Mexico makes arrests in massacre of American women, children – minister

Mexico makes arrests in massacre of American women, children: minister
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has made an unspecified number of arrests over last week’s massacre of three women and six children of dual U.S-Mexican nationality in the north of the country, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said on Monday.

“There have been arrests, but it’s not up to us to give information,” Durazo told reporters in Mexico City.

The women and children from families of U.S. Mormon origin who settled in Mexico decades ago were killed last Monday on a remote dirt road in the state of Sonora by suspected drug cartel gunmen, sparking outrage and condemnation in the United States.

Durazo said that prosecutors in Sonora, as well as at the federal level, were in charge of the investigation.

However, a spokeswoman for the state government of Sonora said: “We don’t have that information.”

Mexico’s government has said it believes the victims were caught in the midst of a territorial dispute between an arm of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and the rival Juarez Cartel.

On Sunday, Mexico’s government said it had asked the FBI to participate in the investigation into the killings.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Officials arrest 338 in child porn bust on dark web

Officials arrest 338 in child porn bust on dark web
By Andy Sullivan and Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had arrested hundreds of people worldwide after knocking out a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site that sold gruesome videos for digital cash.

Officials from the United States, Britain and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had encountered to date.

Called Welcome To Video, the website relied on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to sell access to 250,000 videos depicting child sexual abuse, authorities said.

Officials have rescued at least 23 underage victims in the United States, Britain and Spain who were being actively abused by users of the site, the Justice Department said. Many children in the videos have not yet been identified.

The site’s vast library – nearly half of it consisting of images never seen before by law enforcement – is an illustration of what authorities say is an explosion of sexual abuse content online. In a statement, Britain’s National Crime Agency said officials were seeing “increases in severity, scale and complexity.”

Welcome To Video’s operator, a South Korean named Jong Woo Son, and 337 users in 12 different countries, have been charged so far, authorities said.

Son, currently serving an 18-month sentence in South Korea, was also indicted on federal charges in Washington.

Several other people charged in the case have already been convicted and are serving prison sentences of up to 15 years, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Welcome To Video is one of the first websites to monetize child pornography using bitcoin, which allows users to hide their identities during financial transactions.

Users were able to redeem the digital currency in return for “points” that they could spend downloading videos or buying all-you-can watch “VIP” accounts. Points could also be earned by uploading fresh child pornography.

‘BOTTOM FEEDERS OF CRIMINAL WORLD’

“These are the bottom feeders of the criminal world,” said Don Fort, chief of criminal investigation at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which initiated the investigation.

The Justice Department said the site collected at least $370,000 worth of bitcoin before it was taken down in March 2018 and that the currency was laundered through three unnamed digital currency exchanges.

Darknet websites are designed to be all-but-impossible to locate online. How authorities managed to locate and bring down the site isn’t clear, with differing narratives by different law enforcement organizations on the matter.

Fort said the investigation was triggered by a tip to the IRS from a confidential source. However, Britain’s National Crime Agency said they came across the site during an investigation into a British academic who in October 2017 pleaded guilty  to blackmailing more than 50 people, including teenagers, into sending him depraved images that he shared online.

In a statement, British authorities said the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit deployed “specialist capabilities” to identify the server’s location. The NCA did not immediately return an email seeking clarification on the term, which is sometimes used as a euphemism for hacking.

The U.S. Justice Department gave a different explanation, saying that Welcome To Video’s site was leaking its server’s South Korean internet protocol address to the open internet.

Experts pointed to the bust as evidence that the trade in child abuse imagery could be tackled without subverting the encryption that keeps the rest of the internet safe.

Officials in the United States and elsewhere have recently begun prodding major technology firms  to come up with solutions that could allow law enforcement to bypass the encryption that protects messaging apps like WhatsApp or iMessage, citing the fight against child pornography as a major reason.

Welcome to Video’s demise “is a clear indication that in cases like this, where there’s very low-hanging fruit, breaking encryption is not required,” said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

He said the bust showed that law enforcement could also track criminal activity that employs cryptocurrency transactions.

“There’s a lot of a people who have this perception that bitcoin is totally anonymous,” Parsons said, “and it’s been the downfall of many people in many investigations.”

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum)

Hong Kong set to enact emergency laws as it struggles to contain violence

By Clare Jim and Felix Tam

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s government is expected to discuss sweeping emergency laws on Friday that would include banning face masks at protests, two sources told Reuters, as the Chinese-ruled territory grapples with an escalating cycle of violence.

Authorities have already loosened guidelines on the use of force by police, according to documents seen by Reuters on Thursday, as they struggle to stamp out anti-government protests that have rocked Hong Kong for nearly four months.

The loosening of restrictions on the use of force by police came into effect just before some of the most violent turmoil yet at protests on Tuesday, when a teenaged secondary school student was shot by an officer in the chest and wounded – the first time a demonstrator had been hit by live fire.

More than 100 people were wounded, after police fired about 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds as protesters threw petrol bombs and wielded sticks.

The Beijing-backed local government was set to hold a meeting on Friday morning where it was likely to enact a colonial-era emergency law that has not been used in half a century, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Media reports earlier on Thursday of an expected ban on face masks – which hundreds of thousands of protesters wear to conceal their identities and shield themselves from tear gas – sent Hong Kong’s stock market up to a one-week high.

Growing opposition to the former British colony’s government has plunged the financial hub into its biggest political crisis in decades and poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy in the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.

China dismisses accusations it is meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up anti-China sentiment.

As speculation of an emergency law swirled, riot police moved into districts across Hong Kong that have seen violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces in recent weeks, according to Telegram groups, a popular encrypted messaging app popular with protesters.

LIVE ROUNDS

Local media Now TV and Cable TV reported the changes to the police procedures manual took effect on Sept. 30, the day before Tuesday’s violence at widespread protests on China’s National Day, during which the student was shot.

Reuters could not confirm when the changes were made, but has seen police documents that showed changes to some guidelines on how officers could act when considering force.

The updated guidelines also removed a line that said “officers will be accountable for their own actions”, stating only that “officers on the ground should exercise their own discretion to determine what level of force is justified in a given situation”.

Police declined to comment when asked if amendments had been made to the manual.

“The guidelines on the use of force involve details of operation. It may affect the normal and effective operation of the police force and work of police on crime prevention if details are made public,” police said in a statement to Reuters.

Hong Kong’s police have long been admired for their professionalism compared with some forces elsewhere in Asia.

But the public has become increasingly hostile towards the force over past weeks amid accusations of heavy-handed tactics. Police say they have shown restraint.

The unrest, which began over opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, shows no sign of letting up.

Protesters, fired up over the shooting of the young man this week, are planning more demonstrations at shopping malls across 11 districts on Thursday night and throughout the weekend.

“HEINOUS CRIMES”

Elizabeth Quat, a lawmaker for a pro-Beijing political party, told a news conference the looming ban on face masks under a law giving police broad emergency powers was aimed at stopping “illegal assemblies”.

“This law is not targeting peaceful protesters. It is focused on targeting those rioters who have committed heinous crimes,” she said.

But pro-democracy lawmakers fear the emergency powers could be used to further curtail freedoms.

“To impose an anti-mask law in the current social condition is to further infuriate the people and will definitely be met with escalating violence,” lawmaker Fernando Cheung told Reuters. “This is no different than adding fuel to fire. The result will be riots.”

Goldman Sachs estimated this week that the city might have lost as much as $4 billion in deposits to rival banking center Singapore between June and August.

On Thursday, Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers Association, urged the city’s leader to impose a curfew to maintain public order.

“We cannot work alone – clapping only with one hand – without appropriate measures and support from top level,” Lam said.

TEENAGER CHARGED

Tony Tsang, the 18-year-old who was shot at close range as he fought an officer with what appeared to be a white pole on Tuesday, has since been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, and assaulting a police officer.

Tsang is in hospital in a stable condition and was not able to attend a court session on Thursday, but his lawyer appeared on his behalf. About 200 supporters turned up to watch the proceedings.

Separately, the lawyer for an Indonesian journalist injured when police fired a projectile during protests on Sunday said she had been blinded in one eye.

The European Union said in a statement it was deeply troubled by the escalation of violence and the only way forward was through “restraint, de-escalation and dialogue”.

(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Poppy McPherson; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

Hong Kong mops up after fresh violence, braces for October 1 anniversary

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong cleaned up on Monday and train services in the city resumed, after another weekend of sometimes violent protests that saw pro-democracy activists vandalize a railway station and a shopping mall.

Nearly 50 people were arrested in the weekend clashes, police said, bringing the total number of arrested in the protests since June to 1,556.

The Chinese-rule territory is on edge ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1, with authorities eager to avoid scenes that could embarrass the central government in Beijing.

The Hong Kong government starts an official dialogue with community members this week in a bid to heal rifts in society and has already called off a big fireworks display to mark Oct. 1 in case of further clashes.

The former British colony also marks the fifth anniversary this weekend of the start of the “Umbrella” protests, a series of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 that failed to wrestle concessions from Beijing.

Activists plan to gather at so-called Lennon Walls, which feature anti-government messages and are named after the original John Lennon Wall in Communist-ruled Prague in the 1980s, in the heart of the financial center on Saturday and spread to different areas across Hong Kong island.

Another rally is planned on Sunday in the bustling shopping and tourist district of Causeway Bay, the site of some fierce recent clashes between police and protesters.

Police on Sunday fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the latest clashes in more than three months of unrest that has plunged the city into its worst political crisis in decades.

Forty-seven people, 42 males and five females aged between 14 and 64, were arrested.

The biggest of several clashes took place in or near Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations, now a familiar target of attack because stations are often closed at the government’s behest to stop demonstrators from gathering.

Hundreds of protesters had gathered in the New Town Plaza in the New Territories town of Sha Tin on Sunday, chanting: “Fight for freedom” and “Liberate Hong Kong.”

Activists trampled on a Chinese flag near the train station and rounded on a man they believed had opposed them. Protesters also smashed video cameras and ticket booths in the station.

Some started to trash fittings at the entrance of the mall. The protesters then spilled outside where they set fire to barricades made of cardboard, broken palm trees and other debris.

MTR said on Monday train services had returned to normal.

China, which has a People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong, has said it has faith in Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to solve the crisis.

Demonstrators are frustrated at what they see as Beijing’s tightening grip over the Asian financial hub, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement and denies interfering.

Anti-government protesters, many masked and wearing black, have caused havoc since June, throwing petrol bombs at police, trashing metro stations, blocking airport roads and lighting street fires.

Scores of airlines wrote jointly to the Hong Kong government earlier this month to seek airport fee waivers as they struggle to deal with the financial fallout from the protests that have led to a sharp drop in traveler demand.

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree and Farah Master; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson)

Hong Kong police break up new protest with rubber bullets, tear gas

Protesters erect the Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue during the "No White Terror No Chinazi" rally in Chater Garden, Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Marius Zaharia and Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray on Friday to clear protesters outside a subway station on the densely populated Kowloon peninsula, the latest clash in 14 weeks of sometimes violent anti-government demonstrations.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them masked and dressed in black, took cover behind umbrellas and barricades made from street fencing. Some had broken through a metal grill to enter the station where they pulled down signs, broke turnstiles and daubed graffiti on the walls.

Protestors stand behind a burning barricade during a demonstration in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Protestors stand behind a burning barricade during a demonstration in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“We’re angry at the police and angry at the government,” said Justin, 23, dressed in black and wearing a hoodie. “Police was very brutal with us at this station. We cannot let them get away with it.”

Protesters had gathered outside Prince Edward station in Mong Kok, one of the world’s most densely populated regions, where police had fired beanbag guns and used pepper spray to clear demonstrators this week.

They withdrew when police fired rubber bullets, but regrouped in smaller pockets to light fires in the street from wooden pallets, cardboard boxes and other debris. Firemen were dousing the flames.

“The police will use appropriate force to conduct a dispersal operation and warn all protesters to stop all illegal acts and leave immediately,” police said in a statement.

There was no immediate official word of arrests or injuries. Both Mong Kok and Prince Edward stations were closed.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures this week to try to restore order in the Chinese-ruled city, including the formal withdrawal of a bill that triggered the demonstrations. The law would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, despite the city having an independent judiciary dating back to British colonial rule.

But the demonstrations, which began in June, had long since morphed into a broader call for more democracy and many protesters have pledged to fight on, calling Lam’s concessions too little, too late.

“No China” was daubed over walls along the key north-south artery of Nathan Road.

“The four actions are aimed at putting one step forward in helping Hong Kong to get out of the dilemma,” Lam told reporters during a trip to China’s southern region of Guangxi. “We can’t stop the violence immediately.”

Apart from withdrawing the bill, she announced three other measures to help ease the crisis, including a dialogue with the people.

Medical students hold hands as they form a human chain during a protest against the police brutality, at the Faculty of Medicine in The University of Hong Kong, China, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Medical students hold hands as they form a human chain during a protest against the police brutality, at the Faculty of Medicine in The University of Hong Kong, China, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

WEEKEND PLANS FOR THE AIRPORT

Demonstrations have at times paralyzed parts of the city, a major Asian financial hub, amid running street battles between protesters and police who have responded with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. Violent arrests of protesters, many in metro stations, have drawn international attention.

The crowds were expected to swell into the night, as the city braces for weekend demonstrations aiming to disrupt transport links to the airport.

The airport announced that only passengers with tickets would be allowed to use the Airport Express train service on Saturday, boarding in downtown Hong Kong. The train would not stop en route, on the Kowloon peninsula. Bus services could also be hit, it said.

The measures are aimed at avoiding the chaos of last weekend, when protesters blocked airport approach roads, threw debris on the train track and trashed the MTR subway station in the nearby new town of Tung Chung in running clashes with police.

Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on Friday downgraded Hong Kong’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating to “AA” from “AA+”.

Fitch said it expects that public discontent is likely to persist despite the concessions to certain protester demands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of Hong Kong with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, saying a peaceful solution was needed.

“I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” Merkel said.

‘RETURN TO ORDER’

Li told a news conference with Merkel “the Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people'”.

Beijing supported the territory’s government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”, Li added.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland. Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding that autonomy.

China denies the accusation of meddling and says Hong Kong is its internal affair. It has denounced the protests, warning of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest.

In addition to calling for a withdrawal of the extradition bill and the release of those arrested for violence, protesters also want an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

The protests have presented Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

(Additional reporting by Felix Tam, Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Noah Sin, Kai Pfaffenbach and Joe Brock; Andreas Rinke in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Frances Kerry)

Mass shooting tips to FBI surge 70% after El Paso, Dayton massacres

FILE PHOTO: FBI police vehicles sit parked outside of the J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation Building in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – The number of calls to an FBI tip line designed to head off mass shootings and other attacks surged by 70% in the week after twin massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, federal officials said on Monday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation fielded more than 38,000 phone and online tips during the week after the shootings, up from the 22,000 tips it typically receives on a weekly basis.

The surge is evidence of an America public made jittery by a steady drumbeat of mass shootings.

“Such increases are often observed after major incidents,” the FBI said in a statement. “As always, the FBI encourages the public to remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.”

FBI officials said the number of tips the center receives each week fluctuates and not all are actionable. Some tips turn into FBI investigations while others are forwarded to local authorities. The number of FBI tips also does not include the thousands of tips that state and local law enforcement agencies have received since the shootings.

Several people have been arrested and charged across the United States in recent weeks as a result of tips.

They have included an employee at a Wisconsin distribution center who called police after a coworker threatened to carry out a workplace shooting and an Alabama resident who alerted authorities after his friend, a Florida trucker, sent him messages about his plans for a shooting at a Memphis church.

In Michigan, a person told authorities that a former classmate threatened to shoot 200 police officers during a phone and text conversation while a woman in Florida told police that her ex-boyfriend texted her about his plan to kill 100 people in a mass shooting, according to police.

“The general public are definitely taking these more seriously,” said John Mina, the sheriff in Orange County, Florida and on the board of directors of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Mina is no stranger to mass shootings. He was the police chief in Orlando, Florida, the night of June 12, 2016, when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub, killing 49 and wounding 53.

Mina also said there has been an increasing amount of resources devoted in local law enforcement agencies to access tips and threats found online, even when the person may not be serious about carrying out the attack.

“Law enforcement has always acted upon it. The difference is now we are being a little more vocal about it,” he said. “Agencies are pushing the message out. It’s not a joke. We are going to arrest you.”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

Hong Kong government warns of great danger after weekend of violence

An anti-extradition bill protester throws a Molotov cocktail as protesters clash with riot police during a rally to demand democracy and political reforms, at Tsuen Wan, in Hong Kong, China August 25. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Twinnie Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Illegal violence is pushing Hong Kong to the brink of great danger, the city government said on Monday, after a weekend of clashes that included the first gun-shot and the arrest of 86 people, the youngest just 12.

Police fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas in running battles with protesters who threw bricks and petrol bombs on Sunday, the second day of weekend clashes in the Chinese-ruled city.

Six officers drew their pistols and one officer fired a warning shot into the air, police said in a statement, adding that 215 rounds of tear gas and 74 rubber bullets were fired over the two days.

“The escalating illegal and violent acts of radical protesters are not only outrageous, they also push Hong Kong to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” the government said in a statement.

The protests began in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

But the demonstrations have evolved over 12 straight weeks into a broad demand for greater democracy in the financial hub that was promised a high degree of autonomy under a “one country, two systems” formula when it was handed to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997.

More demonstrations are planned in the days and weeks ahead, including a rally at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways <0293.HK> headquarters on Wednesday to protest against perceived “white terror”, a term used to describe anonymous acts that create a climate of fear.

Cathay has emerged as the biggest corporate casualty of the protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who supported, the anti-government demonstrations that have plunged the city into its biggest crisis since 1997.

On Saturday, activists threw petrol bombs and bricks in the gritty industrial district of Kwun Tong, on the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Some protesters cut down “smart” lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras.

An anti-extradition bill protester carries a barricade for blocking the road during a protest in Hong Kong, China, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

An anti-extradition bill protester carries a barricade for blocking the road during a protest in Hong Kong, China, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

GRAVE CHALLENGE

The protests pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012, with his government keen to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct 1.

Protesters again adopted cat-and-mouse tactics on Sunday evening, gathering then quickly dispersing, only to reappear in other places.

They also set up barricades to block some roads, following a largely peaceful rally earlier in the day.

Police said the 86 arrested people were aged 12 to 52, and they were suspected of offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

Twenty-one officers were injured in the violence, they said.

The weekend clashes marked a return to violent unrest after days of calmer demonstrations.

The protests have occasionally caused serious disruption including forcing the closure of the airport.

China has denounced the protests, warned of the damage to Hong Kong’s economy and complained of outside interference.

It has also sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong in mainland China.The protesters say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement under which Hong Kong returned to China with the promise of freedoms, not enjoyed on the mainland, for 50 years.

But the turmoil is taking a toll.

The world’s biggest equity deal this year was to unfold in Hong Kong later this month but it has been put on hold. Banks are issuing unprecedented profit warnings, while hotels and restaurants are half-empty.

Several major conferences and trade fairs have been postponed and economists say retail sales could drop by 20%-30% this year.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index <.HSI> closed down 1.9% on Monday, in line with regional markets, as the latest salvo in the Sino-U.S. trade war rattled investors.

(Reporting By Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok and Noah Sin; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Florida trucker arrested, charged with plotting church shooting: prosecutors

Police Lights

(Reuters) – Federal authorities said they have arrested a Florida truck driver who “was thinking about shooting up a church” in Memphis this week, making him at least the fourth person this month charged with plotting a mass shooting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Thomas McVicker, 38, in Indianapolis on Monday after a friend in Alabama alerted agents to text messages he sent in which he described his plans for a mass shooting and suicide, according to court papers.

McVicker, who is from Punta Gorda but lives in his truck, is under treatment and is on medication for schizophrenia, according to his mother, FBI Special Agent Ketrick Kelley said in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alabama.

It was not immediately clear if McVicker had an attorney.

The alleged mass shooting, which Kelley said McVicker appeared to be planning to carry out on Thursday, comes after law enforcement authorities in Ohio, Florida and Connecticut said they arrested three men who planned mass shootings.

Since July 28, shooting sprees in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 34 people.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

Americans accused of Rome murder reacted with tears, disbelief: prosecutor

Regent Prosecutor Michele Prestipino attends a news conference after the killing of Carabinieri military police officer Mario Cerciello Rega in Rome, Italy July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – An American teenager accused of stabbing an Italian policeman to death last week began to weep, and his alleged accomplice voiced disbelief, when told after their arrest that the officer had died of his wounds, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, is accused of killing the policeman in central Rome with an 18-cm (7-inch) blade in an incident that shocked Italians and raised questions over both the motive for the attack and police interrogation methods.

Elder and fellow student Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of murdering Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, after the policeman intervened in a dispute that began over a drug deal involving the pair, police say.

The court-appointed lawyers for the American pair could not be reached for comment. The Elder family said in a statement on Tuesday it had not spoken to him since his arrest on Saturday.

“The situation is fluid. Finn’s parents are coping,” the statement said.

Police say Cerciello Rega, unarmed and in plain clothes, was attacked by Elder in the early morning of Friday in an affluent Rome neighborhood as he was trying to arrest him and Natale-Hjorth on suspicion of stealing a backpack.

The policeman and another officer, who was allegedly injured in the incident by Natale-Hjorth, had been called to the scene after the pair allegedly stole the backpack from a drug-dealer who they believed had cheated them, said Francesco Gargaro, head of the capital’s Carabinieri police force.

Prosecutor Nunzia D’Elia told a news conference on Tuesday that Natale-Hjorth, had reacted with disbelief when told of the policeman’s death, saying “Really dead? Dead dead?”

In an order for the pair to be held in jail pending investigation, a judge said the Americans had told investigators they had not been aware that Cerciello Rega was a policeman.

However, police chief Gargaro said on Tuesday that Cerciello Rega and his colleague had clearly identified themselves as police to the pair before the attack.

Police have also begun an investigation into the pair’s interrogation after a photo emerged of Natale-Hjorth in police custody, sitting blindfolded, hands cuffed behind his back.

Natale-Hjorth and Elder, both from San Francisco, were likely to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they were arrested on Saturday but were judged fit to be questioned, prosecutor D’Elia said.

She and Gargaro declined to comment on the inquiry into the interrogation.

Rome’s public attorney office said the investigation into the stabbing was still ongoing.

An Italian lawyer for Elder, Francesco Codini, told the New York Times that the two men had asserted their right to remain silent during a court hearing in Rome on Saturday afternoon.

(Additional reporting by Domenico Lusi, Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro, Editing by Mark Bendeich)

Sixteen U.S. Marines arrested on suspicion of human trafficking

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard Platoon during a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, U.S., March 15, 2018. Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel/U.S. Marines/Handout via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Sixteen U.S. Marines were arrested on Thursday at their base in Southern California on suspicion of drug-related offenses and the smuggling of undocumented migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. military officials said.

The arrests at Camp Pendleton stemmed from a separate investigation of two other Marines arrested earlier this month on human trafficking charges filed by federal prosecutors in San Diego, a base spokesman said.

Those two Marines, Lance Corporals Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero, were also stationed at Camp Pendleton, about 55 miles (88 km) north of San Diego, according to the spokesman, Marine First Lieutenant Cameron Edinburgh.

“Information gained from the previous investigation gave way to this string of arrests,” Edinburgh told Reuters.

The Marine Corps said that in addition to the Marines arrested on Thursday, eight others were detained for questioning on unrelated alleged drug offenses.

The 16 taken into custody were all part of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the United States.

None one of those arrested or detained on Thursday was serving in support of the military’s mission along the border with Mexico, the Marine Corps said.

Unlike Salazar and Law, the Marines faced prosecution under the military justice system but no formal charges have been brought against them as yet, Edinburgh said.

The precise nature of the alleged wrongdoing was not disclosed, but Edinburgh said the troops were suspected of involvement in the smuggling of undocumented immigrants into the United States from Mexico and various unspecified drug-related offenses.

The two Marines arrested July 3 on charges of transporting aliens for financial gain were arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents several miles north of the border along a highway in San Diego County.

According to court documents filed in that case, Salazar and Law picked up three undocumented Mexican immigrants by car near the border, guided to a pre-arranged location via cellphone instructions. The three migrants were found riding in the back seat of the Marines’ car, and they told investigators they had agreed to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the United States.

Thursday’s arrests came a day after the military said a Navy SEAL team was sent back from Iraq because of discipline issues. An official said it was because, in part, they had been drinking alcohol, something that is prohibited.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; editing by Cynthia Osterman)