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History > 2009 > USA > Gun violence (II)

 

 

 

 

Four Men Dead in West Side Shootings

 

December 18, 2009
The New York Times
By AL BAKER

 

If there were any doubt that Hector Quinones was intent on causing grievous harm Thursday, it would have been dispelled by one look at his hands — covered by two sets of gloves, one rubber and one leather.

It was clear, said the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, that Mr. Quinones, 44, “came not wanting to leave fingerprints.”

By the time he was through, the police said, he would kill three members of a family: Carlos Rodriguez Sr., 52; his son Carlos Jr., 24; and Fernando Gonzales, 87, who was the elder Mr. Rodriguez’s father-in-law.

Mr. Rodriguez’s wife, Giselle Rodriguez, 49, was wounded, and a fifth relative managed to escape only when Mr. Quinones lost his balance after his pants had fallen down, the police said.

The final act of violence was Mr. Quinones’s alone: He apparently fell to his death from a window while trying to escape, the police said.

In piecing things together later and trying to determine a motive for the murders, the police said they learned that Mr. Quinones, of the Bronx, and Carlos Rodriguez Sr. both had long arrest records and had met in state prison.

Detectives also found a significant amount of heroin in a box and a small amount of cocaine in the apartment, said Mr. Browne, who said detectives were investigating the possibility that the killings were drug-related or possibly part of a robbery.

It was about 1:45 p.m. Thursday, and the calm outside the apartment on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets — a busy stretch lined with taverns, restaurants and boutiques — had yet to be pierced. No one nearby said they had heard any gunshots, and things appeared normal as Ms. Rodriguez and her daughter, Leyanis, 27, came home from a day of shopping and errands, the police said.

When they got to their apartment door, they found Mr. Quinones, carrying a black .380-caliber Hi-Point semiautomatic pistol in one of his gloved hands. He forced the mother and daughter down the hallway of their railroad-style walk-up apartment, the police said.

Lying dead in a back bedroom inside Apartment 3-S were the two Rodriguez men, both apparently shot, the police said. Slumped next to the tub in the bathroom was the body of Mr. Gonzales, though it was unclear if he had been shot, stabbed or both, the police said.

At some point, the younger woman broke free and locked herself in the bedroom where her dead father and brother were, the police said. Outside, her mother began struggling with Mr. Quinones. The daughter heard a shot, and her mother, who had suffered a graze wound to her head, fled from the apartment and ran down to the street, where people saw her screaming.

Meanwhile, Mr. Quinones broke down the bedroom door and fought with Leyanis Rodriguez. But his pants came down during the struggle and he tripped, allowing her to also run away. She banged on a neighbor’s door on her floor, but no one answered. Then she ran up to the roof and found some construction workers.

One of the workers, Anthony Cicalo, 23, later described how a woman, apparently unharmed, came up to the roof, yelling that several people in her family had been shot.

“Her father, her brother and her mother were shot,” said Mr. Cicalo, who dialed 911 for help.

Linda Wolff, 55, who owns a clothing boutique across the street, said she came back to the store just as the police were arriving. Leyanis Rodriguez was standing outside, in a state of silent shock, she said.

As officers from the 20th Precinct descended on the location, Mr. Quinones crept out a window to escape, but wound up falling to his death on concrete in a small backyard area. It was unclear if he first tried to ascend the exterior of the five-story building.

They also found a blood-stained 12-inch kitchen knife on the apartment’s kitchen table, and the gun believed to have been used in the killings on the floor, the police said.

Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the state Correctional Services Department, confirmed that Mr. Quinones and Mr. Rodriguez had both served time at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility from late 1996 through most of 1997.

The Rodriguez family had lived in the apartment for about 20 years, relatives said. The younger Mr. Rodriguez had grown up as part of a tightknit group of friends around his age in the neighborhood. He loved motorcycles, cars and video games. The father worked in construction, said a cousin, Jose Crespo, 28.

The grandfather was a jovial retiree who had just come out of the hospital two days ago and who loved spending time with Leyanis’s two young children, who go to a nearby elementary school, friends added.

 

Andrew Keh, Stacey Solie and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

    Four Men Dead in West Side Shootings, NYT, 18.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/nyregion/18shoot.html

 

 

 

 

 

Report on Virginia Tech Shooting Finds Notification Delays

 

December 5, 2009
The New York Times
By IAN URBINA

 

RICHMOND, Va. — During the worst campus shooting spree in American history, Virginia Tech officials locked down some administrative buildings and warned their own families more than an hour and a half before the rest of the campus was alerted, according to revisions made in the state’s official report on the tragedy.

The report indicates that students who were initially locked down at West Ambler Johnston residence hall, where the first two victims were killed, were later released from the building by the police and allowed to attend their 9 a.m. classes. Two of those students then went to class in Norris Hall, where they were killed by the shooter.

At least two members of the university’s Policy Group, which was assembled to manage the crisis, let their own families know of the first two shootings, in the residence hall, more than 90 minutes before the group warned the rest of the campus. The new report also says that the university president’s office was locked down about 30 minutes before a formal warning was issued to the rest of the campus.

The original report, issued in 2007, concluded that university officials could have saved lives by notifying students and faculty members earlier about the killings on campus.

But the new report said the local police took more than half an hour longer than was initially believed to begin looking for a suspect, a fact first reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The new report also said university officials failed to contact the family of the shooter’s first victim, Emily Hilscher, for more than three hours, until after she had died. Ms. Hilscher survived for some time after being shot and was taken to two hospitals before she died.

A spokesman for Virginia Tech failed to respond to a request for comment about the report Friday morning.

The revelations come more than two and a half years after the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 students and faculty members at the university on April 16, 2007, before taking his own life.

The parent of a victim expressed mixed emotions about the new details.

“The new report contains good information that is relevant,” said Lori Haas, the mother of Emily Haas, who was wounded in the shootings. “But it also points out the fact that the university was not concerned enough with the students and their safety.”

She added, “These were serious mistakes, and we will still don’t feel like everything that should be known has been revealed.”

A state panel convened by Gov. Tim Kaine faulted the campus for failing to “connect the dots” related to the dangers of Mr. Cho’s mental condition.

Though the new report does not reverse any of the state’s most important initial findings, it includes a more detailed timeline of the actions of the local police and university officials as the shootings unfolded. The report, which is being released by the governor on Friday, was provided to The New York Times on Thursday night by the family of one of the victims.

Governor Kaine had resisted calls from the families to reopen the investigation, but he agreed to have the report revised to include corrections requested by families of the victims.

TriData, a division of System Planning Corporation, coordinated the original investigation and report for the state, and prepared the recent revisions, which were provided to family members Thursday night.

Calls by victims’ families to reopen the investigation grew stronger in July, after some of Mr. Cho’s missing mental-health records were discovered in the home of the former director of the university’s counseling clinic. The discovery raised new questions about the rigor of the state’s investigation into the shootings.

But an official from the governor’s office said the new report did not alter the state’s initial findings.

“While the addendum corrects and clarifies facts found in the original report,” Kate Paris, an executive assistant to the governor, said in an e-mail message to victims’ families, “the review and revision process tended to reinforce the original recommendations of the panel.”

TriData officials echoed this conclusion.

“While some of the findings have been modified slightly and one added,” TriData said in the new report, “none of the new information merited changes to any recommendations in the original report.”

In a news release on Friday, Governor Kaine said many of the recommendations in the original report were enacted during the 2008 session of the General Assembly, including the clarification of information-sharing procedures and involuntary commitment criteria, mandatory creation of emergency plans for colleges and universities, restrictions on firearm access for those adjudicated mentally ill, and the investment of $41 million in the state’s mental-health operations.

The revised report added to the picture of Mr. Cho’s mental-health problems. Mr. Cho was interviewed several times by Virginia Tech health officials more than a year before his attack, but in each instance, he denied homicidal thoughts and was not admitted for treatment, the report says.

Health officials on campus spoke to Mr. Cho three times in 2005, twice by phone and once in person, after concerns were raised about his behavior.

    Report on Virginia Tech Shooting Finds Notification Delays, NYT, 5.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/us/05virginia.html

 

 

 

 

 

Tacoma Suspect Is Killed by Police Officer

 

December 2, 2009
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY and JACK HEALY

 

SEATTLE — A man suspected of fatally shooting four uniformed police officers was shot and killed early Tuesday by a Seattle police officer who chanced upon him during a routine patrol.

The death of the suspect, Maurice Clemmons, 37, capped a huge manhunt that had fanned out through Seattle over the last two days as scores of police chased the trail of the suspect. Police officials said Mr. Clemmons had been carrying a gun that had belonged to one of the four officers, who were killed at a coffee shop near Tacoma Sunday morning.

In an interview, the city’s interim police chief, John Diaz, said a Seattle officer had been patrolling a working-class neighborhood in south Seattle around 2:45 a.m. when he came across an empty car on the street, its engine idling and its hood raised. The officer called in a report on the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen. He was sitting in his patrol cruiser, writing up paperwork, when he saw Mr. Clemmons approaching from behind.

The officer, a seven-year veteran, recognized Mr. Clemmons “immediately,” Mr. Diaz said, and noticed that the suspect was trying to pull something from one of his pockets. He ordered Mr. Clemmons to put his hands up, but he refused and began to move away from the officer. The officer shot at least twice, Mr. Diaz said. Mr. Clemmons was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It’s not the way we wanted it to end,” Mr. Diaz said.

The name of the officer who shot Mr. Clemmons was not released; he will be placed on administrative leave until a hearing on the use of force is held. Such a hearing is customary in this kind of situation, Mr. Diaz said, adding that it appeared that the officer had acted appropriately.

“He was in fear of his life,” Mr. Diaz said. “He was telling him, ‘Put your hands up,’ and he wasn’t doing it.”

Mr. Clemmons had a lengthy criminal history, including pending felony charges of raping a 12-year-old relative and assaulting police officers. He was released on bail last week.

The police said Mr. Clemmons had already been shot in the abdomen by one of the four officers who were killed Sunday morning, but he continued to elude the authorities on Monday. Throughout the day, the police pursued a confusing range of tips that he had been seen in several places across Seattle, from a park in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to the University of Washington.

Officials posted a bulletin on Twitter saying the suspect could be in the university district and urging students to be alert. Later in the day, the police said they were looking for a green 1997 Mazda Millenia and were monitoring the state’s borders, but that search was soon called off.

The police offered a reward of $125,000 for information leading to Mr. Clemmons’s capture.

Earlier Monday, after a tip from Pierce County investigators, Seattle police officials believed that they had cornered Mr. Clemmons in a house in the city’s Leschi neighborhood. After officers surrounded the house, flooded it with spotlights and sent a robot to approach it, SWAT teams entered, only to find that he was not there, said Detective Mark Jamieson, a spokesman for the Seattle Police Department.

“We have more concrete evidence that the suspect was at that location,” Detective Jamieson said. “We don’t know if he was in the house, but he was seen at that location.”

The four officers were killed Sunday morning at a coffee shop in Lakewood as they worked on laptops preparing for a patrol shift. Officials have said there was evidence that one of them chased the gunman outside as he fled and fired shots, striking the suspect before dying of gunshot wounds.

In 2000, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas granted clemency to Mr. Clemmons after he had served 11 years of a 95-year sentence for robbery and burglary convictions on charges prosecuted when he was 17. That history continued to play a role in his prosecution in Washington this year, Pierce County prosecutors said.

After Mr. Clemmons was arrested in Pierce County in May on charges of assaulting officers who were investigating claims that he had broken neighbors’ windows with rocks, Arkansas issued a warrant for his arrest for violating conditions of his parole, said Stephen Penner, a deputy prosecuting attorney in Pierce County.

Mr. Clemmons was initially held without bail on the Arkansas warrant. In July, an Arkansas corrections official sent a letter revoking the hold and saying “appropriate action will be taken once the pending charges have been adjudicated.”

Without the hold from Arkansas, Mr. Penner said, the State Constitution allowed Mr. Clemmons the right to bail while the rape and assault charges were pending. He was released on $190,000 bail on Nov. 23, Mr. Penner said.

A spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Community Correction said officials there issued a second warrant for Mr. Clemmons in October, but it was not immediately clear whether that warrant had the power to prevent his release.

The officers who were killed were Tina Griswold, 40; Ronald Owens, 37; Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and Greg Richards, 42. All left behind children and families, and they were mourned at makeshift memorials at the Lakewood Police Department, at a church vigil in Tacoma and on various Web sites, including Facebook.

“We’re a young department,” Chief Bret Farrar said at a news conference on Monday. “We put this department together in 2004. The four we lost yesterday were original members of the department. They were good people, they were great officers, and we will all miss them very much.”

Lisa Price, who helped hire Officer Richards in his previous job at the Kent Police Department, said he turned to policing in 2001 at a later age than many new officers, giving him “a good mix of maturity and insight.” She said he took the Lakewood job because it seemed to hold more stability, as Kent was considering layoffs.

Brian D. Wurts, president of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, described Officer Owens on the guild’s Web site as “the laid-back, dirt-bike-riding, surfer-hair-having cop you would always want at a party or with you on any call. Though he had a laid-back perspective, he was sharp and an extremely dedicated and hard worker.”

Sergeant Renninger served in the Army and was based at nearby Fort Lewis before becoming a police officer in the 1990s in Tukwila, a Seattle suburb. He grew up in Pennsylvania, where his brother, Matt, is also a police officer. On a Facebook page created in his honor, a former colleague in Tukwila recalled “that thick, Philly-type accent of his.”

On the guild Web site, Mr. Wurts said Officer Griswold had two children “and a husband who loves her deeply.” He recalled her as a spirited conservative who loved to talk politics and, if challenged, “would tell you where you could go.”

    Tacoma Suspect Is Killed by Police Officer, NYT, 2.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/us/02tacoma.html

 

 

 

 

 

Official: 4 Police Officers Shot Dead in Wash.

 

November 29, 2009
Filed at 1:31 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- Four police officers were shot and killed Sunday morning in what authorities called a targeted ambush at a coffee house in Washington state, a sheriff's official said.

Officials at the scene told The News Tribune in Tacoma two gunmen burst into the Forza Coffee Co. and shot the four uniformed officers as they were working on their laptop computers, then fled the scene.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said investigators believe the officers were targeted, and it was not a robbery.

Troyer tells the newspaper ''it was just a flat out ambush.''

He could not immediately say what agency the officers were from. Police were searching for two suspect and interviewing witnesses. The coffee shop is near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle.

''We hopefully will have answers, but there is nothing more we can tell you,'' Troyer told KING-TV. ''That's as cold-hearted as it is.''

Roads were blocked around the attack. A witness driving past told the newspaper he saw an officer on the ground just after the shootings.

Last month, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed Halloween night as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney. Sweeney was grazed in the neck.

Christopher Monfort, 41, of suburban Tukwila, was charged in the shooting. Days after the shooting, Seattle detectives attempted to question Monfort at his residence. Police say that Monfort then ran from the detectives and tried to use a gun. The detective shot him.

Authorities also linked Monfort to the October firebombing of four police vehicles, with prosecutors saying Monfort waged a ''one-man war'' against law enforcement.

Monfort remained hospitalized.

    Official: 4 Police Officers Shot Dead in Wash., NYT, 29.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/29/us/AP-US-Officers-Shot.html

 

 

 

 

 

4 Killed at Dinner; Florida Police Seek Gunman

 

November 28, 2009
The New York Times
By CARMEN GENTILE

 

JUPITER, Fla. — The police and federal marshals fanned out across South Florida on Friday in the hunt for a man they said had left a Thanksgiving dinner crowded with relatives in this upscale beachfront community and returned with a handgun, opening fire and killing his twin sisters, an aunt and a 6-year-old cousin. Two other people were wounded.

The suspect, Paul Michael Merhige, 35, joined 16 relatives and friends at the dinner Thursday at the home of his cousin, Muriel Sitton, and her husband, Jim Sitton, a cameraman for a local station, WPTV-TV. At some point, Mr. Merhige left the gathering and “returned a short time later,” according to a police statement.

“As he stood inside the residence, he began shooting the victims without warning,” the statement said.

Three people were killed almost instantly. They were identified by the police as the suspect’s 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, who was pregnant, and Mr. Merhige’s aunt, Raymonde Joseph, 76.

The fourth person who died was the Sittons’ daughter and only child, Makayla, 6, who was shot as she slept in her bed. She died while being flown by helicopter to a hospital.

Lisa Knight’s husband, Patrick Knight, 37, was wounded and taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, and a cousin, Clifford Gebara, 52, was treated for minor injuries and released.

According to the Jupiter police, Mr. Merhige, who lives in the Miami area about 90 miles south of Jupiter and had been a top scholar and athlete at the prestigious Gulliver Preparatory School, fled the home in his blue Toyota Camry before the police and rescue workers arrived at the scene.

Officer Sally Collins-Ortiz said the local and state authorities were still searching for Mr. Merhige late Friday. He was considered armed and dangerous. Officer Collins-Ortiz said the motive for the killings remained unclear, though witnesses said Mr. Merhige “had some ongoing resentment against some family members.”

“We still don’t know what the problem was, but obviously it must have been something serious,” said the officer, standing outside the home surrounded by police tape.

The quadruple homicide in the normally quiet town frequented by tourists and home to celebrities like the former N.B.A. superstar Michael Jordan, shocked residents of the large stucco homes along the street lined with palm trees and expensive cars.

“This is a really nice neighborhood,” said Paul Turano, originally from Long Island, who with his wife, Carole, moved to Jupiter three months ago. “It’s a place where children play in the streets, no problem. It’s normally very quiet here.”

    4 Killed at Dinner; Florida Police Seek Gunman, NYT, 28.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/us/28florida.html

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Ed Contributor

Who Created Major Hasan?

 

November 22, 2009
The New York Times
By ROBERT WRIGHT

 

Princeton, N.J.

IN the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, the verdict has come in. The liberal news media have been found guilty — by the conservative news media — of coddling Major Hasan’s religion, Islam.

Liberals, according to the columnist Charles Krauthammer, wanted to medicalize Major Hasan’s crime — call it an act of insanity rather than of terrorism. They worked overtime, Mr. Krauthammer said on Fox News, to “avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs ... and his actions.” The columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees. Admit it, he wrote in The Los Angeles Times, Major Hasan is “a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics.”

The good news for Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Goldberg is that there is truth in their indictment. The bad news is that their case against the left-wing news media is the case against right-wing foreign policy. Seeing the Fort Hood shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been.

The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective responses were, to oversimplify a bit: “kill the terrorists” and “kill the terrorism meme.”

Conservatives backed war in Iraq, and they’re now backing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Liberals (at least, dovish liberals) have warned in both cases that killing terrorists is counterproductive if in the process you create even more terrorists; the object of the game isn’t to wipe out every last Islamist radical but rather to contain the virus of Islamist radicalism.

One reason killing terrorists can spread terrorism is that various technologies — notably the Internet and increasingly pervasive video — help emotionally powerful messages reach receptive audiences. When American wars kill lots of Muslims, inevitably including some civilians, incendiary images magically find their way to the people who will be most inflamed by them.

This calls into question our nearly obsessive focus on Al Qaeda — the deployment of whole armies to uproot the organization and to finally harpoon America’s white whale, Osama bin Laden. If you’re a Muslim teetering toward radicalism and you have a modem, it doesn’t take Mr. bin Laden to push you over the edge. All it takes is selected battlefield footage and a little ad hoc encouragement: a jihadist chat group here, a radical imam there — whether in your local mosque or on a Web site in your local computer.

This, at least, is the view from the left.

Exhibit A in this argument is Nidal Hasan. By all accounts he was pushed over the edge by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also drew inspiration from a radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. Notably, it had been eight years since Major Hasan actually saw Mr. Awlaki, who moved from America to Yemen after 9/11. And for most of those years the two men don’t seem to have communicated at all. But as Major Hasan got more radicalized by two American wars and God knows what else, the Internet made it easy to reconnect via e-mail.

The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.

When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they’ll note, aren’t wars against Islam or against Muslims; Major Hasan must have been deluded to think that they are! Surely we can’t give veto power over our foreign policy to a crazy ... well, not crazy, but, you know, not-entirely-sane person like Major Hasan.

It’s true that Major Hasan was unbalanced and alienated — and, by my lights, crazy. But what kind of people did conservatives think were susceptible to the terrorism meme? Like all viruses, terrorism infects people with low resistance. And surely Major Hasan isn’t the only American Muslim who, for reasons of personal history, has become unbalanced and thus vulnerable. Any religious or ethnic group includes people like that, and the post-9/11 environment hasn’t made it easier for American Muslims to keep their balance. That’s why the hawkish war-on-terrorism strategy — a global anti-jihad that creates nonstop imagery of Americans killing Muslims — is so dubious.

Central to the debate over Afghanistan is the question of whether terrorists need a “safe haven” from which to threaten America. If so, it is said, then we must work to keep every acre of Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc.) out of the hands of groups like the Taliban. If not — if terrorists can orchestrate a 9/11 about as easily from apartments in Germany as from camps in Afghanistan — then maybe never-ending war isn’t essential.

However you come out on that argument, the case of Nidal Hasan shows one thing for sure: Homegrown American terrorists don’t need a safe haven. All they need is a place to buy a gun.

Concerns about homegrown terrorism may sound like wild extrapolation from limited data. After all, in the eight years since 9/11, none of America’s several million Muslims had committed violence on this scale.

That’s a reminder that, contrary to right-wing stereotype, Islam isn’t an intrinsically belligerent religion. Still, this sort of stereotyping won’t go away, and it’s among the factors that could make homegrown terrorism a slowly growing epidemic. The more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims in the workplace with suspicion, the more likely the virus is to spread — and each appearance of the virus in turn tempts more people to denigrate Islam and view Muslims with suspicion. Whenever you have a positive feedback system like this, an isolated incident can put you on a slippery slope.

And the Fort Hood shooting wasn’t the only recent step along that slope. Six months ago a 24-year-old American named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — Carlos Bledsoe before his teenage conversion to Islam — fatally shot a soldier outside a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ABC News reported, “It was not known what path Muhammad ... had followed to radicalization.” Well, here’s a clue: After being arrested he started babbling to the police about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were supposed to reduce the number of anti-American terrorists abroad. It’s hardly clear that they’ve succeeded, and they may have had the opposite effect. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, they’ve inspired homegrown terrorism — a small-scale incident in June, a larger-scale incident this month. That’s only two data points, but I don’t like the slope of the line connecting them.

Sept. 11, 2001, though a success for Osama bin Laden, was in the scheme of things only a small tactical triumph; his grandiose aspirations go well beyond the killing of a few thousand people and the destruction of some buildings. Maybe he feels that our descent into the carnage of Iraq and Afghanistan has moved him a bit closer to his goal. But if he succeeds in tearing our country apart along religious and ethnic lines, he will truly be able to declare victory.

 

Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author, most recently, of “The Evolution of God” and the editor in chief of the blog The Progressive Realist.

    Who Created Major Hasan?, NYT, 22.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22wright.html

 

 

 

 

 

Lawmakers Call Ft. Hood Shootings ‘Terrorism’

 

November 20, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON

 

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee on Thursday opened the first public hearings into the Fort Hood shootings, with several legislators asserting that the incident in which 13 people were killed was a terrorist attack by a homegrown extremist who may have slipped past law enforcement and military authorities.

Hours later at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that former Army Secretary Togo West and a former chief of naval operations, Vernon Clark, would lead a broad Pentagon review of the circumstances surrounding the shootings in which 13 people were killed and 43 were injured.

Mr. Gates said the 45-day review would look into how the military identifies service members who might be a threat to others and how well military bases are equipped to respond to such incidents.

At the Congressional hearings, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that the Nov. 5 shootings allegedly carried out by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was a “homegrown terrorist attack” and that law enforcement and military agencies may have failed to act appropriately.

“The purpose of our investigation is to determine whether that attack could have been prevented, whether the federal agencies and employees involved missed signals or failed to connect the dots in a way that enabled Hasan to carry out his deadly plan,” Mr. Lieberman said. “If we find such negligence we will make recommendations to guarantee, as best we can, that they never occur again.”

But Mr. Lieberman’s hearing made only limited headway because the Obama administration has refused his requests for witnesses from the F.B.I. and Defense Department. Mr. Lieberman said he had spoken with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Mr. Gates, who told him they would cooperate with his inquiry, but did not want to compromise the criminal investigation.

As a result, Mr. Lieberman proceeded with several non-government experts and former officials, including Frances Fragos Townsend, formerly the homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush. She expressed concern that “political correctness,” and fear of intruding on Major Hasan’s free speech rights, may have interfered with the sharing of information earlier this year, when an F.B.I.-led counterterrorism team examined his e-mail exchanges with Anwar al-Awlaki, a well-known radical cleric, but found nothing amiss.

The administration has irritated some lawmakers by trying to delay their inquiries into the shootings, though some committees have postponed investigations, such as the Senate Armed Services Committee. Instead, officials from the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have provided closed-door briefings for some lawmakers.

Military and law enforcement agencies are also conducting their own internal inquiries. The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., is organizing a military panel to examine possible warning signs that were ignored by the Army authorities at Fort Hood or the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Major Hasan was stationed until July. The review will encompass Major Hasan’s entire Army career and focus on how to prevent such an attack in the future.

The F.B.I.’s Office of Professional Responsibility is also continuing its own investigation, ordered by the agency’s director, Robert S. Mueller III. The Army and the F.B.I. are reporting their findings to the White House, where the National Security Council is leading its own inquiry. That investigation, ordered by President Obama, is expected to conclude by the end of the month.

    Lawmakers Call Ft. Hood Shootings ‘Terrorism’, NYT, 19.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/us/politics/20hood.html

 

 

 

 

 

A Bullet Takes a Toll in the Bronx

 

November 19, 2009
The New York Times
By AL BAKER

 

There were five young men in all, waiting on a street corner in the Bronx on Monday — two on bicycles, two with guns, and all with a specific target in mind: a 19-year-old rival who was inside a bodega.

As the target emerged, police officials said, a street version of “hot potato” unfolded: a .40-caliber pistol went from one set of hands to another, settling with the youngest among them: Carvett Gentles.

Mr. Gentles was 16, and unlike the others did not have any prior arrests.

“We believe that they attempted to get the weapon to the shooter,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, “because he had no criminal record. They were acting in concert.”

About a block away, Vada Vasquez, 15, and a friend were well along on their trip from Bronx Latin School to their homes.

About 3:45 p.m., the police said, Mr. Gentles stepped forward and fired at least six shots. One struck the 19-year-old intended target, Tyrone Creighton, ripping through his upper left shoulder, penetrating his lung. Another bullet hit Ms. Vasquez in the back of her head, above her left ear.

Mr. Gentles and Ms. Vasquez lived in different Bronx neighborhoods, two bus rides apart. They attended different high schools and had different interests. But on Monday afternoon, their lives intersected with one misplaced bullet.

The shooting left two families in the Bronx trying to reconcile the events that left each bombarded by grief.

Ms. Vasquez was in a medically induced coma, Mr. Kelly said, and Mr. Gentles — already called a “baby-faced” suspect on television news reports — had confessed to the shooting, a police spokesman said.

At Mr. Gentles’s home on Jefferson Place, in the Crotona Park East neighborhood, a sobbing woman cracked open a third-floor apartment door Wednesday afternoon and handed out a note.

“Me can’t breathe,” said the woman, Zelita Mighty, tears falling down her face.

Her note said: “The events over the past couple of days has been tragic. We are heartbroken over the whole incident. We pray daily for young Vada Vasquez and Tyrone Creighton and hope they will make a speedy recovery. We express our deepest sympathy to both family.”

Relatives of Ms. Vasquez, shuttling between Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and their home on Wheeler Avenue, said they could only hope the young woman — who never gave her family cause to worry — would get better.

“She’s our baby,” said an older sister, Allison Boodram, 28.

Politicians decried the violence. On Tuesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called it an example of how carrying a gun is “one of the dumbest and most dangerous things that you can do.” On Wednesday, he asked New Yorkers “to send their thoughts and prayers” to Ms. Vazquez.

Rubén Díaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said parents were upset and terrified with the “sick culture of crime.”

Meanwhile, detectives led Mr. Gentles from the 42nd Precinct station house to face arraignment on charges of attempted murder, criminal use of a firearm and armed assault.

A sophomore at Bronx Leadership Academy, Mr. Gentles was known as a quiet youth who rarely went to class, according to several students at the high school who declined to reveal their names for fear of retaliation. At the building where Mr. Gentles lived, the superintendent, Paul Diddy, said, “He was a quiet kid, a good kid.”

Besides Mr. Gentles, the others charged included Rohan Francis, 18, of the Bronx; Cleve Smith, 20, of Manhattan; Clivie Smith, 19, of the Bronx; and Dwayne Taylor, 23, of the Bronx. The police said that Cleve and Clivie Smith are brothers.

After the shooting, detectives pieced together accounts from witnesses and from Mr. Creighton. An anonymous tipster steered them to where Mr. Gentles was hiding in a friend’s apartment.

Arrests were made, and the leading motive emerged: revenge.

Mr. Kelly said detectives were investigating whether Mr. Creighton was a target because his two brothers, Kenneth, 20, and Dior, 21, both inmates at Rikers Island, were thought by rivals to be behind the beating of another prisoner.

“We believe, and we’re still exploring this theory, that there was a fight in Rikers Island, involving Tyrone Creighton’s two brothers and another individual,” Mr. Kelly said. “The other individual was beaten up in this fight, and this shooting may be in retaliation.”

But Stephen J. Morello, a spokesman for the city Correction Department, said there was “no information that either of the Creighton brothers currently in our custody has been involved in a fight with other inmates.”

The police provided an account of the shooting based on interviews with some of those arrested, as well as Mr. Creighton and witnesses:

Mr. Creighton left the bodega, the Prospect Food Center, at Prospect Avenue and Home Street. As he walked along Home Street, he was confronted by the five young men — two of them on bicycles.

One of them, Clivie Smith, said, “What’s up with the beef between your brothers and Darrel?” one official said.

Mr. Creighton tried to run, but Cleve Smith blocked him and pointed to his waistband as if he had a gun. Then, Mr. Creighton said, he saw Mr. Taylor try to hand a gun to Mr. Francis.

Mr. Francis declined it, only to pull out a gun from his waist and hand it to Mr. Gentles. Mr. Creighton then shoved Clivie Smith into Mr. Gentles and ran.

Mr. Gentles started shooting. Commissioner Kelly said six spent shell casings were recovered. The guns have not been found.

On Monday, detectives located Mr. Francis. On Tuesday, the four others were brought in for questioning.

“One, the shooter, made a full confession,” said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department.

The police confirmed that of the five young men, all but Mr. Gentles had extensive arrest records. A sampling: Mr. Rohan was charged with criminal possession of a loaded firearm in 2008; Cleve Smith with resisting arrest in October; Clivie Smith with assault and menacing in July and possession of a firearm in 2007; and Mr. Taylor with robbery and assault in 2003.

As Scylestina Smith, 40, the Smith brothers’ mother, arrived at court Wednesday night, she said her sons were innocent and expressed sympathy for Ms. Vasquez’s family.

Tyrone Creighton, who was in stable condition on Wednesday, also had a criminal record, including a charge of attempted murder in the Bronx; he was released on bail on Oct. 27, Mr. Morello said.

Mr. Gentles was a suspected member of what Mr. Kelly said was an offshoot of the Bloods street gang, Gorilla Stone Blood.

Ms. Vasquez had no such background. She pursued art and music, drew and played guitar and the drums and adored the heavy metal band Slipknot.

“She’s a great artist, a great kid,” said another of Ms. Vasquez’s sisters, Mandy Boodram, 33. “”She’s hardworking. She likes her music, her guitar and her drums.”

 

Reporting was contributed by Sam Dolnick, Mathew R. Warren, Carolyn Wilder and Karen Zraick.

    A Bullet Takes a Toll in the Bronx, NYT, 19.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/nyregion/19shoot.html

 

 

 

 

 

Police Kill Man in Brooklyn After Bar Brawl

 

November 16, 2009
The New York Times
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

 

An undercover police officer responding to a report of a brawl at a Brooklyn bar early Sunday fatally shot a 43-year security guard who was firing into the crowd. A 19-year-old man with a gun was also wounded by the police, according to a police official.

The fight was raging when the officers arrived at the Norwood Palace Sports Bar at 3138 Fulton Street in Cypress Hills, and bar stools were being smashed over patrons’ heads.

As the officers tried to enter the bar, they saw the 19-year-old man standing in a side doorway holding a pistol. He was shot three times, the police official said. The man, who was not immediately identified, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was said to be in stable condition.

The 43-year old man, who had apparently been hired as a security guard for a party at the bar, was shooting into the crowd, according to the police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

One of the officers fired at the man, Kevin White, fatally wounding him. Mr. White was taken to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Mr. White had been arrested 28 times, including five for firearms-related offenses, the police official said. The disposition of those cases was not immediately know.

The official added that several witnesses later told detectives that the two officers had identified themselves before opening fire.

The official said that another security guard in the club later found a bullet lodged in the back of his bulletproof vest. The slug vest was consistent with the .25 caliber weapons used by the 19 year old suspect.

Three pistols were found at the scene, investigators said.

The police did not identify the officers involved in the shooting. The official said that one of them is 31 and has been with the Police Department for five years. The other officer, who is 28, has been on the force four years.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly visited the scene on Sunday morning.

Neighbors said the Norwood Palace Sports Bar opened last spring on a corner under the elevated J and Z trains running along Fulton Street. Its brick facade was freshly painted in a soft yellow. Miniature turrets and a crown decorated the bar’s brown awning. A strobe light still rotated in the window facing Fulton Street. Around the corner, the side door was riddled with bullet holes.

There had been a large party on Saturday night for the boxing match between Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao, neighbors said.

Jason Henriquez, 55, a member of Community Board 5, said the bar’s owner had appeared before the board and promised to provide security because of concerns over violence at other local establishments.

Mr. Henriquez said he spoke with the police at the scene. “They said it looked like these western types of shootouts,” he said.

 

Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

    Police Kill Man in Brooklyn After Bar Brawl, NYT, 16.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/nyregion/16shoot.html

 

 

 

 

 

Questions, Not Alarms, Met Exchanges With Cleric

 

November 12, 2009
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE and DAVID JOHNSTON

 

WASHINGTON — Last December, the vast electronic net of American intelligence captured queries that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan of the Army was sending by e-mail to a radical cleric in Yemen who has long been a target of American surveillance.

Trained in the connect-the-dots mantra since rival agencies failed to prevent the 2001 terrorist attacks, analysts recognized that the contacts were significant. The dozen or so messages to the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, were largely questions about Islam, not expressions of militancy or hints of a plot, government officials familiar with the messages said. Mr. Awlaki sent a handful of answers to Major Hasan that were cautious and said nothing to indicate that the two men knew each other, the officials said.

Still, the messages were quickly passed to a Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, where a Defense Department investigator pulled the personnel files of Major Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who was charged last week with killing 13 people and injuring dozens more in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Tex.

Those files, however, did not reflect the concerns of some colleagues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center about Major Hasan’s outspoken opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his strong feeling that Muslims should not be sent to fight other Muslims.

The defense investigator also did not interview any of the psychiatrist’s superiors and co-workers. After studying the messages, which were sent between December and the early months of this year, the investigator wrote a report last spring concluding that the e-mail contacts were not a sign of a terrorist threat. The report was not shared with the Pentagon, or with anyone outside the task force.

Now, Congress is looking for someone to blame for the shootings at Fort Hood. The Defense Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies are reviewing whether they missed significant clues — or whether Walter Reed ignored signs of serious trouble — that might have averted the shootings. Already, the military and F.B.I. officials have begun an inevitable round of finger-pointing.

But a striking fact is that the system set up after Sept. 11, 2001, to make sure clues of a coming attack were not missed actually worked as intended — and still failed to stop the deadly episode. The question for investigators is whether the very fact that Major Hasan sent the e-mail messages to an imam with mysterious connections to the Sept. 11 hijackers and a Web site encouraging extremist violence should have set off greater alarms.

“The fact that they got these e-mails and acted on them shows that at least to a point, the system worked,” said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of “The Secret Sentry,” a new history of the National Security Agency. “Quite possibly someone dropped the ball down the line.”

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said any contact with Mr. Awlaki should have raised red flags. “There’s no doubt that Awlaki is a vessel for the message of Al Qaeda whose goal is radicalizing others,” he said. “Any contact should generate serious concern.”

Mr. Hoffman, too, said the intelligence network, in catching the messages and passing them on, worked far better than would have been likely before the 2001 attacks. “But 13 people are dead,” he added. “What are we going to do differently next time?”

When the Joint Terrorism Task Force began its inquiry, the Defense Department criminal investigator limited his review to paper records, not interviewing Major Hasan or his co-workers. The investigator also did not alert anyone at Walter Reed or elsewhere in the Army or Defense Department to the e-mail contacts with Mr. Awlaki.

Officials familiar with the work of the Washington task force said the Hasan assessment was one of hundreds involving government employees undertaken each year. Such inquiries can be hampered, they said, by privacy laws that prevent the sharing of personal information about someone unless it reflects evidence of wrongdoing or a potential threat.

Had the task force investigator spoken with Major Hasan’s psychiatric colleagues, he would have found a mixed picture. Some co-workers at Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University said in interviews that they found his conduct troubling at times.

National Public Radio reported on Wednesday that from the spring of 2008 to the spring of 2009, when Major Hasan, then a captain, was on a fellowship at the Uniformed Services University, senior faculty members and administrators from the two institutions discussed on several occasions whether he was mentally fit to be an Army psychiatrist, but eventually sent him on to Fort Hood.

Other faculty members and students have expressed alarm about Power Point presentations Major Hasan delivered both as a senior resident at Walter Reed and during his fellowship. In one presentation in June 2007, first reported by The Washington Post, Major Hasan argued that the Army should allow Muslim soldiers to leave the military as conscientious objectors if they refused to kill other Muslims, and he warned of “adverse events” if it did not.

Other colleagues had a more benign view of Major Hasan. Nancy Meyer, a social worker who attended the 2007 presentation, described it as a scholarly explanation of why “Muslims should not be in a position to harm other Muslims,” saying she did not take it as “at all threatening.” Ms. Meyer added, however, that when she heard Major Hasan had been charged with the shootings, the lecture was the first thing that came to her mind.

Dr. Aaron Haney, who was a year ahead of Major Hasan in the residency program at Walter Reed, said there were some faculty members who did not like Major Hasan because they thought “he was not as much of a pro-active go-getter type, like the military really like.”

In completing his report six months ago, the terrorism task force investigator concluded that the e-mail messages were consistent with Major Hasan’s research efforts, did not suggest violence and did not justify further inquiry — a judgment that represented the task force’s collective view. The case was closed.

In the days since the shootings, Pentagon officials have faulted the F.B.I., asserting that because it supervises the task force, the agency should have informed the Defense Department about the e-mail messages.

Law enforcement officials have denied that they were at fault. They said the defense investigator could have shared his assessment of Major Hasan’s e-mail messages with the Defense Department.

 

Erica Goode and James Dao contributed reporting from New York.

    Questions, Not Alarms, Met Exchanges With Cleric, NYT, 12.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/us/12inquire.html

 

 

 

 

 

At Fort Hood, Witness Credits Second Officer

 

November 12, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

 

KILLEEN, Tex. — Sgt. Kimberly D. Munley has been applauded as a hero across the nation for shooting down Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan during the bloody rampage at Fort Hood last week. The account of heroism, given by the authorities, attracted the attention of newspapers, the networks and television talk shows.

But the story of how the petite police officer and the accused gunman went down in an exchange of gunfire does not agree with the account of an eyewitness who had gone to the base’s processing center, where the shooting occurred, to conduct business before being deployed.

The witness, who asked not to be identified, said Major Hasan wheeled on Sergeant Munley as she rounded the corner of a building and shot her, putting her on the ground. Then Major Hasan turned his back on her and started putting another magazine into his semiautomatic pistol.

It was at that moment that Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, a veteran police officer, rounded another corner of the building, found Major Hasan fumbling with his weapon and shot him.

How the authorities came to issue the original version of the story, which made Sergeant Munley a national hero for several days and obscured Sergeant Todd’s role, remains unclear. (Military officials also said for several hours after the shooting that Major Hasan had been killed, although he had survived.)

Six days after the deadly shooting rampage at a center where soldiers were preparing for deployment, the military has yet to put out a full account of what happened.

At a news conference outside the post on Wednesday, Lt. Col. John Rossi refused to take questions about who shot Major Hasan or why the initial reports said it had been Sergeant Munley rather than Sergeant Todd.

“These questions are specific to the investigation and I am not going to address that,” Colonel Rossi said.

Public affairs officials also declined to make Chuck Medley, the director of emergency services at the post, available for questions. It was Mr. Medley, who oversees the post’s civilian police and fire departments, who gave the first account of how Sergeant Munley stopped the gunman.

On Tuesday night, Lt. Col. Lee Packnett, of the Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs at the Pentagon, declined to say whether it was Sergeant Todd who had shot Major Hasan. “It could have been, but the final outcome will be determined by the results of the ballistics tests.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Sergeant Todd’s wife, Lisa, said he had asked the Army to protect his identity in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. Her husband did not consider himself to be the real hero of the day, she said. “They were in this together,” she said.

Neither Sergeant Todd nor Sergeant Munley were made available by the military for this article, but on Wednesday on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” they offered their first public comments on the shooting. They did not give a detailed chronology of what happened, nor did they say who had fired and hit the suspect.

Both are members of the civilian police force at Fort Hood. Sergeant Todd said on the talk show that he and Sergeant Munley had arrived at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in separate squad vehicles about the same time.

Sergeant Todd acknowledged that he had played a major role in bringing the violence to an end. He said that he had fired at the suspect, kicked his weapon away and placed him in handcuffs. It was the first time in his 25 years in law enforcement and the military, Sergeant Todd said, that he had used his weapon.

“I just relied back on my training,” Sergeant Todd said. “We’re trained to shoot until there is no longer a threat. And once he was laying down on his back, his weapon just fell into his hand and I’m, like, ‘O.K., now’s the time to rush him and secure him.’ ”

The confusion over what happened and the quickness of the military to label someone a hero seemed reminiscent of the case of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in 2003, when the Army initially reported Private Lynch had been captured in Iraq after a Rambo-like performance in which she emptied her weapon and was wounded in battle. It was later learned she had been badly hurt in a vehicle accident during an ambush and was being well cared for by the Iraqis.

On Friday, the day after the Fort Hood shooting, Mr. Medley said Sergeant Munley had encountered Major Hasan, pistol in hand, chasing down a bleeding soldier. It was 1:27 p.m. She fired at him, he turned, they rushed at each other firing and both fell, Mr. Medley said.

“He turned and charged her rapidly firing, and she did what she was trained to do,” Mr. Medley said that day. He added, “She is absolutely a hero.”

Several hours later, at a late-night news conference on the post, Colonel Rossi expanded upon the story slightly in speaking to reporters. He said Sergeant Todd had arrived at the scene in the middle of the gunfight and had also fired his weapon.

The eyewitness, however, offered a different account. He said he was walking in a roadway between the main building, known as the Sportsdome, and five smaller buildings. Major Hasan was headed toward the main building, the witness said, when Sergeant Munley came around the corner of a smaller building. Major Hasan wheeled on her and shot her several times, the witness said. It was unclear whether she squeezed off a shot or not, but she fell over backward, disabled with wounds in her legs and one of her wrists, the witness said.

Major Hasan then turned his back on her and began to shove another magazine into his pistol. He did not appear wounded, the witness said. A few seconds later, Sergeant Todd came around another corner of the same building. He raised his weapon and fired several times at Major Hasan, who pitched over backward and stopped moving.

“He shot her, turned away from her and was reloading, when he was shot,” said the witness, who was nearby.

On the Winfrey show, Sergeant Munley, 35, said the incident was confusing and chaotic. “There were many people outside pointing to where this individual was apparently located,” she said. “When I got out of my vehicle and ran up the hill, that’s when it started getting bad and we started encountering fire.”

Sergeant Todd, 42, is a native of California who spent most of his adult life as a military police officer in the Army. He left the military police after 25 years to join the civilian force at Fort Hood. Like most members of the military, he has moved around a lot, serving at four bases in the United States and two in Germany.

Ms. Todd said her husband did not seem upset in the wake of shooting Major Hasan.

“He say’s he’s O.K.,” she said. “And I have to take him at his word.”

 

Liz Robbins contributed reporting from New York.

    At Fort Hood, Witness Credits Second Officer, NYT, 12.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/us/12hood.html

 

 

 

 

 

Remarks of President Barack Obama

 

November 11, 2009
The New York Times
 

Remarks of President Obama, as Prepared for Delivery for the memorial service at Fort Hood, Tex.

 

We come together filled with sorrow for the thirteen Americans that we have lost; with gratitude for the lives that they led; and with a determination to honor them through the work we carry on.

This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.

For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that has been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.

But here is what you must also know: your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life's work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy.

Neither this country – nor the values that we were founded upon – could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician's assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.

Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.

Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.

After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society's most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.

Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn't take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: "Watch me."

Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service – diffuse bombs – so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.

Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.

Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Private Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.

Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.

These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.

That same spirit is embodied in the community here at Fort Hood, and in the many wounded who are still recovering. In those terrible minutes during the attack, soldiers made makeshift tourniquets out of their clothes. They braved gunfire to reach the wounded, and ferried them to safety in the backs of cars and a pick-up truck.

One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers – Mark Todd and Kim Munley – saved countless lives by risking their own. One medic – Francisco de la Serna – treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.

These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.

As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call – the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm's way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.

We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln's words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That is who we are as a people.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a chance to pause, and to pay tribute – for students to learn of the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.

For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us – every single American – must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before.

We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.

This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and stations – all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.

In today's wars, there is not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops' success – no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of their impact is no less great – in a world of threats that no know borders, it will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that is extended abroad. And it will serve as testimony to the character of those who serve, and the example that you set for America and for the world.

Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to thirteen men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home. Later today, at Fort Lewis, one community will gather to remember so many in one Stryker Brigade who have fallen in Afghanistan.

Long after they are laid to rest – when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today's servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown – it will be said of this generation that they believed under the most trying of tests; that they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; and that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.

So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service. May God bless the memory of those we lost. And may God bless the United States of America.

    Remarks of President Barack Obama, NYT, 11.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/us/11transcript.html

 

 

 

 

 

Obama Travels to Texas for Service at Fort Hood

 

November 11, 2009
The New York Times
By BRIAN KNOWLTON

 

WASHINGTON — President Obama headed to Texas on Tuesday morning to meet with victims of the rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., and the families of the 13 who were slain, address the grieving community at the sprawling military base and, ultimately, serve as consoler-in-chief to a nation still shaken and mystified by last Thursday’s mass shooting.

The president and his wife, Michelle, were to arrive in Killeen not long before noon Central time, visit privately first with the families of those killed in the attack, and immediately afterward gather with with some of the dozens of wounded and their family members.

The Obamas will then attend the memorial service, which a base spokesman said would be a traditional military ceremony. It will include prayers, speeches, a sermon, a “roll call” tribute to the 13 dead and then a rifle salute.

Several thousand people are expected to attend, and security around the base has been tightened since the shooting.

Mr. Obama will speak at 1:00 p.m. Central time.

Afterward, he and Mrs. Obama will meet with other survivors of the shooting before returning to Washington.

The base spokesman, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, said at a briefing on Monday that the ceremony was intended to help the people of Fort Hood move forward, just as memorial ceremonies in war zones are meant to do.

"The added benefit, of course,” General Cone said, “is having the president of the United States here, and all that represents."

Past presidents have helped the nation work through some of its most wrenching tragedies, often through soaring rhetoric that can leave a lasting mark at a time of deep pain.

When President George W. Bush grabbed a bullhorn while standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, the image of a strong and compassionate leader helped send his approval ratings to 90 percent.

President Bill Clinton similarly paid a moving tribute after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 in which 168 people died. “Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear,” Mr. Clinton said at a memorial service there. “When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life.”

The somber tributes President Ronald Reagan paid to the Marines killed in a Beirut truck-bombing in 1985, and the following year to the three astronauts who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, helped establish his reputation as a “Great Communicator.”

The job of conveying presidential empathy and compassion — but also projecting a reassuring calm in a storm — now falls to Mr. Obama.

His task is rendered all the more difficult because the suspected killer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is a Muslim at a time when Mr. Obama oversees wars in two predominantly Muslim countries — even while working to improve relations with the Muslim world.

    Obama Travels to Texas for Service at Fort Hood, NYT, 11.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/us/11hood.html

 

 

 

 

 

At Fort Hood, Some Violence Is Too Familiar

 

November 10, 2009
The New York Times
By MICHAEL MOSS and RAY RIVERA

 

FORT HOOD, Tex. — Staff Sgt. Gilberto Mota, 35, and his wife, Diana, 30, an Army specialist, had returned to Fort Hood from Iraq last year when he used his gun to kill her, and then took his own life, the authorities say. In July, two members of the First Cavalry Division, also just back from the war with decorations for their service, were at a party when one killed the other.

That same month, Staff Sgt. Justin Lee Garza, 28, under stress from two deployments, killed himself in a friend’s apartment outside Fort Hood, four days after he was told no therapists were available for a counseling session. “What bothers me most is this happened while he was supposed to be on suicide watch,” said his mother, Teri Smith. “To this day, I don’t know where he got the gun.”

Fort Hood is still reeling from last week’s carnage, in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of a massacre that left 13 people dead. But in the town of Killeen and other surrounding communities, the attack, one of the worst mass shootings on a military base in the United States, is also seen by many as another blow in an area that has been beset by crime and violence since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country.

The stresses are seen in other ways, too.

Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.

A crisis center on base is averaging 60 phone calls a week from soldiers and family members seeking various help for problems from suicide to anger management, with about the same volume of walk-ins and scheduled appointments.

In recent days, Army officials have pledged to redouble their efforts to help soldiers cope with deployment. The base, which uses some of the most innovative approaches in the military, plans to expand a help center set up in September that provides a variety of assistance to soldiers, including breathing techniques for handling combat stress and goal-setting skills upon their return.

“Fort Hood is very attuned to this,” said Col. William S. Rabena, who runs the help center known as the Resiliency Center Campus. “It’s the only thing to do.”

The Army has also sent an array of specialists to Fort Hood to help soldiers and their families, including chaplains, social workers, combat stress specialists, counselors and experts in crisis and disaster behavioral management. Army officials said more such assistance might be sent to the base.

But interviews with soldiers who have deployed one or more times to Iraq or Afghanistan, and with family members of those who died violently back here in Texas, show that the Army’s efforts are still falling short. Even some alarm bells rung by the Army leadership have gone unanswered.

In July, two weeks after Sergeant Garza’s death, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, then the base commander, told Congress he was in dire need of more mental health professionals. “That’s the biggest frustration,“ he told a House subcommittee. “I’m short about 44 of what I am convinced I need at Fort Hood that I just don’t have.”

Among the medical personnel brought to Fort Hood to help deal with the growing mental health issues was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who arrived in July. Major Hasan is accused in the attacks last week, but little is known about what might have driven him.

“Our soldiers are coming back and not getting the help they need,” said Cynthia Thomas, an Army wife who runs a private assistance center for soldiers in Killeen called Under the Hood Café. “Whether it’s self-medicating, anger or violence, these are the consequences of war, and you have to think about all the people affected by soldiers coming home, the parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins.”

Pfc. Michael Kern, of Riverside, Calif., said he tried unsuccessfully to obtain help for stress last year in Baghdad, but was ridiculed by an officer in front of his tanker unit. “He said he would have to impose mandatory sleeping times,” said Private Kern, 22, “and that health care was for people with serious problems.”

Back at Fort Hood, Private Kern said he had a breakdown that led to hospitalization and is now awaiting discharge at his request. If he had received therapy in Iraq, he said, “I might not be in this situation now.”

Military officials say the crime and violence associated with Fort Hood must be viewed with the base’s size in mind. With 53,000 soldiers assigned to the base, it has become the largest facility in the country, and much of the surrounding area is tied to the military through family or business.

Col. Edward McCabe, a Catholic chaplain at Fort Hood, said signs of fatigue and other strains are “rampant” on the base. “The numbers of divorces I’ve had to deal with are huge, the cases of physical abuse,” Colonel McCabe said. “Every night in my apartment complex some soldier and his wife are screaming and shouting at each other.“

The Army influences nearly every aspect of life in Killeen, a cotton town until the base moved in during World War II. About 55 miles north of Austin, the town straddles U.S. 190 and is split by a long corridor of strip malls. Most of the 102,000 residents are soldiers, their families or Army retirees. Business here and in the surrounding smaller communities like Belton and Harker Heights ebbs and flows around the first and 15th of each month — military paydays — and around deployments.

At The Killeen Daily Herald, which covers the base with a sympathetic ear to its military readers, employees see similar patterns play out with each troop rotation.

One day, it is a homecoming, with hundreds of families waving flags and homemade signs along T. J. Mills Boulevard leading into the base’s main gate. The next day, crime reports increase, especially cases of domestic violence. “Unfortunately, you see the trend every time there’s a homecoming, when the divisions come home,” said Olga Pena, the paper’s managing editor.

Nicolas Serna, the managing attorney of the local legal aid office, said requests for protective orders had steadily increased over the last several years.

He questioned whether Fort Hood was doing nearly enough for soldiers or for victims of domestic violence. A few years ago, he said, the base refused the group’s offer to provide legal assistance and to help with protection orders for families on Fort Hood.

Some social workers in the area see it differently. The Army, while not perfect, has been trying to address the situation, said Suzanne Armour, the director of programs at the Families in Crisis shelter in Killeen.

Michael Sibberson, the principal of Killeen High School, which has 1,880 students, a little over half with military parents, said in one sense the wars had helped the students relate to one another. On the other side, Mr. Sibberson said, the students are not getting the parental guidance they need because so many have parents deployed. That has led to poor grades, and more behavioral problems.

“Kids are not getting the support at the dinner table they need because Mom or Dad is not there,” he said, adding, “When you call the house you are likely to get Grandma, or a mom who says, ‘I am so full I don’t know what to do with him anymore.’ ”

Henry Garza, the district attorney for Bell County, which includes Killeen, said increases in crime might reflect the town’s rapid growth, though the federal crime data is adjusted for population changes. But the data may be understated because it does not count crimes prosecuted by the military authorities, who sometimes handle serious felonies and misdemeanors by active-duty soldiers even when they occur off base.

Base officials declined to release crime data without a Freedom of Information Act request.

Whether civilian or military official investigate deaths, the proceedings often leave families frustrated by the lack of clear answers.

The list of medals awarded to Sergeant Garza (no relation to the district attorney) tell of a good soldier. After two tours in Iraq, he shared a tight bond with unit members and missed them greatly when the Army sent him to a base in Georgia for additional training after a second deployment. He was troubled by a breakup with a girlfriend. And though he seldom spoke with his family about his combat tours, he once confided to his mother that he had a killed a person in Iraq. “He said, ‘It was him or me,’ ” Ms. Smith said. “But you could tell it troubled him.”

His family believes he did not get the care he needed, despite signs he had fallen into despair.

In June, he left the Georgia base without permission, and the Army tracked him to a hotel room in Paris, Tex. In a suicide note he sent to a friend before leaving, he said he wanted to end it close to his friends. Among his purchases was a shotgun.

Sergeant Garza was brought back to Fort Hood and committed for psychiatric care, first to a civilian hospital because there was no room at the base hospital, said his uncle, Gary Garza, who lives in Killeen. After three days, he was transferred to the base hospital. He was released after two weeks and assigned to take outpatient counseling.

“We thought he was doing better,” said his grandfather, Homer Garza, a retired command sergeant major who served in Korea and Vietnam and who himself had silently suffered for decades with post-traumatic stress.

In fact, Sergeant Garza had shared misgivings about his treatment at the base hospital with his uncle.

“He said he felt like he was getting really good treatment at the civilian hospital,” his uncle said. “He said the civilian doctors seemed to care more. And for the military doctors, it was just like a job for them.”

True or not, on July 7 Sergeant Garza received a message on his cellphone canceling what was to be his first outpatient appointment.

Though his family says the Army was supposed to be checking his apartment for guns and alcohol, that Sunday he put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. His mother later listened to the message.

“They said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have a counselor for you today,’ ” Ms. Smith said. “ ‘If you don’t hear back from us by Monday, give us a call.’ ”

 

Clifford Krauss and Campbell Robertson contributed reporting from Killeen, Tex., and Griff Palmer from New York.

    At Fort Hood, Some Violence Is Too Familiar, NYT, 10.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/us/10post.html

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Knew of Fort Hood Suspect’s Tie to Radical Cleric

 

November 10, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON and SCOTT SHANE

 

WASHINGTON — Intelligence agencies intercepted communications last year and this year between the military psychiatrist accused of shooting to death 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., and a radical cleric in Yemen known for his incendiary anti-American teachings.

But the federal authorities dropped an inquiry into the matter after deciding that the messages from the psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, did not suggest any threat of violence and concluding that no further action was warranted, government officials said Monday.

Major Hasan’s 10 to 20 messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, once a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Major Hasan worshiped, indicate that the troubled military psychiatrist came to the attention of the authorities long before last Thursday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but that the authorities left him in his post.

Counterterrorism and military officials said Monday night that the communications, first intercepted last December as part of an unrelated investigation, were consistent with a research project the psychiatrist was then conducting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There was no indication that Major Hasan was planning an imminent attack at all, or that he was directed to do anything,” one senior investigator said. He and the other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying the case was under investigation.

The officials said the Departments of Defense and Justice had decided Major Hasan would be prosecuted in a military court, an indication that investigators believe he acted alone. Government lawyers had said his case might be tried in civilian court if he were believed to have conspired with nonmilitary defendants.

In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “At this point, there is no information to indicate Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot.” The statement concluded that “because the content of the communications was explainable by his research and nothing else was found,” investigators decided “that Major Hasan was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning.”

Officials said the F.B.I. and the Defense Department would be reviewing their earlier assessment of Major Hasan to determine whether it was handled correctly.

Given the radical views of Mr. Awlaki, however, the conduct of the F.B.I. and the military is likely to come under intense scrutiny from Congress. Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, on Monday asked intelligence and law enforcement officials to preserve all records of their dealings with Major Hasan.

The communications provide the first indication that Major Hasan was in direct communication with anyone who espoused militant views. On Monday, Mr. Awlaki praised Major Hasan on his Web site, saying that he “did the right thing” in attacking soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The officials said the communications did not alter the prevailing theory that Major Hasan acted by himself, lashing out as a result of combination of factors, including his outspoken opposition to American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and his deepening religious fervor as a Muslim.

Major Hasan, who was shot by a police officer, has regained consciousness at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and is able to talk, though he declined on Sunday to speak to federal investigators about the shooting rampage. “He is critical but stable,” said a hospital spokeswoman, Maria Gallegos.

Ms. Gallegos added that Major Hasan had come out of a coma on Saturday and had been conversing with his doctors ever since. A lawyer for Major Hasan told The Associated Press on Monday that he had asked investigators not to question his client and expressed doubt that he could get a fair trial. The lawyer, John P. Galligan, a retired Army colonel, said he was contacted by Major Hasan’s family on Monday and was traveling to San Antonio to consult with him.

The imam whom Major Hasan made contact with is an American citizen born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents. He wrote on Monday on his English-language Web site that Major Hasan was “a hero.” The cleric said, “He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.”

Mr. Awlaki added, “The only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Awlaki was quoted as disapproving of such violence and was portrayed as a moderate figure who might provide a bridge between Islam and Western democracies. But since leaving the United States in 2002 for London and later Yemen, Mr. Awlaki has become, through his Web site, www.anwar-alawlaki.com, a prominent proponent of militant Islam.

“He’s one of the most popular figures among hard-line, English-speaking jihadis around the world,” said Jarret Brachman, the author of “Global Jihadism” and a terrorism consultant to the government.

Mr. Brachman said Mr. Awlaki was especially appealing to young Muslims who are curious about radical ideas but not yet committed. “He’s American, he’s funny, and he speaks in a very understandable way,” Mr. Brachman said.

In 2000 and 2001, Mr. Awlaki served as an imam at two mosques in the United States frequented by three future Sept. 11 hijackers. Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi attended the Rabat mosque in San Diego, where Mr. Awlaki later admitted meeting Mr. Hazmi several times but “claimed not to remember any specifics of what they discussed,” according to the report of the national Sept. 11 commission.

Both Mr. Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, later attended the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., after Mr. Awlaki had moved there in early 2001. The Sept. 11 commission report expressed “suspicion” about the coincidence, but said its investigators were unable to find Mr. Awlaki to question him.

Major Hasan attended the same Virginia mosque, but it is not known whether they met there.

Mr. Awlaki, who is in his late 30s, had returned to Yemen with his family as a child. He received a religious education in Yemen and later earned degrees in engineering at Colorado State and in education leadership at San Diego State, according to his Web site.

His writings urge Muslims to dedicate themselves to defending Islam, including pursuing “arms training,” in such works as “44 Ways of Supporting Jihad.”

At Fort Hood, the Army erected walls of gray containers around the headquarters of III Corps in advance of a memorial service Tuesday for the 13 people killed when, the authorities say, Major Hasan opened fire in a center where soldiers get vaccinated before being sent abroad.

President Obama and his wife, Michelle, are expected to attend the ceremony, and the president will speak to a crowd that will include the survivors of the attack and the families of the victims.

 

James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting from Killeen, Tex.

    U.S. Knew of Fort Hood Suspect’s Tie to Radical Cleric, NYT, 10.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/us/10inquire.html

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Hood Gunman Gave Signals Before His Rampage

 

November 9, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. and JAMES DAO

 

KILLEEN, Tex. — It was still dark on Thursday when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan left his aging apartment complex to attend 6 a.m. prayers at the brick mosque near Fort Hood. Afterward, he said goodbye to his friends there and asked forgiveness from one man for any past offenses.

“I’m going traveling,” he told a fellow worshiper, giving him a hug. “I won’t be here tomorrow.”

Six hours later, Major Hasan walked into a processing center at Fort Hood where soldiers get medical attention before being sent overseas. At first, he sat quietly at an empty table, said two congressmen briefed on the investigation.

Then, witnesses say, he bowed his head for several seconds, as if praying, stood up and drew a high-powered pistol. “Allahu akbar,” he said — “God is great.” And he opened fire. Within minutes he had killed 13 people.

But relatives and acquaintances say tensions that led to the rampage had been building for a long time. Investigators say Major Hasan bought the gun used in the massacre last summer, days after arriving at Fort Hood.

In recent years, he had grown more and more vocal about his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tortured over reconciling his military duties with his religion. He tried to get out of the Army, relatives said, and apparently believed it to be impossible, though experts say he was probably given inadequate advice.

At times, he complained, too, about harassment, once describing how someone had put a diaper in his car, saying, “That’s your headdress.” In another case cited by relatives, someone had drawn a camel on his car and written under it, “Camel jockey, get out!”

Major Hasan’s behavior in the months and weeks leading up to the shooting bespeaks a troubled man full of contradictions. He lived frugally in a run-down apartment, yet made a good salary and spent more than $1,100 on the pistol the authorities said he used in the shootings.

He was described as gentle and kindly by many neighbors, quick with a smile or a hello, yet he complained bitterly to people at his mosque about the oppression of Muslims in the Army. He had few friends, and even the men he interacted with at the mosque saw him as a strange figure whom they never fully accepted into their circle.

“He was obviously upset,” said Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old who attended the mosque and ate frequently with Major Hasan at the Golden Corral restaurant. “He didn’t want to go to Afghanistan.”

Major Hasan was born in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 8, 1970. His parents, Palestinians who had immigrated from the West Bank in the 1960s, moved the family to Roanoke when he was a youth. The lower cost of living offered a chance to open businesses, relatives said: first a somewhat seedy bar in the old farmer’s market downtown; later a more upscale Middle Eastern restaurant and a convenience store.

Major Hasan was the oldest of three boys, all of whom helped in the family businesses before going off to college and professional schools. Major Hasan graduated with honors from Virginia Tech in biochemistry in 1995. His brother Anas became a lawyer and moved several years ago to Ramallah in the West Bank, where the family still owns property, relatives said. The third brother, Eyad, graduated from George Mason University and became a human resources officer for a medical research firm based in Virginia.

Against the wishes of his parents, relatives said, Major Hasan enlisted in the Army after graduating from college and entered an officer basic training program at Fort Sam Houston, Tex. He was commissioned in 1997 and went to medical school at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., a selective and tuition-free program.

After graduating in 2003, he did his internship and residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and then completed a two-year fellowship in preventive and disaster psychiatry, earning a master’s degree in public health.

An uncle who lives in Ramallah said Major Hasan chose psychiatry over surgery after fainting while observing childbirth during his medical training. The uncle, Rafiq Hamad, described Major Hasan as a gentle, quiet, deeply sensitive man who once owned a bird that he fed by placing it in his mouth and allowing it to eat masticated food.

When the bird died, Mr. Hamad said, Major Hasan “mourned for two or three months, dug a grave for it and visited it.”

Around 2004, Major Hasan started feeling disgruntled about the Army, relatives said. He described anti-Muslim harassment and sought legal advice, possibly from an Army lawyer, about getting a discharge.

But because the Army had paid for his education, and probably because the Army was in great need of mental health professionals and was trying to recruit Arab-Americans, he was advised that his chances of getting out were minuscule, relatives said.

“They told him that he would be allowed out only if Rumsfeld himself O.K.’d it,” said a cousin, Nader Hasan, referring to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense. Relatives said they were unclear whether Major Hasan sought assistance from a private lawyer; then, about two years ago, his cousin Nader Hasan said, he resigned himself to staying in the Army through the end of his commitment.

An Army spokesman said on Sunday that he did not know the length of Major Hasan’s commitment. But for medical officers, it is typically seven years after graduation from military medical school, which would have meant at least into 2010 for Major Hasan.

Private lawyers who represent soldiers said it was difficult but not impossible to obtain an early discharge from the Army.

 

A Turn Toward Islam

During his years in Washington, Major Hasan turned increasingly toward Islam, relatives and classmates said. In part, he was seeking solace after the death of his parents, in 1998 and 2001.

Mr. Hamad, the uncle, said Major Hasan took the death of his parents hard, isolating himself and delving into books on Islam rather than socializing. “But this was a few years ago, and I thought he had coped with it,” Mr. Hamad said.

Major Hasan also seemed to believe that his mosques could help him find a wife, preferably one of Arab descent, he told imams. Faizul Khan, the former imam at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md., said he knew women who had been interested in Major Hasan because he had a good job. But he did not find any of them pious enough, the imam said.

Though Major Hasan told his cousins that he planned to marry sometime this year, he was not known to have ever had a girlfriend, relatives said.

Federal authorities were looking into whether there was any interaction between Mr. Hasan and an American-born imam known for giving fiery speeches at a mosque in Northern Virginia that Mr. Hasan attended in 2001. Mr. Hasan attended the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., when Anwar Al-Awlaki was the imam there, but it is not clear what influence Mr. Awlaki’s rhetoric may have had on Mr. Hasan.

During his time at Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University, Major Hasan also became increasingly vocal in his opposition to the wars. He knew much about the harsh realities of combat from having counseled returning soldiers, and he was deeply concerned about having to deploy. But over the past five years, he also began openly opposing the wars on religious grounds.

A former classmate in the master’s degree program said Major Hasan gave a PowerPoint presentation about a year ago in an environmental health seminar titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam.” He did not socialize with his classmates, other than to argue in the hallways on why the wars were wrong.

The former classmate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of working for the military and not being authorized to speak publicly, said that some students complained to their professors about Major Hasan, but that no action had been taken. “It didn’t cross my mind that he was dangerous,” the former classmate said. “He’s a chubby, bald guy. He wasn’t threatening.”

Dr. Aaron Haney, who was a year ahead of Major Hasan in the residency program, said there were many people at Walter Reed who expressed opposition to the wars. He also said he had witnessed anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiments expressed by soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., where Dr. Haney trained before he deployed.

One of Major Hasan’s supervisors, Dr. Thomas Grieger, said Major Hasan had difficulties while at Walter Reed that required counseling. But Dr. Grieger said such counseling was not uncommon and told CNN that Major Hasan had “responded to the supervision that he received.”

“He swore an oath of loyalty to the military,” Dr. Grieger told The Associated Press. “I didn’t hear anything contrary to those oaths.”

A person who is familiar with the residency program at Walter Reed said it was not unusual for residents in the psychiatry program to be sent for counseling at some point. The person said that the fact that Major Hasan had completed his residency in good standing and was accepted into the fellowship was in itself an indicator that nothing he did signaled major problems.

In May, after completing the fellowship, he was promoted to major, and two months later he was transferred to Fort Hood, the Army’s largest post. When he arrived there on July 15, his deepest fear — deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan — seemed almost certain.

 

The Move to Fort Hood

In late July, Major Hasan moved into a second-floor apartment on the north side of Killeen, paying $2,050 for his six-month lease up front, said the apartment manager, Alice Thompson. The two-story faded brick complex, Casa del Norte Apartments, has an open courtyard with exterior stairs and advertises move-in specials.

A few days later, Major Hasan bought an FN Herstal 5.7-millimeter pistol at a popular weapons store, Guns Galore, just off the highway that runs between the mosque that Major Hasan attended and the base, federal law enforcement officials said.

The tenants generally saw him leave early and come home late in the afternoon, usually in his fatigues. He never had visitors, they said, but he was friendly with his neighbors.

“The first day he moved in, he offered to give me a ride to work,” said Willie Bell, 51, who lived next door. “He’d give you the shoes and shirt and pants off him if you need it. Nicest guy you’d want to meet.

“The very first day I seen him, he hugged me like, ‘My brother, how you doing?’ ”

In mid-August, another tenant, a soldier who had served in Iraq, was angered by a bumper sticker on Major Hasan’s car proclaiming “Allah is Love” and ran his key the length of Major Hasan’s car. Ms. Thompson learned of it and told Major Hasan about it that night, and though he called the police, Major Hasan did not appear to be angered by it.

On the base, Major Hasan was assigned to the psychiatric wards at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, military officials said. Col. John Rossi, deputy commander of Fort Hood, said Major Hasan’s function on base was the “assessment of soldiers before deployment.”

In early September, Major Hasan began worshiping at the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen mosque, which about 75 families attend. He prayed there as often as five times a day, kneeling in a plain room with bright green carpet.

But he was still wrestling with the quandary of being a Muslim officer in an Army fighting other Muslims. He invited Osman Danquah, the co-founder of the mosque, to dinner at Ryan’s restaurant and asked him how he should counsel young Muslim soldiers who might have objections to the wars.

Mr. Danquah, a retired sergeant and a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, told him that the soldiers had no excuse since it was a volunteer Army and that they could always file as conscientious objectors.

“I got the impression he was trying to validate how he was dealing with it,” Mr. Danquah said.


In late October, Major Hasan told the imam in Killeen, Syed Ahmed Ali, that he was leaving Texas to live with his family in Virginia. “He said, ‘Pray for me,’ ” Mr. Ali said.

But he never left. The night before the shooting, he had dinner with Mr. Reasoner and said he felt that he should not go to Afghanistan.

“He felt he was supposed to quit,” Mr. Reasoner said. “In the Koran, it says you are not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christians, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

 

Choosing His Targets

Mr. Hasan began shooting around 1:20 p.m., investigators say.

As he methodically moved around the room, he spared some people while firing on others several times. He seemed to discriminate among his targets, though it is unclear why. All but one of the dead were soldiers.

“Our witnesses said he made eye contact with a guy and then moved to somebody in uniform,” said Representative K. Michael Conaway, Republican of Texas.

He fired more than 100 rounds.

The intermittent firing gave some soldiers false hope as they hunkered down in the processing center, flattening themselves under tables and propping chairs against flimsy cubicle doors.

Witnesses said that the floor became drenched with blood and that soldiers, apparently dead, were draped over chairs in the waiting area or lying on the floor.

Specialist Matthew Cooke, 30, who was expecting orders to leave for Afghanistan in January, was waiting in line to be processed in the medical building when Major Hasan opened fire. A soldier standing near him was hit and crumpled to the ground, and Specialist Cooke dropped to his knees and leaned over the soldier to shield him from being struck again, Specialist Cooke’s father, Carl, said in an interview.

Major Hasan walked up to Specialist Cooke, who had previously done a tour in Iraq, pointed his gun down at his back and shot him several times, Mr. Cooke said. “The rounds nicked his colon and several places in his intestines, bladder and spleen,” he said, but the specialist survived.

Cpl. Nathan Hewitt, 27, thought that he was in an unannounced training exercise when he heard the gunfire erupt. Then he saw the blood on his thigh and felt the sting from the bullet that hit him, said his father, Steven Hewitt.

The shooting stopped momentarily, and Corporal Hewitt started to crawl out of the room on his belly with others following. Major Hasan was only reloading. He started to shoot again, hitting Corporal Hewitt in the calf.

The first police officers to arrive found Major Hasan chasing a wounded soldier outside the building, investigators said. Pulling up in a squad car, Sgt. Kimberly D. Munley went after him and shot him in an exchange of gunfire that left her wounded.

It was 1:27 p.m.

 

 

Reporting was contributed by Clifford Krauss, Campbell Robertson, Michael Moss, Serge Kovaleski and Michael Brick from Killeen, Tex.; Erica Goode from Washington; and Catrina Stewart from Ramallah, West Bank. Research was contributed by Jack Begg, Barbara Gray and Toby Lyles.

    Fort Hood Gunman Gave Signals Before His Rampage, NYT, 9.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/us/09reconstruct.html

 

 

 

 

 

When Soldiers Snap

 

November 8, 2009
The New York Times
By ERICA GOODE

 

“Every man has his breaking point,” said military doctors in World War II, believing that more than 90 days of continuous combat could turn any soldier into a psychiatric casualty.

For Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who military officials said gunned down dozens of soldiers at Fort Hood, Tex., on Thursday, that point may have come even before he experienced the reality of war; he was bound for a combat zone but had not yet embarked.

Major Hasan was being sent not to fight, but to join those ranks of doctors who, over centuries of war, have worried about breaking points — how much fear and tedium soldiers can take; how long they can slog through deserts or over mountains; how much blood they can see, how many comrades they can lose — and have sought ways to salve the troops’ psychic wounds and keep them fighting.

Much is unknown about Major Hasan’s motives. He is said to have dreaded deployment, but what he feared is unclear. And officials have not ruled out the possibility that his actions were premeditated or political. One report had him shouting something like “Allahu Akhbar” — Arabic for “God is Great” — before the shooting.

But even in this absence of certainty, his case invites a look at the long history of psychiatric medicine in war, if only because of his status as a battlefield psychiatrist, and the chance that his own psyche was, on some level, undone by the kind of stress he treated.

Over the centuries, soldiers have often broken under such stress, and in modern times each generation of psychiatrists has felt it was closer to understanding what makes soldiers break. But each generation has also been confounded by the unpredictability with which aggressions sometimes explode, in a fury no one sees coming.

The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed more than their share of stress victims, with a rising number of suicides among soldiers and high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Such casualties often occur not on the battlefield but after it — or, sometimes, merely in its proximity.

In World War I, the disorder was known as shell shock, and the soldiers who fell victim were at first believed to have concussions from exploding munitions. Their symptoms appeared neurological: They included trembling, paralysis, a loss of sight or hearing.

Yet it turned out that some affected soldiers had been nowhere near an exploding shell, suggesting “that the syndrome could arise in anticipation of going into a stressful situation,” said Dr. Richard McNally, a professor of psychology at Harvard and an expert on traumatic stress.

Some doctors devised methods to treat shell shock victims — one German doctor tried electroshock to the limbs. But there was also widespread suspicions that the soldiers were malingering. Some soldiers were shot for cowardice.

Yet shell shock was simply the Great War’s version of a reaction to combat that has been detected even in the writings of antiquity. Achilles, Jonathan Shay maintains in “Achilles in Vietnam,” (Scribner, 1994) displayed a form of traumatic stress when in the Iliad he grieves over the death of his friend Patroclus.

Soldiers in the Civil War suffered from irritability, disturbed sleep, shortness of breath and depression, a syndrome Jacob Mendes Da Costa, an Army surgeon, described in 1871 as “irritable heart.”

In World War II, the paralysis and trembling of the early 1900s did not recur. But nightmares, startled reactions, anxiety and other symptoms persisted as “battle fatigue” or “war neurosis,” a condition whose treatment was heavily influenced by the rise of Freudian psychoanalysis.

Out of that war emerged a theory of battlefield treatment known as PIE, or proximity, immediacy and expectancy. The doctrine held that if a soldier broke down during combat, he should be treated close to the front, because if he was sent home, he would do poorly and seldom return to battle. Major Hasan, had he reached Iraq, would have practiced a similar approach: Soldiers are treated close to the forward lines and only removed to hospitals farther from the front in the most severe cases.

Today, the flashbacks, nightmares and other symptoms of soldiers are diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder or P.T.S.D., a term that replaced “post-Vietnam syndrome” and entered the official nomenclature in 1980, appearing in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual. Like its predecessors, the disorder has been easier to diagnose than it has been to understand or to treat.

Research has yielded some treatments that studies show help soldiers, and the military — now acutely aware of the problem — has taken steps to make the methods widely available. Yet the history of treatments for combat stress has often been a circular one, with experts “remembering and forgetting and remembering and forgetting but never integrating and creating a lasting narrative that could be a blueprint for going forward,” as one psychiatrist put it.

Similarly, scientific views of what makes soldiers susceptible to stress disorders have waxed and waned. Some experts, in a modern echo of a view put forward in World War II, argue that soldiers who develop P.T.S.D. have longstanding vulnerabilities — psychological or physiological — that make them unable to withstand the pressures of combat. Others assert, in agreement with the military doctors of World War I, that every soldier simply has a breaking point, and that multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the numbers who return to a second, psychological war at home.

Yet no theory seems able to capture the unpredictable effects of sustained violence on human beings, the subtle pressures that years of killing and more killing exert on a soldier, a doctor or a society — or the reality that every war travels home with the soldiers who fight it.

“All these people have been under a tremendous amount of stress,” said Dr. Stephen Sonnenberg, a psychiatrist and adjunct professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, speaking of soldiers and those who treat them. “They are holding the stress for everybody.”

    When Soldiers Snap, NYT, 8.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/weekinreview/08goode.html

 

 

 

 

 

Army Doctor Held in Fort Hood Rampage

 

November 6, 2009
The New York Times
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN

 

An Army psychiatrist facing deployment to one of America’s war zones killed 12 people and wounded 31 others on Thursday in a shooting rampage with two handguns at the sprawling Fort Hood Army post in central Texas, military officials said.

It was one of the worst mass shootings ever at a military base in the United States.

The gunman, who was still alive after being shot four times, was identified by law enforcement authorities as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, who had been in the service since 1995. Major Hasan was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.

Clad in a military uniform and firing an automatic pistol and another weapon, Major Hasan, a balding, chubby-faced man with heavy eyebrows, sprayed bullets inside a crowded medical processing center for soldiers returning from or about to be sent overseas, military officials said.

The victims, nearly all military personnel but including two civilians, were cut down in clusters, the officials said. Witnesses told military investigators that medics working at the center tore open the clothing of the dead and wounded to get at the wounds and administer first aid.

As the shooting unfolded, military police and civilian officers of the Department of the Army responded and returned the gunman’s fire, officials said, adding that Major Hasan was shot by a first-responder, who was herself wounded in the exchange.

In the confusion of a day of wild and misleading reports, the major and the officer who shot him were both reported killed in the gun battle, but both reports were erroneous.

Eight hours after the shootings, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, a base spokesmen, said Major Hasan, whom he described as the sole gunman, had been shot four times, but was hospitalized off the base, under around-the-clock guard, in stable condition and was not in imminent danger of dying.

Another military spokesman listed the major’s condition as critical. The condition of the officer who shot the gunman was not given.

Major Hasan was not speaking to investigators, and much about his background — and his motives — were unknown.

General Cone said that terrorism was not being ruled out, but that preliminary evidence did not suggest that the rampage had been an act of terrorism. Fox News quoted a retired Army colonel, Terry Lee, as saying that Major Hasan, with whom he worked, had voiced hope that President Obama would pull American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, had argued with military colleagues who supported the wars and had tried to prevent his own deployment.

As a parade of ambulances wailed to the scene of the shootings, officials said the extent of injuries to the wounded varied significantly, with some in critical condition and others lightly wounded. General Cone praised the first-responders and the medics who acted quickly to administer first aid at the scene.

“Horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse,” the general said.

The rampage recalled other mass shootings in the United States, including 13 killed at a center for immigrants in upstate New York last April, the deaths of 10 during a gunman’s rampage in Alabama in March and 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007, the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

As a widespread investigation by the military, the F.B.I., and other agencies began, much about the assault in Texas remained unclear. Department of Homeland Security officials said the Army would take the lead in the investigation.

A federal law enforcement official said the F.B.I. was sending more agents to join the inquiry. On Thursday night, F.B.I. agents were interviewing residents of a townhouse complex in the Washington suburb of Kensington, Md., where Major Hasan had lived before moving to Texas.

Mr. Obama called the shootings “a horrific outburst of violence” and urged Americans to pray for those who were killed and wounded.

“It is difficult enough when we lose these men and women in battles overseas,” he said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”

The president pledged “to get answers to every single question about this horrible incident.”

Military records indicated that Major Hasan was single, had been born in Virginia, had never served abroad and listed “no religious preference” on his personnel records. Three other soldiers, their roles unclear, were taken into custody in connection with the rampage. The office of Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, said they were later released, but a Fort Hood spokesman could not confirm that. General Cone said that more than 100 people had been questioned during the day.

Fort Hood, near Killeen and 100 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the largest active duty military post in the United States, 340 square miles of training and support facilities and homes, a virtual city for more than 50,000 military personnel and some 150,000 family members and civilian support personnel. It has been a major center for troops being deployed to or returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The base went into lockdown shortly after the shootings. Gates were closed and barriers put up at all entrance and exit checkpoints, and the military police turned away all but essential personnel. Schools on the base were closed, playgrounds were deserted and sidewalks were empty. Sirens wailed across the base through the afternoon, a warning to military personnel and their families to remain indoors.

Military commanders were instructed to account for all personnel on the base.

“The immediate concern is to make sure that all of our soldiers and family members are safe, and that’s what commanders have been instructed to do,” said Jay Adams of the First Army, Division West, at Ford Hood.

General Cone said the shooting took place about 1:30 p.m., inside a complex of buildings that he called a Soldier Readiness Processing Center. The type of weapons used was unclear, and it was not known whether the gunman had reloaded, although it seemed likely, given that 43 people were shot, perhaps more than once.

All the victims were gunned down “in the same area,” General Cone said.

As the shootings ended, scores of emergency vehicles rushed to the scene, which is in the center of the fort, and dozens of ambulances carried the shooting victims to hospitals in the region.

Both of the handguns used by Major Hasan were recovered at the scene, officials said. Investigators said the major’s computers, cellphones and papers would be examined, his past investigated and his friends, relatives and military acquaintances would be interviewed in an effort to develop a profile of him and try to learn what had motivated his deadly outburst.

Major Hasan was assigned to the Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood.

The weapons used in the attack were described as “civilian” handguns. Security experts said the fact that two handguns had been used suggested premeditation, as opposed to a spontaneous act.

Rifles and assault weapons are conspicuous and not ordinarily seen on the streets of a military post, and medical personnel would have no reason to carry any weapon, they said. Moreover, security experts noted, it took a lot of ammunition to shoot 43 people, another indication of premeditation.

It appeared certain that the shootings would generate a whole new look at questions of security on military posts of all the armed forces in the United States. Expressions of dismay were voiced by public officials across the country.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, speaking for many American Muslims, condemned the shootings as a “heinous incident” and said, “We share the sentiment of our president.”

The council added, “Our entire organization extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed as well as those wounded and their loved ones.”

General Cone said Fort Hood was “absolutely devastated.”

News of the shooting set off panic among families and friends of the base personnel. Alyssa Marie Seace’s husband, Pfc. Ray Seace Jr., sent her a text message just before 2 p.m. saying that someone had “shot up the S.R.P. building,” referring to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He told her he was “hiding.”

Ms. Seace, 18, who lives about five minutes from the base and had not been watching the news, reacted with alarm. She texted him back but got no response. She called her father in Connecticut, who told her not to call her husband because it might reveal his hiding place.

Finally, 45 minutes later, her husband, a mechanic who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, texted back to say that three people from his unit had been hit and that a dozen people in all were dead.

By late afternoon, the sirens at Fort Hood had fallen silent. In Killeen, state troopers were parked on ridges overlooking the two main highways through town. In residential areas, the only signs of life were cars moving through the streets. In the business districts, people went about their business.

In 1991, Killeen was the scene of one of the worst mass killings in American history. A gunman drove his pickup truck through the window of a cafeteria, fatally shot 22 people with a handgun, then killed himself.

Fort Hood, opened in September 1942 as America geared up for World War II, was named for Gen. John Bell Hood of the Confederacy. It has been used continuously for armor training and is charged with maintaining readiness for combat missions.

It is a place that feels, on ordinary days, like one of the safest in the world, surrounded by those who protect the nation with their lives. It is home to nine schools — seven elementary schools and two middle schools, for the children of personnel. But on Thursday, the streets were lined with emergency vehicles, their lights flashing and sirens piercing the air as Texas Rangers and state troopers took up posts at the gates to seal the base.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the sirens sounded again and over the loudspeakers a woman’s voice that could be heard all over the base announced in a clipped military fashion: “Declared emergency no longer exists.”

The gates reopened, and a stream of cars and trucks that had been bottled up for hours began to move out.

 

Reporting was contributed by Michael Brick from Fort Hood, Tex., Michael Luo from New York, and David Stout from Washington.

    Army Doctor Held in Fort Hood Rampage, NYT, 6.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/us/06forthood.html

 

 

 

 

 

2 Men Shot in Legs Outside LA Synagogue

 

October 29, 2009
Filed at 12:22 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A gunman shot and wounded two men in the parking garage of a San Fernando Valley synagogue early Thursday and Jewish schools and temples were put on alert in case it was not an isolated attack.

Two men in their 40s were shot in the legs near the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue in North Hollywood, Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. The men, both members of the synagogue, had arrived in separate cars for the morning service shortly before 6:30 a.m. when the gunman approached one and, without speaking, shot him and the other man, Moore said. The men were hospitalized in good condition.

Police later detained and handcuffed a man less than a mile from the synagogue. The youth, believed to be about 17 years old, matched the ''very loose'' description of the attacker, who was described as a black man wearing a hoodie, Moore said.

Officers cordoned off the area and continued to search for a possible suspect, Moore said.

There were no security guards in the parking garage but investigators will look at the synagogue's security videos, he said.

There was no immediate word on a motive

''We have to assume, because it was a synagogue, it was a service (and) that there was no other apparent motive, we're looking at it as a hate crime,'' Lt. John Romero said.

The FBI also responded to the scene, and police alerted nearby Jewish schools and temples and put extra patrols in place. There are several synagogues in the area.

''We are being vigilant for any follow-ups that may occur,'' Moore said.

Shayan Yaghoubi, 13, was walking with his mother to the synagogue's adjoining school but wasn't allowed to cross the police line.

''The cops told us we can't go,'' he said. ''I feel very bad because this is my favorite school ... I have a lot of friends over there. I hope everyone is OK. There's never been a problem with fighting.''

The attack occurred 10 miles from Jewish community center where white supremacist Buford Furrow wounded three children, a teenager and an adult, in 1999. Furrow later killed a Filipino letter carrier on another street.

Furrow, who is serving a life sentence without chance of parole, told the Daily News of Los Angeles in a letter last month that he had renounced his racist views and regretted the pain he had caused.

    2 Men Shot in Legs Outside LA Synagogue, NYT, 29.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/29/us/AP-US-Synagogue-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

Pa. Officials: Gun-Toting Mom Killed by Husband

 

October 9, 2009
Filed at 2:42 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

LEBANON, Pa. (AP) -- Authorities say a Pennsylvania mother who became an unlikely gun-rights advocate was fatally shot by her husband while she was on a video chat with a friend.

Lebanon County officials say Meleanie Hain was shot several times Wednesday in her kitchen by her husband, Scott. He later killed himself.

Officials say the online friend saw Scott Hain fire several times.

Meleanie Hain became a voice against gun control last year when she fought for the right to carry a holstered pistol at her 5-year-old's soccer games. Other parents complained, prompting a sheriff to temporarily revoke her gun permit.

Officials on Friday said her gun was in a backpack when she was killed. Scott Hain, a parole officer, owned the 9 mm handgun he used to kill her.

 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

 

LEBANON, Pa. (AP) -- An autopsy was planned Friday for a suburban mother who last year shocked other parents by openly carrying a loaded handgun at her daughter's youth soccer game and this week was found shot dead with her husband in an apparent murder-suicide.

Meleanie Hain, who ran a baby-sitting service and became a voice of the gun rights movement, and Scott Hain, a parole officer, were found dead Wednesday inside their home in Pennsylvania Dutch country, but their three children were unharmed.

Police Chief Daniel Wright said he planned to disclose more about the case following autopsies expected to be performed Friday.

The couple's children were at a nearby house when police arrived Wednesday night to answer 911 calls from neighbors, Wright said.

Meleanie Hain's mother, Jenny Stanley, told WGAL-TV that the children, ages 2, 6 and 10, were ''hanging in there.''

''I'm devastated,'' Stanley said. ''I lost my daughter. I lost my best friend. The children lost their parents.''

Neighbors said the Hains were not outgoing, and several said Meleanie Hain wore her holstered gun regularly when walking the dog or going to the grocery store. They said the children ran outside Wednesday night and reported that their father had shot their mother, but Wright declined to disclose what investigators have concluded about how the deaths occurred or what the children saw.

Aileen Fortna, who lives two doors away, said her husband noticed the two oldest children running past their house and crying. She watched as authorities removed the Hains' dead bodies overnight.

Fortna said the children told another neighbor that ''daddy shot mommy.'' A police chaplain answered the door at that neighbor's home Thursday and declined to comment.

''I'm shocked at the whole thing,'' Fortna said. ''I'm surprised she didn't defend herself.''

Wright said more than one weapon was recovered from the home. He acknowledged reports that the couple might have been having marital difficulties.

Meleanie Hain, 31, had run a day care at her home, and children's toys remained scattered in the front yard Thursday. A car parked in the driveway bore a badge-shaped sticker that read ''NRA law enforcement.''

Hain made headlines in 2008 when she attended a soccer game of her daughter, then 5, at a park with a Glock handgun holstered on her hip in plain view.

Nine days later, the sheriff revoked her license to carry and conceal a gun, citing a state law that prohibits certain gun permits from being given to people whose characters and reputations make them dangers to public safety.

A county judge overturned that decision but questioned Hain's judgment and said she had ''scared the devil'' out of people at the Sept. 11, 2008, game.

Hain claimed the sheriff's actions destroyed her baby-sitting service, resulted in her children being harassed and made her feel ostracized by her neighbors in Lebanon, which has about 25,000 residents.

The Hains filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Michael DeLeo and the county, alleging he violated Meleanie Hain's constitutional rights and prosecuted her maliciously. The suit was pending when she died. Her attorney, Matthew Weisberg, said he hopes to continue the litigation.

Weisberg said Hain told him about six months ago she and her husband, who was 33, had separated and three months ago she wanted to pursue a protective order against him. He said she wanted to have her husband's name removed from the lawsuit but that never happened.

''Whether they'd reconciled in the last couple of months, I don't know,'' Weisberg said.

    Pa. Officials: Gun-Toting Mom Killed by Husband, NYT, 9.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/09/us/AP-US-Soccer-Mom-Gun.html

 

 

 

 

 

Man Upset at Closed Miami Taco Bell Shoots Worker

 

October 6, 2009
Filed at 1:53 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

MIAMI (AP) -- Police say a man upset he couldn't order food after closing time at a Miami Taco Bell shot at employees as they tried to leave, hitting one in the leg.

Police say the man waited in the parking lot and opened fire around 3:40 a.m. Tuesday. Investigators are still searching for the suspect, and the victim's name was not released. She was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Employees had earlier told the suspect the store was closed, but the man continued to demand food. The man waited outside near the front of the restaurant until workers were getting ready to leave.

Police say that the manager then asked him to leave again, and the suspect fired, hitting another employee. Witnesses reported hearing six shots.

    Man Upset at Closed Miami Taco Bell Shoots Worker, NYT, 6.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/06/us/AP-US-Taco-Bell-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

Abortion Protester Is Killed in Michigan

 

September 12, 2009
The New York Times
By EMMA GRAVES FITZSIMMONS

 

A man who had long opposed abortion and was known nationally among anti-abortion protesters was shot to death Friday morning while staging a protest outside a Michigan high school, the authorities said.

Leaders of anti-abortion groups said they knew of no other instance in which a person protesting against abortion had been killed. In May, Dr. George R. Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, was shot to death in a crime that renewed debate over the use of violence in the abortion battle.

The protester, identified as James Pouillon, 63, was one of two people, the authorities said, who were shot dead Friday by the same man in Owosso, a city of fewer than 15,000 people about 10 miles west of Flint, Mich. The other victim, a local businessman, was not connected to the anti-abortion movement, the authorities said.

A suspect was arrested and charged in both killings.

Troy Newman, the president of the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which had condemned Dr. Tiller’s death, said he was saddened by the death Mr. Pouillon, whom he had known for more than 15 years.

“There is very little, if any, common ground between pro-abortion and pro-life people,” Mr. Newman said. “One thing we had in common after Dr. Tiller’s death, there was a unilateral cry against violence.

A spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Laura MacCleery, said her group, which supports a woman’s right to abortion, was stunned by the “senseless killings.” But Ms. MacCleery said Friday’s shooting did not seem to her to be tied to the abortion debate since the suspect was also charged in the killing of the second man, Mike Fuoss, 61, the owner of a local gravel company, who did not appear to be involved in the abortion issue.

“This is not something any group on either side of this debate would ever contemplate condoning,” Ms. MacCleery said.

Prosecutors said that the suspect had singled out Mr. Pouillon because of the visible style of his regular protests at the school, but that they were uncertain whether the broader political message of the protests was at issue.

“There was some displeasure with how open he was,” said Sara Edwards, the chief assistant prosecutor for Shiawassee County. “He tended to carry big signs with very graphic pictures of fetuses.”

According to the police, Mr. Pouillon was protesting just outside the high school at 7 a.m. as students gathered for the day, when several shots were fired at him from a passing car. A witness provided the car’s license plate number, and the police arrested the suspect, Harlan James Drake, 33, at his home in Owosso a short time later.

The police said Mr. Drake told them that he had also been involved in another shooting, at Fuoss Gravel in nearby Owosso Township. Mr. Fuoss was found dead in his office about 8 a.m.

Prosecutors said Mr. Fuoss was not involved in abortion protests and had no link to Mr. Pouillon. Mr. Drake, they said, was angry at him for another reason. They did not elaborate.

Mr. Drake was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and with weapons charges and held without bond.

Prosecutors said he had also planned to shoot a third person, whom he apparently failed to find before he was arrested.

Monica Migliorino Miller, a Michigan anti-abortion leader who knew Mr. Pouillon, said he wore leg braces and used an oxygen tank and had protested for years outside of various Planned Parenthood offices and abortion clinics in Flint.

“He was just a quiet, unassuming, very committed pro-life activist,” Ms. Miller said.

Mr. Pouillon had planned to attend a national protest against abortion at the United States Capitol this weekend, Mr. Newman said. Now organizers are planning a vigil in his memory.

    Abortion Protester Is Killed in Michigan, NYT, 12.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/us/12slay.html

 

 

 

 

 

Stray Bullet Kills College Student on Ga. Campus

 

September 3, 2009
Filed at 12:41 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

ATLANTA (AP) -- A 19-year-old college student walking on campus with friends was struck and killed by a stray bullet early Thursday at Clark Atlanta University, police said.

Jasmine Lynn, of Kansas City, Mo., was struck in the chest when shots were fired during a fight nearby. A Clark Atlanta student who was with Lynn was hit by a bullet on the wrist and was treated at a hospital and released, police said.

Lynn was a student at neighboring Spelman College, part of the historically black Atlanta University Center.

''One of the friends actually heard the gunshots, actually saw the weapon and told her to get on the ground,'' Atlanta Police Lt. Keith Meadows said. ''As she was getting on the ground, she got shot in the chest.'' Meadows said Lynn was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she died.

Meadows said officers believe only one gun was fired, but that it was fired at least six times. He said there may be more than one suspect.

He said police were interviewing someone they considered a possible witness, not a suspect.

Police said security cameras probably captured the gunfire but that they do not yet have a clear description of the shooter.

Hours later, students hurried across the campus complex in a morning rain.

Achanti Perine, 19, a junior public relations major at Clark Atlanta from Prince George's County, Md., was walking to class, as she usually does, near the scene of the shooting. She said she had not heard about the killing.

''We all are aware of what goes on around this campus, so I'm not surprised,'' she said of the neighborhood. ''That's too close to home.''

At a memorial service at Spelman's chapel, college president Beverly Daniel Tatum said she had spoken with Lynn's mother and grandmother. ''They are devastated,'' Tatum said.

''I know this is very unsettling for all of us. But this is the kind of horrible incident that could have happened anywhere,'' Tatum said.

Students cried and held each other at the service. One had to leave because she was crying so hard.

An administrator said the chapel would be left open for students to use as needed and that grief counseling sessions that started Thursday morning will continue.

Campus officials said they will hold a series of town hall meetings on Thursday for faculty, staff and students to give updates and discuss campus safety.

Clark Atlanta, Spelman, Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Medicine make up the Atlanta University Center. The historically black colleges are next door to each other in a southwest Atlanta neighborhood. The campuses are so close it's often hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

Students commonly cross between schools to visit each other and can take courses on each other's campuses.

    Stray Bullet Kills College Student on Ga. Campus, NYT, 3.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/03/us/AP-US-Student-Killed.html

 

 

 

 

 

Life Sentence Closes Chapter in Arizona Shootings

 

July 30, 2009
Filed at 3:49 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

PHOENIX (AP) -- A sentence of life in prison for one of two men convicted in a series of random nighttime shootings closes a significant chapter in a case that unnerved metropolitan Phoenix residents in 2005 and 2006.

A jury decided Wednesday to spare Samuel Dieteman from the death penalty, unlike his partner in the Serial Shooter case, Dale Hausner. Authorities say the two preyed on pedestrians, bicyclists and animals in attacks that ended in August 2006 when both men were arrested at the apartment they shared in Mesa.

Hausner received six death sentences in the case earlier this year.

Dieteman, who never asked for leniency and was a key witness against Hausner, thanked the court for treating him like a human being after the verdict was read Wednesday.

''I'm truly sorry for the pain that I've caused to many, many people,'' said Dieteman, 33.

Dieteman met Hausner in April 2006 -- about nine months after the Serial Shooter attacks began, and Dieteman's defense attorneys painted him as being Hausner's follower.

Paul Patrick, a victim of the shooting spree who nearly died when Dieteman shot him as he walked down a street in June 2006, was in the court for the verdict and said he agreed with it.

''It's not a cause to celebrate; a mother just lost a son, and children lost their father,'' he said of Dieteman's family. ''No hatred for the family. Too much time has been wasted on that.''

Patrick said if there is such a thing as closure for him, the verdict is ''the closest thing to it.''

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill, who also was in court, said the verdict was the culmination of four years of pain and suffering for the victims in the case and their family members.

''This is a closure,'' he said. ''The verdict, we think is just. Without the forthrightness of Sam Dieteman coming forward we might not have had a verdict today.''

Dieteman, who had been charged with murdering two people and attacking 14 others, had admitted to fatally shooting 20-year-old Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz in Scottsdale in May 2006 and assisting in the deadly shooting of 22-year-old Robin Blasnek in July 2006 as she walked from her parents' home to her boyfriend's house in Mesa.

Testimony at Dieteman's sentencing trial included a written apology from Dieteman to Patrick, in which he said he would make ''no cries for mercy.'' He also said he regretted his actions, including not turning in Hausner to authorities when he first learned of the shootings.

''There's so many things I would change back then,'' he told jurors.

Ulysses Fuentes, one of the jurors who decided to spare Dieteman's life, said he initially wanted to sentence him to death.

''I felt that what he had done was just irresponsible and there was just no excuse for that,'' said Fuentes, a 19-year-old customer service representative of Phoenix.

He said he didn't feel sympathy for Dieteman. ''Mercy would be a better term.''

Doug Budner, the jury foreman, said he also wanted the death penalty at first.

''The way I was brought up was an eye is for an eye, but as you go into the jury room, then you start seeing evidence unfold in front of you, you have to really listen and really dissect all the information out there and from there make an educated decision,'' said the 53-year-old aircraft mechanic of Phoenix. ''We know we came up with the most lawful decision.''

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Dieteman. They painted him as a drifter who was a willing participant, pulling the trigger and serving as Hausner's lookout.

Investigators said their big break came when one of Dieteman's drinking buddies, Ron Horton, called police to say that Dieteman had bragged about shooting people. ''They called it 'RV'ing.' Random Recreational Violence,'' Horton told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. Horton died last year.

During Hausner's trial, Dieteman said Hausner professed a hatred for prostitutes and homeless people as they looked for victims in areas frequented by streetwalkers. Dieteman said Hausner never explained why he wanted to shoot people.

In describing one shooting, Dieteman said he and Hausner found humor at the sight of one of their seriously injured victims, who held his stomach and appeared angry.

The Serial Shooter case was one of two serial murder investigations that put Phoenix-area residents on edge during the summer of 2006. Police attributed 23 more attacks, including nine slayings, to an assailant dubbed the Baseline Killer.

    Life Sentence Closes Chapter in Arizona Shootings, NYT, 30.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/30/us/AP-US-Serial-Shootings.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Taser Stun Gun Can Shock 3 at a Time

 

July 27, 2009
Filed at 1:14 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. (AP) -- Taser International unveiled its first new stun gun since 2003 Monday, a device that can shock three people without reloading.

Older Taser models, in use by 14,200 law enforcement agencies throughout the country, have to be reloaded after one shot, which can be a problem for an officer who has missed a target or has more than one suspect to subdue.

Scottsdale-based Taser unveiled the new device to hundreds of law enforcement officers and distributors at its annual conference. It costs $1,799, compared with $799 for the older model, though Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said there will be ''very generous'' trade-in programs for law enforcement agencies.

The new stun gun is not yet available. Tuttle said the company would announce the release date in the next month.

Like the older models, the new stun gun shoots two barbed wires that deliver electrical current for several seconds, temporarily immobilizing people from a distance.

Human rights groups contend Tasers cause heart attacks. Tuttle said the company has won 96 of 97 wrongful-death lawsuits filed against it and is appealing after being found 15 percent responsible in the one suit it lost.

    New Taser Stun Gun Can Shock 3 at a Time, NYT, 27.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/27/us/AP-US-Taser-New-Device.html

 

 

 

 

 

16 Shot in Baltimore, Including 12 at Cookout

 

July 27, 2009
Filed at 8:01 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Sixteen people were shot, two of them fatally, in three separate incidents in a two-mile radius in east Baltimore Sunday night, police said.

Detectives were searching Monday morning for a gunman who opened fire at a backyard cookout, wounding 12 people, police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

None of the dozen victims suffered life-threatening injuries. The victims were hit in the legs, arms, shoulders and backs, and the wounded included a 2-year-old girl and a pregnant 23-year-old woman, police said.

Detectives were interviewing witnesses and working to develop a description of the gunman, who walked into the small backyard of a rowhouse on Ashland Avenue and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon around 9 p.m., according to police.

Two 19-year-old men were shot and killed in a separate incident less than a mile away, Guglielmi said. The victims were identified as Gary Martin and Darien Jones. Police had no immediate suspects.

A third shooting incident left two men with non-life-threatening injuries, Guglielmi said.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III was on the scene of both the cookout shooting and the double homicide, Guglielmi said. The incidents highlight the need to rid Baltimore's streets of illegal guns, the spokesman said.

''We can only do so much without help from the community and others,'' Guglielmi said. ''We can put a police car in every driveway, but unless people step up, we can only get so far.''

    16 Shot in Baltimore, Including 12 at Cookout, NYT, 27.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/27/us/AP-US-Maryland-Cookout-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

Vernon Forrest, Ex-Boxing Champion, Dies at 38

 

July 27, 2009
The New York Times
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN

 

Vernon Forrest, who held three boxing championships and scored a memorable upset of the welterweight titleholder Shane Mosley in 2002, died Saturday night, apparently in an exchange of gunfire after he was robbed at a gas station in Atlanta. He was 38.

Detective Lt. Keith Meadows of the Atlanta police told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a gunman robbed Forrest of several items after Forrest took his Jaguar to the gas station to put air in its tires. Forrest, who was armed as well, chased after the robber and evidently fired his weapon but was shot seven or eight times in the back, Meadows said.

The gunman and an accomplice fled in a car, and it was not clear whether Forrest had shot either of them. The 11-year-old son of Forrest’s girlfriend was with him at the gas station and saw the holdup but not the shooting, Meadows said.

The 6-foot-1 Forrest, known as the Viper for the speed of his fists, had fought professionally since 1992 and was considering a comeback from an injury.

He won the World Boxing Council welterweight championship in January 2002 in a 12-round decision over Mosley, who was considered by many to be the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.

Forrest had gained a spot on the United States Olympic boxing team for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain, by defeating Mosley at the trials, prompting the January 2002 title fight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden to be hyped as Sweet Revenge.

Mosley came in at 38-0 as a pro but was unable to exact vengeance over Forrest, who had vacated his International Boxing Federation welterweight title to fight Mosley and entered with a 33-0 record. Forrest knocked Mosley down twice in the second round and won a 12-round unanimous decision, then outpointed Mosley in July 2002 in Indianapolis to retain his crown.

Forrest, who had a record of 41 victories (29 by knockout) and 3 defeats, lost his title in 2003 to Ricardo Mayorga, the World Boxing Association welterweight champion. Forrest won the W.B.C. light-middleweight title with a victory over Carlos Baldomir in July 2007, lost it to Sergio Mora, then regained it from him in September 2008. Forrest was forced to vacate the title because of a rib injury.

A native of Augusta, Ga., Forrest was 9 when he wandered into a gym near his home, saw boxers training and vowed to emulate them. He became a top amateur boxer and studied business administration at Northern Michigan University before making the 1992 Olympic team, losing in the first round after suffering from food poisoning. He turned pro later that year.

Forrest is survived by a son, Vernon Jr., his publicist, Kelly Swanson, told The Associated Press.

Before he fought Mosley for a title, Forrest said, “This is going to define my career.”

But he pursued a calling far beyond the boxing world as well. In the late 1990s, he founded the nonprofit Destiny’s Child, providing group residences in Atlanta for people with mental and emotional disabilities. He bought a home for some of the wards and lived for a time in its basement, which became the organization’s office.

Forrest took several Destiny’s Child residents to his second bout with Mosley. Right after winning the decision, he ran into the stands to embrace them.

“The people I work with have been abused and neglected,” he said. “These are people that society turned their back on. Everybody needs help and everybody needs love.”

    Vernon Forrest, Ex-Boxing Champion, Dies at 38, NYT, 27.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/sports/27forrest.html?hpw

 

 

 

 

 

Four fatal shootings in Willowbrook, Maywood and Baldwin Park

 

July 26, 2009 - 3:51 PM
Los Angeles Times

 

Four fatal shootings in Willowbrook, Maywood and Baldwin Park were among several homicides in L.A. County over the weekend.

A 66-year-old man was shot and killed on the sidewalk Saturday outside a Willowbrook residence known for hosting cockfights, a coroner’s official said today.

Luis Flores of Los Angeles got into an argument with another man about 2:40 p.m. in the 2000 block of El Segundo Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

"Apparently the argument escalated with both men producing handguns and they started shooting at each other," said Deputy Derrick Thompson.

Flores died at the scene, authorities said. The suspect, who fled, is believed to have been injured in the gunfight.

About an hour later in Willowbrook, in an unrelated incident, a man was shot and killed in the 2500 block of East 132nd Street, authorities said. The man was standing on the sidewalk with two other men about 3:45 p.m. Saturday when a car pulled up and someone inside the vehicle "began firing an assault rifle at the group," according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The two other men standing on the sidewalk were not hurt in the attack, the Sheriff’s Department said.

In Maywood, a man who was standing with his family in the front yard of a home in the 3700 block of East 55th Street was shot and killed about 8:30 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department.

"They heard gunshots, and then the victim fell to the ground," the Sheriff’s Department said. He died later at a hospital.

About 6 a.m. in Baldwin Park, authorities said a man was shot and killed in the 3700 block of Foster Avenue.

 

Ari B. Bloomekatz and Corina Knoll

    Four fatal shootings in Willowbrook, Maywood and Baldwin Park, NYT, 26.7.2009, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/07/four-fatal-shootings-in-la-county-over-the-weekend-.html

 

 

 

 

 

Va. Tech Shooter's Mental Health Records Surface
 

 

July 23, 2009
Filed at 4:30 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- The discovery of missing mental health records of the Virginia Tech gunman has victims' families and the governor questioning the thoroughness of the criminal investigation into the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The potentially explosive evidence eluded authorities for more than two years until Seung-Hui Cho's files turned up at the home of a former university counseling official, angering families still struggling to understand how the killer fell through the cracks at the university. The development, disclosed in a memo obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, represents another embarrassing lapse in the case.

''Deception comes to my mind in my first response,'' said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was wounded. ''It gives me the impression, 'What else are they hiding?'''

The contents of the file have not been made public, and Gov. Tim Kaine said it is unclear why Dr. Robert C. Miller, former director of the campus clinic where Cho was counseled because of his disturbing behavior, took the records home more than a year before Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide on April 16, 2007.

The governor said he was dismayed that it took so long to find the records.

''That is part of the investigation that I am very interested in and, of course, I'm very concerned about that,'' Kaine said.

The commission that was appointed by Kaine never interviewed Miller.

Victims' families want to know whether the file contains warning signs that could have prevented the rampage.

''Would things have been different if we had this information? What information is in those records?'' asked Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the shootings.

Miller, 54, declined to comment when reached by telephone at his private practice.

State officials said they would release the records publicly as soon as possible, either by getting consent from Cho's estate or through a subpoena. The medical records are protected under state privacy laws.

Miller told his attorney about Cho's file last Thursday, said Mark E. Rubin, the governor's chief legal counsel. According to a university memo shared with victims' families, Miller took the records for Cho and several other students home around the time he left his job at the center in 2006.

After the massacre, the counseling center conducted an exhaustive search for the records in 2007, and Miller told investigators at the time that he didn't know where they were, university spokesman Mark Owczarski said.

Virginia State Police are investigating whether a criminal act was committed, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. Kaine said it was illegal to remove records from the center.

The families of two of the dead were already claiming that Miller withheld troubling information about Cho. A lawsuit they filed in April claims Miller was told by Cho's English professors about his disturbing behavior and by the school's residential director that Cho had a history of erratic behavior and suicidal thoughts and had ''blades'' in his room.

The lawsuit claims Miller never passed that information on to either of the therapists from the counseling center who dealt with Cho during three 45-minute triage sessions in 2005.

Notes of the warnings to Miller or those made by the therapists concerning the three meetings were never found by investigators. It is unclear if those are part of the recovered records.

''Why would he take any student mental health records to his home at any time, and why that student?'' said Robert T. Hall, an attorney for the two families. ''It certainly is a question of whether there is more to the Seung-Hui Cho mental health history than we've been told.''

The Virginia Tech Review Panel interviewed more than 200 people. The leader of that investigation, former Virginia State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill, said investigators interviewed Miller's successor at the clinic, but not Miller.

Massengill said Cho's records could be critical to understanding the rampage and ''should give us a better understanding of what actions the university did or did not take.''

------

Associated Press Writers Bob Lewis, Dena Potter and Steve Szkotak in Richmond contributed to this report.

    Va. Tech Shooter's Mental Health Records Surface, NYT, 23.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/23/us/AP-US-Virginia-Tech-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

Six Shot at a Texas University

 

July 23, 2009
Filed at 3:54 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

HOUSTON (AP) -- A drive-by shooting at a community rally on the Texas Southern University campus Wednesday night left six people wounded, a school spokeswoman said. Police believe the incident was gang-related.

One male student was among the six people who were shot and treated for serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, TSU spokeswoman Eva Pickens said.

Witnesses told police that one car drove by and opened fire on the parking lot where a popular Houston rapper was promoting community service and voter registration, Pickens said.

Peter Role, a local music promoter, told the Houston Chronicle he heard what sounded ''like the Fourth of July.''

''We heard some gunshots and everybody was hitting the ground,'' Role said.

Campus police believe the incident resulted from a rivalry between two gangs, one from Missouri City, a suburb southwest of Houston, and the other from Fresno, a small town outside Missouri City, she said.

Among the rally participants was Houston City Councilman Peter Brown, who is running for mayor in November's election.

Lucinda Guinn, who manages Brown's mayoral campaign, said the rally -- billed as a ''family block party'' -- included a concert by rapper Trae the Truth and featured participants such as Brown and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Guinn said she had no details on the shootings, but was dismayed that ''an effort for bringing a very positive message to the community'' would end in violence.

Nancy Byron, Trae's publicist, told the Chronicle that the rapper already had left the event at 8:30 p.m. or 8:45 p.m. and did not see the shooting.

''We're very depressed about it and we feel like its a black eye on an otherwise very community-driven event,'' Byron said.

An e-mail sent to Lee wasn't immediately returned. Her telephone mailbox was full and wouldn't take messages.

Texas Southern is a historically black university in Houston with an enrollment approaching 10,000 students.

------

Associated Press Writer Terry Wallace contributed to this report from Dallas.

    Six Shot at a Texas University, NYT, 23.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/23/us/AP-US-Texas-Southern-Shootings.html

 

 

 

 

 

5 Officers Hurt, 2 Suspects Dead in NJ Shootout

 

July 17, 2009
Filed at 3:30 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) -- A shootout that left two suspects dead and eight officers injured began on the street and ended in an apartment building where drugs and violence are commonplace, neighborhood residents say.

The gunfight erupted Thursday morning during a police stakeout of a man and woman suspected of violent crimes in Jersey City and in South Carolina.

Police said the two who died were believed to be Hassan Shakur, 32, and Amanda Anderson, 22. They had been wanted in a June 18 armed robbery in Jersey City where a man was shot, police chief Tom Comey said, and suspected of a similar robbery in South Carolina. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The stakeout began after police tracked the 2005 Ford Focus used in the June 18 robbery to the hardscrabble Greenville neighborhood where the suspects were staying. Investigators learned the suspects moved it every other morning to avoid getting a ticket.

The suspects came out to the vehicle 30 minutes earlier than normal Thursday morning, when only two officers were on the scene. The man pulled out a pump-action shotgun and began shooting, police said, blowing out the police car's windshield and shooting one officer in the leg. Authorities said the woman did not have a firearm.

Second-floor resident Marlon Harrison said he heard gunshots echo off the alleyway outside his window.

''It was like the Army out there,'' Harrison said.

SWAT officers fought their way into a third-floor apartment where the man and woman had taken cover and were met with shotgun blasts that ripped through the apartment building's walls and doors. Four officers were hit in that second exchange of gunfire, and three others suffered minor injuries from broken glass and the like.

Police said the 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun the suspect used was reported stolen in North Carolina two years ago. It's typically used by law enforcement, police said.

''This individual came fully ready to go to war with us,'' said Comey. ''This is a gun meant for nothing other than to hunt a man.''

Doctors at Jersey City Medical Center said Marc DiNardo, 37, a 10-year veteran of the Jersey City police, was in full cardiac arrest, with no signs of life, when he arrived for treatment. Doctors had to bring him back to life ''five or six times'' before they could stabilize him, Mayor Jerramiah Healy said. DiNardo was in stable but critical condition late Thursday.

DiNardo, the first officer to enter the apartment, had arrested Shakur in 2002 on an illegal firearms possession charge.

The other Jersey City police officers were identified as Michael Camacho, 25; Frank Molina, 35; and Marc Lavelle, 43. Port Authority official Dennis Mitchell, 35, was also wounded. Camacho was in critical condition after being shot in the neck. The other injured officers were treated and released.

President Barack Obama, in New Jersey for a fundraiser for Gov. Jon S. Corzine's re-election bid, mentioned the shooting and said he had been in contact with Healy. Corzine visited with the officers' families at the medical center Thursday night.

''It's a reminder what our law enforcement officials do each and every day to protect us,'' Obama said.

Abdias Cosme, 53, and his wife Margarita Robles, 50, said they awoke to the sound of gunfire, broken glass and running feet as two officers exchanged fire with an assailant wielding a shotgun on the street below their bedroom window.

''We went to the window to see what was happening and one of the policemen shouted at us to get back inside,'' Cosme said. ''He was shooting at the people who were running into the building across the street.''

Cosme and Robles have seven children and said they worry about their safety.

''The police are trying,'' Cosme said. ''I just hope they don't give up on this neighborhood.''

------

Associated Press Writer Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.

    5 Officers Hurt, 2 Suspects Dead in NJ Shootout, NYT, 17.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/17/us/AP-US-NJ-Officers-Shot.html

 

 

 

 

 

Quarterback Steve McNair Is Shot to Death

 

July 5, 2009
The New York Times
By CHRIS HINE and JUDY BATTISTA

 

Steve McNair, the former N.F.L. quarterback who shared the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2003, was found shot to death Saturday, the Nashville police said.

McNair, 36, and Sahel Kazemi, a 20-year-old friend, were found dead with gunshot wounds Saturday afternoon in a condominium in downtown Nashville, the police said. McNair had multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head, and Kazemi was found with a single gunshot wound to the head, the police said.

Don Aaron, a police spokesman, said that the deaths had not been classified as a double homicide or a murder-suicide. Both bodies were found in the living room of the condominium, Aaron said, with McNair on a sofa and Kazemi on the floor close to him. A pistol was found near Kazemi at the scene, Aaron said. Autopsies were to be performed Sunday morning. Aaron said a classification of the deaths would be made after the autopsies and forensic testing.

“While we may be leaning certain ways based on evidence at the scene and wounds on the bodies, we have not ruled anything out,” Aaron said.

Aaron did not indicate what the police thought the classification of the deaths might be. He added that the police were not actively searching for a suspect as of Saturday night.

A witness told the police that McNair entered the condominium, which he rented, between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Saturday. The witness also said that Kazemi’s 2007 Cadillac Escalade, which was registered to her and McNair, was at the condominium when McNair arrived. Aaron said he did not know if McNair and Kazemi, a resident of Nashville, were together earlier that night.

Kazemi and McNair were together when she was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in her Escalade early Thursday morning, the police said. McNair was riding in the car but was not charged.

On Saturday, Wayne Neeley, a friend of McNair’s who co-rented the condominium with him, entered it just before 1 p.m. He found McNair on a sofa and Kazemi on the floor in the living room, the police said. At first, Neeley did not notice they were dead, but then he found blood near the bodies. He called Robert Gaddy, another friend of McNair’s, and Gaddy called the police.

McNair played for the Tennessee Titans for 11 years, taking them within inches of overtime against the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl after the 1999 season. He retired before the 2008 season after playing for two years in Baltimore. In his 13-year career, he established himself as one of the best quarterbacks of his era and earned the nickname Air McNair.

“The N.F.L. has lost a brother, and I believe black quarterbacks have lost a pioneer,” said Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who played with McNair in Baltimore.

The Houston Oilers, who later moved to Tennessee, drafted McNair with the third overall pick in 1995 out of Alcorn State, a historically black college where McNair first displayed his dazzling ability to scramble or throw — and a toughness that pushed him to play through numerous injuries. Other players marveled at his grittiness, and in 1999 he returned from early-season back surgery to take the Titans to the Super Bowl.

“He was the heart and soul of our team,” his former teammate Eddie George told ESPN.

The greatest stretch of McNair’s career might have occurred near the end of the 2002 season, when McNair had so many injuries he could not practice for two months. He led the Titans to five straight victories to finish the regular season before they lost in the American Football Conference championship game.

In 2003, McNair was charged with drunken driving and possession of a handgun. Those charges were dismissed. In 2007, McNair was charged with driving under the influence in Tennessee; the police said he had allowed his vehicle to be operated by someone who was driving under the influence of alcohol. His brother-in-law was driving the vehicle, and he pleaded guilty to reckless driving. The charge against McNair was dropped.

McNair was a gifted athlete in his hometown, Mount Olive, Miss. He was even drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 35th round of the 1991 baseball draft. Bigger colleges recruited him, but they wanted him to play defensive back. As a college sophomore, he led the nation in total offense, averaging more than 400 yards a game and displaying the ability to play through injuries. As a senior, he gained nearly 6,000 yards rushing and passing, along with 53 touchdowns, and finished third in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

“Steve was special and as tough and competitive of a guy that I have ever been around,” Jets Coach Rex Ryan, who was an assistant with the Ravens from 1999 to 2008, said in a statement on the Jets’ Web site. “As soon as we got him in Baltimore, he gave our team instant confidence, and I was fortunate to be around him for two seasons.”

McNair was a genial locker-room presence. He was embraced by the Ravens in part because of his close friendship with linebacker Ray Lewis, who was said to be having a difficult time dealing with McNair’s death Saturday night. Ravens receiver Derrick Mason called McNair “Smile” and said their families were close. McNair and his wife, Mechelle, had four sons.

“I’ve known him for 13 years, and he was the most selfless, happiest and friendliest person I have known,” Mason said. “On the field, there isn’t a player that was as tough as him, especially at the quarterback position. What I have seen him play through on the field, and what he dealt with during the week to get ready for a game, I have never known a better teammate.”

Scott had his first career interception off a McNair pass in 2002. When McNair joined the Ravens, Scott said McNair signed the ball for him.

“Me personally, I’m not a guy who’s like a big fan of football players; it’s not my personality,” Scott said. “But I tell you one thing: Steve McNair’s Tennessee Titans jersey sits down in my basement. I’m not a fan of players, I’m a fan of people. And I was a fan of Steve McNair the person.”

McNair was an anomaly when he came to the N.F.L., displaying a penchant for running that later became a trademark of Michael Vick’s. McNair combined his running ability with a booming arm that earned him his nickname.

McNair went to the Pro Bowl three times. In his M.V.P. season, when he shared the award with Peyton Manning, McNair threw 24 touchdown passes.

“He was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans,” Bud Adams Jr., the Titans’ owner, said in a statement. “He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl.”

    Quarterback Steve McNair Is Shot to Death, NYT, 5.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/sports/football/05mcnair.html

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Urges His Flock to Bring Guns to Church

 

June 26, 2009
The New York Times
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1 raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November.

Last year, the National Rifle Association ran a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign against Mr. Obama, stoking fears that he would be the most antigun president in history and that firearms would be confiscated. One worry was that a Democratic president and Congress would reinstitute the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

But there is little support for the ban. Mr. Obama and his party have largely ignored gun-control issues, and the president even signed a measure that will allow firearms in national parks.

Still, the fear remains that Mr. Obama, and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., will crack down on guns sooner or later. That — along with the faltering economy, which gun sellers say has spurred purchases for self-defense — has fueled a record surge in gun sales.

“Every president wants to be re-elected, and gun bans are pretty much a nonstarter for getting re-elected,” said Win Underwood, owner of the Bluegrass Indoor Range here. “What I suspect is going to happen is, Obama’s going to cool his jets until he can get re-elected, and then he’ll start building his legacy in these hot-button areas.”

When Mr. Obama was elected in November, federal instant background checks, the best indicator of gun sales, jumped 42 percent over the previous November. Every month since then, the number of checks has been higher than the year before, although the postelection surge may be tapering off, as all surges eventually do. While the number of checks in April increased 30 percent from the year before, the number of checks in May (1,023,102) was only 15 percent higher than in May 2008.

The National Rifle Association says its membership is up 30 percent since November. And several states have recently passed laws allowing gun owners to carry firearms in more places — bars, restaurants, cars and parks.

“We have a very active agenda in all 50 states,” said Chris W. Cox, legislative director of the N.R.A., widely considered the country’s most powerful lobby. “We have right-to-carry laws in over 40 states; 20 years ago, it was in just six.”

Of the 40 states with right-to-carry laws, 20 allow guns in churches.

Public attitudes also seem to be turning more sympathetic to gun owners. In April, the Pew Research Center found for the first time that almost as many people said it was more important to protect the rights of gun owners (45 percent) than to control gun ownership (49 percent). Just a year ago, Pew said, 58 percent said gun control was more important than the rights of gun owners (37 percent).

Gun-control advocates say they feel increasingly ineffective, especially after a recent spate of high-profile shootings, including last month’s murder, inside a church in Kansas, of a doctor who performed late-term abortions.

“We’ve definitely been marginalized,” said Pam Gersh, a public relations consultant here who helped organize a rally in Louisville in 2000, to coincide with the Million Mom March against guns in Washington.

“The Brady Campaign and other similar organizations who advocate sensible gun responsibility laws don’t have the money and the political power — not even close,” she said. “This pastor is obviously crossing a line here and saying ‘I can even take my guns to church, and there is nothing you can do about it.’ ”

Ms. Gersh said she was not aware that a group of local churches and peace activists were staging a counterpicnic — called “Bring your peaceful heart, leave your gun at home” — at the same time as Mr. Pagano’s event.

But news media attention — some from overseas — has focused on Mr. Pagano, who has been planning the event for a year, in celebration of the Fourth of July. Cameras will not be allowed in the church, he said, to protect the congregation’s privacy.

The celebration will feature lessons in responsible gun ownership, Mr. Pagano said. Sheriff’s deputies will be at the doors to check that openly carried firearms are unloaded, but they will not check for concealed weapons.

“That’s the whole point of concealed,” Mr. Pagano said, adding that he was not worried because such owners require training.

Mr. Pagano said the church’s insurance company, which he would not identify, had canceled the church’s policy for the day on Saturday and told him that it would cancel the policy for good at the end of the year. If he cannot find insurance for Saturday, people will not be allowed in openly carrying their guns.

Arkansas and Georgia recently rejected efforts to allow people to carry concealed weapons in church. Watching the debate in Arkansas was John Phillips, pastor of the Central Church of Christ in Little Rock. In 1986, Mr. Phillips was preaching in a different church there when a gunman shot him and a parishioner. Both survived, but Mr. Phillips, 51, still has a bullet lodged in his spine.

In a telephone interview, he said he found the idea of “packing in the pew” abhorrent.

“There is a movement afoot across the nation, with the gun lobby pushing the envelope, trying to allow concealed weapons to be carried in places where they used to be prohibited — churches, schools, bars,” Mr. Phillips said.

“I don’t understand how any minister who is familiar with the teachings of the Bible can do this,” he added. “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’ ”

Mr. Pagano takes such comments as a challenge to his faith and says they make him more determined.

“When someone from within the church tells me that being a Christian and having firearms are contradictions, that they’re incompatible with the Gospel — baloney,” he said. “As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.”

    Pastor Urges His Flock to Bring Guns to Church, NYT, 26.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/us/26guns.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa Football Coach Fatally Shot in High School

 

June 24, 2009
Filed at 12:11 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

PARKERSBURG, Iowa (AP) -- A gunman shot and killed a prominent Iowa high school football coach in the school's weight room early Wednesday and was taken into custody shortly afterward, authorities said.

The gunman shot Aplington-Parkersburg High School coach Ed Thomas at about 8 a.m. with about 50 students in the school, including several in the weight room at the time. School was not in session, and no one else was injured in the attack.

Thomas, the 2005 NFL high school football coach of the year, was airlifted to a hospital and died, his family said in a statement.

Holly Fokkena, a spokeswoman for Butler County, said an adult male suspect has been taken into custody and was at the Butler County jail. She did not say if the gunman was a student at the school. But school district board secretary Sue Miller said she had heard he was not.

The district's superintendent and a guidance counselor were meeting with students who were in the weight room at the time of the shooting.

''No kids were hurt, we're thankful for that,'' Superintendent Jon Thompson told KOEL radio. ''They did witness this and so we have counselors at the site to talk with the kids.''

The school is in Parkersburg, about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines.

Thomas compiled a career record of 292-84 in 37 seasons as a head coach, 34 of them at Aplington-Parkersburg, and was one of the most well-known high school football coaches in Iowa. He was honored as the NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2005, and four of his former players are in the NFL: Green Bay's Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville's Brad Meester, Detroit's Jared DeVries and Denver's Casey Wiegmann.

DeVries, a defensive end with the Lions, walked off the practice field in Allen Park, Mich. toward the end of its morning practice, apparently shaken.

Team officials said DeVries was not immediately available for comment.

Thomas made national headlines last year when he insisted that the high school's football field, named in his honor, be rebuilt as a way to help restore community pride in Parkersburg after it was hit by a powerful tornado in May 2008 that killed six people and destroyed the high school.

''A lot of people know coach Thomas for his success as a football coach, but a lot of people here locally know him as a person, as a dad and grandfather, and that's where our thoughts are right now, with coach Thomas,'' said Superintendent Thompson.

Toby Lorenzen, head coach at Central Lyon High School in Rock Rapids in northwest Iowa, said the killing was a shock to people in high school football programs throughout Iowa.

''He was one of the most down to earth, well respected coaches around.''

Richard Wulkow, executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, said in a statement that Thomas embodied what a coach should be.

''He will be forever remembered not so much for his many wins on the field, but for the exemplary manner in which he coached kids and led the Aplington-Parkersburg community and school. This was especially true last spring and summer as they rebuilt from a devastating tornado.''

In 2005, a Texas high school football coach was shot by an angry parent who walked into the school fieldhouse and fired a single bullet into Gary Joe Kinne's stomach. The gunman's son played on the Canton High School football team with Kinne's son, who was the star quarterback.

Kinne survived. The shooter, Jeff Doyal Robertson, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    Iowa Football Coach Fatally Shot in High School, NYT, 24.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/24/us/AP-US-Iowa-School-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

2 in Custody After Fatal Shooting at NM Denny's

 

June 21, 2009
Filed at 4:21 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Two suspects have been jailed on suspicion of murder after a restaurant employee was fatally shot during a robbery at a packed Denny's Restaurant, police said.

The names of suspects, who were booked Saturday night, were not immediately released.

Witnesses said as many as four masked men armed with rifles and handguns rushed into the northwest Albuquerque Denny's restaurant around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and demanded money. As many as 100 people reportedly were in the restaurant at the time.

The victim was a female employee. Witnesses told police she was shot after she ran to the back of the restaurant. Her identity was not immediately released.

One restaurant employee told police a manager was forced to open the cash register and the robbers took an undetermined amount of cash before fleeing.

Police, who were in the area because of a recent string of robberies, arrived at the scene within minutes of the robbery and took one suspect into custody while another was arrested after a getaway car was followed to a nearby trailer park.

A police tactical team surrounded an Albuquerque home where other possible suspects were believed to have fled but the house was later found to be empty.

Authorities were still searching for additional suspects late Saturday night, police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said.

------

Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

    2 in Custody After Fatal Shooting at NM Denny's, NYT, 21.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/21/us/AP-US-Dennys-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

In New York, Number of Killings Rises With Heat

 

June 19, 2009
The New York Times
By ANDREW W. LEHREN and AL BAKER

 

A young boxer was shot dead outside a Bronx bodega at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday last August. Weeks later, a 59-year-old woman was beaten to death on a Saturday night on the side of a Queens highway. On the last Sunday in September, violence exploded as five men were killed in a spate of shootings and stabbings between midnight and 6 a.m.

Seven homicides in New York City. None connected in any way but this: They happened during the summer months, when the temperatures rise, people hit the streets, and New York becomes a more lethal place.

There were more homicides in September than in any other month last year: 52. Next highest was August, with 51. Variations, of course, exist. There were 48 homicides last March, for instance.

Still, the prime time for murder is clear: summertime. Indeed, it is close to a constant, one hammered home painfully from June to September across the decades. And the breakdown of deadly brutality can get even more specific. September Saturdays around 10 p.m. were the most likely moments for a murder in the city.

The summer spike in killings is just one of several findings unearthed in an analysis by The New York Times of multiyear homicide trends. The information — detailing homicides during the years 2003 to 2008 — was compiled mainly from open-records requests with the New York Police Department, and a searchable database of details on homicides in the city during those years is available online for readers to explore at nytimes.com/nyregion.

Of course, the dominant and most important trend involving murder in New York has been the enormous decline in killings over the last 15 years, to levels not seen since the early 1960s.

Still, hundreds of people are killed every year in the city, and The Times’s findings provide insights about who is killed in New York, as well as who does the killing, where murders occur and why.

Women, for instance, are less likely to be either victims or killers. Those who were killed — at least 73 women were in 2008 — were almost always murdered by someone they knew — boyfriends, husbands or relatives. From 2003 to 2008, the number of women killed each year by strangers was in the single digits — excluding cases in which the police do not know if the killer knew the victim. Last year, as few as eight women died at the hands of strangers.

Brooklyn — as it has since at least 2003 — led all boroughs in the number of homicides last year, with 213. Last year, the 73rd Precinct, which includes the neighborhoods of Ocean Hill and Brownsville, had the largest death toll, 31. The bloodiest block in Brooklyn was in the 77th Precinct, in Crown Heights, bounded by Schenectady Avenue, Sterling Place, Troy Avenue and St. Johns Place. But the borough with the most homicides per capita was the Bronx.

More often than not, the weapon of choice is a firearm. Each year the percentage of people killed by firearms hovers around 60 percent. Though slightly less than in recent years, at least 56 percent of last year’s homicides were committed with these weapons.

Of all the trends to emerge, the time for killing was among the most enduring.

In New York, the trend goes back well before the years covered in the database — at least as far as 1981, according to an analysis of reports by the city medical examiner’s office done by Steven F. Messner, a criminology professor at the State University of New York at Albany. And he believes it stretches back much further than that.

Nationally, in the early 1980s, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed a decade’s worth of homicide data across the nation, and found that while suicides peak in the spring, homicides swell between July and September.

A prime reason murder peaks during this time has to do with the routines of people’s lives, according to Professor Messner.

“Homicides vary with social acting,” he said. “It evolves from interactions.”

Summer is when people get together. More specifically, casual drinkers and drug users are more likely to go to bars or parties on weekends and evenings, as opposed to a Tuesday morning. These people in the social mix, flooding the city’s streets and neighborhood bars, feed the peak times for murder, experts say.

And the trend occurs in other cities, in places like Chicago, Boston and Newark, according to criminologists.

Some of the same trends are on display around Christmastime and are believed to be behind the slight increases in murder that occur then, criminologists say.

Thomas D. Nerney, who retired in 2002 as a detective in the New York Police Department’s Major Case Squad, said the patterns were well known within the department.

Assigned as a detective in Brooklyn from 1972 to 1986, he said that on a hot summer night or in the holiday season, a similar set of factors seemed to be behind the killings: a chance to socialize and to drink or use drugs.

He recalled the late 1970s and early ’80s in Brooklyn, when the heavier homicide caseloads seemed to come as neighborhoods got hotter.

“We had so many of them,” Mr. Nerney said. “They would be on rooftops. There might be somebody who lured someone somewhere; you would have a sex-related killing or a revenge killing. Rooftops or backyards.”

The Times analysis, when compared with Professor Messner’s findings from 1981, shows that increasingly, more victims were killed between midnight and 8 a.m. in recent years than in the past.

According to the professor’s study of homicides in Manhattan, 29 percent of the 1,826 victims in 1981 were killed between midnight and 8 a.m. More recently, from 2006 through 2008, 39 percent of all homicide victims were killed during those hours, the Times analysis shows.

Also, as the number of homicides has shrunk, the data shows that more are occurring on weekends. From 2003 to 2008, 36 percent of all victims were killed on Saturday or Sunday, the analysis shows.

Failing to understand the basic connection between time of year and homicide rates can lead law enforcement agencies to faulty conclusions about what is happening in the streets — and it can affect their strategies.

In St. Louis, a 1990s-era gun buyback program begun each fall was thought by some to be behind a drop in violence. But as Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, studied the program’s impact, he found that the annual crime reductions were more attributable to the normal seasonal ebbing in homicide and assaults.

In New York, Vincent Henry, a retired police sergeant who now teaches criminology and who has studied the department’s Compstat program, in which computerized data is used for more efficient policing, said that time was one of many factors in making decisions about staffing and when and how to deploy officers.

But that was not always the case.

In the early 1990s, police managers altered the working hours for various groups of detectives, including those tracking narcotics cases and those seeking to arrest criminals wanted on open warrants.

It seemed to the top officials at the time that too many officers were keeping bankers’ hours — ending their shifts at dusk and taking weekends off — and not working closely enough with counterparts.

Jack Maple, a former police deputy commissioner who helped develop Compstat, wrote a book, “The Crime Fighter,” in which he detailed the issues of the day. He described the shortfall this way: “Unfortunately, the bad guys work around the clock.”

And in the summer months, the bad guys tend to be deadliest.

    In New York, Number of Killings Rises With Heat, NYT, 19.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/nyregion/19murder.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Gun Rulings Open Way to Supreme Court Review

 

June 17, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

 

A year ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision establishing the constitutional right of Americans to own guns. But the justices did not explain what the practical effect of that ruling would be on city and state gun laws.

Could a city still ban handguns? The justices said the District of Columbia could not, but only because it is a special federal district. The question of the constitutionality of existing city and state gun laws was left unanswered.

That left a large vacuum for the lower courts to fill. Supporters of gun rights filed a flurry of lawsuits to strike down local gun restrictions, and now federal appeals courts have begun weighing in on this divisive issue, using very different reasoning.

One court this month upheld Chicago’s ban on automatic weapons and concealed handguns, while in April a California court disagreed on the constitutional issue.

The differing opinions mean that the whole issue of city and state gun laws will probably head back to the Supreme Court for clarification, leading many legal experts to predict a further expansion of gun rights.

The new cases are fallout from last year’s Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down parts of Washington’s gun control ordinance, the strictest in the country, and stated for the first time that the Second Amendment gives individuals a right to keep and bear arms for personal use. But the court declined to say whether the Second Amendment in general applies to state and local governments.

In January, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, in a ruling joined by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, declined to apply the Second Amendment to a New York law that banned the martial arts device known as chukka sticks. The ban was allowed to stay in place.

Then in April, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that the Second Amendment did apply to the states, even though it allowed a California county to ban guns on government property like state fairgrounds. That case, Nordyke v. King, is being considered for a rehearing by the full Ninth Circuit.

Those two conflicting cases set the stage for two other cases that were heard as one in the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, testing that city’s handgun ban. On June 2, a three-judge panel of the court, led by Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, a well-known conservative, ruled that there was no basis for the court to apply the Second Amendment to the states. Such a decision, Judge Easterbrook wrote, should be made only by the Supreme Court, not at the appellate level.

The right of states to make their own decisions on such matters, Judge Easterbrook wrote, “is an older and more deeply rooted tradition than is a right to carry any particular kind of weapon.”

The lawyers for the plaintiffs, including the National Rifle Association, have asked the Supreme Court to take up the Chicago cases.

A split among the federal appeals circuits, especially on constitutional issues, invites Supreme Court action, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Californians, Hawaiians and Oregonians have a Second Amendment right to bear arms, but New Yorkers, Illinoisans, and Wisconsinites don’t,” Professor Winkler said. “The Supreme Court will want to correct this sooner rather than later.”

The process of applying amendments of the Bill of Rights to the states, known as incorporation, began after the Civil War but had its heyday in the activist Supreme Court of the Earl Warren era. Much of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and some rights of criminal defendants, have been applied to the states, but other elements have not, including the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury trial and the Second Amendment.

Incorporation fell out of favor after the 1960s, but a new generation of largely liberal scholars of law and history have brought it back into the intellectual mainstream, said Akhil Reed Amar, a law professor at Yale University, who supports the process.

“The precedents are now supportive of incorporation of nearly every provision of the Bill of Rights,” Professor Amar said. “Now what’s odd is that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states.”

Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, said he would be surprised if the Supreme Court accepted these gun cases, because some of the conservative justices on the court had scoffed at incorporation arguments in the past and might not want to set a precedent.

Professor Amar, however, argued that the justices would not only take up the case but would also ultimately vote for incorporation of the Second Amendment.

Even if the Second Amendment becomes the controlling law of every state and town, constitutional scholars say it is still unlikely that gun laws would be overturned wholesale. The Supreme Court’s Heller decision last year, notes Nelson Lund, a law professor at George Mason University, “clearly indicates that governments will still have wide latitude to regulate firearms.”

Even the Ninth Circuit in California, while applying the Second Amendment to the states, still upheld the gun ordinance that gave rise to the lawsuit.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the view of the Ninth Circuit reflected what polls have said was, by and large, the view of the American people.

“There is a right to bear arms,” Professor Volokh said, “but it’s not absolute.”

    Gun Rulings Open Way to Supreme Court Review, NYT, 17.6.2009,http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/us/17guns.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting at Holocaust Museum Kills a Guard

 

June 11, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID STOUT

 

WASHINGTON — An 88-year-old white supremacist with a rifle walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of the capital’s most visited sites, on Wednesday afternoon and began shooting, fatally wounding a security guard and sending tourists scrambling before he himself was shot, the authorities said.

The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as James W. von Brunn, who embraces various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks and other minority groups and at one point waged a personal war with the federal government.

The gunman and the security guard were both taken to nearby George Washington University Hospital, with Mr. von Brunn handcuffed to a gurney, witnesses said. The guard, Stephen T. Johns, died a short time later. Museum officials said he had worked there for six years; The Associated Press reported his age as 39.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said Mr. von Brunn was in critical condition. Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Washington police said the gunman walked into the museum’s main entrance shortly before 1 p.m. and began shooting without warning. At least one security guard was returning fire; a total of five or six shots are believed to have been fired.

Officials and others who track conspiracy theorists have long been familiar with Mr. von Brunn, whose latest address is believed to be in Eastern Maryland, in part because he maintains a Web site. (Wednesday night, only an archived version of the site was available.) He has claimed variously to be a member of Mensa, the high-I.Q. society; to have played varsity football at a Midwestern college, where he earned a degree in journalism; to have been a PT boat commander in World War II; and to be a painter and an author.

Mr. von Brunn has also claimed to have been victimized by a court system run by Jews and blacks.

Before Wednesday, he was best known to law enforcement officials for having walked into the Washington headquarters of the Federal Reserve System on Dec. 7, 1981, with a bag slung over the shoulder of his trench coat. A guard chased him to the second floor, where the Fed’s board was meeting, and found a revolver, a hunting knife and a sawed-off shotgun in the bag.

Mr. von Brunn, who lived in Lebanon, N.H., at the time, told the police he wanted to take board members hostage to focus news media attention on their responsibility for high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties. He was convicted in 1983 and served several years in prison on attempted kidnapping, burglary, assault and weapons charges.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization based in Alabama, said Wednesday that Mr. von Brunn is a racist and anti-Semite with “a long history of associations with prominent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.”

Rabbis Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Abraham Cooper, an associate dean, said in a statement that the attack at the museum showed “that the cancer of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism is alive and well in America.”

“It is deeply disturbing that one of America’s most powerful symbols of the memory of the Holocaust was selected as the site of the attack just days after President Obama accompanied Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to the Buchenwald death camp,” they said.

Opened in 1993, the museum is situated near the Mall and the Potomac River. Since its dedication, it has had nearly 30 million visitors, including more than 8 million schoolchildren and 85 heads of state, the museum says on its Web site.

Like all public buildings in the capital, the museum has heavy security, with visitors required to pass through metal detectors. But someone determined to enter a building with a firearm can sometimes do so. In July 1998, a gunman killed two police officers and wounded a tourist in the Capitol.

Museum officials issued a statement expressing shock and grief over Wednesday’s attack and said the museum would be closed Thursday in honor of Mr. Johns.

On Wednesday evening, President Obama issued a statement saying, in part, “This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”

 

Brian Knowlton and Theo Emery contributed reporting.

    Shooting at Holocaust Museum Kills a Guard, NYT, 11.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/11/us/11shoot.html

 

 

 

 

 

2 Arrested in Armored Car Guard Killing in Wash.

 

June 3, 2009
Filed at 12:03 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) -- Police in Washington state say two people have been arrested in connection with the killing of an armored car guard during a robbery at a Wal-Mart.

Lt. Heidi Hoffman said Wednesday that more arrests are expected in the shooting Tuesday in Lakewood, near Tacoma. She said the two people in custody, arrested late Tuesday at a home in the area, were involved in some way but are not the robbers.

Authorities said two men shot 39-year-old guard Kurt Husted in the head and grabbed the bag of money he had picked up from a bank branch inside the store. A customer was wounded in the shoulder.

A nearby high school was briefly locked down as a precaution.

The gunmen's stolen getaway car was later found abandoned in Tacoma.

    2 Arrested in Armored Car Guard Killing in Wash., 3.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/03/us/AP-Guard-Killed.html

 

 

 

 

 

Kan. Doctor Refused to Quit: 'I Know They Need Me'

 

June 2, 2009
Filed at 5:12 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

To some he was an unflinching hero, to others a remorseless villain. As a late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller knew he had chosen a dangerous career, one that made him a lightning rod. His clinic was a fortress, his days marred by threats, but he refused to give up what he saw as his life's mission.

''He never wavered,'' says Susie Gilligan, who knew Tiller as part of her work in the Feminist Majority Foundation. ''He never backed away. He had incredible strength. When you spoke to him, he was a soft-spoken man, a very gentle man. He said, 'This is what I have to do. Women need me. I know they need me.'''

Tiller, 67, whose Wichita, Kan., clinic had been the target of anti-abortion protests for more than two decades, was fatally shot Sunday while serving as an usher at his church. The suspect, identified by police as Scott Roeder, was taken into custody three hours later. He was booked without bail on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

As one of a few doctors across the nation to perform third-trimester abortions, Tiller had survived an earlier shooting, his clinic was bombed, his home picketed. He hired a Brink's armored truck to take him to work for several weeks, he had federal marshals protecting him for 30 months. He built a new surgical center without windows and he was known to wear a bulletproof vest, sometimes even to church.

Through it all, he stood defiant.

When a pipe bomb heavily damaged his clinic in the mid 1980s, he hung a sign outside the rubble saying: ''Hell, No. We Won't Go!'' He offered a $10,000 award -- which was never collected.

When thousands of protesters gathered at the Women's Health Care Services clinic in 1991 for the 45-day ''Summer of Mercy'' demonstration staged by Operation Rescue, he was again unbowed.

''I am a willing participant in this conflict,'' he said at the time. ''I choose to be here because I feel that it is the moral, it is the ethical thing to do.''

He told The Wichita Eagle newspaper in 1991 that prayer and meditation helped him through hard times. ''If I'm OK on the inside,'' he said, ''what people say on the outside does not make much difference.''

When a woman passing out anti-abortion literature shot him in both arms outside the clinic two years later, he briefly pursued her by car, recalls Peggy Bowman, his former spokeswoman. ''He didn't even know he was shot and all of a sudden he saw this blood (and figured), 'I probably shouldn't spend my time chasing this woman,''' she says.

Tiller suffered minor wounds -- and was back at the clinic the next day. (That's when he hired the armored truck.)

This spring, Tiller was acquitted of misdemeanor charges of violating Kansas restrictions on late-term abortions. Shortly after, the state's medical board announced it was investigating allegations against him that were nearly identical to those a jury had rejected.

Tiller's outspokenness rankled his critics, who decried as a publicity stunt his offer several years ago to provide free abortions on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. He said at the time at least 32 low-income women signed up for the free first-trimester abortions.

Abortion opponents also claimed Tiller's large financial involvement in Kansas politics thwarted prosecutions against him. They routinely blamed Tiller's ''corrupt influences in the government'' whenever legislation strengthening state abortion laws failed to pass the Legislature or was vetoed by the governor.

While anti-abortion activists have condemned Tiller's death, Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue -- who also said the gunman was wrong -- told the National Press Club on Monday the doctor was ''a mass murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.''

Tiller, a former Navy flight surgeon, hadn't planned to be an abortion doctor. He hoped to become a dermatologist.

But when his father, also a doctor, died in a plane crash (his mother, sister and brother-in-law also were killed), he took over the family practice. He soon learned the elder Tiller had performed abortions.

''In reading through some of his records, he realized his father had done abortions when they were illegal,'' says Bowman, his former spokeswoman. ''At first, he was really shocked. Then in going through those charts, he totally began to understand the importance of this service.''

Friends and colleagues say Tiller, a father of four and grandfather of 10, was a strong-willed, unassuming man who was quick with a hug or a joke. He decorated his office with family photos. He cherished rituals; he raised American flags in his clinic parking lot after the 1991 protests were over and later gave them to volunteers.

''He was never riled, he was always calm and cool,'' says Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. ''He was a very serious man, but a very good-natured one.''

In a 2008 speech to a young women's leadership conference sponsored by the foundation, he said he was on a hit list in 1994, leading to federal protection. His wife was stalked, he said, and the names of his vendors were made public on the Internet.

''But the good news,'' he said, ''is we still live in the United States of America'' and Roe vs. Wade allows women the opportunity to terminate pregnancies.

Dr. Susan Robinson, a California obstetrician-gynecologist who calls Tiller her mentor, recalls one day when she asked him: ''How can you stand it being in a pressure cooker?' He said, 'If it it's none of my business, I don't get involved. If it doesn't matter, I don't get involved. If there's nothing I can do about it, I don't get involved.' ''

But it was clear his work had taken a toll. Willow Eby, who worked as a volunteer escort at the clinic, remembers a conference she attended last year for abortion providers where he talked about his work.

''He explained that this would take your youth, it would take your energy, it would wear you down,'' she recalls. ''But he said he would not let down the women who needed him badly.''

Tiller once said his ''gifts of understanding'' helped him bring a service to women that aided them in fulfilling their dreams of a happy, healthy family. It was important, he said, that women have a choice when dealing with technology that can diagnose severe fetal abnormalities before a baby is born.

''Prenatal testing without prenatal choices is medical fraud,'' he declared.

Colleagues said Tiller's office walls were lined with letters from patients expressing their thanks.

One woman who turned to him was Miriam Kleiman, of northern Virginia. Nine years ago, a routine sonogram revealed her 29-week-old fetus had major brain abnormalities that prevented the baby's heart and lungs from functioning properly.

Doctors told her the baby would die in utero or soon after birth. Kleiman's doctors told her a third trimester abortion was not possible.

Kleiman says she could not bear a two-month death watch. ''There was a baby dying inside of me, and it wasn't if, but when,'' she says.

After desperate pleas, she says, a doctor scribbled Tiller's name on a scrap of paper. She and her husband flew to Wichita and drove through a gauntlet of protesters to the fortress-like clinic.

She remembers Tiller and his staff as kind and compassionate. She had the abortion and brought home her baby to be buried.

Kleiman, who now has two sons, says she cried when she heard of Tiller's death while watching her son's soccer game.

''I fear,'' she says, ''that other people might not have this option in the future -- to have a medical option that was safe, that was legal and allowed us to say goodbye with dignity.''

--------

Associated Press writers Roxana Hegeman in Wichita and Sam Hananel in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report and Rhonda Shafner in New York provided research.

    Kan. Doctor Refused to Quit: 'I Know They Need Me', NYT, 2.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/02/us/AP-US-Tiller-Profile.html

 

 

 

 

 

Military Recruiter Killed in Ark Shooting

 

June 1, 2009
Filed at 2:11 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A new soldier helping to attract others to the military was shot and killed outside an Army recruiting office Monday and a second soldier was wounded, and a suspect was arrested, police said.

A man inside a black vehicle pulled up outside the Army-Navy recruiting office in west Little Rock and opened fire about 10:30 a.m., said police Lt. Terry Hastings.

The two soldiers were outside the office when they were shot. They were taken to a hospital, where one died.

The vehicle was stopped on Interstate 630 a short time later and a suspect was taken into custody. Hastings said the suspect pulled over and surrendered without incident. Police found an assault rifle in the vehicle.

Hastings said investigators had not yet questioned the suspect. Hastings said he did not know whether the recruiting office was specifically targeted or randomly chosen.

Authorities did not immediately identify the victims or the suspect.

As a precaution, police called in a bomb squad after packages were found in the vehicle. Hastings said a robot would be used to open the packages.

Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis of the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Little Rock office, said the victims had just completed basic training and were not regular recruiters. He said they were serving two weeks in the Little Rock office.

As part of the Hometown Recruiting Assistance Program, the soldiers were sent to ''talk to friends, folks in the local area. They can show the example, 'Here's where I was, and here is where I am,''' Artis said.

Artis said neither of the soldiers had been deployed for combat.

Eight other people work in the Little Rock recruiting office, including one civilian, he said.

------

Associated Press Writer Chuck Bartels contributed to this story.

    Military Recruiter Killed in Ark Shooting, NYT, 1.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/01/us/AP-US-Recruiters-Shot.html

 

 

 

 

 

Suspect Jailed in Kansas Abortion Doctor's Killing

 

June 1, 2009
Filed at 2:21 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A man suspected of fatally shooting abortion doctor George Tiller in church was in jail Monday while investigators sought to learn more about his background, including his possible connections to anti-abortion groups.

Tiller, 67, was serving as an usher during morning services Sunday when he was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, police said. The gunman fired one shot at Tiller and threatened two other people who tried to stop him.

The suspect, identified by one law enforcement agency as Scott Roeder, was taken into custody some 170 miles away in a Kansas City suburb about three hours after the shooting.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston (FOHL'-stuhn) indicated that charges will not be filed Monday. Foulston noted that the state has 48 hours to charge anyone who is in custody and said she planned to take the full two days to decide. She said any charges would be filed in state court.

''We have taken jurisdiction,'' she said.

Also, a law enforcement official says investigators have searched two homes as part of the inquiry into Tiller's killing. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation, says the homes are in Merriam, Kan., and the other is in Kansas City, Mo.

The official did not know what turned up during the searches.

Tiller had been a lightning rod for abortion opponents for decades. The women's clinic he ran is one of three in the nation where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy, when the fetus is considered viable, and has been the site of repeated protests for about two decades.

A protester shot Tiller in both arms in 1993, and his clinic was bombed in 1985.

Roeder, 51, was returned to Wichita and was being held without bail on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Outside the clinic Monday morning, flowers were placed along a fence, and the anti-abortion group Kansas Coalition for Life left a sign saying members had prayed for Tiller's change of heart, ''not his murder.''

In Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service said that as a result of Tiller's shooting, Attorney General Eric Holder had ordered it to ''increase security for a number of individuals and facilities.'' It gave no details.

Tiller himself last had protection from the U.S. marshals in 2001, and he and other doctors received such protection at different times in the 1990s.

A man with the same name as the suspect has a criminal record and a background of anti-abortion postings on sympathetic Web sites. In one post written in 2007 on the Web site for the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, a man identifying himself as Scott Roeder asked if anyone had thought of attending Tiller's church to ask the doctor and other worshippers about his work. ''Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller,'' the post said.

But police said Sunday that all early indications showed the shooter acted alone.

Operation Rescue condemned the killing as vigilantism and ''a cowardly act,'' and the group's president, Troy Newman, said Roeder ''has never been a member, contributor or volunteer.'' He may have posted to the organization's open Internet blog, Newman said, but so have thousands of nonmembers.

But Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, whose protests have often targeted Tiller, called the slain doctor ''a mass murderer,'' adding: ''He was an evil man -- his hands were covered with blood.''

In 1996, a 38-year-old man named Scott Roeder was charged in Topeka with criminal use of explosives for having bomb components in his car trunk and sentenced to 24 months of probation. However, his conviction was overturned on appeal the next year after a higher court said evidence against Roeder was seized by law enforcement officers during an illegal search of his car.

At the time, police said the FBI had identified Roeder as a member of the anti-government Freemen group, an organization that kept the FBI at bay in Jordan, Mont., for almost three months in 1995-96. Authorities on Sunday night would not immediately confirm if their suspect was the same man.

Morris Wilson, a commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia in the mid-1990s, told The Kansas City Star he knew Roeder fairly well.

''I'd say he's a good ol' boy, except he was just so fanatic about abortion,'' Wilson said. ''He was always talking about how awful abortion was. But there's a lot of people who think abortion is awful.''

The slaying quickly brought condemnation from both anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups, as well as President Barack Obama.

''However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence,'' Obama said in a statement.

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said Tiller apparently did not have a bodyguard with him in church, although the doctor was routinely accompanied by one. An attorney for Tiller, Dan Monnat, said the doctor's wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time of the shooting.

Monnat said in early May that Tiller had asked federal prosecutors to step up investigations of vandalism and other threats against the clinic out of fear that the incidents were increasing and that Tiller's safety was in jeopardy. However, Stolz said authorities knew of no threats connected to the shooting.

Church members said anti-abortion protesters have shown up outside the church on Sundays regularly.

''They've been out here for quite a few years. We've just become accustomed to it. Just like an everyday thing, you just looked over and see them and say, 'Yup they're back again.'''

The last killing of an abortion doctor was in October 1998 when Dr. Barnett Slepian was fatally shot in his home in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. A militant abortion opponent was convicted of the murder.

One of Tiller's lawyers and friends, Dan Monnat, told ABC's ''Good Morning America'' that Tiller had been supported by his wife and children in his decision to continue providing abortion services.

''If Dr Tiller is not going to service a woman's right to chose, who will do it?'' Monnat said.

''Many of those have been terrorized and run off by protesters,'' he said about other abortion providers.

------

Associated Press writers John Hanna contributed to this report from Wichita, Devlin Barrett from Washington.

(This version CORRECTS the name of the town where a house was searched to Merriam, not Merrian.)

    Suspect Jailed in Kansas Abortion Doctor's Killing, NYT, 1.6.2009, .http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/01/us/AP-US-Tiller-Shooting.html

 

 

 

 

 

Abortion Doctor Slain by Gunman in Kansas Church

 

June 1, 2009
The New York Times
By JOE STUMPE and MONICA DAVEY

 

WICHITA, Kan. — George Tiller, one of only a few doctors in the nation who performed abortions late in pregnancy, was shot to death here Sunday in the foyer of his longtime church as he handed out the church bulletin.

The authorities said they took a man into custody later in the day after pulling him over about 170 miles away on Interstate 35 near Kansas City. They said they expected to charge him with murder on Monday.

The Wichita police said there were several witnesses to the killing, but law enforcement officials would not say what had been said, if anything, inside the foyer. Officials offered little insight into the motive, saying that they believed it was “the act of an isolated individual” but that they were also looking into “his history, his family, his associates.”

A provider of abortions for more than three decades, Dr. Tiller, 67, had become a focal point for those around the country who opposed it. In addition to protests outside his clinic, his house and his church, Dr. Tiller had once seen his clinic bombed; in 1993, an abortion opponent shot him in both arms. He was also the defendant in a series of legal challenges intended to shut down his operations, including two grand juries that were convened after citizen-led petition drives.

On Sunday morning, moments after services had begun at Reformation Lutheran Church, Dr. Tiller, who was acting as an usher, was shot once with a handgun, the authorities said. The gunman pointed the weapon at two people who tried to stop him, the police said, then drove off in a powder-blue Taurus. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, a member of the church choir, was inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting.

The police in Wichita described the man who was detained as a 51-year-old from Merriam, a Kansas City suburb, but declined to give his name until he was charged. The Associated Press reported that a sheriff’s official from Johnson County, Kan., where the man was taken into custody, identified him as Scott Roeder.

The killing of Dr. Tiller is likely to return the issue of abortion to center stage in the nation’s political debate. Until recently, President Obama, who supports abortion rights, had largely sought to avoid the debate. Last month, he confronted the issue in a commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, an appearance that drew protests because of his views. During the speech, he appealed to each side to respect one another’s basic decency and to work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Mr. Obama issued a statement after Dr. Tiller’s killing, saying, “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

Advocates of abortion rights denounced the killing, saying it would send a renewed, frightening signal to others who provide abortions or work in clinics and to women who may consider abortions. Some described Dr. Tiller as one of about only three doctors in the country who had, under certain circumstances, provided abortions to women in their third trimester of pregnancy, and said his death would mean that women, particularly in the central United States, would have few if any options in such cases.

“This is a tremendous loss on so many levels,” said Peter B. Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, who had known Dr. Tiller for years.

Opponents of abortion, including those here who have been most vociferous in their protests of Dr. Tiller and his work, also expressed outrage at the shooting and said they feared that their groups might be wrongly judged by the act.

Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group based in Wichita, said he had always sought out “nonviolent” measures to challenge Dr. Tiller, including efforts in recent years to have him prosecuted for crimes or investigated by state health authorities.

“Operation Rescue has worked tirelessly on peaceful, nonviolent measures to bring him to justice through the legal system, the legislative system,” Mr. Newman said, adding, “We are pro-life, and this act was antithetical to what we believe.”

By late Sunday, Mr. Newman said, some were already suggesting that there were links between the suspect and Operation Rescue. Someone named Scott Roeder had made posts to the group’s blog in the past, Mr. Newman said, but “he is not a friend, not a contributor, not a volunteer.”

Dr. Tiller’s death is the first such killing of an abortion provider in this country since 1998, when Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot by a sniper in his home in the Buffalo area. Dr. Tiller was the fourth doctor in the United States who performed abortions to be killed in such circumstances since 1993, statistics from abortion rights’ groups show.

Although most of the deadly violence occurred in the 1990s, advocates said, abortion clinics and doctors have continued to be the targets of intense, sometimes threatening protests. Some said they feared that Dr. Tiller’s death might signal a return to the earlier level of violence. At some clinics on Sunday, administrators were reviewing their security precautions.

Adam Watkins, 20, one of the church members, told The A.P. he was seated in the middle of the congregation when he heard a small pop at the start of the service. An usher came in and told the congregation to remain seated, and then escorted Mrs. Tiller out. “When she got to the back doors, we heard her scream,” Mr. Watkins said.

Dr. Tiller had long been at the center of the abortion debate here, one that rarely seemed to quiet much in this southern Kansas city of about 358,000.

In 1993, Rachelle Shannon, from rural Oregon, shot Dr. Tiller in both arms. Two years earlier, during Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Mercy” protests, thousands of anti-abortion protesters tried to block off the clinic, the site of a bombing in 1986.

Friends of Dr. Tiller also described regular incidents of vandalism at the clinic, and a barrage of threats to him and his family — threats they say had concerned him deeply for years.

Family members, including 4 children and 10 grandchildren, issued a statement through Dr. Tiller’s lawyer, which read in part: “George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence. We ask that he be remembered as a good husband, father and grandfather and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.”

In recent years, Dr. Tiller had also been the focus of efforts by anti-abortion groups and others — including a former state attorney general, Phill Kline — who wished to see him prosecuted for what they considered violations of state law in cases of late-term abortions.

Two grand juries, summoned by citizen-led petition drives, looked into Dr. Tiller’s practices, including questions of whether he met a state law requirement that abortions at or after 22 weeks of pregnancy be limited to circumstances where a fetus would not be viable or a woman would otherwise face “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” — words whose interpretation were at the root of much debate.

This year, Dr. Tiller was acquitted in a case that raised questions about whether he was too closely tied to a doctor from whom he sought second opinions in abortion cases. As recently as this spring, the State Board of Healing Arts was investigating a similar complaint against him.

 

Joe Stumpe reported from Wichita, Kan., and Monica Davey from Chicago.

    Abortion Doctor Slain by Gunman in Kansas Church, NYT, 1.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/us/01tiller.html