

Sha’von Patterson is so troubled he can barely speak about the shooting. His older brother was watching out for him to the end, just as his mother had told him to all his life. His death changed everything.

“It made me grow up and realize you can leave this earth anytime,” he said.

Justin Patterson, whom friends recalled as quiet, charming and a great basketball player, had a tattoo on his right arm that read, “I am who I am.” In his brother’s memory, Sha’von Patterson and several of Justin’s friends got tattoos.

Jay Sneed, 22, who went to kindergarten with Justin and was one of his closest friends, is one of them. “Everything down here is just real bad when it comes to situations like this,” he said. “This is not where you come to find justice.”


Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Atlanta, and Gillian Laub from Lyons.

    Black Man’s Killing in Georgia Eludes Spotlight, NYT, 25.4.2012,






George Zimmerman Released After Posting Bail


April 23, 2012
The New York Times


George Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bail from a county jail in Florida around midnight Sunday as he awaits trial on charges of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

As he left, Mr. Zimmerman was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag. He followed a man, who was also carrying bags, into a white vehicle and drove away, according to The Associated Press.

His destination was being kept secret for his protection and could be outside of Florida.

The release was a rare low-key moment in a case that has captured feverish national interest in recent weeks. No questions were shouted at Mr. Zimmerman as he left and he gave no statement, The A.P. said.

Last week, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said his client would remain in jail for several days until arrangements were made for financing his bond and finding a secure location. Mr. Zimmerman has received death threats.

During a hearing last week, a Seminole County Circuit Court judge set the bail and imposed a series of restrictions on Mr. Zimmerman’s release. He was not to contact the Martin family or witnesses to the shooting. The judge, Kenneth R. Lester Jr., also set a curfew requiring Mr. Zimmerman to remain at home from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and banned access to alcohol or firearms. The judge also stipulated that Mr. Zimmerman’s movements be monitored with an electronic bracelet.

The bail figure was considerably less severe than prosecutors’ request for no bail or $1 million.

Mr. Martin, 17, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 while walking through the gated community where he was staying and where Mr. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer. The case roused a national uproar, including many demonstrations across the country, as weeks passed without Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest. He was taken into custody earlier this month.

During the hearing, members of Mr. Zimmerman’s family, including his wife, Shellie, testified by telephone out of concern for their safety. They told the judge that they would monitor Mr. Zimmerman’s whereabouts and notify authorities if they lost contact with him for any reason before his trial.

Taking the stand briefly at the bail hearing, Mr. Zimmerman apologized to the Martin family. He wore a dark suit, with cuffs around his hands and shackles at his feet and waist.

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said in a soft voice. “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.”

A lawyer for the Martin family, Benjamin Crump, called the apology “self-serving” and said he considered it a ploy designed to curry favor with the court and the public and to help secure a release from jail.

    George Zimmerman Released After Posting Bail, NYT, 23.4.2012,






‘I Am Sorry,’ Zimmerman Says as Bail Set at $150,000


April 20, 2012
The New York Times


SANFORD, Fla. — Speaking publicly about the case for the first time, George Zimmerman, the man accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, briefly took the witness stand at his bail hearing on Friday and apologized to the teenager’s parents.

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Mr. Zimmerman, 28, said in a soft voice from the stand, dressed in a dark suit, with his hands locked in cuffs, and shackles at his feet and waist. “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.”

Mr. Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, sitting in the second row of the courtroom here, showed little emotion during Mr. Zimmerman’s remarks. They did not comment after the hearing ended, hurrying to a waiting car.

One of their lawyers, Benjamin Crump, said later that Mr. Martin’s family was “completely devastated” by the Seminole County Circuit Court judge’s decision to allow Mr. Zimmerman to be released from jail on $150,000 bail, which was considerably less severe than the prosecutors’ request for no bail or $1 million.

Describing Mr. Zimmerman’s apology from the stand as “self-serving,” Mr. Crump said he considered it a ploy to help win his release from jail and curry favor with the court and the public through the news media.

“They have to accept the court’s decision,” he said about Mr. Martin’s parents. “But they are praying that his freedom is only temporary because the pain Zimmerman caused them is going to last forever. They are never getting Trayvon back.”

Mr. Martin, a high school student, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 while walking through the gated community where he was staying and where Mr. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer. The case incited a national uproar, including protests across the country, after the police did not arrest Mr. Zimmerman, raising questions about Florida’s expansive self-defense law and racial profiling.

A special prosecutor, Angela B. Corey, was assigned to the case by Gov. Rick Scott amid criticism of the way it was being handled by local authorities, and she brought second-degree murder charges against Mr. Zimmerman last week.

Mark M. O’Mara, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, said he had asked that Mr. Zimmerman be allowed to apologize privately to the parents, but the request was rebuffed. He said Mr. Zimmerman wanted to answer the three questions that he had heard Mr. Martin’s mother raise during a television interview.

“He answered very specifically the three questions posed by the mother: Why haven’t you apologized? Did you know he was a teenager? And did you know he was unarmed?” Mr. O’Mara said.

At the end of the hearing, which ran more than two hours, the judge, Kenneth R. Lester Jr., set bail and imposed multiple restrictions on Mr. Zimmerman’s release, including no contact with Mr. Martin’s family or with witnesses to the shooting. Judge Lester also banned access to alcohol or firearms, and ordered that his movements be monitored by an electronic bracelet. He set a curfew that would require Mr. Zimmerman to remain at home from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. and ordered him to check in with the authorities every three days.

Mr. Zimmerman will not be released from jail for several days, Mr. O’Mara said, because it will take time to arrange financing for the bond and find a secure location for Mr. Zimmerman, who has received death threats.

Testifying by telephone during the proceeding because of concern for their safety, Mr. Zimmerman’s family members, including his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, assured the judge that they would closely monitor his whereabouts and notify the authorities if they lost contact with him for any reason before his pending trial.

As part of his effort to win Mr. Zimmerman’s release on bond, Mr. O’Mara challenged the prosecution’s case, going through the state’s probable cause affidavit line by line, turning the bail hearing into what appeared to be a foretaste of the trial.

He aggressively questioned a state investigator, Dale Gilbreath, about the accusation that Mr. Zimmerman had racially profiled Mr. Martin, and he demanded to know what evidence the state had for the statement that “Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.”

“Do you know who started the fight?” Mr. O’Mara asked Mr. Gilbreath.

“Do I know?” Mr. Gilbreath said. “No.”

Mr. O’Mara then asked Mr. Gilbreath if the state had any evidence to contradict Mr. Zimmerman’s statement to the police that he had been making his way back to his car when he was punched by Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman told investigators he shot Mr. Martin in self-defense after Mr. Martin banged his head on concrete, covered his nose and mouth and reached for his gun.

Mr. Gilbreath responded, “No.”

While on the stand, Mr. Zimmerman was sharply questioned by Bernardo de la Rionda, an assistant state attorney.

“Do you agree that you changed your story?” Mr. de la Rionda asked, referring to the five separate statements that Mr. Zimmerman gave the police about the shooting.

“Absolutely not, “ Mr. Zimmerman replied in a firm voice.


Serge F. Kovaleski reported from Sanford, and Jennifer Preston from New York.

    ‘I Am Sorry,’ Zimmerman Says as Bail Set at $150,000, NYT, 20.4.2012,






Martin Death Spurs Group to Readjust Policy Focus


April 17, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — An influential conservative policy group that came under attack after the Trayvon Martin shooting for pushing Stand Your Ground gun laws nationwide said Tuesday that it was getting out of the law enforcement and social policy arenas and returning to its economic roots.

The group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, had suffered an exodus of big-name corporate supporters like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods after recent attacks by liberal organizations.

While the group had already been discussing a narrowing of its work, the controversy generated by the Martin shooting “may have sped up the process,” Chip Rogers, a Georgia state senator who is the group’s treasurer, said in a telephone interview.

The group’s legislative board voted unanimously to disband its committee that developed policies on public safety, elections and other noneconomic issues.

ALEC, which is made up of more than 2,000 state legislators, develops model bills and policy positions on hundreds of issues.

Critics of the group were galvanized by the Feb. 26 shooting of Mr. Martin, a 17-year-old, unarmed student, and the debate over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, said David Halperin, a senior fellow for United Republic, a liberal nonprofit group.

“The issue of a young man being killed and linked to this organization made it much harder for companies to say, ‘Gee, this is a great organization that we want to support,’ ”Mr. Halperin said.

Since then, corporate supporters and philanthropic organizations, like the Gates Foundation, have withdrawn contributions to the organization that are believed to total hundreds of thousands of dollars. (It does not publicly list the amounts contributed by its members and donors.)

“We hate to see any members leave,” said Kaitlyn Buss, a spokeswoman for the group, “and we hope to work with these companies that have had problems again in the future.”

    Martin Death Spurs Group to Readjust Policy Focus, NYT, 17.4.2012,






Embarrassed by Bad Laws


April 16, 2012
The New York Times


A year ago, few people outside the world of state legislatures had heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a four-decade-old organization run by right-wing activists and financed by business leaders. The group writes prototypes of state laws to promote corporate and conservative interests and spreads them from one state capital to another.

The council, known as ALEC, has since become better known, with news organizations alerting the public to the damage it has caused: voter ID laws that marginalize minorities and the elderly, antiunion bills that hurt the middle class and the dismantling of protective environmental regulations.

Now it’s clear that ALEC, along with the National Rifle Association, also played a big role in the passage of the “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws around the country. The original statute, passed in Florida in 2005, was a factor in the local police’s failure to arrest the shooter of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin immediately after his killing in February.

That was apparently the last straw for several prominent corporations that had been financial supporters of ALEC. In recent weeks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stopped supporting the group, responding to pressure from activists and consumers who have formed a grass-roots counterweight to corporate treasuries. That pressure is likely to continue as long as state lawmakers are more responsive to the needs of big donors than the public interest.

The N.R.A. pushed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law through the State Legislature over the objections of law enforcement groups, and it was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. It allows people to attack a perceived assailant if they believe they are in imminent danger, without having to retreat. John Timoney, formerly the Miami police chief, recently called the law a “recipe for disaster,” and he said that he and other police chiefs had correctly predicted it would lead to more violent road-rage incidents and drug killings. Indeed, “justifiable homicides” in Florida have tripled since 2005.

Nonetheless, ALEC — which counts the N.R.A. as a longtime and generous member — quickly picked up on the Florida law and made it one of its priorities, distributing it to legislators across the country. Seven years later, 24 other states now have similar laws, thanks to ALEC’s reach, and similar bills have been introduced in several other states, including New York.

The corporations abandoning ALEC aren’t explicitly citing the Stand Your Ground statutes as the reason for their decision. But many joined the group for narrower reasons, like fighting taxes on soda or snacks, and clearly have little interest in voter ID requirements or the N.R.A.’s vision of a society where anyone can fire a concealed weapon at the slightest hint of a threat.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, ALEC bemoaned the opposition it is facing and claimed it is only interested in job creation, government accountability and pro-business policies. It makes no mention of its role in pushing a law that police departments believe is increasing gun violence and deaths. That’s probably because big business is beginning to realize the Stand Your Ground laws are indefensible.

    Embarrassed by Bad Laws, NYT, 16.4.2012,






After Florida Shooting, N.R.A. Crowd Sticks to What It Knows


April 15, 2012
The New York Times


ST. LOUIS — Inside the seven-acre showroom at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention here during the weekend, firearm enthusiasts filtered in and out of the sea of booths displaying handguns and the holsters designed to hide them.

Eager to explain the benefits of carrying a concealed weapon, hikers discussed how they feared bandits more than bears on the trail. Aging men rattled off hypothetical situations requiring self-defense; the details varied, but all involved some version of a younger, more muscular aggressor.

Yet with the gun lobby gathering just days after George Zimmerman was arrested in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager in Florida, there was a new potency to such contingencies as many gun owners wait for more evidence about the killing to emerge.

“People here are definitely thinking and talking about it,” said Terrence Mayfield, 61, who has a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Florida. “This whole thing rests on who threw the first punch. Either the gun saved Zimmerman’s life or we had a cowboy, someone who thought because he had a gun things could escalate.”

There are still questions about exactly what happened the night Mr. Martin died. The answers may determine whether Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who told the police that he had pulled the trigger in self-defense, will be protected by Florida’s version of the Stand Your Ground laws that states across the country have enacted to grant broad rights to people who use deadly force to defend themselves.

A special prosecutor appointed to the case charged Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder last week.

Other than a Saturday speech that accused the news media of sensationalized reporting, N.R.A. officials have not commented on Mr. Martin’s death. But interviews with almost two dozen members over the weekend showed that some remain nervous about how the controversy might affect the future of Stand Your Ground statues across the country, which have come under scrutiny since the shooting on Feb. 26.

“The danger is potentially reversing the laws that it’s taken us decades to get in place and the further erosion of my rights,” said Mr. Mayfield, an Air Force veteran who served in the Persian Gulf war of 1991. He offered a hypothetical confrontation to explain why he carries a gun: “I’m a 61-year-old fat guy with a bad back with a little bit of shrapnel in my leg. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to run away from a 20-year-old.”

Many of those interviewed expressed a willingness to give Mr. Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt, accusing others of rushing to judgment before all the facts are revealed. At the same time, they were pleased to see that the shooting was being investigated.

“Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch guy trying to defend his neighbors,” said Marian Johnson, 69, from South Dakota. “I’m sure he didn’t set out to see what happened happen. I just hope they’re fair to both sides.”

Kent Hawkins, 55, who lives in Kentucky and has been a member of the N.R.A. on and off since he was 12, said: “I wasn’t there, so I can’t say. People are jumping to conclusions and shaping it into whatever they want it to be.”

But others have begun to distance themselves from Mr. Zimmerman, offering up the familiar slogan — “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” — to emphasize that one shooting should not overshadow the fact that millions of law-abiding gun owners in the United States have never had a violent altercation.

“I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who would promote vigilante justice,” said Preston Haglin, 60, from Missouri.

Greg Moats offered another assessment.

“If Zimmerman acted out of line, there are laws in place to deal with that,” said Mr. Moats, 59, from Kansas.

He added that he did not think the case should be a gun issue in the first place. “There’s nothing that the anti-gun groups wouldn’t do,” he said. “There’s no national disaster they wouldn’t exploit. They can manufacture fuel for whatever argument they want.”

Still, Martha Gagliardi, 62, said she worried that any new evidence against Mr. Zimmerman could provide additional arguments to gun control advocates.

A member of the gun lobby for three decades who lives in upstate New York, Ms. Gagliardi said her Second Amendment right to bear arms had become an extremely personal issue, requiring no theorizing about imaginary attackers, ever since she was robbed at gunpoint years ago in the driveway of her home in Queens.

“That’s when I moved,” she said. “That’s when I got my gun license. I never want to feel that helpless again.”

    After Florida Shooting, N.R.A. Crowd Sticks to What It Knows, NYT, 15.4.2012,






N.R.A. Official Attacks Florida Shooting Coverage


April 14, 2012
The New York Times


ST. LOUIS — A senior official of the National Rifle Association accused the news media on Saturday of engaging in sensationalized coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing, in the first comments that the gun lobby has made publicly about the fatal shooting since it occurred six weeks ago.

“In the aftermath of one of Florida’s many daily tragedies, my phone has been ringing off the hook,” said the official, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the N.R.A., at the group’s annual gathering. Mr. LaPierre criticized news organizations for singling out one killing and ignoring many other violent crimes that happen in the United States every day.

“You manufacture controversy for ratings,” he added. “You don’t care about the truth, and the truth is the national news media in this country is a national disgrace, and you all know it.”

Mr. LaPierre, who did not mention Mr. Martin by name, said the N.R.A. would not comment further on the case without a full understanding of the facts.

The N.R.A. has been a staunch defender of the more than two dozen so-called Stand Your Ground laws enacted in states around the country, which grant broad protections to people who use deadly force because they feel they are in danger.

Those laws have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after Mr. Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator who told the police he pulled the trigger in self-defense. Last week, a special prosecutor appointed to the case in Florida charged Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

But Mr. LaPierre argued that violent crimes happen all the time in cities across the United States.

“By the time I finish this speech, 2 Americans will be slain, 6 women will be raped, 27 of us will be robbed, and 50 more will be beaten,” he said at a N.R.A. members meeting on Saturday morning. “That’s the harsh reality we face, all of us, every single day. But the media, they don’t care. Everyday victims aren’t celebrities. They don’t draw ratings, don’t draw sponsors. But sensational reporting from Florida does.”

Out on the convention floor — where an estimated 65,000 gun owners have been traversing a showroom stocked with hunting rifles, handguns and firearm accessories since the event began on Thursday — many N.R.A. members agreed with Mr. LaPierre’s assessment that the news coverage of Mr. Martin’s death has gotten out of hand.

“I’m always concerned when an issue like this gets attention,” said Matt Goers, 40, a software salesman from St. Louis who is getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon. “I think the mainstream media tends to cover stories that cast gun ownership in a negative light. You never hear anything positive about when a firearm saved someone’s life.”

Explaining why he thought Mr. Martin’s case should not be made into a broader issue about gun control, Mr. Goers pointed to the sea of booths scattered around the convention center. “A lot of people at this show carry concealed weapons all their lives and never have incidents,” he said. “I think more of it comes down to a common sense issue.”

    N.R.A. Official Attacks Florida Shooting Coverage, NYT, 14.4.2012,






Police Chief Killed in New Hampshire Drug Raid


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


GREENLAND, N.H. (AP) — A man opened fire on police during a drug bust Thursday night, killing a New Hampshire police chief just days from retirement and injuring four officers from other departments. Early Friday, the shooter remained holed up in the home with a woman, police said.

The shooting devastated Greenland, a town of 3,500 near the seacoast that had just seven police officers including Chief Michael Maloney, 48, who was due to retire in less than two weeks.

"In those final days, he sacrificed his life in public service as a law enforcement officer in New Hampshire," Attorney General Michael Delaney said early Friday.

Maloney had 26 years of experience in law enforcement, the last 12 as chief of the Greenland department. Two officers were shot in the chest and were in intensive care early Friday. Two others were treated and released, one with a gunshot wound to the arm and the other with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. The four injured officers were from other area departments and were working as part of a drug task force.

John Penacho, chairman of the town's Board of Selectman, said Maloney was married with children.

"It's a blow to all of us. You're stunned. It's New Hampshire, it's a small town," he said. "We're stunned. I mean all of us. It's an unbelievable situation."

Jacqueline DeFreze, who lives a half-mile down the road from the house where the shooting happened, said she was devastated by reports that the chief had been shot. She'd planned to attend a surprise party for his retirement.

"I'm a wreck. He was just the greatest guy," said DeFreze, a fourth-grade teacher in nearby Rye. "He's kind-hearted, always visible in the community."

Early Friday, streets around the home were blocked off and officers stood at roadblocks in the pouring rain.

State police and officers from many departments responded after the initial call around 6 p.m. Delaney said he couldn't provide much other information about the shooting.

"We do have an active armed standoff at a home and we're simply not going to provide any information right now that may jeopardize that situation," he said. "We are working with federal state and local law enforcement to try to obtain a peaceful resolution."

Gov. John Lynch was at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where the officers were taken. He asked residents to pray for the injured officers and Maloney's family.

"My thoughts and prayers and those of my wife, Susan, are with the family of Chief Michael Maloney. Chief Maloney's unwavering courage and commitment to protecting others serves as an example to us all," he said.

The tree-lined street, closed off by police, features single-family homes and duplexes. The shootings took place at 517 Post Road, a 2-bedroom, 1½ -story structure that's listed as owned by the Beverly Mutrie Revocable Trust, according to tax assessor records.

The Portsmouth Herald reported in February 2011 that Cullen Mutrie, 29, was a resident of the home on 517 Post Road and had been arrested and charged with possession of anabolic steroids.

The newspaper reported that the steroids were found in the home when officers went to confiscate guns after Mutrie was arrested on domestic assault charges. According to a police affidavit, the steroids were found in Mutrie's living room on July 24, 2010, but were not verified by the state crime lab until Jan. 18.

The town's schools will be closed Friday, because law enforcement officers are using the elementary school as a staging area.

Asked what the town will do to help residents cope with the tragedy, Penacho said "We'll do whatever we need to do."

Now split by I-95, the town is one of the oldest settlements in the state.


Associated Press Writers Norma Love in Concord

and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

    Police Chief Killed in New Hampshire Drug Raid, 12.4.2012,






N.R.A.’s Influence Seen in Expansion of Self-Defense Laws


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


No one had yet heard of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin when a group of Wisconsin Republicans got together last year to discuss expanding a self-defense bill before the State Legislature.

The bill, known as the Castle Doctrine, made it harder to prosecute or sue people who used deadly force against intruders inside their houses. But the Wisconsin legislators, urged on by the National Rifle Association in a series of meetings, wanted it to go further. They shaped an amendment that extended the bill’s protections to include lawns, sidewalks and swimming pools outside the residences, as well as vehicles and places of business.

That expanded bill, passed with little debate by the Legislature and signed in December by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is the newest of more than two dozen so-called Stand Your Ground statutes that have been enacted around the country in recent years. Those laws are now coming under increased scrutiny after Mr. Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, in late February. Similar legislation is pending in several other states, including Alaska, Massachusetts and New York.

Though the laws vary in their specifics and scope, they expand beyond the home the places where a person does not have a duty to retreat when threatened, and they increase protection from criminal prosecution and civil liability. All contain elements of the 2005 Florida statute that made it difficult to immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman, who has said he shot Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.

Critics see the laws as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association, which began gathering on Thursday in St. Louis for its annual meeting, to push back against limits on gun ownership and use. That effort, they say, has been assisted by conservative legislators in states like Wisconsin, and by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has promoted model legislation based on Florida’s law; the council, known as ALEC, is a conservative networking organization made up of legislators, corporations like Walmart, a large retailer of long guns, and interest groups like the rifle association.

The success of the campaign is reflected in the rapid spread of expanded self-defense laws as well as laws that legalize the carrying of concealed weapons. Only one state, Illinois, and the District of Columbia now ban that practice, compared with 19 states in 1981. Bills pending in several states that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, in churches, in bars or at other sites would further weaken restrictions, as would either of two federal bills, now in the Senate, that would require that a permit for carrying a concealed weapon that was granted by any state be honored in all other states.

“Both directly and with cutouts like ALEC, the N.R.A. is slowly and surely and methodically working at the state level to expand the number and kind and category of places where people can carry concealed, loaded weapons and use them with deadly force,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 650 mayors that has not taken a position on the Stand Your Ground laws.

Repeated requests to speak with N.R.A. officials about Wisconsin’s law or Stand Your Ground laws more generally met with no response.

In Wisconsin, as in other states, the passage of an expanded self-defense law was helped by the 2010 elections, which vaulted conservative Republicans into office. In Pennsylvania, for example, a Stand Your Ground law passed the Legislature in 2010 but was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Introduced again last year, the bill was signed by his Republican successor, Tom Corbett.

In Wisconsin, a narrower version of the legislation had languished and died in previous sessions. But with a Republican governor and Republicans dominating both houses of the Legislature, several state lawmakers said that the success of the bill and the expansion amendment promoted by the N.R.A. seemed assured.

“I think it’s only normal they assumed this could be their year,” said Representative Dean Kaufert, a Republican who introduced the legislation, speaking of the rifle association.

Darren LaSorte, a lobbyist for the rifle association, wanted the legislation, like Florida’s law, to extend protection to any place where a person had a legal right to be, said several Republican lawmakers who met with Mr. LaSorte. But having been successful in getting an earlier bill passed to allow the carrying of concealed weapons, Mr. LaSorte accepted a compromise.

“It was almost a ‘we’ll take what we can get’ kind of mode,” Mr. Kaufert said. In its final form, the law contained language that closely tracked some parts of the Florida bill.

In a legislative alert on its Web site, the N.R.A. asked members to “please express your support for this critically important self-defense legislation” and for “N.R.A.-recommended amendments to these bills in order to make the final product a stronger law.” The bill, the association said in the alert, “ensures that you don’t have to second-guess yourself when defending your home from intruders.”

Further, it said, “It also provides civil immunity for good citizens who are acting defensively against violence.”

Last year, the N.R.A. spent $97,701 and 627 hours lobbying or engaging in other activities in Wisconsin on behalf of the self-defense law and the concealed carry law, according to the State Legislature Web site.

But as in other states, the most powerful weapon the rifle association wielded in Wisconsin was political, not financial. In a state with more than 620,000 registered hunters, the ratings the association gives to legislators could have significant impact on their political fortunes, particularly in the northern part of the state.

“A lot of politicians are apprehensive to go against the initiatives of the National Rifle Association,” said Representative Nick Milroy, a Democrat from northern Wisconsin who voted for the concealed carry bill but against the Castle Doctrine. “For a lot of people who are very particular about their gun rights, anything less than an ‘A’ rating is an antigun stance.”

Senator Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat, called the bill a substantial victory for the N.R.A. in the Midwest, where guns have a less central place, say, than Texas. “The N.R.A. did very well for themselves in Wisconsin,” he said.

Mr. Erpenbach said he would have voted for the original self-defense bill, which placed a heavier burden on prosecutors in self-defense cases but limited the protection to inside a residence. But he drew the line at the amendment expanding the legislation, he said.

“Who in their right mind could be asking for something like this?” he said he remembers thinking when the measure hit the Senate floor, amendment attached. “If someone takes a late-night dip in your swimming pool, does that mean you should shoot them?”

The fact that the amendment was added by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Ethics after the public hearing on the bill, he and others said, prevented it from getting much public attention. And with challenges to collective bargaining, requirements for voter identification and other controversial proposals before them, legislators had a lot on their minds.

“There wasn’t a tremendous amount of debate,” Mr. Erpenbach said.

In fact, at the public hearing, some groups expressed strong opposition even to the far more restricted language of the original legislation. Gregory O’Meara, speaking for the Wisconsin Bar Association’s criminal division, said that the division’s judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers unanimously opposed the bill as unnecessary and potentially problematic. Wisconsin’s existing law, he said, was already stronger than most states, placing the burden of proof on the prosecution to show that a person was not acting in self-defense.

Jeff Nass, president of WI-Force, a Wisconsin gun rights group that works with the N.R.A., and who carries a Glock 20 semiautomatic handgun at all times — “It’s a large pistol, but I’m a large person,” he said — testified in favor of the bill.

Prosecutors and law professors, Mr. Nass said in a phone interview, “can sit back and analyze in the safety of their chambers what you did and if you did the right thing, but if I kick down your door in the middle of the night, are you going to be worried about it?”

Representative Scott Suder, the Republican majority leader, participated in meetings to shape the amendment and said the bill’s expansion was not “driven by any group or organization” but came at the urging of other legislators and their constituents.

“We came up with a compromise that did include your car in addition to your home, and that was a fair compromise,” Mr. Suder said. “We didn’t go as far as some wanted to.”

But some legislators said they wondered who those constituents were, other than the N.R.A. The Castle Doctrine legislation, they said, was one of a series of bills that seemed to appear out of nowhere as part of some national agenda, rather than arising from concerns of Wisconsin residents.

Janet Bewley, a Democrat in northern Wisconsin who voted for the concealed carry bill but against the self-defense law, said, “I never heard anyone in this state crying out, ‘We must have the Castle Doctrine.’ ”

    N.R.A.’s Influence Seen in Expansion of Self-Defense Laws, NYT, 12.4.2012,






Suspect in Martin Case to Appear in Court


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer arrested on murder charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Zimmerman, 28, was charged by a special prosecutor on Wednesday evening with second-degree murder. He is likely to appear with a new lawyer, Mark M. O’Mara, a well-known criminal lawyer, but it is not clear if a judge will set bail, or if Mr. Zimmerman will formally enter a plea.

Mr. O’Mara said in a brief interview on Wednesday night that when the time comes his client would plead not guilty.

Mr. O’Mara also said he hoped that the judge would take up a bond motion at Thursday’s hearing — which is expected to be brief — but that he expected that the issue of bail might have to wait for a more extensive hearing in the near future.

The charges, which Mr. Martin’s family praised but called overdue, opened a new chapter in a case that set off a searing national discussion of racial profiling, Florida’s expansive self-defense law and the fairness of the criminal justice system.

The charges against Mr. Zimmerman were announced by Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after the local state attorney stepped aside in the wake of criticism that the case had been moving too slowly. Ms. Corey took pains to praise the local law enforcement officials at a news conference in Jacksonville, and pledged to pursue justice for the family of Mr. Martin, who was killed in a gated community here six weeks ago.

Asked about the racial overtones of the case — Mr. Martin, who was black, was shot and killed by Mr. Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was not immediately arrested by the local police — Ms. Corey said that law enforcement officials were committed to justice for all, regardless of race, gender or background.

“We only know one category as prosecutors, and that’s a ‘V,’ ” Ms. Corey said. “It’s not a ‘B,’ it’s not a ‘W,’ it’s not an ‘H.’ It’s ‘V,’ for victim. That’s who we work tirelessly for. And that’s all we know, is justice for our victims.”

If convicted of second-degree murder, Mr. Zimmerman, 28, could face life in prison. It is the toughest charge he could have faced. First-degree murder would have required a finding of premeditation and a grand jury review, which Ms. Corey decided against this week.

Mr. Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, praised the decision to arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman at an emotional news conference in Washington, where they had been meeting with their lawyers and supporters. “We simply wanted an arrest,” Ms. Fulton said. “We wanted nothing more and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say, ‘Thank you, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus.’ ”

Mr. Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County Jail around 8:25 p.m. and stepped out of a black S.U.V. in the custody of law enforcement agents.

The killing of Trayvon Martin incited outrage and protest marches across the country. He was shot on the evening of Feb. 26 as he returned from buying Skittles and iced tea at a 7-Eleven, bound for the home in a gated community in Sanford, a small city just north of Orlando, where he and his father were guests.

Mr. Zimmerman, the founder of the local neighborhood watch, called 911 that evening to report that Mr. Martin looked like “a real suspicious guy.” Some questioned whether Mr. Martin attracted Mr. Zimmerman’s attention simply because he was black. Others were outraged by the slow reaction of the local police and prosecutors, who did not immediately arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman, saying that Florida’s self-defense law could make it difficult to prove a criminal case against him.

President Obama weighed in on the case at one point, saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” After television commentators suggested that Mr. Martin might have looked suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, people around the country began donning them in solidarity. LeBron James and other members of the Miami Heat basketball team posed in them for a photograph they posted on Twitter. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, even wore one on the floor of the House, saying “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

The case drew attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which was enacted seven years ago after lobbying by the National Rifle Association, over the objections of many law enforcement officials. The law gives the benefit of the doubt to people who claim self-defense, even if they are not in their homes; it says that people who feel that they are in danger do not need to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so.

In this case, Mr. Zimmerman, who had founded a neighborhood watch over the summer after a string of burglaries in the area, saw Mr. Martin, began following him and called 911, telling the dispatcher that he appeared “suspicious.”

The dispatcher asked if Mr. Zimmerman was following him. “Yeah,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

“O.K., we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher said. Mr. Zimmerman said: “O.K.”

The case will probably hinge on what happened next.

A lawyer for Mr. Martin’s parents, Benjamin Crump, has said that Mr. Martin was speaking on his cellphone at the time with his girlfriend, and told her that he was being followed. Mr. Crump said that the girl heard him being asked what he was doing before the line went dead.

Mr. Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, gave a different account: he has said that his son had lost sight of Mr. Martin, who then appeared from behind and challenged him.

Witnesses then told 911 that they saw two men fighting. Then Mr. Martin was shot in the chest and killed.

The Sanford police came under heavy criticism when they did not arrest Mr. Zimmerman, saying that they had no evidence to dispute his claim of self-defense. The police chief, Bill Lee, eventually stepped down from his post. The state appointed the special prosecutor. And the Justice Department announced that it would open a federal civil rights investigation.

Ms. Corey, the special state prosecutor who announced the charges, said that if Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law in his defense, and prosecutors do not believe the shooting was justified, they will challenge the claim.

“This case is just like many of the shooting deaths we’ve had in our circuit,” she said. “If Stand Your Ground becomes an issue, we fight it if we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Zimmerman changed his lawyers this week, and his old legal team held an odd news conference on Tuesday to say that they were withdrawing from the case and had not heard from him since the weekend.

One of Mr. Zimmerman’s former lawyers, Craig A. Sonner, said after the murder charge was announced that he would use the Stand Your Ground law as a defense if he were still representing Mr. Zimmerman.

Mr. Sonner said that although he had not seen evidence in the case first hand, he believed that “when all the evidence arrives in its totality, and all the circumstances are viewed in their totality, everything will show, I believe, that George Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.”

As she announced the charge, Ms. Corey, the prosecutor, praised Mr. Martin’s “sweet parents.” But she stressed that the decision to charge was made based on the law, not on pressure. “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” she said. “We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the State of Florida.”



Serge F. Kovaleski reported from Sanford, Lizette Alvarez from Jacksonville,

and Michael Cooper from New York. Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting

from Washington and Timothy Williams from New York.

Jack Styczynski contributed research.

    Suspect in Martin Case to Appear in Court, NYT, 12.4.2012,






Severe Charge, With a Minimum Term of 25 Years


April 11, 2012
The New York Times


By choosing to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, Angela B. Corey, the special prosecutor appointed to the case in Florida, selected the toughest possible charge involving a killing short of first-degree murder, which requires a finding of premeditation and carries the death penalty as a possible punishment.

Under second-degree murder, the jury must find that a death was caused by a criminal act “demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life,” said Eric Abrahamsen, a criminal defense lawyer in Tallahassee, reading from the state’s standard jury instructions. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison; the minimum penalty under these charges is 25 years.

Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, said he was “very surprised” by the severity of the charges “in light of the evidence that seems to have been brought to the attention of the public so far.” Many legal experts had predicted that Mr. Zimmerman would be charged with manslaughter.

The charge of second-degree murder also means that Mr. Zimmerman will not be entitled to be released on bail before his trial. Instead, his lawyer will be able to ask for what Florida calls an Arthur hearing, which can take place weeks after the arrest, to determine whether he should be allowed to post bond.

Jeff Weiner, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who practices in Miami, said an Arthur hearing “is not a mini-trial, but it’s a very good preview of the evidence that the state has at this point.”

Mr. Weiner suggested that the prosecutor might have “overcharged” to retain the option, should she feel a murder conviction is slipping away, of asking the judge to instruct the jury to consider lesser offenses, like manslaughter. It is also possible, he said, that she might be trying to coax Mr. Zimmerman to the negotiating table to plead guilty to such a lesser charge. But, he added, it is impossible to say whether it is overly tough, since evidence has not yet been produced.

The case will almost certainly include a pretrial hearing to determine whether the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which grants broad protections to people who claim to have killed in self-defense, applies; if the judge finds that Mr. Zimmerman acted appropriately, the case will end there. If the judge decides that the protections of the law do not apply, the case will go forward.

At trial, however, the question of self-defense can be brought up again and possibly will, said Robert Weisberg, a criminal law expert at Stanford Law School. That could lead to a fallback position for the jury — if allowed by the judge — of a lesser verdict of manslaughter should the jury decide that Mr. Zimmerman sincerely but unreasonably believed that he was appropriately using lethal force to defend himself, which is known as “imperfect self-defense.”

Either side in the case could request that the judge instruct the jury to consider that middle ground, and if the evidence supports such a finding the judge will in almost all cases comply, Professor Weisberg said. A confident prosecutor may not want to risk missing the toughest conviction, however, and a confident defense lawyer may not want to risk giving the jurors a lesser charge that they can choose instead of acquittal. And so, he said, the question may come down to, “Who’s feeling lucky?”

    Severe Charge, With a Minimum Term of 25 Years, NYT, 11.4.2012,






Prosecutor Files Charge of 2nd-Degree Murder

in Shooting of Martin


April 11, 2012
The New York Times


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More than six weeks after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old with no criminal record, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator at a small gated community in Sanford, Fla., was charged by a special prosecutor on Wednesday evening with second-degree murder and taken into custody.

The charges, which Mr. Martin’s family praised but called overdue, opened a new chapter in a case that set off a searing national discussion of racial profiling, Florida’s expansive self-defense law and the fairness of the criminal justice system.

The charges against Mr. Zimmerman were announced by Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after the local state attorney stepped aside in the wake of criticism that the case had been moving too slowly. Ms. Corey took pains to praise the local law enforcement officials at a news conference in Jacksonville, and pledged to pursue justice for the Martin family.

Asked about the racial overtones of the case — Mr. Martin, who was black, was shot and killed by Mr. Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was not immediately arrested by the local police — Ms. Corey said that law enforcement officials were committed to justice for all, regardless of race, gender or background.

“We only know one category as prosecutors, and that’s a ‘V,’ ” Ms. Corey said. “It’s not a ‘B,’ it’s not a ‘W,’ it’s not an ‘H.’ It’s ‘V,’ for victim. That’s who we work tirelessly for. And that’s all we know, is justice for our victims.”

If convicted of second-degree murder, Mr. Zimmerman, 28, could face life in prison. It is the toughest charge he could have faced. First-degree murder would have required a finding of premeditation and a grand jury review, which Ms. Corey decided against this week.

Mr. Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, praised the decision to arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman at an emotional news conference in Washington, where they had been meeting with their lawyers and supporters. “We simply wanted an arrest,” Ms. Fulton said. “We wanted nothing more and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say, ‘Thank you, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus.’ ”

Mr. Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County Jail around 8:25 p.m. and stepped out of a black S.U.V. in the custody of law enforcement agents.

The killing of Trayvon Martin incited outrage and protest marches across the country. He was shot on the evening of Feb. 26 as he returned from buying Skittles and iced tea at a 7-Eleven, bound for the home in a gated community in Sanford, a small city just north of Orlando, where he and his father were guests. .

Mr. Zimmerman, the founder of the local neighborhood watch, called 911 that evening to report that Mr. Martin looked like “a real suspicious guy.” Some questioned whether Mr. Martin attracted Mr. Zimmerman’s attention simply because he was black. Others were outraged by the slow reaction of the local police and prosecutors, who did not immediately arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman, saying that Florida’s self-defense law could make it difficult to prove a criminal case against him.

President Obama weighed in on the case at one point, saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” After television commentators suggested that Mr. Martin might have looked suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, people around the country began donning them in solidarity. LeBron James and other members of the Miami Heat basketball team posed in them for a photograph they posted on Twitter. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, even wore one on the floor of the House, saying “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

The case drew attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which was enacted seven years ago after lobbying by the National Rifle Association, over the objections of many law enforcement officials. The law gives the benefit of the doubt to people who claim self-defense, even if they are not in their homes; it says that people who feel that they are in danger do not need to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so.

In this case, Mr. Zimmerman, who had founded a neighborhood watch over the summer after a string of burglaries in the area, saw Mr. Martin, began following him, and called 911, telling the dispatcher that he appeared “suspicious.”

The dispatcher asked if Mr. Zimmerman was following him. “Yeah,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

“O.K.., we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher said. Mr. Zimmerman said: “O.K.”

The case will probably hinge on what happened next.

A lawyer for Mr. Martin’s parents, Benjamin Crump, has said that Mr. Martin was speaking on his cellphone at the time with his girlfriend, and told her that he was being followed. Mr. Crump said that the girl heard him being asked what he was doing before the line went dead.

Mr. Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, gave a different account: he has said that his son had lost sight of Mr. Martin, who then appeared from behind and challenged him.

Witnesses then told 911 that they saw two men fighting. Then Mr. Martin was shot in the chest and killed.

The Sanford police came under heavy criticism when they did not arrest Mr. Zimmerman, saying that they had no evidence to dispute his claim of self-defense. The police chief, Bill Lee, eventually stepped down from his post. The state appointed a special prosecutor. And the Justice Department announced that it would open a federal civil rights investigation.

Ms. Corey, the special state prosecutor who announced the charges, said that if Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law in his defense, and prosecutors do not believe the shooting was justified, they will challenge the claim.

“This case is just like many of the shooting deaths we’ve had in our circuit,” she said. “If Stand Your Ground becomes an issue, we fight it if we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Zimmerman changed his lawyers this week, and his old legal team held an odd news conference on Tuesday to say that they were withdrawing from the case and had not heard from him since the weekend. Mr. Zimmerman’s new lawyer, Mark M. O’Mara, a well-known criminal lawyer, said in a brief interview Wednesday night that his client would plead not guilty at a hearing on Thursday.

Mr. O’Mara also said that he hoped the judge would take up a bond motion at the hearing, but that he expected the judge would wait for a more extensive hearing in the near future.

One of Mr. Zimmerman’s former lawyers, Craig A. Sonner, said after the murder charge was announced that he would use the Stand Your Ground law as a defense if he were still representing Mr. Zimmerman.

Mr. Sonner said that although he had not seen evidence in the case first hand, he believed that “when all the evidence arrives in its totality, and all the circumstances are viewed in their totality, everything will show, I believe, that George Zimmerman was acting in self defense.”

As she announced the charge, Ms. Corey, the prosecutor, praised Mr. Martin’s “sweet parents.” But she stressed that the decision to charge was made based on the law, not on pressure. “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” she said. “We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the State of Florida.”


Lizette Alvarez reported from Jacksonville, and Michael Cooper from New York.

Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting from Sanford, Michael S. Schmidt

from Washington, and Timothy Williams from New York.

Jack Styczynski contributed research.

    Prosecutor Files Charge of 2nd-Degree Murder in Shooting of Martin, NYT, 11.4.2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/us/zimmerman-to-be-charged-in-trayvon-martin-shooting.html






2 Tulsa Shooting Suspects Confess, Police Say


April 9, 2012
The New York Times


TULSA, Okla. — The two men accused of killing three black people and wounding two others in shootings that terrified this city over the Easter weekend confessed to the police shortly after their arrest Sunday morning, the authorities said on Monday.

The men — Jacob C. England, 19, and Alvin L. Watts, 32 — were arrested after a series of shootings on Friday that city and community leaders believe were racially motivated attacks. Mr. England and Mr. Watts randomly shot pedestrians and residents as they drove a pickup truck through the predominantly black neighborhoods of north Tulsa, the authorities said.

Mr. England told the police that he shot three of the victims and Mr. Watts admitted to shooting two of them, said Officer Jason Willingham, a spokesman for the Tulsa police. Mr. England said he drove the pickup during all the shootings, Officer Willingham said.

Investigators were able to later determine that Mr. England shot one of the victims who died and the two who were wounded, and that Mr. Watts shot the two other fatal victims, Officer Willingham said.

The spokesman said he could not discuss what the two men said about their motivations during their interviews, citing the continuing investigation.

At a brief court hearing Monday morning, Special Judge William Hiddle announced bail for each man of $9.16 million: $3 million for each count of first-degree murder, $75,000 for each count of shooting with intent to kill and $10,000 for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The hearing was held at 9 a.m., and it was unclear whether the judge was aware of the confessions at that time; they were first reported late Monday by The Associated Press, based on the filing of a police affidavit.

Police officials and prosecutors said it was still too early in their investigation to say whether the shootings were racially motivated. “If we can figure out what the motivation was behind these killings and it sufficiently meets the elements of hate crime, then we’ll file a hate crime,” Tim Harris, the Tulsa County district attorney, said outside the courtroom Monday. “We’ll file what can be supported by the evidence.”

The shootings took place two years after Mr. England’s father, Carl, was shot and killed on April 5, 2010, at an apartment complex. The man who was a person of interest in the case, Pernell Jefferson, is black.

Mr. England posted a message to his Facebook page Thursday afternoon about his father’s death and the recent suicide of his 24-year-old fiancée, Sheran Hart Wilde, with whom he has an infant son.

“Today is two years that my dad has been gone,” he wrote, and then he used a racial slur to describe Mr. Jefferson. “It’s hard not to go off between that and sheran I’m gone in the head.”

Mr. England and Mr. Watts were not brought into the courtroom at Tulsa County District Court in downtown Tulsa, but appeared instead via closed circuit video from a room at the county jail, a routine procedure at the courthouse. Neither man made any statements as they stood before the camera, listening to the judge read the bail amounts. The two men were in orange jumpsuits with their hands cuffed.

Judge Hiddle set their arraignments for next Monday. They have not yet been appointed lawyers.

Two men and one woman were killed in the shootings: Dannaer Fields, 49; Bobby Clark, 54; and William Allen, 31. The two men who were wounded — identified on Monday afternoon by the police as Deon Tucker, 44, and his friend David Hall, 46 — were standing outside Mr. Tucker’s house on East 51st Place North about 1 a.m. Friday, when a pickup truck pulled up and the man or men inside asked them for directions, according to interviews with neighbors, friends and the authorities.

“They just came up and asked where a certain address was, and he told them it was down the street, and they just started shooting,” said Kevin Colbert, 40, Mr. Tucker’s friend, who lives next door and said Monday he had kept in touch with the wounded man since the shooting.

Mr. Tucker’s roommate, Michael Daugherty, 50, said that Mr. Tucker was shot in the back and that Mr. Hall was shot in the stomach. Both men were hospitalized but have been released.

Officer Willingham said investigators would also be looking into previous unsolved shootings in the area to see if any links can be made to the two suspects. “There’s nothing on our radar yet,” he said. “We will definitely go down that road, but it’s not going to be today. Job No. 1 at this point is wrapping up the five shootings.”

Though they stopped short of describing the attacks as racially motivated, several local and federal law enforcement officials, including the district attorney, Mr. Harris, said they found the shootings to be particularly disturbing. The commander of the multiagency task force set up by the Tulsa police to apprehend the suspects, Maj. Walter Evans, called the shootings the most heinous crimes he had seen in his 23 years in law enforcement.

Mr. England and Mr. Watts were friends and roommates, and they lived at Mr. England’s house in a rural part of Tulsa. They were arrested at another house in nearby Turley, Okla., where officials said they were hiding out to avoid capture.

    2 Tulsa Shooting Suspects Confess, Police Say, NYT, 9.4.2012,






Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises


April 9, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: rising numbers of police officers are being killed.

According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 72 officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008.

The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents, according to data compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The number was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

While a majority of officers were killed in smaller cities, 13 were killed in cities of 250,000 or more. New York City lost two officers last year. On Sunday, four were wounded by a gunman in Brooklyn, bringing to eight the number of officers shot in the city since December.

“We haven’t seen a period of this type of violence in a long time,” said Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly of the New York Police Department.

While the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials cannot fully explain the reasons for the rise in officer homicides, they are clear about the devastating consequences.

“In this law enforcement job, when you pin this badge on and go out on calls, when you leave home, you ain’t got a promise that you will come back,” said Sheriff Ray Foster of Buchanan County, Va. Two of his deputies were killed in March 2011 and two wounded — one of them paralyzed — by a man with a high-powered rifle.

“That was 80 percent of my day shift,” he said.

After a spate of killings in early 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked federal authorities to work with local police departments to try to come up with solutions to the problem.

The F.B.I., which has tracked officer deaths since 1937, paid for a study conducted by John Jay College that found that in many cases the officers were trying to arrest or stop a suspect who had previously been arrested for a violent crime.

That prompted the F.B.I. to change what information it will provide to local police departments, the officials said. Starting this year, when police officers stop a car and call its license plate into the F.B.I.’s database, they will be told whether the owner of the vehicle has a violent history. Through the first three months of this year, the number of police fatalities has dropped, though it is unclear why.

Some law enforcement officials believe that techniques pioneered by the New York Police Department over the past two decades and adopted by other departments may have put officers at greater risk by encouraging them to conduct more street stops and to seek out and confront suspects who seem likely to be armed. In New York and elsewhere, police officials moved more officers into crime-ridden areas.

“This technique has become more popular across the country as smaller departments have followed the larger cities and tried to prevent crime,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Unlike several decades ago, there is this expectation that police matter and that police can make a difference.”

Commissioner Kelly said, “We try to put those officers where there is the most potential for violence.” However, he pointed out that most of the officers who have been shot in New York since December were not part of a proactive police deployment but were responding to emergencies.

Some argue that the rise in violence is linked to the tough economy. With less money, some states are releasing prisoners earlier; police departments, after years of staffing increases, have been forced to make cutbacks.

“A lot of these killings aren’t happening in major urban areas,” said James W. McMahon, chief of staff for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “One of the concerns we are looking at is that a number of officers are being laid off or furloughed or not replaced.”

The police chief in Camden, N.J., J. Scott Thomson, whose force of 400 was cut by nearly half last year because of financing issues, said that having fewer officers on the street “makes it that much more difficult to create an environment in which criminals do not feel as emboldened to assault another person, let alone a law enforcement officer.”

The murder of a veteran officer last April in Chattanooga, Tenn., was typical of many of the 2011 episodes.

Sgt. Tim Chapin, a veteran nearing retirement, rushed to provide backup to officers who had responded to reports of a robbery outside a pawnshop and were under fire. Sergeant Chapin got out of his car and chased the fleeing suspect, who had been convicted of armed robbery. During the pursuit, the sergeant was fatally shot in the head.

As part of the F.B.I.’s efforts to prevent officer deaths, the bureau trains thousands of officers each year, highlighting shootings like the one in Chattanooga to teach officers about situations in which they are most vulnerable. Those situations are typically pursuits, traffic stops and arrests, said Michelle S. Klimt, a top F.B.I. official at its Criminal Justice Information Services Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., who oversees officer training.

“Every stop can be potentially fatal, so we are trying to make sure the officers are ready and prepared every single day they go out,” Ms. Klimt said. “We try and teach that every day you go out, you are going to be encountered with deadly force by someone trying to kill you.”


Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Joseph Goldstein from New York.

John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting from Washington.

    Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises, NYT, 9.4.2012,






Arrests in Shootings End a Terrifying Weekend in Tulsa


April 8, 2012
The New York Times


TULSA, Okla. — Late on Thursday afternoon, Jacob C. England, 19, posted a message on his Facebook page, expressing grief — and anger — over the second anniversary of his father’s death. Mr. England’s father, Carl, was shot on April 5, 2010, at an apartment complex here, and the man who was a person of interest in the case, Pernell Jefferson, is serving time at an Oklahoma state prison.

Mr. England is a Native American who has also described himself as white. Mr. Jefferson is black.

“Today is two years that my dad has been gone,” Mr. England wrote, and then used a racial epithet to describe Mr. Jefferson. “It’s hard not to go off between that and sheran I’m gone in the head,” he added, referring to the recent suicide of his 24-year-old fiancée, Sheran Hart Wilde. “RIP. Dad and sheran I Love and miss u I think about both of u every second of the day.”

Hours later, the authorities say, Mr. England and his friend and roommate, Alvin Watts, 32, waged what city leaders believe was a racially motivated shooting rampage in the predominantly black neighborhoods of north Tulsa early Friday morning, driving through the streets in a pickup truck and randomly shooting pedestrians. Three black people were killed, and two others were wounded in the attacks.

Mr. England and Mr. Watts, who is white, were arrested early Sunday morning after investigators received tips to the state’s anonymous Crime Stoppers line, the authorities said. They will face three counts of first-degree murder, they said, and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.

At a news conference in downtown Tulsa on Sunday, police officials said it was too early in the investigation to say precisely what motivated Mr. England and Mr. Watts, and they stopped short of describing the shootings as hate crimes.

“You can look at the facts of the case and certainly come up with what would appear to be a logical theory, but we’re going to let the evidence take us where we want to go,” said the Tulsa police chief, Chuck Jordan.

In Tulsa — a city of 392,000, about 62,000 of whom are black — the shootings shocked, frightened and angered many black residents on Easter weekend and prompted an intense manhunt. The authorities formed a task force called Operation Random Shooter, made up of more than two dozen local, state and federal investigators from the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Marshals Service. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also joined the investigation.

Jack Henderson, a city councilman who is black and whose district includes all of the shooting sites, said that before the arrests, many in the area were terrified.

“A lot of people in my community have been calling me, afraid that they couldn’t go outside, didn’t know if they could even go to church, didn’t know if they could go to the grocery store,” Mr. Henderson said at the news conference.

“With these two people off the streets, people in my community as well as the rest of this city can feel that they are safer,” he said.

Tulsa officials said the shootings were unlike anything the city had ever seen in its modern history. None of the victims knew one another, and all of them were shot within a few miles. Mr. Henderson said he had heard from constituents that in one of the shootings, the suspects had approached their victims at random and asked for directions. “When they turned around to walk away, they just opened fire,” Mr. Henderson said.

In 1921, Tulsa was the scene of a riot that is one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in the nation’s history, in which a mob of white Tulsans destroyed a black neighborhood and killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of black residents.

After the Friday shootings, city leaders said that the anger in the black community had reached the point where people were talking about taking the law into their own hands. Asked on Sunday if he feared any sort of uprising, Chief Jordan replied: “I have much more faith in my fellow Tulsans than that. I think they let us do our job.”

Chief Jordan released few details about many aspects of the shootings, saying the investigation was continuing. He declined to say if the suspects were cooperating with investigators, and he said that Mr. England’s Facebook postings would be part of the prosecution of the case.

Mr. England, a stocky young man with a mohawk-style haircut, graduated in 2009 from Sperry High School. Late on Friday evening, hours after the first shooting, Mr. England suggested on his Facebook page that he was contemplating suicide because people were accusing him of unspecified acts that “I didn’t do,” he wrote, adding that it might be time to “call it quits.”

He wrote: “I hate to say it like that but I’m done if something does happen tonite be ready for another funeral later.”

In the series of comments that followed, his friends tried to comfort him, with some writing that they loved him. Others appealed to him to remember his sister, Cady, and his infant son, Jacob C. England II. “Please dont do anything stupid jake,” one friend responded. “Think about cady and the baby and everyone that loves you.” It was unclear if Ms. Wilde was the mother of his son or where the baby was living. By midafternoon on Sunday, both suspects’ Facebook profiles were no longer available.

Mr. England’s father was shot and killed at the Comanche Park Apartments, not far from where the body of one of the victims was found Friday. Mr. Jefferson, 39, was never charged in the killing of the elder Mr. England. He did tell investigators that he had been in an altercation with him that evening.

Mr. Jefferson is now serving a prison sentence through October 2014 for feloniously pointing a firearm, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

“It is very premature to talk about hate crimes,” said James E. Finch, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Oklahoma division. He added: “There are too many unanswered questions at this stage, too much evidence that has to be analyzed and a lot of investigation still to come.”

The three people who were killed were identified as Dannaer Fields, 49; Bobby Clark, 54; and William Allen, 31. The two people who were wounded did not sustain life-threatening injuries and have been released from the hospital, the authorities said.

Mr. England and Mr. Watts lived together at Mr. England’s residence in a rural part of Tulsa far from downtown. They were arrested at another house in nearby Turley, Okla. A white pickup truck, which had been burned, was discovered by the authorities on Saturday. The Tulsa World reported that the truck was registered to Jake or Carl England, but Chief Jordan declined to comment about it.

A woman who pulled up to the house where the two men lived called Mr. England a good man. “You don’t understand,” said the woman, who did not identify herself. “They lost their dad. Now they’re going through all this. Now their brother’s gone.”

The two suspects have had previous run-ins with the law. In 2006, Mr. Watts pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery in a case of domestic abuse. Three years later, he was charged with aggravated assault and battery in a case that was dismissed. Last year, Mr. England pleaded guilty to a charge of driving with a suspended license.

Mr. Watts had recently broken up with his fiancée, whom he called a “snake n da grass” on his Facebook page because she had apparently refused to let him see his son. Online, Mr. Watts described himself as a Christian who read the Bible every night.


Manny Fernandez reported from Tulsa, and Channing Joseph from New York.

    Arrests in Shootings End a Terrifying Weekend in Tulsa, NYT, 8.4.2012,






Four Officers Wounded in Gunfight in Brooklyn


April 8, 2012
The New York Times


Four New York City police officers were shot and wounded Saturday night in a close-range encounter with a gunman who had barricaded himself in his apartment in Brooklyn, police and city officials said.

All four officers were expected to fully recover, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Sunday at a news conference at Lutheran Medical Center, where the officers were being treated. The mayor said the shootings underscored his ongoing campaign for Congress to enact tougher gun laws.

“We have now had eight – that’s correct, eight – members of the department shot in the last four months,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “And this is the second time in the last 24 hours police have been fired upon by armed assailants.

“All the shootings have a disgraceful fact in common: all were committed with illegal guns that came from out of state,” the mayor added. “And that is the case with nearly every shooting in our city.”

The suspect, Nakwon Foxworth, 33, who was in critical condition at Kings County Hospital Center, fired his 9-millimeter Browning semi-automatic handgun 12 times at the officers, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at the hospital. Inside Mr. Foxworth’s apartment, the police also found a sawed-off military-style assault rifle equipped with a scope, and a defaced 22-caliber revolver.

“We got very lucky tonight, with no life-threatening injuries to officers or innocent bystanders,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Foxworth was with his pregnant girlfriend and their four-month-old son, when he got into an argument with employees of a moving company at his apartment building at 3301 Nostrand Avenue. At one point, Mr. Foxworth displayed a gun, prompting one of the movers to call 911, Mr. Kelly said.

When anti-crime officers from the 61st Precinct arrived to Mr. Foxworth's sixth-floor apartment, they were unable to get inside, but ascertained that a woman and child were with him. Emergency Service Unit officers and a hostage negotiation team were called in; as they were taking positions, the woman burst out the door holding her baby, Mr. Kelly said. She told the officers that Mr. Foxworth was armed and had been holding them hostage.

When the six-man Emergency Service team entered, Mr. Foxworth opened fire, no more than 10 feet from the officers.

Detective Michael Keenan, 52, was struck in his left calf; Detective Kenneth Ayala, 49, was hit in the thigh and foot; and Police Officer Matthew Granahan, 35, was wounded in his left calf. Captain Al Pizzano, 45, also sustained a graze wound to his face, Mr. Kelly said. Detective Ayala and Officer Granahan returned fire striking Mr. Foxworth in the abdomen.

“We got very lucky tonight, with no life-threatening injuries to officers or innocent bystanders. But sometimes, as you remember, we aren’t so lucky, as we saw with the murder of Police Officer Peter Figoski in December," Mayor Bloomberg said.

“We will continue to do everything that we can take illegal weapons off our streets, but until Congress wakes up and finds some courage to stand up to the gun lobby, illegal guns will continue to end up in the hands of dangerous people like tonight’s shooter, who had a small arsenal of illegal guns."

    Four Officers Wounded in Gunfight in Brooklyn, NYT, 8.4.2012,






2 Men Arrested in Tulsa Shootings


April 8, 2012
The New York Times


Police in Tulsa, Okla., arrested two men Sunday morning in connections with shootings that left three people dead and two others wounded.

A Tulsa police spokesman, Jason Willingham, told The Associated Press that the men — 19-year-old Jake England and 32-year-old Alvin Watts — were arrested early Sunday at a house just north of Tulsa and that they would face three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.

Mr. Willingham told The A.P. that a tip had led police to the men.

Capt. Jonathan Brooks of the Tulsa police told CNN that investigators were still trying to find a motive behind the four apparently random shootings, which occurred early Friday.

“There obviously still is a lot of investigation” ahead, Mr. Willingham told The A.P. by telephone. “We don’t’ have a motive at this time. We are still asking questions and hopefully that will become clear in coming days.”

All five victims were African-American, and the two men arrested were white, Captain Brooks said.

At a news conference on Saturday, the city’s police chief, Chuck Jordan, said that the authorities had found no immediate evidence of a hate crime. “There’s a very logical theory that would say that that’s what it could be,” Chief Jordan said. “But I’m a police officer. I’ve got to go by evidence.”

The police do not believe that the victims knew one another, but the timing and proximity of the shootings on Tulsa’s north side, all within miles of each other, have led them to believe the attacks are linked. The two injured victims were expected to survive, officials said.

Survivors had described the gunman as a single white man who was driving a white pickup truck with its tailpipe hanging, but Captain Jordan told CNN that the police believe both men were involved in the shootings.

A Tulsa councilman, Jack Henderson, however, seemed to suggest that race was a factor.

“You have somebody white who has come into a community and taken shots at, killing black people” Mr. Henderson, whose district includes all of the shooting sites, said Saturday in an interview with CNN. “To me, that would indicate that we have some kind of a racial problem.”

Mr. Henderson said the suspect had been described as driving up to pedestrians and asking for directions.

“Then as they’re walking away, this person opens fire,” Mr. Henderson said, adding that apprehending the gunman was critical in restoring the city’s shaken psyche.

“This is a crisis situation,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid for their lives, afraid for their children, afraid for their loved ones. And if you can’t walk outside or walk down the streets of the city that you live in, then that’s definitely a problem.”

According to The Tulsa World Crime Tracker, before these shootings, Tulsa had had 11 homicides since the beginning of the year.

Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. said the shootings were unlike anything the city had seen, “certainly in modern history.”

    2 Men Arrested in Tulsa Shootings, NYT, 8.4.2012,






The Shots Sounded Like Fireworks,

So Nobody in the Cafe Reacted


April 6, 2012
The New York Times


They always say it sounded like fireworks.

It was Monday night in the part of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that is under the elevated trains. “A little bit off the beaten path from Williamsburg proper” is how Sasha Dobson, a 33-year-old singer-songwriter, put it. Williamsburg proper is where one might expect to find a 33-year-old singer-songwriter, playing in a crowded bar, but it’s under the bridge where Ms. Dobson arrives every Monday, at Café Moto, triangle-shaped and wedged into the irregular, five-points corner of Broadway, Hooper Street and Division Avenue.

This corner of Williamsburg has not been as wholly revamped as the others. There are young newcomers, but they share the corner with black, Latino and Hasidic lifers. Across the street from Moto, a school bus with Yiddish script on the side rumbles past a bodega with taped-up posters for Banda Libre, Orquesta Guayacán and DJ Xclusivo’s upcoming birthday bash in Brooklyn.

Ms. Dobson performs at Moto weekly, sitting in the tip of the triangle near the front door, playing an electric Gibson. The restaurant has seats for about 35 people, but it was more crowded than that for much of that Monday night. Vintage-style bare bulbs hung from the ceiling. The grass-fed lamb ribs were popular, and the mussels and the warm date cake. When a train passed above, voices in conversation were raised.

Sometime after 10:30 p.m., Ms. Dobson took a break and stepped outside for a smoke.

“Normally I would be right in front of the door, but I was on the other side by the bench,” she said — the side facing the predominantly Hasidic part of the neighborhood, and away from the bodega with the concert posters. “I wanted to sit down. I was texting my boyfriend.”

She heard something. “I thought it was fireworks,” she said.

Her sister, Laura Williamson, visiting the city from California, was sitting inside at the bar. “I thought it was a firecracker,” she said later. A waitress inside heard pops, but was too busy to stop and wonder what they were. “No reaction,” she said later. “It was a nonevent at that point.”

A man at the bar, a friend of Ms. Dobson’s who had brought her homemade pistachio candy, turned to a stranger, a bass player, beside him. That, he said, sounded like gunshots. The bass player, from Chicago, agreed. Gunshots.

But the reaction in the restaurant remained muted. There were no screams, no running toward or away from the picture window that faced Broadway. The pistachio friend saw something out of the corner of his eye and looked in time to see a man hurry past, clutching his leg. He looked as if he was bleeding.

Ms. Dobson picked up her guitar and started playing again. “I’m pretty much in my own world, I guess,” she said. She sang a song. “I opened my eyes,” she said, and saw the big window. “There were reporters — all of it. Fire trucks. Tons of cops.”

The waitress said, “The streets were filled with lights. Ambulances — a lot.” Several groups of Hasidim materialized, standing in huddles and watching.

The police cordoned off the bodega with yellow tape. Officers found two shell casings from a 9-millimeter pistol, and they were sent away for analysis.

There was blood in the bodega. With that, and the statements of some witnesses, surveillance video and the presence of a 10-year-old boy, the police sketched the rough outline of what had happened:

A fight had broken out in the bodega, and someone was struck by a bottle. The fight moved outside, under the elevated tracks, just as the M train from Manhattan arrived, discharging among its passengers the boy, named Josef, and his father. The boy was visiting from Norway.

They descended the stairs to the street and heard shots, the police said. The boy felt a pain in his right side and realized he had been hit. Josef’s father flagged down a police car.

The men from the bodega fled, some of them in a silver-colored sedan. There are no suspects. If someone was wounded in the leg — as described by the man in the bar — he has not delivered himself to a city hospital, the police said. Josef was not badly hurt and was discharged the next day.

His father did not want to be interviewed, waving away a question about the visit to the city with “We’ve been to the Bronx Zoo.”

That night, people may have stayed longer in Moto, a cocoon with a view, than they normally would have. Ms. Dobson’s sister, Ms. Williamson, turned to someone and asked, “Does this happen all the time in Brooklyn?”

    The Shots Sounded Like Fireworks, So Nobody in the Cafe Reacted, NYT, 6.4.2012,






Troubled History Emerges

for Suspect in Fatal Oakland Attack


April 3, 2012
The New York Times


OAKLAND, Calif. — In the tightly knit Korean-American community here, bound by membership at churches and a striving for academic excellence, One L. Goh had long found himself on the periphery. After leaving an apartment in Virginia without paying his rent two years ago, he returned to the Bay Area, where he had lived earlier and where his ailing father still resided.

In his early 40s, battling debt, Mr. Goh began studying nursing at Oikos University, a small college founded by an evangelical Korean pastor in an industrial area near the Oakland airport. But he showed little interest in religion and, after half a year at the school, dropped out following problems with some classmates, a school official said.

On Monday, Mr. Goh, 43, a naturalized American born in South Korea, went back to the college, the authorities said, apparently harboring a grudge against a school administrator who happened not to be at work that day. Armed with a semiautomatic handgun, he killed seven people, including two Korean-Americans, and wounded three more, said the police, who added that he had said his intention was to kill as many people at the school as he could.

The shooting, with echoes of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, in which a South Korean student killed 32 people, has shaken Korean-Americans in the area who belong to some 300 Korean churches and pick neighborhoods based on their schools’ standing.

A block from the school, at the office of The Korea Times, a Korean-language daily, its president, Michael Kang, said he and other Korean businessmen held a prayer meeting on Tuesday morning.

“As a community we felt regret that we hadn’t taken care of him before this thing happened,” said Mr. Kang, a friend of the school’s founder. “We felt that someone should have taken care of him with God’s help.” According to the school, more than half of its students are Korean or Korean-American.

The gun that was used had been tossed into an estuary by Mr. Goh before he surrendered, the police said, and a search was under way to recover it.

One of those killed was Lydia Sim, 21, a nursing student who lived in Hayward, Calif., and was the eldest daughter of a delivery truck driver and a waitress, said her cousin Hannah Lee.

Ms. Sim’s grandmother came from South Korea, and now three generations of the family live in the Bay Area. “She was a hard worker,” Ms. Lee said. “She was a good, dutiful daughter to her parents and a loyal sister to her younger brother.”

Like many Korean-Americans, Ms. Sim and her family centered their social lives on their church. They were active in the Hayward Korean Baptist Church, and they were first alerted about the shooting by a pastor there, Ms. Lee said.

“She grew up in the church,” said Ms. Lee of her cousin. “She loved God and her family. She was very active in the church.”

The authorities were trying to piece together the events that might have led to the shootings. Officer Johnna Watson, a spokeswoman for the Oakland police, said the handgun used in the attack was bought legally by Mr. Goh this year.

Mr. Goh told the police that he had gone to the school looking specifically for the administrator. Not finding her, he took another school official hostage and took her into the nursing classroom, Officer Watson said.

He ordered the students to line up against a wall, but before they could he started shooting them one by one, Officer Watson said. Six women and one man were killed. Mr. Goh then went to other classrooms looking for additional victims before fleeing in a car he stole from a student, Officer Watson said.

It was not clear why he had sought the administrator.

"He was very upset,” Officer Watson said. “He had been teased by his classmates because his English was not very good and that angered him; he says that made him very mad.”

A school official who answered the cellphone of the school founder, Jong-in Kim, denied that Mr. Goh had been teased because of his poor English. More than half the student body has imperfect command of English, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the university had not authorized him to speak about the matter.

Last fall, Mr. Goh was involved in “minor things” with other classmates, the official said. But after the school looked into the matter, officials concluded that it was not serious.

“He wasn’t showing any signs of violence or anything toward anyone,” the official said. “He didn’t show any mental illness. He seemed like a regular, ordinary guy. He was quiet.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Goh dropped out of the school, the official said.

Though called a university, Oikos is a small institution with a few hundred students. The founder, Mr. Kim, established the school about a decade ago, changing its name a few times, said Nam Hong, the editor in chief of The Korea Times. Oikos means “house” in ancient Greek. Mr. Kang, the newspaper’s president and founder’s friend, said Mr. Kim had established the nursing school to support the school’s department of religion.

The school is affiliated with the Praise God Korean Church, one of the many independent Korean churches that have mushroomed in the Bay Area, Mr. Hong said.

Mr. Goh’s troubles at the school came after he had suffered from significant financial problems in Virginia, including an inability to pay his rent while he lived in Hayes, Va., in 2008 and 2009, according to a court employee and records at the Gloucester General District Court.

The owner of the Yorkview Apartments, where Mr. Goh had been renting an apartment for $575 a month since November 2007, filed a complaint against him eight months after he moved in. Mr. Goh had fallen two months behind paying rent, according to court documents.

In July 2009, about one year after that complaint was recorded, the authorities issued a criminal summons for back rent on the one-bedroom apartment, but Mr. Goh had apparently already moved out. When the authorities were unable to locate him, he was found in contempt of court in August 2009.

Mr. Goh, according to court records, also failed to pay a credit card bill to Capital One, and in December 2011 he was ordered to pay the company $985 in a civil judgment. It is not clear whether he ever paid that debt.

What is more, Mr. Goh’s brother, Su Wan Ko, 31, an Army sergeant, died in a traffic accident in March 2011 in Carroll County, Va., an Army spokesman said.

Sergeant Ko, a human resource specialist, had served in Iraq, said Raymond Gall, the spokesman. He was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group based in Fort Carson, Colo., but was not himself a special operations soldier.

After returning to the Bay Area, Mr. Goh appeared to have led an unsettled life. It was not clear where he lived, though he had registered his address in the same apartment complex where his father lives, Westlake Christian Terrace, a Department of Housing and Urban Development facility.

Mr. Goh did not live at the complex, which is reserved for senior citizens, said the administrator, Janice Williams.

Nobody answered the door at the apartment belonging to Mr. Goh’s father, Young Nam Ko. A neighbor, Norma Wesley, 86, said the father rarely ventured outside. “I never saw the son,” Ms. Wesley said.


Timothy Williams and Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 3, 2012

An earlier version of this article, in some instances,

misspelled the surname of the accused shooter. It is One L. Goh, not Koh.

    Troubled History Emerges for Suspect in Fatal Oakland Attack, NYT, 3.4.2012,






Gunman Kills 7

in a Rampage at a Northern California University


April 2, 2012
The New York Times


OAKLAND, Calif. — A former student opened fire on students and staff at a religious college here on Monday morning, killing seven people and wounding at least three more, the authorities said.

Shortly after the shootings, the suspect, identified as One L. Goh, 43, of Oakland, was taken into custody outside a Safeway grocery in Alameda, several miles from the scene of the attack. Police said he had turned himself in to a Safeway employee after driving there in a vehicle he had commandeered from one of his victims.

The shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. at Oikos University, a Christian college affiliated with a Korean-American church, Praise to God Korean Church, and situated in a commercial and industrial area of East Oakland near Oakland International Airport where there are many Korean-American businesses.

Oakland’s police chief, Howard Jordan, said at a news conference on Monday night that Mr. Goh had acted alone and had used a handgun.

“Today’s unprecedented tragedy was shocking and senseless,” said Chief Jordan, who did not offer a motive for the attack.

Mr. Goh had been a nursing student at the college but was not enrolled at the time of the shooting, the university’s founder, Pastor Jong Kim, told The Oakland Tribune.

Jean Quan, the Oakland mayor, appearing at the news conference with the police and a representative of the Korean consulate general, said most of the victims were Korean. Chief Jordan said Mr. Goh is a naturalized American citizen from Korea.

“This is the kind of situation where we need to pull together to support the Korean community in particular,” Mayor Quan said. “I hope we will put our arms around these people and this community.”

The police got the first word of the shootings at 10:33 a.m. and were on the scene in less than 10 minutes, Chief Jordan said.

He described the scene as “very chaotic” and said the killer was believed to have been inside a classroom when he started shooting.

Tashi Wangchuk, 38, a videographer from Richmond, Calif., said he had gone to the college after getting a call from his wife, Dechen, a nursing student at Oikos.

“My wife called and said, in a hushed voice, ‘Call 911. There’s a shooting going on in here,’ ” he said. “She told me someone came in with a gun and started shooting randomly.”

Mr. Wangchuk’s wife, who was crouching inside a classroom with other students, said the gunman had shot through the door of the classroom before leaving, her husband said. On Monday afternoon, she was still inside the university as the police locked down the area around the small college.

Relatives clustered outside the college, along a grassy median, trying to get word from the authorities about when their children or spouses would be released. What appeared to be four bodies were laid out, under sheets, on the median. The wounded had been taken away in ambulances.

“It’s just a sad day in my city whenever there’s a loss of life,” said Larry Reid, who is the president of the Oakland City Council and represents the district where the shooting occurred. “There are just too many guns in the hands of people who are not afraid to use them.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Oakland mayor, said in a statement: “The tragic loss of life at Oikos University today is shocking and sad. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and friends, and the entire community affected by this senseless act of violence.”

According to the college’s Web site, “Oikos University was launched to provide highest standard education with Christian value and inspiration.” Oikos offers courses in music, nursing, English, Bible studies and other subjects. It caters largely to Korean and Korean-American students.

Deborah Lee, 25, who studies English as a second language at the university, said she was inside a classroom Monday morning. “I heard some gunshots and women screaming: ‘Somebody has a gun — run!’ ” Ms. Lee said.

She said she had heard five or six gunshots. “My teacher yelled, ‘Run, run,’ and we all ran outside.”

Ms. Lee said she had not seen the gunman. “I heard a pop, pop, pop sound and then girls screaming,” she said. Ms. Lee said she believed that the shooting had occurred in the same building as her classroom.

She was frightened, she said, but added, “I’m a Christian, and I believe God protects me.”

Chief Jordan said the department would not release names of victims until next of kin had been notified and further investigations had been conducted.


Malia Wollan reported from Oakland, and Norimitsu Onishi from San Francisco.

    Gunman Kills 7 in a Rampage at a Northern California University, NYT, 2.4.2012,










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