Two dead as gunfire erupts at Wisconsin protests over shooting of Black man

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Two people died and a third was wounded after street protests over the police shooting of a Black man erupted into gun violence late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police said.

The Lake Michigan city of about 100,000 has been rocked by civil unrest since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at point-blank range. The incident, captured on video, has reignited protests over racism and police use of force in the United States.

The third straight night of protests, which coincided with the second night of the Republican National Convention, had appeared to turn calm after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who defied a curfew.

But with a combustible mix of demonstrators still roaming the streets – including self-appointed militias armed with rifles – tensions boiled over shortly before midnight, leading to chaotic scenes of people running and screaming amid a volley of gunfire and others tending to gunshot wounds.

It remained uncertain what prompted the initial gunfire, though it involved a white man with a rifle who wrangled with and fired on other civilians, then walked past several police cars without being arrested, video on social media showed.

The Kenosha protests have drawn mostly peaceful demonstrators under the Black Lives Matter banner, but a range of white and Black people have caused trouble late at night, setting fires, vandalizing public property and bashing vehicles with baseball bats.

The Kenosha Guard, a group identifying itself as a local militia on Facebook, posted a message warning authorities ahead of time they would be present on city streets.

“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group later posted on Facebook. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!”

Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers deployed 250 members the National Guard to help restore order after the first night of unrest. But U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, a Republican whose district includes Kenosha, said more force was needed.

Republican President Donald Trump had offered to deploy federal law enforcement officers, Steil said.

“Last night the situation went from bad to worse,” Steil said in a statement. “The violence must be stopped.”

Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests that have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

CHAOS ON VIDEO

Social media videos show crowds in Kenosha chasing the gunman down the street after they believed he had shot another man. The gunman falls to the ground where he comes under attack, but he fires a number of rounds, appearing to hit a man in the torso who falls to the ground and seriously wounding another man in the arm.

As the crowd disperses around him, the man walks freely down the street with his hands in the air and rifle hanging in front of him.

Several police vehicles, apparently responding to the mayhem, drive past the man without stopping him. There have been no reports of an arrest.

Kenosha police said in a statement that two people died and a third gunshot victim was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, though he was expected to live. They pleaded for witnesses to come forward, asking for additional video or photos beyond those posted on social media.

Other videos showed a white man who appeared to be shot in the head as several people rushed to his aid, frantically trying to treat his wound and keep him alive.

Yet another video showed a white man with a severe arm wound sitting on the ground and being aided by an armed man as police approached.

BLAKE ‘FIGHTING FOR LIFE’

The protests began in Kenosha, located between Milwaukee and Chicago, on Sunday after video of Jacob Blake’s shooting that afternoon went viral.

After struggling with police, Blake broke free and walked around his SUV to the driver’s side, where he was shot in the back after opening the door. Three of his young sons were in the car, witnesses said.

Blake was hit by four of the seven shots fired and left paralyzed and “fighting for his life,” his family and lawyers said on Tuesday, hours before the latest round of civil unrest broke out in Kenosha.

Blake underwent another round of lengthy surgery on Tuesday to stabilize his spine with rods and screws, and it may take days or weeks to determine the extent of the damage, Patrick Salvi Sr., a lawyer for Blake’s family, told CNN on Wednesday.

Salvi also said Kenosha officials have been “tight-lipped” about their investigation into the shooting, depriving the family of the police officers’ version of what happened.

“Anyone watching that video cannot understand why in God’s name the officer starts shooting at point-blank range at Jacob,” Salvi said. “We’re going to find out.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation and has yet to comment.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely, Susan Heavey, Kanishka Singh and Ann Maria Shibu; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)

Five police shot during U.S. protests, Trump says he could bring in military

By Jonathan Ernst and Brendan O’Brien

WASHINGTON/MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – At least five U.S. police were hit by gunfire during violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody, police and media said, hours after President Donald Trump said he would deploy the military if unrest does not stop.

Trump deepened outrage on Monday by posing at a church clutching a bible after law enforcement officers used teargas and rubber bullets to clear the way for him to walk there after he made his remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Demonstrators set fire to a strip mall in Los Angeles, looted stores in New York City and clashed with police in St Louis, Missouri, where four officers were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

An emotional St Louis police commissioner, John Hayden, said about 200 protesters were “jumping up and down like crazy people”, looting and throwing fireworks and rocks at officers.

“We had to protect our headquarters building, they were throwing fireworks on officers, fireworks were exploding on officers,” he told reporters. “They had officers with gas poured on them. What is going on? How can this be? Mr Floyd was killed somewhere else and they are tearing up cities all across the country.”

A police officer was also shot during protests in the Las Vegas Strip area, AP news agency said, quoting police. Another officer was “involved in a shooting” in the same area, the agency said.

It gave no details of the shootings or the officers’ condition. Police declined to comment to Reuters.

Trump has condemned the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after a white policeman pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25, and has promised justice.

But, with anti-police brutality marches and rallies having turned violent after dark each day in the past week, he said rightful protests could not be drowned out by an “angry mob”.

“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Floyd’s death has reignited simmering racial tensions in a politically divided country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with African Americans accounting for a disproportionately high number of cases.

CRITICISM OF CHURCH VISIT

After his address, Trump posed for pictures with his daughter, Ivanka, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese in Washington D. C., Michael Curry, was among those who criticized Trump’s use of the historic church for a photo opportunity.

“In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes,” he said on Twitter. The church suffered minor fire damage during protests on Sunday night.

The White House said it was clearing the area before a curfew.

A few hours later, thousands of people marched through Brooklyn, shouting “Justice now!” while some passing drivers honked in support.

Television images showed crowds smashing windows and looting luxury stores along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan before the city’s 11 p.m. curfew. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the curfew would be moved to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Two police officers were struck by a car at a demonstration in Buffalo, New York, on Monday night. Officials said the driver and passengers were believed to be in custody. It was not clear whether the incident was intentional.

In Hollywood, dozens of people were shown in television images looting a drug store. Windows were shattered at a nearby Starbucks and two restaurants.

AUTOPSIES

A second autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family and released on Monday found his death was homicide by “mechanical asphyxiation,” or physical force that interfered with his oxygen supply. The report says three officers contributed to his death.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner later released autopsy findings that also called Floyd’s death homicide by asphyxiation. The county report said Floyd suffered cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police and that he had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.

Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd, was arrested on third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. Three other officers involved in the arrest have not been charged.

Floyd’s death was the latest case of police brutality against black men that was caught on videotape and prompted an outcry over racism in U.S. law enforcement.

Dozens of cities are under curfews not seen since riots after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The National Guard deployed in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

 

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla, Subrat Patnaik, Lisa Lambert, Andy Sullivan, Maria Caspani, Peter Szekely, Lucy Nicholson, David Shepardson, Michael Martina, Brendan O’Brien, Sharon Bernstein, Lisa Richwine and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Nick Macfie; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Lincoln Feast, and Timothy Heritage)

Seattle shooting leaves one dead, seven wounded; suspects at large

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A violent altercation that escalated into gunfire in downtown Seattle left one woman dead and six other bystanders wounded outside a fast-food restaurant on Wednesday, and police said they were searching for at least two suspects.

The precise circumstances of the shooting, what precipitated the bloodshed and the number of people involved remained murky hours after the incident, which unfolded in a busy shopping district during the evening rush-hour.

The violence, which investigators deemed was “not a random incident,” grew out of a dispute in front of a McDonald’s restaurant, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told reporters at a briefing near the crime scene.

“People pulled out guns, shots rang out, people ran in various directions,” she said.

The chief added there were “multiple people involved as shooters” who apparently fled the scene, but she declined to specify how many suspects police believed were at large.

“We’ve locked down the scene. We have no active shooting at this point … so everything is safe for the night.”

Seattle television station KOMO-TV, citing witness accounts, reported that two men were seen arguing on the street before pulling guns on each other and opening fire as pedestrians around them scattered for cover.

All of those hit by gunfire were believed to have been bystanders, authorities said.

A Fire Department spokesman described the lone fatality as a woman about 40 to 50 years of age, who was found dead at the scene. Seven other victims were brought to Harborview Medical Center’s emergency room, a hospital spokeswoman said.

One of those patients was a woman in her 50s who was listed in critical condition as she underwent emergency surgery, according to Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. Another was a 9-year-old boy in serious condition, he said.

An office worker identified only as Bill told KOMO-TV he heard gunfire and saw scores of people running away in terror as he watched the scene unfold from an upstairs office window .

“It was sheer panic,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman in Culver City, California; Editing by Stephen Coates & Kim Coghill)

‘Clerics get lost!’: Iran protests rage on over plane disaster

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

DUBAI (Reuters) – Protesters denouncing Iran’s clerical rulers took to the streets and riot police deployed to face them on Monday, in a third day of demonstrations after authorities acknowledged shooting down a passenger plane by accident.

Demonstrations, some apparently met by a violent crackdown, are the latest twist in one of the most serious escalations between the United States and Iran since the 1979 Iranian revolution swept the U.S.-backed shah from power.

Video from inside Iran showed students on Monday chanting slogans including “Clerics get lost!” outside universities in the city of Isfahan and in Tehran, where riot police were filmed taking out positions on the streets.

Images from the previous two days of protests showed wounded people being carried and pools of blood on the ground. Gunshots could be heard, although the police denied opening fire.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who raised the stakes last week by ordering the killing in a drone strike of Iran’s most powerful military commander, tweeted to Iran’s leaders: “don’t kill your protesters.”

Tehran has acknowledged shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner by mistake on Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard, hours after it had fired at U.S. targets in Iraq to retaliate for the killing on Jan. 3 of General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Iranian public anger, rumbling for days as Iran repeatedly denied it was to blame for the plane crash, erupted into protests on Saturday when the military admitted its role.

Scores, possibly hundreds, of protesters were videoed at sites in Tehran and Isfahan, a major city south of the capital.

“They killed our elites and replaced them with clerics,” they chanted outside a Tehran university, referring to Iranian students returning to studies in Canada who were on the plane.

‘DON’T BEAT THEM’

Videos posted late on Sunday recorded the gunfire around protests in Tehran’s Azadi Square. Wounded were being carried and security personnel ran gripping rifles. Riot police hit protesters with batons as people shouted “Don’t beat them!”

“Death to the dictator,” other footage showed protesters shouting, directing their fury directly at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader since 1989.

Reuters could not authenticate the footage. State-affiliated media has reported protests in Tehran and other cities but has provided few details.

“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi said in a statement on state media.

Tehran’s showdown with Washington has come at a precarious time for the authorities in Iran and the proxy forces they support to wield influence across the Middle East. Sanctions imposed by Trump have hammered the Iranian economy.

Iran’s authorities killed hundreds of protesters in November in what appears to have been the bloodiest crackdown on anti-government unrest since 1979. In Iraq and Lebanon, governments supported by Iran-backed armed groups have faced mass protests.

Adding to international pressure on Tehran, five nations, including Canada, Britain and Ukraine, whose citizens died when the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed, meet in London on Thursday to discuss possible legal action, Ukraine’s foreign minister told Reuters.

In his latest tweet directed at Iran, Trump wrote on Sunday that “I couldn’t care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters’.”

ESCALATION

Iran’s government spokesman dismissed Trump’s comments, saying Iranians were suffering because of his actions and they would remember he had ordered the killing of Soleimani.

Trump had precipitated the escalation with Iran since 2018 by pulling out of a deal between Tehran and world powers under which sanctions were eased in return for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Trump says he wants a more stringent pact.

Iran has repeatedly said it will not negotiate as long as U.S. sanctions are in place. It denies seeking nuclear arms.

The recent flare-up began in December when rockets fired at U.S. bases in Iraq killed a U.S. contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the U.S. embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani.

Iran retaliated on Wednesday by firing missiles at Iraqi bases where U.S. troops were stationed, but did not kill any Americans. The Ukrainian plane, on its way to Kiev, crashed shortly after. Most of those killed were Iranians or Iranian dual nationals. Scores were Canadians, many dual nationals who had traveled to Iran to visit relatives.

After days of denying responsibility, commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards issued profuse apologies. Iran’s president called it a “disastrous mistake”. A top commander said he had told the authorities on the day of the crash it had been shot down, raising questions about why Iran had initially denied it.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Peter Graff, William Maclean)

Hamas says indirect Gaza truce talks with Israel ‘advanced’

Israeli soldiers walk around on the Israeli side near the border line between Israel and the Gaza Strip July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.N.- and Egyptian-mediated talks on a deal to tamp down tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip are in “advanced stages”, a senior member of the Palestinian enclave’s dominant Islamist Hamas group said on Wednesday.

The remarks were echoed by a top Israeli lawmaker, suggesting a possible breakthrough after four months of confrontations and clashes that stirred mutual threats of war.

Still the border remained tense on Wednesday. The Israel army said militant gunfire struck an engineering vehicle along the frontier, and that in response a tank fired at a Hamas post. No injuries were reported.

Shortly after, air raid sirens went off in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, sending residents running for shelter. At least two rockets fell in the area and one person was hurt, according to emergency services.

Palestinian officials then said Israel carried out an air strike in northern Gaza, causing no injuries.

Gazans launched weekly, sometimes violent, border protests against Israel on March 30, their anger exacerbated by a grinding Israeli-Egyptian blockade and funding cuts by Hamas’s rival, the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli army has killed at least 158 Palestinians, while a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier. Israel has lost tracts of forest and farmland to fires set by incendiary kites and helium balloons flown over the frontier. There have also been several, mostly bloodless shelling exchanges.

Neither Hamas nor Israel, which last fought a war in 2014, appears keen on another full-blown conflict. But public demands by either side for a detainee release by the other appear to have been a stumbling block in securing a long-term truce.

“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza, told Al Jazeera television.

“What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy (Israel).”

“NEW DAY”

Israel has played down prospects for a comprehensive ceasefire, speaking in terms of a more limited quid-pro-quo.

In return for calm in Gaza, Israeli officials said on Sunday they would reopen a commercial border terminal that had been shuttered in response to the fire damage, and expand a Palestinian fishing zone.

Netanyahu called off a trip to Colombia this week to attend to the Gaza truce talks, and was due to convene his decision-making security cabinet on Thursday to discuss the negotiations.

Avi Dichter, the committee of the Israeli parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, struck a cautiously upbeat note on Wednesday. “I very much hope that we are on the brink of a new day on the matter of Gaza,” he told reporters.

Neither the United Nations nor Egypt have publicly detailed their proposals for Gaza, beyond saying they should bring extensive economic relief for its 2 million Palestinians, many of them plagued by unemployment and failing public utilities.

Hayya said foreign donors were collecting “hundreds of millions of dollars” for electricity, water, health and job-creation projects in Gaza, but that these “require stability”.

Israel wants to recover the bodies of two soldiers killed in the Gaza war, and wants freedom for two of its civilians who wandered into the enclave, in exchange for any far-ranging truce deal with Hamas.

For its part, Hamas demands that Israel free Palestinian security prisoners – a proposal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners balk at.

“We want to free our brave prisoners and we have no objection to beginning now,” Hayya said. “Let it be a prisoner swap deal, (Palestinian) prisoners in return for Zionist soldiers.”

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Alison Williams)

Police detain suspect in shooting at Southern California school

Police vehicles are seen on the road near Highland High School, in Palmdale, California, U.S., May 11, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. MELENDEZ N JUNIOR/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A 14-year-old student at a California high school shot and wounded a fellow student on Friday morning before being detained by police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The victim, a 14-year-old boy, was hit in the arm and was in stable condition at a hospital. The suspect, also a boy, was detained off campus by officers, who recovered a rifle, according to the department.

Deputies responded to Highland High School in Palmdale, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, at around 7 a.m. (1400 GMT) after receiving multiple reports of an armed person on campus.

The initial reports of a possible school shooting drew immediate attention from major news outlets and cable TV networks. It underscored the national debate over gun control and gun rights that was reignited by the mass shooting of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Police were also called to a nearby elementary school after reports of gunfire but found no evidence of any crime.

Palmdale, a city of about 160,000 people, boasts that it is the “aerospace capital of the United States.” It is home to a U.S. Air Force aircraft manufacturing plant that includes production facilities operated by Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax, Jonathan Allen, Peter Szekely and Bernie Woodall; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Syria chemical weapons visit postponed after gunfire: sources

The United Nation vehicle carrying the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors is seen in Damascus, Syria April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

By Anthony Deutsch

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The arrival of international chemical weapons inspectors at the location of a suspected poison gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma has been delayed after gunfire at the site during a visit by a U.N. security team on Tuesday, sources told Reuters.

The U.N. security team entered Douma to assess the situation ahead of the planned visit by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the sources, who had been briefed on the team’s deployment.

The OPCW inspectors are in Syria to investigate an April 7 incident in which Western countries and rescue workers say scores of civilians were gassed to death by government forces, which Damascus denies.

The United States, Britain and France fired missiles at three Syrian targets on Saturday to punish President Bashar al-Assad for the suspected chemical attack, the first coordinated Western action against Assad in seven years of war.

The U.S.-led intervention has threatened to escalate confrontation between the West and Assad’s backer Russia, although it has had no impact on the fighting on the ground, in which pro-government forces have pressed on with a campaign to crush the rebellion.

Assad is now in his strongest position since the early months of a civil war that has killed more than 500,000 people and driven more than half of Syrians from their homes.

DELAY CAUSES DISPUTE

A delay in the arrival of the inspectors at the Douma site has become a source of diplomatic dispute, because Western countries accuse Damascus and Moscow of hindering the mission. The United States and France have both said they believe the delay could be used to destroy evidence of the poison attack.

Russia and Syria deny using poison gas, hindering the investigation or tampering with evidence.

One source told Reuters the advance team had “encountered a security issue” during the visit to Douma, including gunfire which led to the delay. The source could not provide additional details. Another said the advance team had left after being met by protesters who demanded aid and hearing gunfire.

An official close to the Syrian government said the U.N. security team had been met by protesters demonstrating against the U.S.-led strikes, but did not mention any shooting. “It was a message from the people,” said the official. The mission “will continue its work”, the official said.

Douma was the last town to hold out in the besieged eastern Ghouta enclave, the last big rebel bastion near the capital Damascus, which was captured by a government advance over the past two months. The last rebels abandoned the town on Saturday, hours after the U.S.-led missile strikes, leaving government forces in control of the site of the suspected chemical attack.

Syria’s U.N. ambassador said on Tuesday the fact-finding mission would begin its work in Douma on Wednesday if the U.N. security team deemed the situation there safe.

A U.N. source said the OPCW inspectors would probably not be going to Douma on Wednesday. The U.N. source did not give details of the shooting incident. The source did not say when the inspectors might visit the site, or whether a planned visit to Douma on Wednesday had been postponed.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch in The Hague, Laila Bassam, Tom Perry and Ellen Francis in Beirut; Writing by Ellen Francis/Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Raissa Kasolowsky and Peter Graff)

Panic on London’s Oxford Street after reports of shooting

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) – Panic erupted among Christmas shopping crowds on London’s Oxford Street on Friday evening as armed officers raced to respond to reports of shots being fired in the area but police said later they had found no evidence of gunfire or casualties.

Oxford Street, with its festive window displays and hundreds of overhead lights, was crammed with shoppers taking advantage of the Black Friday sales when the incident happened shortly after dusk.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement they had found no evidence of gunfire, casualties or any suspects and that the incident, which lasted for just over an hour, had been stood down.

“Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers,” they said in a statement.

A Reuters witness said panicked shoppers had fled Oxford Street and Oxford Circus underground station.

The witness saw an elderly lady and a man carrying his child knocked over in the rush. “There were people running in all directions. I didn’t know which way to run,” the witness said.

Britain’s transport police said they had received a report of one woman suffering a minor injury in the panic.

The capital’s transport operator, Transport for London, said Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations, which had been briefly shut due to the incident, had later reopened.

(Additional reporting by David Milliken, William Schomberg and James Davey; Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

Texas gunman’s in-laws sometimes attended church, sheriff says

The playground at the site of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2017.

By Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garcia

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – A man thrown out of the U.S. Air Force for beating his wife and child shot and killed 26 people in a Texas church where his in-laws had sometimes worshipped before shooting himself, officials said on Monday, in the latest in a string of U.S. mass shootings.

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked into the white-steepled First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs carrying an assault rifle and wearing black tactical gear, then opened fire during a Sunday prayer service. He wounded at least 20 others, officials said.

After he left the church, two local residents, one of whom was armed, chased him in their vehicles and exchanged gunfire, and Kelley crashed his car and shot himself, dying of his wounds, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CBS News in an interview on Monday morning.

“At this time we believe that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Tackitt said.

Tackitt said Kelley’s in-laws sometimes attended services at First Baptist, which was cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape on Monday morning.

“I heard that they attended church from time to time,” Tackitt told Reuters. “Not on a regular basis.”

The attack came a little more than a month after a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas in the deadliest shooting by a sole gunman in U.S. history.

The initial death toll matched the fatalities at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a man shot and killed 26 children and educators and his mother before taking his own life in December 2012. Those attacks now stand as the fourth deadliest by a single gunman in the United States.

 

‘POWDER KEG’

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott told CBS there was evidence that Kelley had mental health problems and that he had been denied a Texas gun permit.

“It’s clear this is a person who had violent tendencies, who had some challenges, and someone who was a powder keg, seeming waiting to go off,” Abbott said.

Abbott and other Republican leaders were quick to say that the attack did not influence their support of gun ownership by U.S. citizens – the right to bear arms protected under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“This isn’t a guns situation. I mean we could go into it but it’s a little bit soon to go into it,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters while on trip to Asia. “But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise … it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

Democrats renewed their call to restrict gun ownership following the attack.

“How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country’s gun policies,” Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

The victims in Sutherland Springs, a community of fewer than 400 people, located about 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio, included the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations.

A woman prays after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 5, 2017. Nick Wagner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN via REUTERS

A woman prays after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 5, 2017. Nick Wagner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN via REUTERS

One couple, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, told the Washington Post they lost eight extended family members, including a pregnant granddaughter-in-law and three of her children.

In rural areas like Sutherland Springs, gun ownership is a part of life and the state’s Republican leaders for years have balked at gun control, arguing that more firearms among responsible owners make the state safer.

John Stiles, a 76-year-old retired U.S. Navy veteran, said he heard the shots from his home about 150 yards (137 m) from the church.

“The wind was blowing and there was a bang, bang, bang. It was the gunshots,” Stiles said. “My wife and I were looking for a peaceful and quiet place when we moved here but now that hasn’t worked out.”

Kelley served in its Logistics Readiness unit at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child, and given a bad-conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Kelley’s Facebook page has been deleted, but cached photos show a profile picture where he appeared with two small children. He also posted a photo of what appeared to be an assault rifle, writing a post that read: “She’s a bad bitch.”

 

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Phil Stewart in Washington, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jeffrey Benkoe)

 

Van mows down crowd in Barcelona, 13 reported killed

Van crashes into crowds in Barcelona, media say two killed

By Pilar Suarez and Jordi Rubio

BARCELONA (Reuters) – A van plowed into crowds in the heart of Barcelona on Thursday and Spanish media reported at least 13 people were killed, in what police said they were treating as a terrorist attack.

The death toll was reported by Cadena Ser radio, citing police sources. Police said some people were dead and injured but did not confirm the number of casualties. They said were searching for the driver of the van.

Spanish newspaper El Periodico said two armed men were holed up in a bar in Barcelona’s city center, and reported gunfire in the area, although it did not cite the source of the information.

It was not immediately clear whether the incidents were connected.

A source familiar with the initial U.S. government assessment said the incident appeared to be terrorism, and a White House spokeswoman said President Donald Trump was being kept abreast of the situation.

Media reports said the van had zigzagged at speed down the famous Las Ramblas avenue, a magnet for tourists.

“I heard screams and a bit of a crash and then I just saw the crowd parting and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas and I immediately knew that it was a terrorist attack or something like that,” eyewitness Tom Gueller told the BBC.

“It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds in the middle of the Ramblas.”

Mobile phone footage posted on Twitter showed several bodies strewn along the Ramblas, some motionless. Paramedics and bystanders bent over them, treating them and trying to comfort those still conscious.

Around them, the boulevard was deserted, covered in rubbish and abandoned objects including hats, bags and a pram.

“We saw a white van collide with people. We saw people going flying because of the collision, we also saw three cyclists go flying,” Ellen Vercamm, on holiday in Barcelona, told El Pais newspaper.

El Pais said the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot.

TOURIST DRAW

Emergency services said people should not go to the area around Barcelona’s Placa Catalunya, one of the city’s main squares at the top of the Ramblas, and requested the closure of nearby train and metro stations.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was in contact with authorities, and the priority was to attend to the injured.

The incident took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe’s top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.

Vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of militant attacks across Europe since July 2016, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

Witness Ethan Spibey told Britain’s Sky News: “All of sudden it was real chaos. People just started running screaming, there were loud bangs. People just started running into shops, there was a kind of mini-stampede where we were, down one of the alleyways.”

He said he had taken refuge with dozens of other people in a nearby church.

“They’ve locked the doors because I’m not sure whether the person who may have done it has actually been caught, so they’ve locked the doors and told people just to wait in here.”

Barcelona is the capital of the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, which plans to hold a popular vote on Oct. 1 on whether it should secede from Spain. It is in dispute with the central government, which says the vote cannot go ahead because it is unconstitutional.

In recent weeks, threatening graffiti against tourists has appeared in Barcelona. In one video released under the slogan “tourism kills neighborhoods”, several hooded individuals stopped a tourist bus in Barcelona, slashed the tyres and spray-painted the windscreen.

The attack was the deadliest in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.

(Reporting by Madrid newsroom, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Tattersall)