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History > 2012 > USA > Gun violence (III)




Another Shooting

May Test Florida Law


November 28, 2012
The New York Times


MIAMI — In what could become another test of Florida’s broad self-defense law, a software developer charged with killing a Jacksonville teenager said he reached for his gun and fired eight rounds only after he was threatened with a shotgun.

The suspect, Michael Dunn, 45, of Satellite Beach, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and attempted murder.

Mr. Dunn told his lawyer that the victim, Jordan Davis, 17, who was parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville on Friday night with three other teenagers, pointed a shotgun at him through a partly rolled-down window, threatened to kill him and began to open the door. The shooting occurred after a dispute over loud music coming from the teenagers’ sport utility vehicle.

Mr. Davis, a junior at a Jacksonville high school who had moved from Georgia two years ago to live with his father, died after being shot twice.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said officers had not found a shotgun in the car.

Mr. Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, fled the convenience store in his Volkswagen Jetta after the teenagers left because he was afraid they would return, his lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, said. He did not call the authorities; the police arrested him the following day, finding him because a witness noted his license plate number.

The case has drawn parallels to the Trayvon Martin shooting because of the age and race of the victim, the fact that no weapon associated with the victim has been found, and Mr. Dunn’s self-defense claim. Ms. Lemonidis is considering using the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows people who fear for their lives to retaliate with lethal force, as a defense.

But she said the shooting bore no resemblance to the case of George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Martin.

“There is no racial motivation here whatsoever,” Ms. Lemonidis said. “He would have never, ever, in a million years pulled a gun if his life was not threatened. He saw a shotgun, and four inches of the barrel, and the guy said to him, ‘This is going down now’ and popped the door open.”

Ms. Lemonidis said it was possible the teenagers had thrown away the shotgun after the encounter. “How hard did they look?” she said of the police search for a gun.

Ron Davis, Mr. Davis’s father, told CNN that his son, who recently got a job at McDonald’s, did not own guns and that the teenagers in the car had tried to flee when they saw Mr. Dunn’s gun. “He did something that there was no defense for,” Mr. Davis said of Mr. Dunn.

The victim’s mother, Lucia McBath, said Mr. Davis had hoped to join the military. She said she did not view the shooting as a racial crime, despite the fact that her son is black and the suspect is white.

“Something snapped in him,” she said of the suspect in an interview with First Coast News in Jacksonville.

Mr. Dunn, a gun collector who has a pilot’s license, was in Jacksonville for his son’s wedding last weekend. He had one drink at the reception and a glass of Champagne before he left, his lawyer said. When he and Ms. Rouer stopped at the convenience store for wine to take to the hotel, the teenagers in the car next to him were blasting music. He asked them to turn it down. At first they did, Ms. Lemonidis said. But then they turned the volume back up and began cursing him.

When he saw the shotgun and heard the threat, Mr. Dunn reached into his glove compartment, unholstered his Taurus 9-millimeter gun and fired two rounds into the back seat, and then two more. As the car with the teenagers pulled out, he feared they would try to shoot back, so he fired four more shots, his lawyer said.

He returned to the hotel, believing no one had been hurt. But the next morning, after Ms. Rouer saw on the news that a teenager had been killed, Mr. Dunn decided to turn himself in, but in Satellite Beach, about 170 miles away, where his neighbor has ties to law enforcement, Ms. Lemonidis said. Soon after, he went to the neighbor’s home, and the police, already on their way, arrived to arrest him.

    Another Shooting May Test Florida Law, NYT, 28.11.2012,






Hector Camacho, 50, Boxer Who Lived Dangerously, Dies


November 24, 2012
The New York Times


Hector Camacho, a boxer known for his lightning-quick hands and flamboyant personality who emerged from a delinquent childhood in New York’s Spanish Harlem to become a world champion in three weight classes, died Saturday in San Juan, P.R., four days after after being shot while sitting in a parked car. He was 50.

His death was reported by Dr. Ernesto Torres, the director of the Centro Médico trauma center in Puerto Rico, who said Camacho had a heart attack and died a short time later after being taken off life support. He was declared brain dead on Thursday.

The police said that Camacho was shot in the left side of the face on Tuesday night as he sat in a black Ford Mustang with a friend, The Associated Press reported. The bullet fractured his vertebrae and was lodged in his shoulder when he was taken to the Puerto Rico Medical Center. The friend, Adrian Mojica Moreno, was also killed.

The police said that two men fled the scene in a sport utility vehicle but that no arrests had been made. They said that nine bags of cocaine were found in Moreno’s pockets and that a 10th was found open in the car.

Fighting in bouts sanctioned by professional boxing’s myriad organizing bodies, Camacho, who was widely known as Macho Camacho, won titles as a super featherweight (maximum 130 pounds), a lightweight (135 pounds) and a junior welterweight (140 pounds). In his last title bout, at age 35 in 1997, he fought at 147 pounds and lost to the welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya.

Terrifically agile and fast afoot, Camacho had a sackful of canny tricks gleaned from his teenage years as a street fighter; he was known occasionally to spin his opponents 180 degrees and reach around to punch them from behind. Rather than a slugger, he was a precise, impossibly rapid-fire puncher and deft counterpuncher who early on drew the admiration of the boxer who was then the avatar of hand speed, Sugar Ray Leonard.

“Not only quick, but accurate,” Leonard said in 1982 after watching Camacho, then a super featherweight, dispatch Johnny Sato in four rounds. He added: “I told him that people are always asking who’s going to take my place. I told him he could.”

Fifteen years later, Camacho, who was six years younger than Leonard, ended Leonard’s comeback attempt at 40, knocking him out in the fifth round.

In the 1980s and ’90s, few boxers were more attention-grabbing than Camacho. He was known for his hairdo, which featured a spit curl over his forehead; his clownish antics at news conferences; his brashness and wit, especially whenever a reporter with a pad or a microphone was around; and his dazzling outfits. He variously entered the ring in a diaper, a Roman gladiator’s outfit, a dress, an American Indian costume complete with headdress, a loincloth and a black fox fur robe with his nickname, Macho, stitched across the back in white mink.

“From now on I’m going to dominate this game,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1985, after he defeated José Luís Ramirez to win the World Boxing Council lightweight crown, his second title.

Three years earlier, he had earned $50,000 for whipping Sato. Camacho, who was then 20, acknowledged that this was a lot of money, but he told Sports Illustrated, “A few years ago, if I had met Sato on 115th Street, I would’ve done the same thing for nothing.”

As a teenager Camacho was a brawler, a serial shoplifter, an admitted drug user and a car thief, and he never put that part of his nature behind him. He was arrested numerous times on charges including domestic abuse, possession of a controlled substance, burglary and trying to take an M-16 rifle through customs. This year he turned himself in after a warrant charged him with beating one of his sons. A trial was pending at his death.

Hector Luis Camacho was born in Bayamon, P.R., near San Juan, on May 24, 1962. After his mother, Maria, separated from his father when Hector was 3 years old, they moved to Spanish Harlem. He started boxing at 11 and eventually won three New York City Golden Gloves titles, though after the first one he found himself in a cell at Rikers Island, serving three months for car theft.

At 15, after being thrown out of a number of schools, he entered a Manhattan high school for troubled youths, where he came under the influence of a language teacher, Pat Flannery, who taught him to read and became a father figure, guiding him to the Golden Gloves. Flannery is credited with giving Camacho his nickname.

Camacho won his first professional fight in 1980, and he earned his first title, the World Boxing Council super featherweight crown, by knocking out Rafael Limón in August 1983. His last fight, at 161 pounds, was in 2010 in Kissimmee, Fla.; he won. His professional record was 79-6-3, with 38 knockouts.

Camacho was married once and divorced. His survivors include his mother; his father, Hector; three sisters, Estrella, Esther and Raquel; a brother, Félix; four sons, Hector Jr., Taylor, Christian and Justin; and two grandsons. Hector Jr. is also a professional boxer.


Omaya Sosa Pascual contributed reporting from San Juan, P.R.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 24, 2012

A previous version of this article misstated

the number of Camacho’s surviving siblings. He has four, not five.

    Hector Camacho, 50, Boxer Who Lived Dangerously, Dies, NYT, 24.11.2012,






Promises on Gun Control


November 23, 2012
The New York Times


President Obama’s fleeting mention of the need for stronger gun controls at a presidential debate last month was hardly the kind of forceful political statement needed to address the scourge of gun violence in this country. Even his tepid remark was considered by the nation’s gun owners as a threat to take away their firearms. In what amounts to a buyers’ panic, they are again ramping up gun and ammunition sales as they did four years ago, convinced that Mr. Obama intends a gun-control crackdown.

Yet in his first term, Mr. Obama did nothing to cross the gun lobby, and he actually signed legislation allowing loaded firearms to be carried in national parks. Let’s hope Mr. Obama shows more courage on guns in his second term. He said during the debate that he would see “if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced” and that we need to look at “other sources of the violence,” like “cheap handguns.” Now it’s time to follow through on those promises.

Wary politicians, including Mr. Obama, will issue statements of mourning for the victims in mass shootings, which seem to happen ever more frequently. But they refuse to say much about 30,000 American lives that are lost each year because of shootings.

Horrific incidents like the massacre in July at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and murder of six others in Tucson last year produced vows in Congress to screen the mentally ill more effectively and to ban battlefield clips of 100 rounds of ammunition that have no place in a civilized country. But there have been more than 60 multiple shooting incidents since the Tucson shooting, and nothing has been done to make such killings less likely in the future.

Mr. Obama talked about starting “a broader conversation” about reducing gun violence. The best place to start is in Congress, which has been grossly negligent toward constituent safety for the past 20 years as it bows to the demands of the gun lobby.

The lobby’s defense of unregistered and untracked gun sales at black market flea markets and weekend gun shows is strongly opposed by Americans in opinion polls. In fact, four out of five gun owners see the wisdom of checking on anonymous sellers and buyers.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who was a principal in the 1994 enactment of a 10-year ban on civilian use of assault rifles, intends to propose its reinstatement. “Weapons of war do not belong on our streets, in our classrooms, in our schools or in our movie theaters,” she said after the Aurora killings. This bill affords President Obama an opportunity to follow through on his 2008 campaign promise to work to revive the ban.

Mr. Obama is free of the pressures of campaigning — and free to lead the nation toward sensible laws that can help reduce the flood of guns and related homicides.

The need for strong leadership on this issue is growing as statehouse politicians cave to ever more lethal demands from the gun lobby. State laws allowing students to go armed to class in Colorado, freeing owners in Oklahoma to wear holstered weapons in public, and letting people “stand your ground” in Florida and a score of other states have already damaged public safety immeasurably.

    Promises on Gun Control, NYT, 23.11.2012,






Suspect in Three Killings Faced Financial Troubles


November 22, 2012
The New York Times


On the day a traveling salesman described by the police as a serial killer was ordered held without bail on charges that he murdered three Brooklyn shopkeepers, more details of his life began to emerge.

The salesman, Salvatore Perrone, who turned 64 on Thursday, was an independent apparel salesman with visions of creating his own clothing line, a neighborhood curiosity in precarious financial straits and a divorced father with a history of drinking to excess before getting behind the wheel, according to people who knew him and public records.

Those who lived near his three-story home on Staten Island described Mr. Perrone as both overly combative and oddly exuberant, a man who might threaten to call the authorities over a minor dispute or could be seen in the middle of the street, singing.

His home’s disrepair hinted at the crumbling state of Mr. Perrone’s finances, neighbors said.

“It’s looked haunted and unlivable for about 20 years,” said Sharon Sullivan, a former neighbor. “The place had no windows where windows should be. Entrances that didn’t seem visible.”

Public records show that a formal notice of foreclosure was initiated on the property, which might mean Mr. Perrone had fallen behind on mortgage payments.

Mr. Perrone, who the police said had incriminated himself in 24 hours of questioning, was a native of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, who recently lived on and off at the Midwood apartment of a woman named Natasha.

Mr. Perrone would often stand outside the building smoking cigars, neighbors said. “He was in his own little bubble,” one neighbor, Ben Elchonen, said.

The apartment is where detectives found a duffel bag containing a .22-caliber rifle that ballistics tests matched to shells found where the shopkeepers were killed, the police said.

Mr. Perrone’s run-ins with the law over the years — arrests on charges of drunken driving on Staten Island and in New Jersey, and of theft and harassment in Pennsylvania, all roughly a decade ago — offered no hint of the enormity of the crimes he is now accused of.

“He seemed like a very personable guy,” said Francis J. Masciocchi, a Moorestown, N.J., lawyer who represented Mr. Perrone in the Pennsylvania case in 2001. “He was kind of like a middleman for a clothing supplier. In this particular case, the person involved was a former customer.”

Mr. Masciocchi said that he would get the occasional friendly holiday call in years past, but that more recently Mr. Perrone “just fell off the map.”

In 2007, Mr. Perrone registered a trademark for a line of clothes that would carry the label “Salvatore Pirrone.” It was not clear whether any items were manufactured or sold with that label.

Wearing a black sweatshirt and black pants, Mr. Perrone was arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn Criminal Court and was ordered held without bail.

He faces three counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder, a charge available to prosecutors when a defendant is accused of killing three people within two years. If convicted, he would face life in prison.

Ken Jones, a public defender appointed to represent Mr. Perrone for the arraignment, said later that Mr. Perrone denied that he had killed anyone or had made incriminating statements to the authorities.

Based on his conversations with his client, Mr. Jones said, “he does seem as though he could have some mental-health issues.”

The three killed were Mohamed Gebeli, 65, shot on July 6; Isaac Kadare, 59, found dead on Aug. 2; and Rahmatollah Vahidipour, 78, who was killed last Friday.

On Thursday, Mr. Vahidipour’s daughter Marjan Vahidipour, 38, said he would usually lead their holiday meal surrounded by his nine grandchildren. “Unfortunately, we are not celebrating this holiday,” she said.

“We are very thankful” for the arrest, she added. “And we are very angry.”

She said her family, who lives in Great Neck, on Long Island, did not recognize the salesman arrested on Wednesday and could not understand what appeared to be the absence of a motive. “Who would do this? And why? For no reason — that’s what’s killing me inside,” Ms. Vahidipour said.

Instead of sharing a Thanksgiving meal, the family gathered for a memorial service.


Jack Begg, Annie Correal and Alain Delaquérière contributed reporting.

    Suspect in Three Killings Faced Financial Troubles, NYT, 22.11.2012,






Man Held in Shootings That Terrorized Michigan Town


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


WIXOM, Mich. — He chose his targets with no discernible pattern, firing at Cadillacs, minivans and pickup trucks, at young drivers and older ones, at men on their way to work, fans heading for the ballpark and women picking up their children from school, his shooting attacks stretching through four counties along the Interstate 96 corridor.

On Tuesday, the biggest topic of discussion in this middle-class suburb northwest of Detroit was not the election results — the city split its presidential vote — but the announcement that the police had taken into custody a local man believed to be the Wixom highway gunman.

Raulie Wayne Casteel, 43, is expected to be arraigned on Friday before an Oakland County District Court judge on charges that include two counts of assault with intent to commit murder. He will participate from his jail cell in Livingston County, where he was arraigned on Wednesday in connection with a shooting there.

The police and prosecutors said they thought Mr. Casteel was responsible for 24 separate attacks, which wounded only one person, a man who was shot in the buttocks as he was driving to a World Series game. Mr. Casteel is likely to face additional state and federal charges, officials said.

The arrest ended three weeks of terror for residents of this city of about 14,000, who had been nervously eyeing every car they passed and taking side streets to avoid the highway and Wixom Road, where several vehicles were hit.

On days when the gunman was most active, the city’s schools kept students inside. The annual Halloween party at a community center went on as scheduled, but with a heavy police presence. Frightened mothers called the Police Department saying they were afraid to let their children go out for ice cream cones or play on the street, said the Wixom police chief, Clarence Goodlein, whose department led a multiagency task force formed to investigate the shootings.

The city, unaccustomed to serious crime — Wixom has had no homicides this year and “I can’t think of the last time we had a gunshot wound,” Chief Goodlein said — settled into the realization that it was as vulnerable as anywhere else to random and senseless violence.

“We were so scared,” said Delynn Harris, a waitress at Backyard Coney Island, a diner about a quarter of a mile from one of the shooting sites. “We didn’t know where he was or what was going to happen next.”

Like other restaurants here, the diner lost business because customers were afraid to venture out, another economic blow for a struggling city where jobs are scarce and foreclosures frequent. The Ford assembly plant on Wixom Road — the site of the city’s last high-profile crime, an attack by a gunman that left one dead and three wounded in November 1996 — closed down five years ago.

Chief Goodlein said that initially, the nature of the attacks was uncertain, but it gradually became clear that they were dealing with something far more serious than a juvenile prank.

At about 7:05 p.m. on Oct. 16, a man stepped out of his house on Hopkins Drive to put out the trash and felt bullets speeding by his head. About 10 minutes later, an employee at a dance studio on Wixom Road, just around the corner, reported hearing a volley of gunfire. In the next few minutes, four cars driving in the northbound lane were hit in rapid succession.

The next day brought another shooting, in Commerce Township. The day after that Aaron Mason, the owner of a tool company, was driving his Ford Edge north on Wixom Road to visit a customer about 2:15 when he heard a loud bang.

“I thought it was actually a rock hit my windshield or my tire blew out of something; so I pulled over,” Mr. Mason said. He found a bullet lodged in the driver’s seat.

By 6:30 that night, reports were coming in of similar attacks on Interstate 96 and in other counties.

“We started putting it together and counting the number of incidents, and the hair on everybody’s neck started to stand up,” Chief Goodlein said.

Still, the investigative task force, which eventually grew to more than 100 members from local law enforcement agencies, the F.B.I., the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Michigan State Police, had little to go on except bullets and bullet fragments, a shell casing and sketchy descriptions by witnesses of a dark-colored car that whizzed by, its driver firing out the window.

Rewards were offered. Tip lines were set up. Technology helped — bullets collected after different shootings, forensic analysis indicated, had been fired by the same gun, a 9-millimeter pistol.

But in the end, Chief Goodlein said, it came down to old-fashioned legwork. Investigators came in early and worked late, going through frame after frame of surveillance tapes from businesses along the gunman’s routes, sifting through more than 2,800 tips from callers and narrowing down lists of thousands of cars to find the one that mattered.

On Monday night, Mr. Casteel was arrested at a brick two-story house on a quiet cul-de-sac, where he had moved in with relatives some months ago, bringing his wife and young daughter.

“He was very nice, very personable, just very much about his daughter and doing things with her,” said a neighbor, James Parr.

The police seized several guns at the house and Mr. Casteel’s car, a dark gray Chevy Malibu.

A person familiar with the investigation said a tip about the shooter’s license plate — it had a Michigan State alumni frame and a green “S” on the left-hand side — helped lead investigators to Mr. Casteel.

But his motive remains elusive. Mr. Casteel has been silent about the shootings, the police said.

In posts on Twitter, Mr. Casteel railed against President Obama, his health law and political corruption in the courts. In a cover letter on LinkedIn, which said he graduated from Michigan State with a degree in geoscience, he wrote of the “down economic environment.” A public defender at the arraignment in Livingston County said that family members had spoken of mental health problems.

In Wixom, people were just happy that it was over.

The shootings, said Deacon Bob Dreyer, who lives with his wife near the site of the first attack, put Wixom on the map.

“But it will drop off the map again now that the guy got caught,” he said.

    Man Held in Shootings That Terrorized Michigan Town, NYT, 8.11.2012,






Gunman in Giffords Shooting Sentenced to 7 Life Terms


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


TUCSON — Jared L. Loughner was sentenced Thursday to seven consecutive terms of life in prison at a court hearing punctuated by raw emotion as former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark E. Kelly, for the first time confronted the man who shot her in the head during a rampage last year that left 6 dead and 12 others wounded.

Ms. Giffords, her right arm in a sling, stared at Mr. Loughner as Mr. Kelly delivered his defiant remarks before a packed courtroom, from a dais a few feet from the defendant’s chair.

“By making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life, to diminish potential, to strain love and to cancel ideas,” Mr. Kelly said. “You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own. But remember it always: You failed.”

Mr. Loughner’s punishment — in addition to the life terms, he was sentenced to 140 years in prison — came as no surprise. It was a condition of the guilty plea he entered on Aug. 7, admitting to the shootings and bringing to an end a case that had prompted much soul-searching about mental health treatment and the country’s gun laws.

From the bench in Federal District Court, Judge Larry A. Burns said he was not going to make “political statements,” that he was just “a single federal judge” who had “no intention to change the law.” Still, he questioned the wisdom of allowing the unrestricted sale of high-capacity magazines, like the one Mr. Loughner used to carry out his crimes.

“I don’t understand the social utility of allowing citizens to have magazines with 30 bullets in them,” Judge Burns said.

For Mr. Kelly, though, who has been Ms. Giffords’s unrelenting companion and her voice as she has struggled to articulate her words since the shooting, the politics of gun control is the “elephant in the room.” He denounced politicians who are “afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws,” singling out Gov. Jan Brewer, whom he called “feckless,” and the Legislature, which “thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy.”

Mr. Kelly went on, “After Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson and after Aurora,” the Colorado suburb where a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 in a movie theater in July, “we have done nothing.”

A spokesman for the governor said in a statement that “on this solemn occasion,” Ms. Brewer “isn’t interested in engaging in politics.”

Ms. Giffords did not say anything, only stroking her husband’s back when they slowly made their way back to their seats.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Mr. Loughner, now 24, arrived at a constituents meeting hosted by Ms. Giffords, then a member of the House of Representatives, in a shopping center parking lot. He had a loaded Glock 9-millimeter pistol and carried 60 extra rounds of ammunition. In less than 30 seconds, he fired 31 shots.

Onlookers tackled and restrained him when he paused to reload. One of them was Pamela Simon, an aide and close friend of Ms. Giffords’s who was shot by Mr. Loughner and was one of seven victims to speak in court.

Ms. Simon, who taught at the middle school Mr. Loughner had attended, said she remembered him as “a kid who loved music.” On Thursday, she told him, “You remind us that too often we either do not notice the signs of mental illness, or we just choose to look away.”

Mavy Stoddard, whom Mr. Loughner shot three times, told him she cradled her wounded husband, Dorwan, in her arms and whispered, “Breathe deeply, honey.”

Ten minutes later, he was dead.

Mr. Loughner stared at each of them, virtually motionless. He slurred his only words, “That’s right,” which he spoke after the judge asked if he had indeed waived his right to address the court.

He had been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but was deemed competent to agree to the plea deal, which makes him ineligible for parole or to appeal. He has been held at a federal hospital in Missouri for more than a year, undergoing psychiatric evaluations and treatment. On Thursday, Judge Burns said he should stay “in a place where he can get continual medical treatment.”

His mother, Amy Loughner, sniffled loudly at times, convulsing as people described the horror her son had unleashed. His father, Randy, was also there. Representative Ron Barber, a close aide of Ms. Giffords’s at the time of the shooting who was struck by a bullet in the leg, told them, “Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you.”

To Mr. Loughner, he said, “You must pay the price.”


Timothy Williams contributed reporting from New York.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 8, 2012

An earlier version of this article and headline misstated the number of life sentences

received by Jared L. Loughner. It is seven, not six.

The article also misspelled the given name of a woman shot by Mr. Loughner.

It is Mavy Stoddard, not Mary.

    Gunman in Giffords Shooting Sentenced to 7 Life Terms, NYT, 8.11.2012,






3 Dead After Killing Spree at California Meat Plant


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — With the noise of a Fresno, Calif., meat processing plant drowning out the gunshots, a former convict carried out a chilling and methodical killing spree on Tuesday, the authorities said, leaving two people dead and two more wounded before taking his own life.

Lawrence Jones, 42, was halfway through his shift at Valley Protein just after 8 a.m. Tuesday when he pulled out a handgun and began shooting co-workers in the head execution style, said the Fresno police chief, Jerry Dyer.

Because it was so loud in the plant and many employees wore earplugs, the police believe that Mr. Jones fired several shots before any of the dozens of other employees in the room realized what was going on in their midst.

Though police had not identified a motive on Tuesday, Mr. Dyer said it appeared that Mr. Jones had not fired randomly.

“It appears, based on his actions, that he was selective in terms of who he was shooting because there were other employees present that he could have shot but chose not to,” Chief Dyer said.

The first victim, Mr. Dyer said, was likely Salvador Diaz, 32, whom Mr. Jones walked up to and shot in the head with a single round. Mr. Diaz was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr. Jones next moved to Manuel Verdin, whom he also shot in the head with a single bullet, then put a gun to the neck of a third co-worker, Arnulfo Conrriquez, and shot him as well, Mr. Dyer said.

Another employee, Fatima Lopez, saw Mr. Jones firing, and when she turned to run, Mr. Jones shot her in the buttocks, the police said. He then walked up to another co-worker, put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, the gun was empty.

At that point, Mr. Dyer said, Mr. Jones reloaded the gun, walked outside and shot himself in the head about 150 yards from the plant.

Mr. Verdin, 34, and Mr. Jones were taken to a hospital, where both were pronounced dead. Mr. Conrriquez, 28, remained in the hospital in critical condition Tuesday afternoon; Ms. Lopez, 32, was expected to recover.

What the authorities do know is that Mr. Jones had a criminal history that stretched back at least to 1991, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery and burglary, according to the police.

The police said the serial number of the gun used in the shooting had been filed off. They also said they had found, in Mr. Jones’s house, 45 more rounds of ammunition that fit the gun.

An autopsy of Mr. Jones, scheduled for Wednesday morning, could shed light on his mental state at the time of the killings, said the Fresno County coroner, Dr. David Hadden.

“What will be very important in a case like this is the toxicology report,” Dr. Hadden said.

    3 Dead After Killing Spree at California Meat Plant, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Now 12, California Boy Comes to Trial

in Killing of Neo-Nazi Father


October 28, 2012
The New York Times


RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Both the prosecution and the defense involved in a trial set to start here on Monday basically agree on the following: Before dawn on May 1, 2011, 10-year-old Joseph Hall went to his family’s living room armed with a snub-nosed revolver, pointed it at his father’s head as he lay sleeping on the couch, and shot and killed him.

From there, the two sides are likely to differ on both the events that preceded the shooting and Joseph’s exact motive, elements complicated by his age and the fact that his father, Jeff Hall, was a rabid neo-Nazi. And those facts raise several more philosophical quandaries that, depending on how the judge weighs the answers, may determine the outcome of the trial. Among them: whether virulent racism can amount to parental abuse, whether a child exposed to such hate can understand the difference between right and wrong, and whether someone who grows up in such toxic circumstances can be blamed for wanting a way out.

The prosecutor, Michael Soccio, says that the actions of Joseph Hall have little to do with Nazism, but rather with his anger at being punished and spanked by his father at a party the day before the killing and the boy’s worries that his father would leave his family. Though he says he sympathizes with Joseph and his upbringing — “There’s a sweet side to him,” Mr. Soccio said in an interview this month — he also has little doubt that the boy is a killer.

“What he did, had it been done by anybody older, there would be no doubt that it was a murder,” said Mr. Soccio, the chief deputy district attorney in Riverside County. “It’s planned. It’s premeditated. It was carried out in a cold, killing fashion. It is a murder.”

But Joseph’s public defender, Matthew J. Hardy, says his client has neurological and psychological problems, compounded by exposure to neo-Nazi “conditioning” and physical abuse in the home.

“He’s been conditioned to violence,” Mr. Hardy said, adding, “You have to ask yourself: Did this kid really know that this act was wrong based on all those things?”

Instead, Mr. Hardy said, Joseph thought he was being a hero by shooting his father. “He thought what he was doing was right,” said Mr. Hardy. “And while that may be hard for other people to understand, in his mind, in a child’s mind, if he thought it was right, or at least didn’t think it was wrong, then he cannot be held responsible.”

Whether that holds true is up to Judge Jean Leonard of Riverside County Superior Court, who will oversee the murder trial without a jury. What is certain, however, is that if found responsible for the killing and made a ward of the state, Joseph, who is now 12, would be the youngest person held in one of the three fenced-in facilities run by California’s Department of Juvenile Justice, which houses about 900 of some of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders. The median age of these offenders held by the state is 19, and, if found reasonable for the murder, Joseph would likely be held until he was 23.

Joseph Hall’s case is also unusual because such acts of violence by children are exceedingly rare. Kathleen M. Heide, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, conducted a study and found only 16 arrests of a child under the age of 11 in the killing a parent between 1976 and 2007, roughly one every two years.

Trials in such murders are even rarer, said Robert Weisberg, a co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, saying he could not recall seeing anyone that young on trial for such a crime in California.

Children as young as 10, or younger, who are accused of murder present special challenges to courts, said Dr. Heide, because of the longstanding legal belief that children are incapable of formulating the intent to commit the crime and do not understand the magnitude of its consequences. Children that young often do not grasp “that death means forever gone,” she said.

California’s penal code also says that children under 14 cannot be charged with a crime without clear proof that “they knew its wrongfulness.”

But Mr. Soccio said that Joseph had a history of violence, including an attack that involved wrapping a telephone cord around a teacher’s neck, and needed to be in a security setting “receiving as much help as possible for as long as possible.”

“I’ve had some people say, ‘How can you do that to a little kid?’ ” said Mr. Soccio. “And I ask them, ‘Well, would you like him to come live with you?’ ”

Whatever strategy the lawyers use, life inside the Hall household will most likely come up in the trial, and Joseph may take the stand, Mr. Soccio said. The court could also see testimony from members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement, of which Mr. Hall was a West Coast leader.

The day before the killing, Mr. Hall, 32, held a meeting for his members at his suburban Riverside home, where a Nazi flag was hung in the living room. A New York Times reporter, reporting an article about the National Socialist Movement, was also at that meeting, where the group discussed plans for armed patrols on the Mexican border.

At the meeting’s start, Mr. Hall, an unemployed plumber who had bragged in the past about teaching his son to shoot a weapon, scolded one of his children for interrupting him — “Get outside or go upstairs and play!” — before telling the group about Joseph’s breaking a set of cabinets in the house.

“It was like the twin towers, 9/11, one stack came down, the other stack,” he said.

During the meeting, Joseph listened quietly at a table, and later sat with his stepmother, Krista McCary, as she fed a newborn. Mr. Hall had five children, including two from a previous marriage — he was awarded custody of Joseph, the oldest of the five children, and his younger sister after a legal battle with his ex-wife.

The custody battle included allegations of abuse on both sides. Mr. Soccio said that Mr. Hall had occasionally gone “over the top” with physical punishments of Joseph, including kicks to the buttocks. But, he said, “nothing near criminal or even prohibited.” Some friends, he said, said “he was a good parent.”

But there is also the question of whether Mr. Hall’s rhetoric, which included “sieg heils,” and neo-Nazi get-togethers in the home amounted to psychological abuse. Mr. Hardy said Joseph had endured episodes of domestic violence and child abuse “as well as the atmosphere that’s created by the neo-Nazi activities.”

After the meeting, where, Mr. Soccio said, Joseph was spanked for misbehaving, Mr. Hall went out. Mr. Soccio said Joseph might have told a sibling that night that he planned to shoot his father, and Mr. Hardy said another member of the family might have encouraged it.

Just after 4 a.m., the Riverside police received a 911 from Ms. McCary, reporting that her husband had been shot. Paramedics declared him dead when they arrived. A police report said officers had found a .357 Magnum revolver under Joseph’s bed, and an empty holster on a lower shelf in his parents’ closet.

In August 2011, Ms. McCary pleaded guilty to child endangerment and criminal storage of a firearm. She and her three biological children now live with Mr. Hall’s mother, Mr. Soccio said. Neither woman could be reached for comment.

Joseph is living at a juvenile hall in Riverside, going to school on the grounds of the facility, and is eligible for family visits on weekends and counseling.

And although “tiny” when he arrived in custody, the boy has grown taller and heavier, and would continue to present “a custodial problem wherever he is,” Mr. Soccio said. “He’s going to be a big man.”

Mr. Soccio said that Joseph worried that his father was cheating on his stepmother and that “his family might be falling apart.” But Mr. Soccio said he remained skeptical that Mr. Hall’s Nazism had much to do with the murder. Rather, he thinks back to something he said the boy had told investigators in the hours after the killing.

“Joseph said at one point,” Mr. Soccio recalled, “ ‘This father and son thing had to come to an end.’ ”

    Now 12, California Boy Comes to Trial in Killing of Neo-Nazi Father, NYT, 28.10.2012,






Shot After Interrupting a Robbery in the Bronx,

an Off-Duty Officer Kills a Suspect


October 24, 2012
The New York Times


An off-duty New York City police officer was shot in the chest on Wednesday evening after interrupting a robbery on a Bronx street, but he continued to pursue three fleeing suspects, fatally shooting one of them, the authorities said.

The encounter occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Bronx Community College, witnesses said.

The officer, identified as Ivan Marcano, 27, lives in the area and was driving with his girlfriend when they noticed two men who appeared to be robbing another man in front of 1898 Harrison Avenue, the police said.

Officer Marcano stepped out of his car and displayed his badge and gun, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference. One of the suspects opened fire, hitting the officer in the chest, Mr. Kelly said. Officer Marcano was in stable condition at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center late Wednesday.

After the officer was hit, the two suspects fled with a third man in a white Mustang, and Officer Marcano returned to his car, intending to go to the hospital with his girlfriend behind the wheel, Mr. Kelly said.

But within a block, the officer and the suspects crossed paths again. In their effort to escape, the suspects had crashed into a livery cab and tried to run away. After seeing the suspects again, Officer Marcano got out of his car and drew his gun, the police said.

“Holding his left hand over his wound, with his gun in his right hand, Officer Marcano moved to the middle of the street, took cover behind a livery cab, yelled to passers-by to get down and fired,” Mr. Kelly said. “He moved a second time, still holding his hand over his wound, to the west side of Harrison Avenue, where he took cover behind a parked car and fired another round at the suspects.”

It was unclear whether the suspects returned fire. Officer Marcano shot one in the head, killing him, the police said. The other two suspects split up and ran off. Officer Marcano chased one of them, but he got away. Both remained at large late Wednesday.

Officer Marcano, who began his career as a transit officer in 2007, happened upon an ambulance parked in the area and was taken to the hospital, Mr. Kelly said. The officer had a bullet lodged in his chest, the police said. The round had grazed his left arm, entered the left side of his chest, narrowly missing his heart, exited and re-entered his right side, where it ricocheted, fractured one of his ribs and lodged in the right side of his chest, the police said.

A .380-caliber semiautomatic weapon was recovered at the scene, the authorities said.

Dozens of police officers, some wearing riot gear, converged on the area Wednesday night, blocking off streets as they searched for the two suspects. Some residents complained that they could not get home to their children. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who visited Officer Marcano in the hospital, said 12 New York police officers had been shot so far this year.

“Police Officer Marcano was protecting our city and putting his life on the line, even when he was off duty,” Mr. Bloomberg said.


Wendy Ruderman and Stacey Stowe contributed reporting.

    Shot After Interrupting a Robbery in the Bronx, an Off-Duty Officer Kills a Suspect, NYT, 24.10.2012,






Unarmed and Gunned Down by Homeowner in His ‘Castle’


October 23, 2012
The New York Times


KALISPELL, Mont. — The last mistake Dan Fredenberg made was getting killed in another man’s garage.

It was Sept. 22, and Mr. Fredenberg, 40, was upset. He strode up the driveway of a quiet subdivision here to confront Brice Harper, a 24-year-old romantically involved with Mr. Fredenberg’s young wife. But as he walked through Mr. Harper’s open garage door, Mr. Fredenberg was doing more than stepping uninvited onto someone else’s property. He was unwittingly walking onto a legal landscape reshaped by laws that have given homeowners new leeway to use force inside their own homes.

Proponents say the laws strengthen people’s right to defend their homes. To others, they are a license to kill.

That night, in a doorway at the back of his garage, Mr. Harper aimed a gun at the unarmed Mr. Fredenberg, fired and struck him three times. Mr. Fredenberg crumpled to the garage floor, a few feet from Mr. Harper. He was dead before morning.

Had Mr. Fredenberg been shot on the street or sidewalk, the legal outcome might have been different. But on Oct. 9, the Flathead County attorney decided not to prosecute, saying that Montana’s “castle doctrine” law, which maintains that a man’s home is his castle, protected Mr. Harper’s rights to vigorously defend himself there. The county attorney determined that Mr. Harper had the right to fetch his gun from his bedroom, confront Mr. Fredenberg in the garage and, fearing for his safety, shoot him.

“Given his reasonable belief that he was about to be assaulted, Brice’s use of deadly force against Dan was justified” under current Montana law, Ed Corrigan, the county attorney, wrote in a four-page letter explaining his decision to the Kalispell police.

The shooting raises similar questions about armed citizens and their right to self-defense to those raised after the February shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida, with the critical difference that Mr. Martin was shot outside.

In Montana, it has focused new scrutiny on whether the castle doctrine measure, implemented in 2009, has given homeowners the authority to defend themselves against real threats or has provided a way to kill without consequences.

“The community has not been well-served by either the law or the legal process in this case,” the local newspaper, The Daily Inter-Lake, wrote in a recent editorial.

In 2009, Montana joined more than 20 other states in passing broad self-defense measures backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups. Under the law, a person can brandish a gun to ward off a threat. An individual does not have to flee or call the police before engaging in self-defense.

For criminal trials in which a defendant claims self-defense, the legislation flips the burden of proof, putting the onus on prosecutors to discredit those claims.

“It changed things here in Montana,” said Leo Gallagher, president of the Montana County Attorneys Association, which joined associations of sheriffs and police chiefs to oppose the law. “For any sort of personal affront, you’re permitted to threaten the person with a gun.”

To Mr. Fredenberg’s family, the county attorney’s decision not to press charges hit like a fourth bullet. They acknowledged that Mr. Fredenberg, a hot-rod lover who painted, fixed and restored cars, had made his share of bad decisions in life. He often drank too much — his blood alcohol level was 0.08 percent on the night he died. He had a turbulent love life. He struggled financially.

But they said Mr. Fredenberg was also big-hearted, a doting father to his four children and a practical jokester — “40 years old going on 25,” his father put it. They said he was not violent and had done nothing that night to deserve being killed.

“It’s tearing me up,” said his father, Ron Fredenberg, a retired police officer and detective in Kalispell. “Dan was totally unarmed.”

Mr. Fredenberg’s long path to that slate-blue duplex at Empire Loop began about two years earlier, when he started dating a young barista named Heather King. After finding out she was pregnant with twins, the two eloped to Las Vegas, where they started what was by all accounts a rocky marriage.

Heather Fredenberg, 22, said she and Dan were passionate about each other, but also bickered about child care, bills, fixing the car and other stresses amplified by having two infants and not enough time or money. The county attorney’s report said they were “mutually abusive with each other, both verbally and physically.” More than once they considered divorcing.

About three months before the shooting, Ms. Fredenberg started seeing Mr. Harper. She has called it a flirtation and an “emotional affair” that was intimate but never sexual. She told her husband about the relationship, and the two men once clashed at Fatt Boys Bar & Grille in Kalispell.

Although Ms. Fredenberg said she and her husband were committed to each other despite everything, Mr. Fredenberg’s father said his son believed the marriage was breaking apart. The day before he died, he told his father, “I’m giving up on it. I just can’t put up with it anymore,” his father said.

On Sept. 22, Mr. Harper called Ms. Fredenberg and asked a favor: He was moving out of town the next day, and could she come over and help him clean the house? She took her 18-month-old twin boys and spent the afternoon at his home, a five-minute drive from hers. She swapped tense text messages with Mr. Fredenberg and talked on the phone around 8:30 p.m. He asked whether she was with Mr. Harper. She said she did not answer. He cursed and hung up.

As she was strapping her sons into their car seats and getting ready to leave, she said, she asked Mr. Harper to circle the block with her to diagnose a clunking sound in her car. As they drove, she saw headlights in her rearview mirror. Her husband had come looking for her, and he was behind them.

Ms. Fredenberg said she dropped Mr. Harper off at his house and told him to go inside and lock the doors. She said he told her that he had a gun and was not afraid of her husband. Mr. Fredenberg, close behind, parked his car and followed Mr. Harper into his garage, its light spilling onto the driveway.

Under Montana’s old law, homeowners could protect themselves with deadly force only if someone breached their house in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.” The changes erased those provisions, giving people license to use lethal force if they “reasonably believe” they are about to be assaulted.

“You don’t have to claim that you were afraid for your life,” Mr. Corrigan, the county attorney, said. “You just have to claim that he was in the house illegally. If you think someone’s going to punch you in the nose or engage you in a fistfight, that’s sufficient grounds to engage in lethal force.”

It was immaterial that Mr. Fredenberg was unarmed. What mattered was what Mr. Harper — who declined to comment through his lawyer — later told investigators: that Mr. Fredenberg was charging toward him, angry, “like he was on a mission,” and that Mr. Harper was scared for his life.

In an interview, Ms. Fredenberg said that she sat in her car and watched the shooting, and that her husband was standing still when he was shot. She ran to him, screaming. His last words, she said, were a simple plea: “Call 911.”

Neither the police nor the county attorney conducted a rigorous investigation, she said, leaving her husband without an official advocate.

“There is no justice,” she said.

    Unarmed and Gunned Down by Homeowner in His ‘Castle’, NYT, 23.10.2012,






Three Killed in Shooting at Spa in Wisconsin


October 21, 2012
The New York Times


BROOKFIELD, Wis. — A gunman opened fire inside a day spa in this Milwaukee suburb on Sunday morning, killing three women, forcing others — some bloodied and still in bathrobes — to flee into nearby streets, and sending the authorities on a tense hunt that was slowed by fears of explosives and ended hours later with the discovery of the gunman’s body.

In addition to the three people killed in the shooting at the Azana Salon and Spa, a long-established shop in a busy suburban commercial district near a mall, four women were injured in the shooting, the authorities said. None of the victims had been publicly named as of Sunday evening as the authorities sought to positively identify them and to notify family

The gunman, whom the police identified as Radcliffe F. Haughton, 45, a resident of Brown Deer, also died inside the spa, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the police said. The shootings appeared to stem from a domestic dispute, painfully documented in weeks of police reports and court orders, between Mr. Haughton and his estranged wife, who witnesses said was employed at the salon.

“Today’s action was a senseless act on the part of one person,” Mayor Steven V. Ponto of Brookfield said somberly late Sunday. He quickly added, “Try as we might, these can’t be avoided.”

Residents largely view the Milwaukee suburbs as safe and relatively removed from the worries of urban life. “This doesn’t happen in Brookfield,” said Christine Carpenter, 24, who works at a drugstore not far from the spa and on Sunday evening was still trying to grasp what had happened. “You think good neighborhood, good schools — this stuff doesn’t happen to us.”

In fact, however, in recent years in the Milwaukee suburbs, there have been other such attacks, including a shooting less than three months ago in which a self-proclaimed white supremacist named Wade M. Page opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. In 2005, here in Brookfield, less than a mile away from the day spa, a gunman killed seven people, including two teenage boys, at an evangelical church meeting, and later killed himself.

The shooting, the authorities said, began shortly after 11 a.m. Central time, sending staff members and barefoot clients fleeing into parking lots and businesses. Witnesses described a panicked scene of bloodied women and confused passers-by who, at least initially, could not understand what had occurred, even as at least one person was seen crying, according to witnesses, and screaming out to passing cars.

“Everybody was keeping calm, but we were all confused about what was going on,” said Joe Brent, 27, of Minneapolis who said he had been in a McDonald’s next door to the spa when he heard a gunshot. Almost immediately, said Mr. Brent, who was in town for a job interview, a police officer entered the restaurant and ordered everyone out.

As he was leaving the McDonald’s, he said, he saw a woman in her 20s leaving the salon, holding a paper towel to her bleeding neck as a police officer escorted her to an ambulance.

“It was pretty bad,” Mr. Brent said. “I was surprised that she was able to walk.”

He said he then saw officers carry two more women from the salon and put them on stretchers, he said.

Four women — between 22 and 40 years old — were treated for gunshot wounds at Froedtert Hospital, officials at the hospital said. Several had undergone surgery or were expected to soon, the officials said.

As the authorities carried victims away, Police Chief Daniel K. Tushaus said, they faced another problem: they were uncertain where the gunman was, and came upon something that initially appeared to be an improvised explosive device inside the spa — presumably left by the gunman.

The possibility that the gunman might still be loose set off new chaos, leading the authorities at the hospital where victims were being treated to put the entire facility on lockdown, preventing routine visitors from even entering the building. For hours, highway exits near the spa were closed down, some stores in the nearby mall were shut, and police officers from around the region all but filled the area.

In another Milwaukee suburb, Brown Deer, where Mr. Haughton lived, the police cordoned off a section of his neighborhood, sending residents from their homes, and checked his home with bomb-detection equipment. Neighbors said they had watched the police use a battering ram to burst through the front door and garage of his home, after shouting instructions for him to emerge. No explosives were found.

The events left many in the community reeling. “We don’t even lock our doors around here,” said Daniel Montenero, a neighbor of Mr. Haughton. “There is no crime here. I walk my 2-year-old grandson past that house twice a day.”

Steven C. Rinzel, the police chief in Brown Deer, said the authorities had handled domestic disturbances at the home before. And police and court records showed a series of escalating troubles in recent days. On Oct. 4, the Brookfield police said they had responded to a report that Mr. Haughton had slashed the tires of his wife, who they were not identifying. Four days later, records show, she sought a temporary restraining order against him. As recently as last week, the records showed, he had been ordered to stay away for four years, and prohibited from possessing firearms.

When the authorities first entered the spa, they came upon smoke, the result of a small fire that Chief Tushaus said was believed to have been set by the gunman. A sprinkler system was going off, and nearby was evidence of a propane tank, at least initially suggesting that an explosion was intended.

By late Sunday, the circumstances seemed less certain, but for hours during the afternoon, the authorities raced to find Mr. Haughton, issuing his image to news outlets and asking the public to look for the car he owned.

“We were expecting an armed encounter if we did come across him,” Chief Tushaus said.

It was late in the day, more than five hours after the shooting, when police officers found his body inside the spa, a large, two-story facility with numerous rooms.



Steven Yaccino reported from Brookfield, Wis., and Monica Davey from Chicago.

Michael Schwirtz and Marc Santora contributed reporting from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 21, 2012

An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to the suspect,

Radcliffe F. Haughton, as Mr. Radcliffe on second reference.

    Three Killed in Shooting at Spa in Wisconsin, NYT, 21.10.2012,






The Least Popular Subject


October 19, 2012
The New York Times


Let’s give a cheer for Nina Gonzalez, the woman who asked Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about gun control at the presidential debate.

People, have you noticed how regularly this topic fails to come up? We have been having this campaign since the dawn of the ice age. Why wasn’t there a gun control moment before now?

True, the candidates were asked about it after the horrific blood baths last summer in Colorado and Wisconsin. But there have been 43 American mass shootings in the last year. Wouldn’t you think that would qualify guns for a more regular mention?

“I felt very empowered,” said Gonzalez, a 57-year-old mental health practitioner from Long Island. We were talking on the phone a few days after the debate. She had been fielding calls from strangers who were eager to give her their opinion about guns, and she still couldn’t quite understand why the candidates were less enthusiastic. “What’s the problem?” she asked.

Democrats running for national office are terrified of the whole subject. Party lore has it that passing the assault weapons ban in 1994 cost them control of Congress and Al Gore’s election. (There is ample evidence that this isn’t true, but that’s what makes it lore.)

So President Obama, a vocal gun control supporter in his Chicago days, is now a gun control nonmentioner. And, when it comes to legislation in Congress, a nonhelper.

Republicans are usually eager to bring up gun control, the better to denounce it. But Mitt Romney has — surprise! — a complicated history of policy molt on the issue. He was once on the same page as Ted Kennedy, and then the page turned.

For purposes of running for president, Romney is against new gun laws. And he would rather not have any discussions that lead to a mention of his pre-molt state. Or the fact that he once unsuccessfully attempted to woo rural voters by recounting his skill as a hunter of “small varmints.”

Into all this stepped Gonzalez, who was haunted by the Colorado theater shooting in July that killed 12 people. The gunman carried a 100-bullet assault rifle. The ban on assault weapons, which allow you to fire as fast as you can keep pulling the trigger, expired in 2004. Congress has been afraid to renew it because, you know, there’s the lore.

“What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?” Gonzalez asked Obama.

“You know, we’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment,” Obama began. “And I believe in the Second Amendment. You know, we’ve got a long tradition of hunting. ...”

When in doubt, say something nice about hunters.

The president signaled that he favors renewing the ban by saying that weapons designed for soldiers at war “do not belong on our streets.” Then he swerved away to the importance of better law enforcement, good schools and faith groups that work with inner-city children.

That was pretty much it for the guns, except that Obama did call for getting “automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.” Actually, automatic weapons, like machine guns, are already heavily regulated. Although, in a different world, we would be discussing why they’re in the country at all.

Mitt Romney wasted only 42 words on assault weapons before veering off into the importance of good schools. When it comes to gun control, both presidential candidates are strongly in favor of quality education.

Romney followed up with a long disquisition on the virtues of two-parent families. (“But, gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea. ...”)

It was about here that he lost Nina Gonzalez. “Single mothers have enough problems. Leave them alone,” she said. “Why are we even talking about that? That’s not the issue.”

Romney then lurched into an attack on “Fast and Furious,” a much-criticized Justice Department program involving Mexican drug lords. The moderator, Candy Crowley, was forced to round him up and send him back toward the United States. Crowley noted that Romney had signed a ban on assault weapons when he was governor of Massachusetts. “Why is it that you’ve changed your mind?” she asked.

This was an excellent question, and Romney’s answer was basically that in Massachusetts nobody was against it. I think that, by now, we have plenty of reassurance that whenever something universally popular comes up, Mitt Romney will be there with his signing pen.

The president then interrupted urgently for what turned out to be a comparison of his and Romney’s positions on hiring teachers.

Gonzalez still thought Obama did better. (She’s really irked about the single mothers.) But she says she’s maintaining her undecided status, just in case Romney comes up with a credible jobs-creation strategy in the next fewweeks.

    The Least Popular Subject, NYT, 19.10.2012,






The Issue That Goes Ignored


October 18, 2012
The New York Times


It took an ordinary citizen, Nina Gonzalez, to stand up at the presidential debate on Tuesday to raise what has been a phantom issue on the campaign trail: the lack of effective gun controls and any meaningful political discussion about this crisis. Every year, more than 30,000 people are shot and killed in this country.

Ms. Gonzalez politely asked President Obama whatever happened to his pledge four years ago to fight for renewal of the ban on assault weapons. That ban, which prohibits the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms for civilian use, was put in place in 1994 and expired in 2004. It was a pledge that Mr. Obama and his administration never made a priority despite the many horrific mass shootings during his term.

The current campaign is now focused on a handful of states where mention of gun control is considered politically toxic. At the debate, Mr. Obama said he wanted to get a “broader conversation” going on reducing violence, and “part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.” That kind of tepid talk will do nothing to push this crucial legislation through Congress.

Mitt Romney was far worse. As the recently anointed candidate of the National Rifle Association, he flatly opposes renewal of the assault weapons ban, even though as governor of Massachusetts he signed a statewide ban in 2004 after the federal 10-year ban lapsed. In the statehouse, Mr. Romney unequivocally denounced the military-style weapons as “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.” That was then. Now, on the national hustings, Mr. Romney says nothing of the sort, and he tries to portray the state ban as a law that was pro-sportsman, too.

Both candidates tried lamely to connect various family, school and social factors to the murders made easy by inadequate and nonexistent gun control laws. In truth, gun laws are being loosened, not strengthened, by state legislatures, often with bipartisan support. Among the worst measures are permits for carrying guns in colleges and other public places and the atrocious “stand your ground” laws that basically permit machismo fantasists to shoot to kill when they feel threatened.

Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney shows any interest in discussing this threat to public safety. The scourge includes 4.5 million firearms sold annually in the nation and more than one million people killed by guns in the past four decades. Research shows that among 23 populous, high-income nations, 80 percent of firearm deaths occurred in the United States, where citizens suffer homicide rates 6.9 times higher than in the other nations.

This nation needs sane and effective gun control policies, including the assault weapons ban, not political obfuscation. Whichever candidate wins, his term is certain to be marked by the shooting deaths of tens of thousands more Americans.

    The Issue That Goes Ignored, NYT, 18.10.2012,






Police Fatally Shoot an Unarmed Driver

on the Grand Central Parkway


October 4, 2012
The New York Times


A New York police detective shot and killed an unarmed man, whose hands, a witness said, were on the steering wheel of his Honda, after he had been pulled over early Thursday for cutting off two police trucks on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, the authorities said.

The shooting, which occurred at 5:15 a.m., was the latest in a series of episodes in which police officers fatally shot or wounded civilians. While the Police Department had explanations in the other instances, it could not immediately provide one for the shooting on Thursday.

The detective, Hassan Hamdy, 39, a 14-year veteran assigned to the Emergency Service Unit, fired one bullet through an open window of the car, which his squad had just pulled over with the help of a second police vehicle. The bullet struck the driver, Noel Polanco, 22, in the abdomen. He was declared dead less than an hour later at New York Hospital Queens.

Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, initially said there were reports of movement inside the car, although he did not elaborate. Mr. Browne said a small power drill was found on the floor on the driver’s side, but he later appeared to play down the importance of that information.

“We looked for a weapon, we didn’t find any; we found a drill,” he said in a news briefing at Police Headquarters. “I’m not saying it played a role. I’m just saying we looked for a weapon. We did not find a weapon. The only thing we found was that drill.”

A passenger in Mr. Polanco’s car, Diane Deferrari, said in a phone interview Thursday night that just before pulling the car over, officers appeared irate that Mr. Polanco had cut them off. She said that one of the officers — but not Detective Hamdy — stuck up his middle finger and was screaming obscenities from one of the moving police trucks.

“As soon as we stopped — they were rushing the car,” Ms. Deferrari said. “It was like an army.”

She said a group of officers swarmed the car, yelling for the three people in Mr. Polanco’s car to put their hands up. Mr. Polanco, whose hands were still on the steering wheel, had no time to comply, Ms. Deferrari said. At that instant, a shot rang out, and Mr. Polanco gasped for air, she said.

“I felt the powder in my face,” she said.

Officers then dragged Mr. Polanco from the car and onto the highway, where traffic was snarled, as early-morning commuters slowed to look, she said.

“This is all a case of road rage on behalf of the N.Y.P.D. — that’s all this is,” she said.

Mr. Browne said late Thursday that Ms. Deferrari’s assertions would “be investigated in the ongoing review of the shooting by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.”

The shooting followed a string of fatal police encounters. In August, the police shot and killed a 51-year-old man armed with a long kitchen knife in Times Square; the police said the man had lunged at them.

Also in August, two officers fatally shot an armed gunman who had just killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building. In that shooting, nine bystanders were injured by bullets or ricochet fragments.

Last month, an officer inadvertently shot and killed a Bronx bodega employee: he was fleeing armed robbers and collided with the officer, whose gun accidentally discharged. And last week, officers with the Emergency Service Unit killed a Harlem man in the doorway of his apartment; the police said they had unsuccessfully tried to subdue him and he had lunged at them with a knife.

Police union officials were perplexed by the shooting on the parkway.

“I see a spike in police shootings; I do,” said Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. “For the most part, they are all coming back as justified. This is the first one that’s up for question.”

Mr. Mullins said the reason for the shooting was unclear. He said the shooting, like any other, would be thoroughly investigated by the Police Department and the Queens district attorney.

“It’s tragic and unfortunate,” he said. “Things like this happen. It’s sad. It’s not supposed to happen.”

“I’ve never met a police officer who went to work to deliberately be involved in this type of incident,” he added. “My understanding of this officer is that he is highly thought of in the department.”

The episode began early Thursday at the Ice NYC in Astoria, Queens, where Mr. Polanco, who worked at a local Honda dealership, also worked part time, in the hookah part of the bar, where he filled and served tobacco waterpipes. He was also a member of the New York Army National Guard.

Mr. Polanco, who lived with his mother, arrived at the club around 3 a.m., the club’s manager, Moez Abouelnaga, said. “He came to pick up the bartender,” he said, referring to Ms. Deferrari; they lived in the same apartment building. “Anytime you need something, he would never say no.”

Brian Benstock, the general manager at Paragon Honda on Northern Boulevard, where Mr. Polanco worked, said: “He was a hard-working guy, an active-duty military guy — disciplined and polite. He did what he was supposed to do.”

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said the bartender, Ms. Deferrari, who wrapped up work sometime after 4 a.m., had served a Hennessy Cognac to Mr. Polanco and her friend, an off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, also at the bar. Officer Rodriguez was on restricted duty because she was arrested in June and accused of shoplifting.

Nelson De La Rosa, a party planner at the club, said Mr. Polanco was not drunk. “He had a beer and a hookah,” he said. “I was sitting next to him since he got there.”

After leaving the club around 5 a.m., the police said, Mr. Polanco, Ms. Deferrari and Officer Rodriguez got into his car and he drove onto the parkway.

Less than 15 minutes later, the police said, the black Honda that Mr. Polanco was driving crossed from the right lane into the middle lane and squeezed between the two police trucks, which were from the Emergency Service Unit. The officers in the trucks had just executed a search warrant in the Bronx and were on their way to Brooklyn to execute another warrant, the police said.

The Honda, which the police said was speeding, then shifted to the left lane and began to tailgate a car, the police said. Mr. Polanco then swung back between the two police vehicles, and the officers in them turned on their sirens, Mr. Browne said.

The police trucks sandwiched the car, forcing it to slow down and stop, the police said.

Just before Mr. Polanco stopped the car, Ms. Deferrari was arguing with him, urging him to slow down, Mr. Browne said.

“She was frightened by his driving,” Mr. Browne said.

At the stop, along a median of the busy parkway, two officers approached the car, a sergeant at the driver’s side and the detective at the passenger side, where the window was open, the police said. Ms. Deferrari, who was seated there, later told the police that she had heard the officers tell those inside the car to show their hands.

Officer Rodriguez was asleep in the back seat when the gun went off, the police said. The blast woke her, and she identified herself as an officer, the police said.

Mr. Browne said Ms. Deferrari told investigators that when the officers ordered her to put her hands up, she complied, but Mr. Polanco, when last she looked, had his hands on the steering wheel.

“What she said was that she complied with the officer’s directions to raise their hands,” Mr. Browne said. “She said the last time she looked at the driver, his hands were still on the wheel.”

At that point, Detective Hamdy fired a single shot through the open passenger window, striking Mr. Polanco. Mr. Browne said he did not know exactly where the sergeant, approaching the driver’s side, was standing when the shot was fired. Mr. Browne said that what prompted the shooting was unknown, as investigators had not yet interviewed Detective Hamdy.

For legal reasons, to protect officers from self-incrimination, investigators cannot immediately interview officers directly involved in a police shooting.

Detective Hamdy, who joined the force in 1998, had never fired his gun on duty before, the police said. He had worked his way up to the elite Emergency Service Unit, where he had been recently assigned to a team of highly trained officers who specialize in apprehending violent felony suspects.

Late Thursday night, friends and co-workers of Mr. Polanco gathered outside Ice NYC, where people signed photos of Mr. Polanco that were taped to a lamppost. Friends brought flowers, and a cardboard box filled with candles rested outside, along with a hookah that some took turns puffing from.


Alain Delaquérière and Alex Vadukul contributed reporting.

    Police Fatally Shoot an Unarmed Driver on the Grand Central Parkway, NYT, 4.10.2012,






That Loaded Gun in My Carry-On? Oh, I Forgot


September 28, 2012
The New York Times


The list of potentially lethal weapons was certainly eye-opening: 47 guns (38 of them loaded, including six with rounds in their chambers), three inert hand grenades, supplies of black powder, hunting knives, timing fuses and a sword.

Then, consider that the list was compiled by the Transportation Security Administration, of weapons found in airline travelers’ carry-on bags in the seven days that ended on Sept. 20.

In fact, the T.S.A. says the number of guns found at airport security checkpoints has been steadily rising for the last couple of years. Through Friday, 1,105 guns have been found this year, a pace that is higher than last year’s. In 2011, the total was 1,320, up from 1,123 in 2010, the agency says.

Security experts attribute the increase to two factors: a rise in gun sales and the sharp growth of so-called right-to-carry laws across the country that significantly relax regulations on carrying guns in many areas of public life, from colleges to hospitals.

Invariably, according to the T.S.A., travelers at airports with guns in their carry-on bags say they simply forgot they had them. “It’s almost always inadvertent rather than intentional,” said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the agency

Like other professionals in security, law enforcement and firearms safety, Mr. Castelveter was baffled by how anyone could forget that they were carrying a gun. “I’m a Vietnam vet, and when I went through training I was taught that my gun was my best friend — and God forbid you should ever lose sight of that fact. I would never, ever not know that I have a gun in my bag.”

Yet that was the exactly the excuse offered by a 27-year-old flight attendant who was stopped at a checkpoint at the Philadelphia airport on Sunday. The flight attendant, arriving for work on a US Airways flight, had a valid handgun permit — but of course, not a permit to carry it on an airplane. As it routinely does in such cases, the T.S.A. notified local law enforcement. A Philadelphia police officer who responded tried to unload the 38-caliber handgun weapon but instead accidentally fired it. No one was hurt, and the flight attendant was issued a summary citation for disorderly conduct.

It could have seemed like a Keystone Kops episode. Instead, it occurred as air travel has become increasingly tense. The potential for trouble posed by prohibited guns on crowded airplanes is obvious, even beyond any overt issues of terrorism or premeditated crime.

Except in rare instances where T.S.A. officials believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation needs to be notified, local law enforcement officials usually handle reports of guns at airport checkpoints.

“All we’re permitted to do is confiscate the weapon and call law enforcement agents, who then will take custody of it and determine whether or not you’re arrested,” said Mr. Castelveter, who is part of the security agency’s effort to notify local news media to aggressively publicize reports of guns and other prohibited weapons being found at checkpoints.

The growing number of guns being found at airports dovetails with the growth in firearms sales nationally. Last year, requests for background checks for firearms sales submitted under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System of the F.B.I. totaled 16.4 million, up from 14.4 million in 2010 and 8.9 million in 2001, according to F.B.I. data.

But firearms safety experts also suspect that some people new to firearms possession may not have basic weapons education, which used to be a stronger focus of gun advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association.

Guns at airport checkpoints reflect “the pervasiveness of concealed-carry weapons, which have gone up enormously in the last 10 years because concealed permits have got easier to get,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a Washington research group that promotes what it refers to as centrist views on “divisive social issues,” among them constitutional gun rights.

“When people become accustomed to carrying their firearms everywhere they go, even in places like churches and schools in certain states, they can just simply forget they have them,” Mr. Bennett said. “Because concealed-carry permits are now so easy to get, it becomes second nature in kind of a bad way — instead of being thought of as a really significant act — carrying any firearm around.”

Finding the T.S.A. screener digging a gun out of your carry-on bag at the airport “does get to the heart of the matter, in that it shows a lack of focused training” in gun handling, said Ron Danielowski, a former Marine marksman and security consultant in the Middle East, and a founder of Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, an Illinois company that provides intensive weapons and self-defense instruction.

Mr. Danielowski echoed the advice on the T.S.A.’s blog that people can travel with a firearm in a checked bag, provided the airline is notified in advance and the weapon is contained in a hard-locked case. But he and other firearms advocates note that conflicting state and local laws can still cause problems, even for those who comply with the federal regulations, if they arrive with a gun in a location that has different rules.

“That’s a huge mess,” he said of conflicting federal, state and local gun laws that sometimes catch a person otherwise legally transporting a gun. “We’re trying to address that on a local, democratic level. But the first thing right now is, if we’re going to travel with a firearm and plan to go through other states and jurisdictions, we need to make sure that we’re compliant. That’s on us.”

The T.S.A. intends to continue to focus attention on guns at checkpoints, even though Mr. Castelveter said that airports themselves often object because of the effect of the topic on the flying experience.

Once a gun is found, assuming there is no indication of a federal crime, local laws apply. In some locations, “if you come to the checkpoint with a weapon and law enforcement gets involved, they’ll just tell you take it back to your car, because you’re in a state where you’re allowed to carry one” in most places. “But do that in a place like New York and you could be in Rikers Island in about 30 seconds,” Mr. Castelveter said.

“The interesting thing to me is all of these items, from handguns to brass knuckles, a passenger could take from Point A to Point B if it was properly checked” rather than carried through the airport, said Nico Melendez, a T.S.A. official in Los Angeles who posts regularly on the agency’s blog.

“Gun owners should all know where their weapons are, for our own safety and for the safety of those we live with and those around us,” Mr. Melendez said. “I always know where mine is. It’s really kind of basic. Weapons are dangerous.”

    That Loaded Gun in My Carry-On? Oh, I Forgot, NYT, 28.9.2012,






Several Killed in a Shooting in Minneapolis


September 27, 2012
The New York Times


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A workplace shooting resulted in several killings, including the gunman, who died of a self-inflicted wound, the police said.

“We do have several victims inside that are dead,” Deputy Chief Kris Arneson of the Minneapolis police said in an evening news conference outside the office of the company where the shooting took place, Accent Signage Systems. She would not specify the number of fatalities, saying the police were still investigating.

The police had previously said at least two people were killed and four were wounded during the shootings at the business, which is in a largely residential area on the city’s north side. Chief Arneson would not release details about the victims, but said the gunman’s body was found inside the building.

Hennepin County Medical Center was treating three people from the scene, all in critical condition, said a spokeswoman, Christine Hill. She said the hospital was not expecting more patients with critical injuries.

Officers received a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. from inside the business reporting a shooting.

Dozens of squad cars and police vehicles were still surrounding the business in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood by Thursday evening. Traffic was stopped on a nearby bridge, where earlier in the day law enforcement officers had rifles drawn and pointed at a park below.

People from the neighborhood milled around, but deputies kept them back.

Marques Jones, 18, of Minneapolis, said he was outside a building down the street having his picture taken when he and his photographer heard gunfire that sounded close. “We heard about four to five gunshots,” Mr. Jones said. “We were shocked at what happened, and we just looked at each other. We all just took off running to our vehicles.”

Accent Signage Systems’ Web site says the company makes interior signs and lists its founder as Reuven Rahamim.

“Very sad situation in Bryn Mawr,” Mayor R. T. Rybak posted on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. “Please stay away and let the police do their work.”

    Several Killed in a Shooting in Minneapolis, NYT, 27.9.2012,






The Human Cost of the Second Amendment

September 26, 2012
8:30 pm
Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web
The New York Times


Wisconsin, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine. We all know these place names and what happened there. By the time this column appears, there may well be a new locale to add to the list. Such is the state of enabled and murderous mayhem in the United States.

With the hope of presenting the issue of guns in America in a novel way, I'm going to look at it from an unusual vantage point: the eyes of a nurse. By that I mean looking at guns in America in terms of the suffering they cause, because to really understand the human cost of guns in the United States we need to focus on gun-related pain and death.

Every day 80 Americans die from gunshots and an additional 120 are wounded, according to a 2006 article in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Those 80 Americans left their homes in the morning and went to work, or to school, or to a movie, or for a walk in their own neighborhood, and never returned. Whether they were dead on arrival or died later on in the hospital, 80 people's normal day ended on a slab in the morgue, and there's nothing any of us can do to get those people back.

In a way that few others do, I became aware early on that nurses deal with death on a daily basis. The first unretouched dead bodies I ever saw were the two cadavers we studied in anatomy lab. One man, one woman, both donated their bodies for dissection, and I learned amazing things from them: the sponginess of lung tissue, the surprising lightness of a human heart, the fabulous intricacy of veins, arteries, tendons and nerves that keep all of us moving and alive.

I also learned something I thought I already knew: death is scary. I expected my focus in the lab to be on acquiring knowledge, and it was, but my feelings about these cadavers intruded also. I had nightmares. The sound of bones being sawed and snapped was excruciating the day our teaching assistant broke the ribs of one of them to extract a heart. Some days the smell was so overwhelming I wanted to run from the lab. Death is the only part of life that is really final, and I learned about the awesomeness of finality during my 12 weeks with those two very dead people.

Of course, in hospitals, death and suffering are what nurses and doctors struggle against. Our job is to restore people to health and wholeness, or at the very least, to keep them alive. That's an obvious aim on the oncology floor where I work, but nowhere is the medical goal of maintaining life more immediately urgent than in trauma centers and intensive-care units. In those wards, patients often arrive teetering on the border between life and death, and the medical teams that receive them have fleeting moments in which to act.

The focus on preserving life and alleviating suffering, so evident in the hospital, contrasts strikingly with its stubborn disregard when applied to lives ended by Americans lawfully armed as if going into combat. The deaths from guns are as disturbing, and as final, as the cadavers I studied in anatomy lab, but the talk we hear from the gun lobby is about freedom and rights, not life and death.

Gun advocates say that guns don't kill people, people kill people. The truth, though, is that people with guns kill people, often very efficiently, as we saw so clearly and so often this summer. And while there can be no argument that the right to bear arms is written into the Constitution, we cannot keep pretending that this right is somehow without limit, even as we place reasonable limits on arguably more valuable rights like the freedom of speech and due process.

No one argues that it should be legal to shout "fire" in a crowded theater; we accept this limit on our right to speak freely because of its obvious real-world consequences. Likewise, we need to stop talking about gun rights in America as if they have no wrenching real-world effects when every day 80 Americans, their friends, families and loved ones, learn they obviously and tragically do.

Many victims never stand a chance against a dangerously armed assailant, and there's scant evidence that being armed themselves would help. Those bodies skip the hospital and go straight to the morgue. The lucky ones, the survivors - the 120 wounded per day - get hustled to trauma centers and then intensive care units to, if possible, be healed. Many of them never fully recover.

A trauma nurse I know told me she always looked at people's shoes when they lay on gurneys in the emergency department. It struck her that life had still been normal when that patient put them on in the morning. Whether they laced up Nikes, pulled on snow boots or slid feet into stiletto heels, the shoes became a relic of the ordinariness of the patient's life, before it turned savage.

So I have a request for proponents of unlimited access to guns. Spend some time in a trauma center and see the victims of gun violence - the lucky survivors - as they come in bloody and terrified. Understand that our country's blind embrace of gun rights made this violent tableau possible, and that it's playing out each day in hospitals and morgues all over the country.

Before leaving, make sure to look at the patients' shoes. Remember that at the start of the day, before being attacked by a person with a gun, that patient lying on a stretcher writhing helplessly in pain was still whole.


Theresa Brown is an oncology nurse and the author of

"Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between."

    The Human Cost of the Second Amendment, NYT, 26.9.2012,






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,










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