Shooting of 27-year-old man under investigation in Pennsylvania

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – The mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday called for an overhaul of how the city responds to mental health situations after a police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old man who ran at him, allegedly threatening him with a knife.

The shooting on Sunday sparked sometimes-violent protests overnight, turning the city of about 60,000 people into the latest flashpoint in a summer of civil unrest across the United States over racism and use of force by the police.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Police released body camera footage which appeared to show Ricardo Munoz cursing, and running at the officer with a knife in his right hand. The officer shot and killed Munoz, who died at the scene.

Munoz was out on $1 million bail after being charged with aggravated assault last year, court records showed.

At a press conference on Monday, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace called on the governor and state legislators to work together to come up with better protocols for responding to 911 calls involving people who may have mental health issues.

She said the shooting highlighted a broader problem of poverty impacting as many as half of the city’s residents — a predicament exacerbated by budget cuts and the coronavirus pandemic and disproportionately impacting minority communities.

“We must fund housing, social services, and education equitably and adequately in this city,” she said. “Lancaster, if we care so deeply about loving our neighbor then let’s do it.”

The Lancaster police department said it had arrested 8 people early on Monday for arson and other crimes, with four of those detained from outside the county. Some protesters threw bricks at the police station and post office, the police said.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a statement her office was investigating the shooting to determine whether there was a justified use of force.

She said a preliminary review showed “that the officer fired as a man, clearly armed with a knife, ran toward the officer in a threatening manner.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Wisconsin investigators say knife found at scene of police shooting of Jacob Blake

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Investigators of a shooting by a white police officer that left a Black man, Jacob Blake Jr., paralyzed and the town of Kenosha, Wisconsin, torn by civil strife found a knife belonging to Blake at the scene of the confrontation, the state attorney general said on Wednesday.

The incident sparked three nights of civil unrest that has included a wave of arson, widespread vandalism and a separate shooting that claimed two lives in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 residents on Lake Michigan, 40 miles (60 km) south of Milwaukee.

In the first official details of Sunday’s shooting released by the Wisconsin Justice Department, which is probing the incident, Attorney General Josh Kaul said the knife was recovered from the driver-side front floorboard of the car Blake was leaning into when he was shot in the back.

Kaul also told a news conference that Blake, during the course of the investigation, had “admitted that he had a knife in his possession.”

Blake’s lawyer responded in a statement that his client posed no threat to police and disputed that he was in possession of a knife.

Kaul did not describe the knife or say whether it had anything to do with why the officer, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police department identified as Rusten Sheskey, had opened fire on Blake.

Kaul’s briefing came shortly before the U.S. Justice Department announced it had opened a federal civil rights inquiry into the shooting, to be conducted by the FBI in cooperation with Wisconsin authorities.

In a separate development hours earlier, a teenager was arrested and charged with shooting three people, two of whom died, during Tuesday night’s protests in Kenosha.

Video footage from that incident showed a white gunman, armed with an assault-style rifle, firing at protesters who tried to subdue him, and then calmly walking away from the scene, hands in the air – his rifle hanging in front of him – as several police vehicles drive by without stopping him.

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said on MSNBC the suspect, later identified as Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, was apparently a militia group member who “decided to be a vigilante and take the law into his own hands and mow down innocent protesters.”

Bracing for a fourth night of possible upheavals on Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers said he was doubling the National Guard force he had ordered deployed to 500 troops, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed an hour earlier.

About 200 protesters defied the curfew for hours after dark as they marched peacefully through city streets, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” while law enforcement kept a low profile. No counter-demonstrators or armed militia figures were present.

National Guard soldiers were seen taking a dinner break behind the county courthouse, surrounded by barricades and heavy fencing erected around several downtown public buildings the previous day.

PREAMBLE TO SHOOTING

By Kaul’s account of events leading to the Blake shooting, city police confronted Blake when they were called to the home of a woman who reported that her boyfriend was present “and was not supposed to be on the premises.”

The location he gave for the residence corresponds with the address of the woman identified in media reports as Blake’s fiance, Laquisha Booker.

During the incident, Kaul said, police tried to arrest Blake, using a Taser stun gun in a failed attempt to subdue him.

Blake, according to the attorney general, then walked around his vehicle, opened the driver-side door and leaned forward, as officer Sheskey, clutching Blake’s shirt, fired his weapon seven times at Blake’s back.

Kaul said no other police officers fired their weapons. The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Bystanders captured the encounter in video footage that has since gone viral, unleashing public outrage at the latest in a long series of instances in which police have been accused of using indiscriminate lethal force against African Americans.

Kaul said police in Kenosha are not equipped with body cameras.

A lawyer for Blake’s family, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, issued a statement late Wednesday saying Blake “did nothing to provoke police” and was “only intending to get his children out of a volatile situation” at the time.

“Witnesses confirm that he was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way,” he added.

Three of Blake’s young sons – aged 3, 5 and 8 – were in the vehicle at the time and witnessed their father being gunned down, Crump said. Blake has a total of six children.

Neither Crump nor law enforcement officials have mentioned court records showing that an arrest warrant was filed against Blake in July by Kenosha’s district attorney for three domestic abuse-related charges – criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and third-degree sexual assault, a felony.

Crump has declined to respond to Reuters queries about those records, which list Blake’s address as the same street number where Booker is reported to reside.

According to Crump, Blake was struck by four of the seven gunshot rounds fired at him on Sunday. Bullets shattered some of his vertebrae, leaving Blake paralyzed from the waist down, possibly permanently, his lawyers said. He also suffered wounds to his stomach, intestines, kidney and liver and will require multiple operations to recover, they said.

Kaul said his department’s division of criminal investigations plans to issue a full report on the incident to prosecutors in 30 days, and that no other details were immediately available.

Blake’s family and protesters have demanded the officers involved in the shooting be immediately fired and prosecuted.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot, Aurora Ellis, Lincoln Feast and William Mallard)

UK armed police arrest suspected knifeman near parliament

Armed police officers stand outside the Palace of Westminster, in central London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Will James

By William James and Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – British armed police detained a man on suspicion of having a knife after he ran, shouting, toward one of the gates of the Westminster parliament in central London on Friday.

“The man – aged in his 30s – was arrested,” police said.

A witness at the scene told Reuters the man ran toward one of the gates to parliament where a militant killed a policeman less than three months ago.

“You could tell he was suspicious, he was stood there fists clenched. He looked quite an angry geezer,” Bradley Allen, 19, told Reuters.

“We got seconds down the road and they had him on the floor, pinned. Police around him, telling everyone to move back.”

The incident occurred less than three months since a man drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and then stabbed a policeman to death in the grounds of parliament, the first of three deadly attacks in Britain which has put the security services on high alert.

Another witness near parliament on Friday told Reuters he saw police threatening to use a stun gun on the man. Pictures from the scene showed the man on the ground with an officer pointing a gun at him.

“There were about three or four policeman, one of them shouting at the crowd to get back,” the witness, who declined to give their name, told Reuters.

“The guy was on the ground on his front on the pavement alongside Parliament Square. They had him on the ground and were warning they would taze (stun) him again.”

Officers later put the man in the back of a police van, a Reuters reporter said. Parliament said it was aware of the incident.

The gates to parliament were closed and armed police were patrolling as usual inside the perimeter, a Reuters reporter inside the building said.

On March 22, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people, before he ran into the grounds of parliament and stabbed a police officer to death. He was shot dead at the scene and his attack prompted a review of security around Westminster.

That attack was followed by a suicide bombing in Manchester and a similar deadly attack on London Bridge, thrusting security and policing to the fore of campaigning before last Thursday’s election.

The spate of recent attacks were the deadliest in Britain since four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport system in July 2005.

(Reporting by William James and Costas Pitas, writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)