Attorney General Barr launches effort to prevent more mass shootings

Attorney General Barr launches effort to prevent more mass shootings
By Sarah N. Lynch and Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday announced an initiative to prevent mass shootings by intervening to provide mental-health treatment and other forms of counseling to potentially violent individuals.

The new effort, announced in a memo to federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials, follows dozens of deadly mass shootings in the United States this year, including a massacre of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and another just one day later in Dayton, Ohio, in which nine people were killed.

Barr said a training conference at FBI headquarters in December will present “proven models for engaging extremely challenging individuals” and consider new ideas to face such threats.

In one successful case, Barr said, the FBI worked with parents and social-service workers to get court-ordered supervision and mental-health treatment for a young person who was the subject of a threat investigation.

Lawmakers are considering whether they need new laws to help the FBI investigate domestic terrorism instigated by U.S. residents who are motivated by white supremacy, anti-Semitism or other ideologies that are protected by the U.S. Constitution’s free-speech guarantees.

The FBI in the past has come under criticism for how it documents and follows up on investigative leads about possible shooters.

In the wake of the Feb. 18 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the FBI’s No. 2 official David Bowdich told Congress the bureau should have done more after it received warnings about the gunman, Nikolas Cruz.

Earlier this year, the FBI requested bids for a contractor who could help it try to detect national security threats by trawling through social media sites.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Sandy Hook shooting victims’ advocacy group airs chilling anti-school violence ad

FILE PHOTO: The sign for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School at the end of the drive leading to the school is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin/File Photo

Sandy Hook shooting victims’ advocacy group airs chilling anti-school violence ad
(Reuters) – Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization led by family members of children massacred at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, released a chilling public awareness advertisement for its violence prevention campaign on Wednesday.

The advertisement, called “Back to School Essentials,” shows children using standard back to school items like scissors, pencils, and sneakers as they attempt to flee from a gunman.

“These new socks? They can be a real lifesaver,” said one girl, as she tied a pair of long white socks around the bloodied leg of another girl as a tourniquet.

The advertisement, which aired during NBC’s Today Show and had tens of thousands of online views on Wednesday morning, aims to bring awareness to Sandy Hook Promise’s school violence prevention program “Know the Signs,” which teaches youth and adults how to recognize warning signs and intervene to prevent mass shootings.

A gunman killed 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where the non-profit organization is based, in the deadliest public school shooting in U.S. History on Dec. 14, 2012.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. social media firms to testify on violent, extremist online content

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc will testify next week before a U.S. Senate panel on efforts by social media firms to remove violent content from online platforms, the panel said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Sept. 18 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee follows growing concern in Congress about the use of social media by people committing mass shootings and other violent acts. Last week, the owner of 8chan, an online message board linked to several recent mass shootings, gave a deposition on Capitol Hill.

The hearing “will examine the proliferation of extremism online and explore the effectiveness of industry efforts to remove violent content from online platforms. Witnesses will discuss how technology companies are working with law enforcement when violent or threatening content is identified and the processes for removal of such content,” the committee said.

Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert, Twitter public policy director Nick Pickles and Google’s global director of information policy Derek Slater are due to testify.

Facebook and Google both confirmed they will participate but declined to comment further. Twitter did not immediately comment.

In May, Facebook said it would temporarily block users who break its rules from broadcasting live video. That followed an international outcry after a gunman killed 51 people in New Zealand and streamed the attack live on his page.

Facebook said it was introducing a “one-strike” policy for use of Facebook Live, a service which lets users broadcast live video. Those who broke the company’s most serious rules anywhere on its site would have their access to make live broadcasts temporarily restricted.

Facebook has come under intense scrutiny in recent years over hate speech, privacy lapses and its dominant market position in social media. The company is trying to address those concerns while averting more strenuous action from regulators.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown)

NRA sues San Francisco over ‘terrorist organization’ label

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association (NRA) sued San Francisco on Monday, saying a declaration by the city’s Board of Supervisors that officials should limit businesses linked to the NRA because it is a “terrorist organization” was effectively a blacklist.

The confrontation follows heightened debate in the United States following a spate of mass shootings, including one last month at an El Paso Walmart in which 22 people were killed and about 24 wounded in the city near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The NRA, a gun club and gun rights lobbying group with deep political influence, alleged in the suit that the city was violating its free speech rights for political reasons.

“This lawsuit comes with a message to those who attack the NRA: We will never stop fighting for our law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms,” Wayne LaPierre, the group’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The resolution declares: “The National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization’ whose advocacy is a direct cause of arming “individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism”.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani of the San Francisco board was confident the measure to limit city and county officials working with companies doing business with the NRA would stand up in court, according to the New York Times.

“It’s a resolution, it’s not an ordinance, it’s non-binding,” she told the newspaper.

It requires government officials to “assess the financial and contractual relationships with our vendors and contractors have with [the NRA],” and to “take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco.” It does not go into effect unless signed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The suit asks the court to “instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree.”

“The Resolution does not try to hide it animus towards the NRA’s political speech, nor its animating purpose: to remove the NRA from the gun control debate,” said the suit, filed on Monday in the District Court for the Northern District of California.

Neither city officials nor a representative for the NRA were immediately available for comment.

(This has been refiled to fix typo in the lead.)

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Paul Tait and Philippa Fletcher)

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

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

By Brendan O’Brien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida trucker arrested, charged with plotting church shooting: prosecutors

Police Lights

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

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

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

It was not immediately clear if McVicker had an attorney.

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

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

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

Founder of site linked to mass shootings says he created ‘a monster’

Online message board 8chan creator Fredrick Brennan listens to questions during an interview in Manila, Philippines, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Blaza

By Neil Jerome Morales

MANILA (Reuters) – The creator of a far-right online message board connected to three mass shootings that killed dozens of people has described himself as “naive and ignorant”, likening the platform 8chan to Frankenstein’s monster, with no limit to its extremism.

Fredrick Brennan, 25, who lives in the Philippines, said the free-wheeling web board he created in 2013 had become a hive of white supremacy, anonymous hate, and Neo-Nazism since he sold it to a fellow American, and said he felt a sense of guilt, “sometimes”.

“If I could go back and not create 8chan at all, I probably would,” he told Reuters in an interview.

U.S. cyber security firm Cloudflare has terminated 8chan as a customer, after a gunman whom authorities believe had posted on 8chan about a “Hispanic invasion” killed 22 people on Saturday at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.

The site was also used by a shooter who in March attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and providing inspiration for a shooting a month later of a man at a synagogue in Poway, California.

“It’s gotten to a point where if a mass shooter wants to go to a killing spree, they choose 8chan to post their manifesto,” Brennan said.

8chan’s main page prominently displays the phrase “embrace infamy”, attracting people with deep-seated anger, he said.

“It seems there’s nowhere else to go in terms of how extreme it is.”

Brennan agreed to media interviews because he had hoped to stop 8chan. However, he said the El Paso shooting was the turning-point, rather than the deadlier New Zealand attack.

“I did not call for it to be shut down like I’m calling for it now,” he said.

The site’s owner, army veteran Jim Watkins, is also based in the Philippines. Reuters made repeated attempts to reach Watkins, without success.

‘RABID CONSERVATIVE’

Asked if he had attempted to reach law enforcement authorities to warn them about the dangers of 8chan, Brennan said: “If the PNP (Philippine National Police) wants to talk to me, no problem at all. I will tell them anything I know.”

The PNP on Monday said it was investigating 8chan.

Brennan said he had no qualms about selling 8chan to Watkins who seemed liberal, fun-loving and “pretty chill”. He said he stopped communicating with Watkins after his character changed and he became “a rabid conservative” supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Brennan said he sold the site for both financial reasons and after being overwhelmed as its administrator and having to deal with child pornography, which he had wanted to ban.

“It was getting so difficult to try to control. It’s like letting the mental patients run the asylum,” he said.

“I was having too much mental stress dealing with it.”

He added: “It was pretty difficult to be 8chan’s administrator so there is some sympathy I have for them. Of course, that sympathy has its limits.”

Brennan said he had contacted El Paso police offering help in confirming the shooter’s manifesto, based on 8chan archives.

“Whenever there’s a shooting and the details are still fuzzy, I am always worried there’s gonna be an 8chan connection,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty, editing by Ed Osmond)

Special Show taping of The Jim Bakker Show on Biblical Prophecy, and what the Bible says about recent violent mass killings

Pastor Jim Bakker - Prayer Mountain Chapel

On Tuesday, August 6th, in a very special show taping, Pastor Bakker will be teaching on what the Bible says about the hurt, hatred and Biblical prophecy concerning mass shootings and violence in the United States and in this world. This special message will be a live taping on Grace Street, Tuesday, August 6th at 11:30 am ct followed by another show taping featuring Jim and Lori Bakker with guests Frank Davis and Megan Poling.  This special show with Jim Bakker will be aired on Friday, August 9th. We encourage you to watch and hear the Word of God.  

In a statement released on Sunday, August 4th, 2019 Pastor Jim Bakker wrote: 

“Lori and I are grieving along with millions of Americans for those who were killed and injured in the pair of mass shootings that took place just hours apart! Jesus said let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, you believe in God, believe also in me.

I believe this is the beginning of the second horse of the four horses of the Apocalypse. Revelation 6:4; “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.” I will deal with more on this subject on our television program.

Love in Christ, Jim Bakker”

If you are unable to be here for the live taping Tuesday, Aug 6th, please be sure and tune in to this extremely important teaching with Pastor Bakker when it airs on Friday, August 9th.  You can find out where The Jim Bakker Show is airing in your area by following this link or join us on the PTL Network from your Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV devices. You can also tune in on jimbakkershow.com or ptlnetwork.com! 

 

Please pray for our country and for those who have been touched by these tragedies.  

 

Trump denounces white supremacy after shootings, cites video games and internet

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the shootings in El Paso and Daytonin the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday called for urgent action to prevent gun violence and said all Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy” after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed 29 people and wounded dozens.

Trump, whose rhetoric has frequently been condemned as stoking racial divisions, laid out a number of policy options but did not mention his own past remarks.

“These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” Trump said in remarks at the White House. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

On Saturday, a gunman killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in what authorities said appeared to be a racially motivated hate crime. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people.

Trump said mental health laws should be reformed to better identify mentally disturbed individuals and he called for capital punishment for those who commit mass murder and hate crimes.

He said he had directed the Justice Department to work with local authorities and social media companies to detect mass shooters before they strike. He said the Internet, social media and violent video games had helped radicalize people.

Earlier on Monday, Trump had urged lawmakers in a tweet to put strong checks in place on potential gun buyers, suggesting action could be tied with immigration reform. In his remarks at the White House, however, he did not mention immigration.

(Reporting by Roberta Rammpton and Susan Heavey; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Bill Trott)

Long before shooting, Dayton gunman threatened fellow students with ‘hit list’

A mourner leaves a candle at the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

(Reuters) – The 24-year-old gunman who killed nine people in a rampage in Dayton, Ohio had a troubled past, including threatening fellow students in high school, authorities said, but police said it was too soon to establish a motive for the slaughter.

The gunman, wielding an assault-style rifle and wearing body armor and a mask, inflicted carnage on a neighborhood known for its night life.

Police identified the shooter as Connor Betts, 24, of Bellbrook, Ohio, a Dayton suburb. He was the third young man to take a rifle and go on a public killing spree in the United States within a span of a week, unleashing fresh alarm at the national crisis of mass shootings.

The slaughter in Dayton began at around 1 a.m. on Sunday in the city’s Oregon District and ended very rapidly when police who were nearby moved in and shot him dead. Those killed included Betts’ sister, and least 27 people were wounded.

“We are very, very early in this investigation,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told a news conference on Sunday. “Any suggestion at this time of motive would be irresponsible.”

“We do not have sufficient information to answer the question everyone wants to know, ‘Why?'” Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are helping police.

Betts had been troubled in high school, at one point drawing up a “hit list” of students he wanted to kill or otherwise harm, authorities said.

He also had a history of threatening women who spurned his advances, CNN reported. News media reported that at one point in high school he was taken off a school bus by police.

Apart from his high school troubles, Betts had been issued tickets for speeding and other minor traffic offenses, police said.

He had been studying psychology at a community college and working at a Chipotle restaurant. In an online profile, Betts reportedly described himself as “Good under pressure. Fast learner. Eager to overachieve.”

Nothing in Betts’ record precluded him from purchasing the assault-style weapon, which had been modified since it was sold, the police chief said.

The rifle was fitted with an extended drum magazine that could hold 100 rounds. The gun was bought legally online from a dealer in Texas and shipped to a local firearms dealer, police said.

Betts’ sister Megan Betts, 22, was one of the first to be killed. Biehl said the siblings had arrived in the same vehicle with a third person earlier in the evening but separated before the rampage.

The companion was wounded in the shooting, police said.

The shooting in Dayton, a riverfront city of about 140,000 people in southwestern Ohio, took place just 13 hours after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where 20 people were killed and 26 others wounded. The 21-year-old suspect in that shooting was arrested.

‘NIGHTMARE’ FOR PARENTS

Responding to the attacks, U.S. President Donald Trump called on lawmakers to pass new background checks laws for buying guns, and suggested any such legislation might also include greater restrictions on immigration.

“We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning ahead of planned remarks on the subject.

Those killed in Dayton were four women and five men and ranged in age from 22 to 57, authorities said. Six of the nine were African-American.

“There isn’t much discrimination in the shooting,” Assistant Police Chief Matt Carper told reporters. “It happened in a very short period of time.”

One of those killed, Nicholas Cumer, was a week shy of completing his internship at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, a non-profit patient care center in Dayton.

The center said in a statement it had offered Cumer a full-time job last week. “He loved his patients and served them well, with a loving and caring spirit,” the statement said. Two of his colleagues were also shot and expected to make a full recovery.

A vigil attendee holds a sign during a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

A vigil attendee holds a sign during a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Lois Oglesby, a nursing student with a newborn child and a young daughter, was also killed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Biehl said Betts’ parents were having a tough time. “This is a nightmare for them and I think they are struggling as I think you can understand,” he said at the news conference.

Of the 27 people injured, four remained in serious condition and one person in critical, medical authorities said.

The Ohio shooting came seven days after a teenager killed three people with an assault rifle at a food festival in Northern California before taking his own life.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Kim Palmer in Columbus; Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Jonathan Allen in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional writing by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Steve Orlofsky)