U.S. probes Phoenix police use of force, treatment of protesters

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether police in Phoenix unlawfully have used deadly force, retaliated against peaceful protesters and violated the rights of homeless people in the latest such inquiry involving a major American city, officials said on Thursday.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January, the department also has launched civil rights investigations into police conduct in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky. Those were among the U.S. cities where large 2020 protests were held after high-profile killings of Black people by police officers.

The inquiries mark a shift in the department’s focus under the Democrat Biden, who has made racial justice a priority in contrast with the administration of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Phoenix, with a population of roughly 1.7 million, is Arizona’s capital and largest city – and the fifth most populous city in the United States.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Kristen Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, announced the investigation at a news conference. Garland said such probes are “aimed to promote transparency and accountability.”

Racial justice activists have accused Phoenix police of carrying out unlawful surveillance, arrests and malicious prosecutions of protesters. Last month, Phoenix police responding to a mental health call shot and killed a man who pointed an object at them that turned out to be a water gun, authorities said.

Clarke said the Phoenix investigation has the full support of the city’s mayor and police chief.

“We look forward to working together with the city and the Phoenix police department toward the shared goals of ensuring constitutional policing and fostering greater cooperation between law enforcement officers and the community that they serve,” Clarke said.

Justice Department lawyers have met with close to 1,000 community members in Minneapolis and Louisville, and received written messages from hundreds more, Clarke said. Justice Department lawyers have also met with command staff of police departments in Louisville and Minneapolis, Clarke added.

“We will take the same approach in Phoenix,” Clarke said.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a statement welcomed the Justice Department review, adding, “Comprehensive reform of policing in the city of Phoenix has been my priority since the first day I took office.”

U.S. police use of force has been in the spotlight in the aftermath of a series of deadly incidents in various cities in recent years, with protests around the country following the death of a Black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis in June 2020 – a crime in which a police officer as been convicted of murder. Louisville officers last year fatally shot Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, in a botched raid.

Clarke said police officers must use their authority in a manner that does violate the constitutional rights of people, complies with federal civil rights laws and “respects human dignity.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Richard Chang)

Louisville officer calls for peace after being shot during protests

(Reuters) – One of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers who was shot last week during protests following the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case on Wednesday called for a de-escalation of tensions between demonstrators and police.

“Hate and violence progresses nothing. It’s only when we can come together in mutual respect and love that we can communicate in an effective way and we can make real change,” Major Aubrey Gregory told a briefing on Wednesday.

Gregory and Officer Robinson Desroches were shot last Wednesday amid protests that erupted following news that a grand jury would not bring murder charges against three police officers involved in the March 13 killing of Taylor during a botched raid at her home.

Larynzo Johnson, 26, is the only suspect in the shootings of the two police officers last week. He was charged with two counts of assault and multiple counts of wanton endangerment. He pleaded not guilty.

Gregory’s calls for calm come as pressure builds on Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, over his handling of the case. Cameron, who presented evidence to the grand jury, said in a Louisville television interview that he did not recommend any charges against the two police officers who shot Taylor, saying the jurors needed to make that decision on their own.

A recording of the grand jury proceedings was scheduled to be made public on Wednesday, but Cameron asked a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge for another week to redact private information, according to a court filing released on Wednesday.

Gregory, who said he had been playing a leading role working with protest organizers to keep demonstrations peaceful, added he was concerned about violence.

“The willingness to profess openly in public the desire to harm, kill, hurt the police and their families has really ratcheted up,” he said.

“We support the demonstrations we do not support violence in any shape, form or fashion,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP on Wednesday.

“We hope that the situation here will come to a peaceful conclusion. And we also hope that justice will come regarding the murder of Breonna Taylor.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Kentucky AG says he did not recommend charges against two Breonna Taylor officers

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Kentucky’s attorney general, who presented evidence to a grand jury in the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor, did not recommend any charges against the two police officers who shot her, saying the grand jury needed to make that decision on its own.

The revelation, in a Louisville television interview, pre-empted one of the main points of interest that was set to be unveiled on Wednesday when a recording of the 20-plus hours of proceedings was due to be made public.

However, a judge agreed to delay the release of the recording, giving the state until midday Friday to redact witnesses’ names, the attorney general’s office said on Wednesday afternoon.

Under public pressure to show the evidence he presented in a case that has captured national attention and prompted protests, Attorney General Daniel Cameron told WDRB television in an interview on Tuesday that he recommended only one charge against the three officers who opened fired. The grand jury took his guidance and indicted one officer for endangerment last week.

“They (the grand jury) are an independent body. If they wanted to make an assessment about different charges, they could have done that. But our recommendation was that (Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove were justified in their acts and their conduct,” Cameron said.

The case of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, has revived street protests across the United States against racism and police brutality, further polarizing the country as some voters are already casting early ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The shooting took place while police were executing a search warrant in a drug investigation involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. When the officers burst into her home in the early morning hours of March 13, Taylor’s current boyfriend fired once, wounding one officer. Three officers responded with 32 rounds, six of which hit Taylor.

The grand jury decided against indicting either Mattingly or Cosgrove, who were placed on administrative leave. Instead it indicted a third white officer, Brett Hankison, for wanton endangerment for stray bullets that hit a neighboring apartment. Hankison was fired in June.

Cameron has said the shooting was justified as self-defense since Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired first at the officers. Walker has said he believed the officers who entered the home with a “no-knock” warrant were criminal intruders, and an attempted murder charge against him was dropped in May.

Critics of Cameron, including civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Taylor family, have been questioning the presentation to the grand jury, suggesting that Cameron, a Black Republican, was protecting the officers. Crump helped the family win a $12 million wrongful death settlement against the city of Louisville.

Cameron previously said he presented the grand jury with “all the evidence” and walked the panel through six possible homicide offenses under Kentucky law.

But prosecutors have wide leeway in how to present evidence to a grand jury, which then decides whether to bring charges. Nine of the 12 grand jurors must agree on a charge in order to return an indictment.

Cameron told WDRB, a Fox-affiliated channel in Louisville, he only recommended the one charge that was brought.

“Ultimately our judgment is that the charge that we could prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt was for wanton endangerment against Mr. Hankison,” Cameron said.

The case has put the spotlight on Cameron, a potential rising star in a Republican Party that greatly lags Democrats with the Black vote.

Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes have called for the prosecution of the officers and celebrated Taylor, an emergency medical technician, under the slogan “Say her name!”

Cameron told WDRB he felt free to speak more openly now that a recording of grand jury proceedings would be made public. Cameron previously resisted releasing the grand jury evidence, saying it should remain secret as is normal practice.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith had ordered that a recording of the 2-1/2 days of proceedings be filed with the court on Wednesday as part of Hankison’s case.

But Cameron asked the judge for another week, saying the state needed time to redact the names of witnesses and private citizens identified in the recordings. Instead, the judge extended the deadline two days until midday Friday, according to Hankison’s defense lawyer, Stew Mathews, and a statement from the attorney general’s office.

Grand jury evidence is rarely made public, and Kentucky usually only shares it with the lawyers in a criminal case when the defendant has the right to see it. “In Kentucky it is made available to the defendant. In the interest of transparency, the judge has decided that it should be made public,” Mathews said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Chizu Nomiyama, Steve Orlofsky and Aurora Ellis)

Louisville anti-racism protests resume amid tensions over Breonna Taylor ruling

By Carlos Barria and Bryan Woolston

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) – A second night of anti-racism protests got off to a tense but mostly peaceful start in Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday, a day after a grand jury decided not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

As a curfew went into effect after dark and police declared an unlawful assembly, a group of 200 to 300 protesters who had marched through the city for hours retreated to the grounds of the First Unitarian Church, set aside by organizers as a sanctuary near the Ohio River waterfront.

Some of the marchers had smashed windows of several local businesses, and even a hospital, along the way, according to a Reuters journalist. But the scene outside the church contrasted sharply with violence that flared the previous night in Kentucky’s largest city.

“At least 24 people were arrested throughout the evening for charges including unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and riot in the first degree,” the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) said in a statement.

Angry demonstrations and sporadic clashes between police and protesters in the hours following the grand jury announcement turned bloody late on Wednesday when two police officers on crowd-control duty were shot and wounded.

A suspect was arrested a short time later, and Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said on Thursday that the two wounded officers were expected to recover.

Schroeder, his department reinforced by state police and Kentucky National Guard troops, said he expected protests to continue for days, and a nighttime curfew was extended through the weekend.

“For all of us it is a very tense and emotional time,” Schroeder told a news conference on Thursday. Police said 127 arrests were made in the first night of protests, most for curfew violations or disobeying orders to disperse.

The protests began on Wednesday after the grand jury decided that none of the three white officers who collectively fired 32 gunshots as they stormed Breonna Taylor’s apartment would be charged with causing her death.

One of the officers was indicted on charges of endangering Taylor’s neighbors with several stray bullets he fired into an adjacent apartment during the March 13 raid, carried out as part of a narcotics investigation. The other two officers were not charged at all.

Taylor, 26, a Black emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was struck by six bullets moments after she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were roused from bed in the commotion of the raid. Walker exchanged gunfire with the police.

GRAND JURY RULING DECRIED

The grand jury decision, announced by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, was immediately denounced by civil rights advocates as the latest miscarriage of justice in a U.S. law enforcement system corrupted by racial inequity.

Cameron said there was “no conclusive” evidence that any of the 10 shots fired by former Detective Brett Hankison, the officer indicted on wanton endangerment charges, ever struck Taylor.

His two colleagues, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, used justified force under Kentucky law because they were returning fire – a combined total of 22 rounds – after Walker shot at them first, wounding Mattingly in the thigh, according to Cameron.

Walker has said he fired a warning shot because he feared a criminal intrusion and did not hear police identify themselves.

Wednesday’s protests turned violent around nightfall as police in riot gear ordered demonstrators to clear the streets after several fires were set in trash cans near a downtown park and outside the city’s Hall of Justice.

A Reuters journalist heard several gunshots ring out, and members of the crowd scurried for cover. An arrest report said the accused gunman, Larynzo Johnson, 26, was seen on video opening fire on police with a handgun.

Johnson was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree and 14 counts of wanton endangerment. His first court hearing was set for Friday.

Police said several businesses were vandalized or looted during the night, but the demonstrations were otherwise mostly peaceful.

Protests also flared on Wednesday in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia, Denver and Portland, Oregon, Seattle and Buffalo, New York.

Taylor’s slaying initially drew little national attention. But it was thrust into prominence after George Floyd, a Black man arrested for a non-violent offense in Minneapolis, died under the knee of a white police officer on May 25, igniting a summer of protests against racial injustice and excessive police force.

Hankison was fired in June, while Mattingly and Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.

Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.

In addition to largely orderly activists, the demonstrations have drawn a volatile mix of armed, right-wing militias and anarchists.

On Thursday evening in Louisville, a throng of protesters was seen by a Reuters journalist confronting a group of about 15 armed individuals dressed in military-style gear who identified themselves as members of the Oath Keepers, an organization associated with the militia movement.

The standoff was diffused when protest organizer persuaded demonstrators in their group to leave peacefully. Two of the Oath Keepers, one of them a Black man, told WAVE-TV they were in town as volunteers to protect local property.

(Reporting by Carlos Barria and Bryan Woolston in Louisville; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani and Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Steve Gorman; ;Editing by Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)

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)

Two police officers shot amid Louisville protests over Breonna Taylor ruling

By Bryan Woolston and Jonathan Allen

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – Two police officers were shot and wounded late on Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, during protests of a grand jury ruling decried by civil rights activists as a miscarriage of justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

The grand jury decided that none of the three white officers involved in the deadly police raid on Taylor’s apartment would be charged for causing her death, though one officer was indicted on charges of endangering her neighbors.

The indictment came more than six months after Taylor, 26, a Black 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.

Her death became a symbol, and her image a familiar sight, during months of daily protests against racial injustice and police brutality in cities across the United States. Last month media mogul Oprah Winfrey featured Taylor on the cover of her magazine calling for prosecution of the officers involved in her slaying.

Following the grand jury announcement, protesters immediately took to the streets of Kentucky’s largest city and marched for hours chanting, “No lives matter until Black lives matter,” amid sporadic clashes with police in riot gear.

The demonstrations remained mostly peaceful until several gunshots rang out as heavily armed police closed in on a throng of protesters at nightfall, ordering the crowd to disperse about a half hour before a 9 p.m. curfew was due to go into effect.

A Reuters journalist on the scene heard gunfire erupt from the crowd moments after police had fired chemical irritants and “flash-bang” rounds.

Two officers were shot and wounded, interim Louisville Metropolitan Police chief Robert Schroeder told reporters.

One suspect was arrested, and the two wounded officers were in stable condition – one undergoing surgery – with non-life-threatening injuries, Schroeder said. He gave no further details.

Earlier in the day about a dozen people were arrested in a skirmish between hundreds of demonstrators and a group of law enforcement officers in the Highlands neighborhood just outside downtown Louisville. Some windows of nearby businesses were also broken. The crowds largely dissipated after Wednesday night’s shooting. Police said at least 46 arrests were made in all.

Sympathy protests of varying sizes also were held in several other cities on Wednesday, including New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.

‘GUT-WRENCHING’ CASE

In announcing the grand jury’s conclusions, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the panel had declined to bring any charges whatsoever against two of the three white policemen who fired into Taylor’s apartment on March 13.

The two officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were found to have been justified under Kentucky law in returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them, wounding Mattingly in the thigh, Cameron said.

Walker has contended he believed intruders were breaking into Taylor’s home and that the couple did not hear police announce their arrival, contrary to the account of the officers and a neighbor.

The third officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, an offense that ranks at the lowest level of felony crimes in Kentucky and carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Cameron said those three counts stem from the fact that some of the rounds Hankison fired – 10 in all – traveled through Taylor’s apartment into an adjacent unit where a man, a pregnant woman and a child were at home.

Cameron, however, said there was “no conclusive” evidence that any of Hankison’s bullets struck Taylor.

Six bullets struck Taylor, he said, and ballistics investigators found only one shot, fired by Cosgrove, was fatal, Cameron said.

“There is no doubt that this is a gut-wrenching, emotional case,” Cameron, a Black Republican, said at a news conference.

Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer representing the Taylor family, denounced the outcome of the grand jury probe, saying it was “outrageous” that none of the three officers involved in the raid was criminally charged with causing Taylor’s death.

Governor Andy Beshear called on Cameron to release all evidence from the investigation to benefit the public’s understanding of the case. “Those feeling frustration, hurt – they deserve to know more,” he said.

Addressing a separate news conference, Mayor Greg Fischer said the U.S. Justice Department was still investigating whether federal laws were broken in connection with Taylor’s death, including possible civil rights violations, while a broader police inquiry remained under way.

“It’s clear that there are policies and procedures that needed to be changed, because Breonna Taylor should still be alive,” he said. “Let’s turn to each other, not on each other, at this moment of opportunity.”

The police chief fired Hankison in June, finding he had “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired” into Taylor’s home. Mattingly and Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.

Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, Fischer announced earlier this month. He said the settlement was intended to “begin the healing process.”

“We do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna,” he added.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Nathan Layne in Westport, Connecticut, Makini Brice in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry)

A ghostly downtown Louisville braces for Breonna Taylor grand jury decision

By Bryan Woolston and Jonathan Allen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) – The police department in Louisville, Kentucky, was restricting vehicle access downtown on Tuesday ahead of an expected decision by a grand jury on whether to indict the police officers involved in killing Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, in a botched raid.

Although the timing of any decision remains unclear, on Tuesday morning courthouses, offices and restaurants were already boarded up in the mostly deserted blocks around the city’s Jefferson Square Park, the site of regular demonstrations by people protesting police brutality against Black people.

Concrete barriers ringed the area, with a handful of checkpoints manned by police who would only allow people with essential business to drive downtown. Pedestrians were free to walk the streets, but few did.

Taylor, 26, was killed shortly after midnight on March 13 when three plainclothes officers used a battering ram to force their way in to her Louisville home with a so-called no knock warrant. Fearing intruders, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun. The three officers fired their guns, striking Taylor five times.

Taylor’s death, alongside that of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, helped spark a nationwide wave of protests demanding racial justice and an end to the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

The Louisville Metro Police Department on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for its staff, cancelling days off and suspending some overtime pay agreements, according to a memo by Robert Schroeder, the interim police chief, published by local media.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Black Republican, has said his investigation into Taylor’s death is ongoing, but has declined to confirm media reports that he is convening a grand jury to vote on whether to bring criminal charges against the officers.

Mayor Greg Fischer, a white Democrat, said his office does not know when a decision will come down or what it will be, but said in a statement on Tuesday the traffic restrictions were to “keep everyone safe.”

“Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights,” his statement said.

The city’s main federal courthouse has also been closed all week in an order by Chief Judge Greg Stivers of the Western District of Kentucky.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville, Ky., and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Seven shot in Louisville protests over killing of black woman: police

(Reuters) – Seven people were shot and at least one was in critical condition after protests in Louisville, Kentucky over the killing of Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot in her apartment in March, police said on Friday.

The situation downtown “remains fluid and continues to evolve,” Louisville Metro Police spokesman Lamont Washington told Reuters in an emailed statement.

The police said they did not fire any shots in the incident but had made some arrests. They had earlier tweeted that there was a large crowd in the downtown area around 2nd street.

Late on Thursday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer shared a post on Twitter which he said was written on behalf of Taylor’s mother, urging protesters to be peaceful. “Understandably, emotions are high,” he said in the tweet.

The Louisville shootings come as separate protests escalated in Minneapolis over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for air while a white police officer knelt on his neck.

(Reporting by Rebekah Mathew and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Trump administration demands documents from ‘sanctuary cities’

People visit the Liberty State Island as Lower Manhattan is seen at the background in New York, U.S., August 17, 2017.

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday escalated its battle with so-called sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation, demanding documents on whether local law enforcement agencies are illegally withholding information from U.S. immigration authorities.

The Justice Department said it was seeking records from 23 jurisdictions — including America’s three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as three states, California, Illinois and Oregon — and will issue subpoenas if they do not comply fully and promptly.

The administration has accused sanctuary cities of violating a federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting information about the immigration status of people arrested from being shared with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Many of the jurisdictions have said they already are in full compliance with the law. Some sued the administration after the Justice Department threatened to cut off millions of dollars in federal public safety grants. The cities have won in lower courts, but the legal fight is ongoing.

The Republican president’s fight with the Democratic-governed sanctuary cities, an issue that appeals to his hard-line conservative supporters, began just days after he took office last year when he signed an executive order saying he would block certain funding to municipalities that failed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The order has since been partially blocked by a federal court.

“Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Democratic mayors fired back, and some including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to skip a previously planned meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the White House with Trump.

“The Trump Justice Department can try to intimidate us with legal threats, but we will never abandon our values as a welcoming city or the rights of Chicago residents,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The Trump administration’s actions undermine public safety by jeopardizing our philosophy of community policing, as they attempt to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and the police who serve them.”

IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN

The issue is part of Trump’s broader immigration crackdown. As a candidate, he threatened to deport all roughly 11 million of them. As president, he has sought to step up arrests of illegal immigrants, rescinded protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the country illegally as children and issued orders blocking entry of people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Other jurisdictions on the Justice Department’s list include: Denver; San Francisco; the Washington state county that includes Seattle; Louisville, Kentucky; California’s capital Sacramento; New York’s capital Albany, Mississippi’s capital Jackson; West Palm Beach, Florida; the county that includes Albuquerque, New Mexico; and others.

The Justice Department said certain sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia were not on its list due to pending litigation.

On Twitter on Wednesday, De Blasio objected to the Justice Department’s decision to, in his words, “renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”

“The White House has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that mayors cannot “pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”

The Justice Department last year threatened to withhold certain public safety grants to sanctuary cities if they failed to adequately share information with ICE, prompting legal battles in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

In the Chicago case, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction barring the Justice Department from withholding this grant money on the grounds that its action was likely unconstitutional. This funding is typically used to help local police improve crime-fighting techniques, buy equipment and assist crime victims.

The Justice Department is appealing that ruling. It said that litigation has stalled the issuance of these grants for fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Makini Brice; Editing by Will Dunham)