Emotional Louisville braces for more unrest after Breonna Taylor ruling

By Bryan Woolston

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) – Louisville braced for a second night of protests on Thursday after two police officers were shot during demonstrations over a decision by a grand jury not to file homicide charges against police in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Protests erupted in the Kentucky city on Wednesday after the state attorney general announced that a grand jury did not bring any charges for the six police bullets that struck Taylor, a Black woman, but instead lesser charges against one of the white policemen for stray shots that hit the neighboring apartment.

Civil rights activists decried the outcome as a miscarriage of justice and part of a nationwide pattern of unwarranted police violence against minorities.

The demonstration started peacefully and emotionally on Wednesday night, with many protesters in tears after they had mourned Taylor for months, demanding the arrest of the officers involved.

Louisville turned violent after dark when the two officers were shot and wounded. Police arrested 127 people in Louisville, including Larynzo Johnson, 26, who was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree and 14 counts of wanton endangerment in connection with the wounding of the two officers.

“We are extremely fortunate these two officers will recover,” interim Louisville Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Schroeder said.

“For all of us it is a very tense and emotional time,” he added.

The Louisville protest was the latest in a wave to grip the country following the killings of African Americans by police, including the May 25 death of George Floyd when a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck.

Demonstrators led by the Black Lives Matter movement have demanded an end to racial injustice and excessive police force.

With people already casting ballots in early voting for the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, the demonstrations have drawn not only peaceful anti-racism protests but also a volatile mix of armed, right-wing militias and anarchists.

On Wednesday, protests also flared in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia, Denver, Portland and Seattle, where police said 13 were arrested for property destruction, resisting arrest, failure to disperse and assault on an officer.

In Buffalo, New York, a pickup truck sped into a group of demonstrators, injuring one person, video on social media showed.

GIRDING FOR UNREST

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declared a state of emergency ahead of the grand jury announcement, ordering much of the center of town barricaded and setting a 9 p.m. curfew that remained in effect on Thursday.

National Guard units gathered in a central Louisville parking garage and a heavy vehicle known as a wrecker was seen driving into town, social media images showed.

“Tonight I expect more people to hit the streets. I expect the police to continue to antagonize and provoke. Hopefully and prayerfully, no one gets hurt tonight,” said Timothy Findley Jr., 41, a leader of the Justice & Freedom Coalition and a pastor with the Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center in Louisville.

Police said some protesters damaged businesses, jumped on a police vehicle, vandalized public works trucks serving as barricades, set garbage cans on fire and defied orders to disperse from what police determined were unlawful assemblies.

At least three stores were looted, police said.

Taylor’s death on March 13 drew little national attention at first but was thrust into prominence after Floyd’s death and with the help of celebrities such as Hollywood stars and basketball great LeBron James.

Demonstrations under the banner “Say her name!” have been held in Louisville for months.

Taylor, 26, an emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was killed in front of her armed boyfriend after the three officers forced their way into her home with a search warrant in a drug-trafficking investigation.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the panel declined to bring any charges against two of the three policemen who fired into Taylor’s apartment because their actions were found to have been justified under Kentucky law as they returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them, wounding one.

Police fired a total of 32 shots after the one round from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he fired a warning shot because he feared a criminal intrusion and did not hear police identify themselves.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani and Daniel Trotta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)

Canada police say six ricin-filled letters sent to U.S., including to White House

By Christinne Muschi

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (Reuters) – Canadian police on Monday searched an apartment in a Montreal suburb that is linked to the woman arrested for sending a ricin-filled envelope to the White House and to five other addresses in Texas, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.

U.S. authorities arrested a woman at the U.S.-Canada border near Buffalo, New York, on Sunday on suspicion that she sent the deadly poison by mail, addressed to the White House. The woman has joint Canadian and French citizenship, two sources said on Monday.

“We believe a total of six letters were sent, one to the White House and five to Texas,” RCMP officer Charles Poirier said outside the modern brown and grey building where the search was taking place. “We can’t confirm that she lived in (the apartment), but it is connected to her.”

Poirier could not say where in Texas the envelopes were mailed, but the police department in Mission, Texas, received a suspicious letter within the last week, Art Flores, a spokesman for the department, said. The department did not open the envelope and turned it over to the FBI, he said.

Flores also said the Mission police had arrested the woman now believed to be held in Buffalo in early 2019, but said he did not have records related to the arrest and referred further inquiries to the FBI.

The woman’s name has yet to be released.

The FBI is investigating several suspected ricin letters sent to law enforcement and detention facilities in South Texas, a U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters.

So far they have not found any link to political or terrorist groups, but the investigation is ongoing, the source said.

The RCMP’s special Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives team is leading the operation, the RCMP said.

On Saturday, the RCMP confirmed the White House letter had apparently been sent from Canada and said the FBI had requested assistance.

The envelope was intercepted at a government mail center before it arrived at the White House.

Ricin is found naturally in castor beans but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.

(Reporting by Christinne Muschi in Longueuil, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Mark Hosenball in Washington, additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)

U.S. Justice Department unveils reforms for FBI wiretap applications

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it was implementing new compliance reforms at the FBI to minimize errors when it applies for wiretaps, following revelations it made numerous mistakes during its probe into President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Attorney General William Barr released two new memos outlining sweeping changes, including the creation of a new internal auditing office as well as a list of additional steps the FBI must undertake before filing an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Under the new protocol, if the FBI is seeking to monitor communications of an elected official or candidate, the director must first consider offering the target a defensive briefing, and the wiretap application must be approved by the Attorney General.

“The additional reforms announced today, which we worked on closely with the Attorney General’s office, will build on the FBI’s efforts to bolster its compliance program,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

The reforms could help take some heat off the bureau, which has been under fire for missteps in its early-stage investigation known as “Operation Crossfire Hurricane” into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

In December, the department’s inspector released a major report scrutinizing the FBI’s FISA applications to spy on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

He uncovered 17 major mistakes in the FBI’s applications – errors that were so substantial, they prompted a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to issue a rare public rebuke of the FBI.

His findings have also since led to criminal charges against former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who in August pleaded guilty to doctoring in email used as a basis to renew an application to monitor Page.

Former FBI lawyer to plead guilty as part of Russia probe: defendant’s lawyer

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former FBI lawyer will plead guilty to falsifying a document as part of a federal probe into the origins of an investigation into possible contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, an attorney for the former FBI lawyer said on Friday.

The former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, will admit he changed an email from the CIA that was used in seeking renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the New York Times reported.

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Justin Shur, a lawyer for Clinesmith, told Reuters in an email.

“It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate. But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility,” Shur added.

Prosecutors were not expected to reveal any evidence that shows a broader conspiracy that would cast doubt on the decision by the Obama Administration to open a Russia investigation, according to the Times.

But after Clinesmith’s guilty plea was announced, President Trump suggested further similar cases were in the works.

“That’s just the beginning, I would imagine, because what happened should never happen again,” Trump said on Friday, describing Clinesmith as a “corrupt FBI attorney”.

“The fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught. And you’ll be hearing more,” Trump said.

Clinesmith wrote texts expressing opposition to President Trump, according to the Times, which said Trump is likely to tout Clinesmith’s anticipated guilty plea as evidence the Russia investigation initiated by the administration of President Barack Obama was illegitimate and politically motivated.

According to a criminal information filed in Federal court in Washington D.C. on Friday, Clinesmith altered an email from another unnamed government agency, believed to be the CIA, to say that an unnamed individual, believed to be Page, “was not a source,” even though an email from the other government agency did not say that.

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr predicted there would be a “development” on Friday in the investigation by John Durham, a Connecticut-based federal prosecutor whom Barr named to investigate the origins of federal investigations into alleged contacts between Trump advisors and Russia in 2016.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Franklin Paul, Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

On Chicago’s South Side, some violence-weary residents open to federal investigators

By Brendan O’Brien and Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Many Chicagoans vehemently oppose President Donald Trump’s pledge to send federal officers to the third-largest U.S. city, after seeing camouflaged agents deployed in Portland club and tear-gas anti-racism protesters.

But in South and West Side neighborhoods hit hardest by a recent spike in gang violence, some Chicago residents welcomed the move and said federal agents may be able to help solve crimes.

“I appreciate it and I like it,” said Cedrick Easterling, a former gang member, who was shoveling garbage scattered in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood as part of his work clearing vacant lots.

“If you sit at that park, you will hear shots all over Englewood,” said Easterling, who was once shot himself, pointing south toward Ogden Park. Like most in Chicago, Easterling is not a fan of Trump, who won just 51 of the city’s 2,069 precincts in the 2016 presidential election.

Easterling, 54, has lived in Englewood since he was seven. He said crime is particularly bad this year and Trump should consider bringing in the National Guard and using drones to record evidence of crimes as they occur

Others were more cautious, saying they feared an increased federal presence would erode civil liberties in a city that has had long-standing problems with police brutality in poor, predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Trump said last week that hundreds of officers from the FBI and other federal agencies would help fight crime in Chicago. The city is suffering a spike in violent crime, including a drive-by shooting by suspected gang members at a funeral last week that wounded 15 people.

Trump has sought to project a law-and-order stance as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3, targeting cities controlled by Democrats who he says are soft on criminals. Critics say the administration is seeking to divert attention from its widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eight of 10 people Reuters interviewed in wealthier and safer areas on Chicago’s North Side opposed any form of intervention from Trump, saying federal officers could fan tensions in the city and would not address underlying issues such as unemployment.

“I don’t see how the feds are going to help with anything,” said Michael Flaherty, a 53-year-old architect who lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

“They’re violent. Violence doesn’t fix violence.”

The view was often more nuanced on the South and West Sides, where a much higher proportion of residents have experienced violent crime.

Junior Jaber, 28, recalled the day four years ago when his friend Paul Hamilton, then 47, was killed by a stray bullet while walking his dog in Ogden Park.

“I was mad. He had nothing to do with anything,” said Jaber, who runs Englewood Food Mart, where Hamilton worked as a butcher. “We got to do something. It’s almost like a war zone out here.”

Jaber said he was all for it when he learned of Trump’s plan to send in federal agents.

“They should clean it all up. Just do their job,” said the 28-year-old father of two as he sold sodas, lottery tickets and pints of liquor.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has said the reinforcements to Chicago do not involve the type of forces that were deployed to Portland and have been accused of civil rights violations and using excessive force.

Protesters said uniformed personnel without name tags or agency badges snatched young people off the streets into unmarked vans before eventually releasing them.

Protests have continued around the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would investigate the use of force in Portland and whether federal agents had proper identification.

Black Lives Matter activists, who have led protests against police brutality in Chicago, are suing federal officials to try to ensure agents do not violate civil rights. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has told residents all new federal resources would be “investigatory in nature” and vowed to pursue all available legal options if federal officers go beyond that.

‘INNOCENT BYSTANDERS’

While Chicago’s murder rate had been falling in recent years, there were 116 murders over the 28 days through July 19, an increase of nearly 200% compared with the same period in 2019, police department data shows.

Some residents of East Garfield Park, a poor neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, support federal intervention after gang shootings hit unintended targets, said Damien Morris, director of violence prevention initiatives for local nonprofit Breakthrough.

“When you have women and kids getting shot – innocent bystanders – you have residents that feel like something needs to happen,” Morris said.

Trump sent a smaller number of special agents and law enforcement researchers to Chicago in 2017 after a spike in violent crime.

Phil Bridgeman, 49, said he opposes all federal law enforcement in Chicago. Even if the federal agents could help solve high-profile cases, he said, they will not solve the root causes of violent crime.

“It’s not going to help, it’s going to agitate,” said Bridgeman as he sold “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts in the middle of a busy boulevard.

Vaughn Bryant, executive director of anti-violence group Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, was concerned by “a greater threat to people’s freedom,” with the arrival of more agents.

In Englewood, a man who goes by the name Joe Pug sat in a lawn chair with several other people on a sidewalk opposite a small police station. The 49-year-old, who has lived in the neighborhood for most of his life, supports federal agents investigating shootings.

He said the South and West Sides also need massive investments in education and job creation, especially for young Black men.

“There is nothing here, nothing for them,” he said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Daniel Wallis)

FBI interviewing Chinese visa holders across U.S. about possible military ties: Justice Department

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI has interviewed visa holders it believes to secretly be members of the Chinese military in more than two dozen U.S. cities, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

The department said it has arrested three Chinese nationals for visa fraud, while a fourth remains a fugitive staying at China’s consulate in San Francisco. The United States believes the four were members of China’s military posing as researchers.

“In interviews with members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in over 25 cities across the U.S., the FBI uncovered a concerted effort to hide their true affiliation to take advantage of the United States and the American people,” John Brown, executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national security branch, said in a statement.

Court filings show that the FBI believed the San Francisco consulate was harboring a fugitive since late June. U.S. law enforcement cannot enter a foreign embassy or consulate unless invited, and certain top officials such as ambassadors have diplomatic immunity.

FBI says it has evidence linking anti-feminist lawyer to another murder

(Reuters) – The FBI said on Wednesday it had evidence linking a deceased, self-described anti-feminist lawyer suspected of killing the son of New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas to a murder earlier this month in California.

The FBI, in an emailed statement, said it was working with the sheriff’s office in San Bernardino, California, and had evidence tying the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander, to the July 11 killing of Marc Angelucci, a former associate of Hollander in the men’s rights movement.

Hollander, who was found dead on Monday in an apparent suicide, was the sole suspect in the Sunday attack at Salas’ home. The attack killed the 20-year-old son of Salas, a judge on the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, and wounded her husband.

The FBI says it now believes Hollander was involved in the death of Angelucci, who was vice president of the National Coalition for Men (NCFM). Angelucci was found July 11 with apparent gunshot wounds in Cedarpines Park, California, which is about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

NCFM President Harry Crouch told Reuters that Hollander and Angelucci had had a falling out several years ago around the time Hollander was dismissed from the organization.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)

Trump says sending federal agents to more U.S. cities to fight violent crime

By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump announced a plan on Wednesday to send federal agents to more U.S. cities to crack down on violent crime as he emphasizes a “law and order” mantra going into the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Trump, joined by Attorney General William Barr, unveiled an expansion of the “Operation Legend” program to include cities such as Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a further effort by federal officials to tackle violence.

“Today I’m announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime,” said Trump.

Trump said “we have no choice but to get involved” with a rising death toll in some major cities.

“This bloodshed must end, this bloodshed will end,” he said.

The program involves deploying federal law enforcement agents to assist local police in combating what the Justice Department has described as a “surge” of violent crime.

A Justice Department official said the initiative is not related to the use of federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to quell unrest in Portland, Oregon.

The Republican president has sharply criticized Democratic leaders for presiding over cities and states that are experiencing crime waves, using the issue as part of a “law and order” push he hopes will resonate with his political base. Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national opinion polls.

It is not unusual for federal law enforcement to work alongside local partners. The Justice Department official said “Operation Legend” would provide additional resources to cities suffering from “traditional” violent crime.

Trump has emphasized a robust policing and military approach to the protests across the United States about racial inequality after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

The White House has sought to focus on city crime even as Trump’s approval numbers plummet in response to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Operation Legend” program involves federal agents form the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies, partnering with local law enforcement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said federal intervention was not required to help with violence in New York City, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also urged Trump not to send unidentified federal agents to her city.

“Operation Legend” is named for LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed while he slept early June 29 in Kansas City, Missouri, according to the Department of Justice’s website.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Suspect in slaying of federal judge’s son found dead, media reports say

(Reuters) – The suspect in the shooting of the son and husband of a federal judge in New Jersey was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Monday, ABC News and other media reported.

The suspect, a white male, had a case before the judge, Esther Salas, in 2015, ABC reported. He was found in his car in Sullivan County, New York, about two hours north of New York City.

Steven Nevel, a spokesman for the New York State police, confirmed an investigation of a death in the county but declined to provide further details.

The FBI has been conducting a manhunt related to the Sunday afternoon shooting at the North Brunswick, New Jersey, home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas. Her son, Daniel Anderl, 20, was killed.

The FBI said it was looking for one suspect in the case.

Judge Salas was home at the time of the shooting but was in the basement and was not injured, according to media reports and Marion Costanza, a friend of the family who lives three homes away.

Investigators have preliminary information that someone dressed as a FedEx driver arrived at the family home at about 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), ABC News reported on Sunday, citing multiple law enforcement sources.

The motive behind the killing remained unclear. Among her cases, Salas presided over the sentencing of members of the Grape Street Crips, a gang charged with selling drugs and other crimes in 2015, and federal fraud convictions of co-stars of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality TV show.

Salas, 51, was nominated to her seat by President Barack Obama in 2010, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the District Court of New Jersey. Salas could not be immediately reached for comment.

Her husband, Mark Anderl, 63, was an assistant prosecutor in Essex County before becoming a defense attorney. He and his partner, David Oakley, handle a variety of felonies, including homicide, sexual assault and fraud cases, according to their website.

Neither Anderl nor Oakley could be reached for comment.

Daniel Anderl, the son, was shot as he came down the stairs of the home to help his father, who had opened the door to the gunman, according to some media reports.

“He ran down the stairs. Instead of running away he ran to help his father,” Costanza said, noting that Daniel had wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a lawyer. “I want people to know what a good kid he was.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey were among political leaders who expressed concern about the incident on Twitter.

Menendez said he knew Judge Salas well and had recommended her appointment to the federal bench.

“My prayers are with Judge Salas and her family, and that those responsible for this horrendous act are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice,” Menendez wrote.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler)

FBI investigates reported July 4 lynching attempt in Indiana

By Steve Gorman and Mark Hosenball

(Reuters) – The FBI is investigating a hate-crime report lodged by a Black civil rights activist in Indiana who said he was assaulted by several white men threatening to lynch him before a group of bystanders and friends intervened to stop the attack.

The federal inquiry into the July 4 confrontation at Lake Monroe, near Bloomington, Indiana, was confirmed to Reuters on Thursday by FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials in Washington and Indianapolis.

Vauhxx Booker, a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, said he and some friends were at a public park on the lake on Saturday when a man wearing a cap emblazoned with a Confederate flag accused them of trespassing on private property.

The conflict escalated when five white men who appeared to be drunk grabbed Booker, dragged him to the ground and pinned him against a tree while punching him as one of his assailants yelled, “get a noose,” according to his account of the incident on Facebook.

A group of onlookers and Booker’s acquaintances, all of whom were also white, began filming the confrontation with cellphones and demanding the attackers release him, as one of the mob shouted back, “You get out of here, leave the boy with us.”

The attackers finally released Booker, and he and his friends retreated to call 911. Video of the incident has gone viral on social media, fueling U.S. racial tensions following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white policeman in Minneapolis.

Booker, also a Black Lives Matters organizer, said he suffered a concussion, as well as cuts and bruises and patches of hair ripped from his head, but was grateful to those who came to his defense.

“I had friends and strangers who were willing to put their lives and their bodies on the line to make sure that a man they didn’t know, who looked different than them was able to survive the situation,” Booker said at a news conference this week.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, whose officers responded to the incident and were criticized for failing to make arrests at the time, said the agency is cooperating with the FBI while continuing its own investigation with local prosecutors.

“Our officers arrived that evening, talked to witnesses at the time from both parties and have continued to conduct interviews as part of the ongoing investigation,” DNR spokesman James Brindle told Reuters on Thursday.

Booker’s lawyer, Katharine Liell, told reporters on Wednesday the attack was “clearly racially motivated,” and that her client survived only because witnesses came to his aid.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Steve Gorman in Eureka, Calif.; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Daniel Wallis)