Amid deadly U.S. mass shootings in 2019, heroes emerged

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – The relentless pace of American shootings did not slow in 2019. But amid the harrowing scenes, heroes also emerged.

Here are just a few of the selfless acts the U.S. saw in the face of tragedy this year:

CHARGING GUNMAN, SAVING LIVES

When a gunman walked into a crowded classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in April and began firing a pistol, 21-year-old environmental studies student Riley Howell screamed “go, go, go!” to classmates and forcefully tackled the shooter.

Police and witnesses said Howell, who was fatally shot, allowed fellow students to escape unharmed and enabled classmates to disarm the man. Another student, Ellis Parlier, 19, also died that day and four other students were wounded. Howell’s family said in a statement after the shooting that their son “radiated love and always will.”

HIGH SCHOOL HERO LUNGES AT COLORADO SHOOTER

It was just three days before graduation when the shooting began inside the Colorado high school. Two teenage gunmen had opened fire on fellow students at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math School in Highlands Ranch. Authorities said far more kids would have died if not for Kendrick Ray Castillo, an 18-year-old lover of robotics who also enjoyed spending time with the elderly. Facing the barrel of a gun, Castillo lunged at one of the shooters, witnesses said. One of the gunmen “shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” student Nui Giasolli told NBC News.

Castillo was the only fatality that day, while eight other students were wounded.

TWO HEROES HAILED IN ATTACK ON CALIFORNIA SYNAGOGUE

When a teenage gunman opened fire at a California synagogue during Passover celebration in April, he had Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein directly in his sights. That was when Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, threw herself between the shooter and the rabbi inside Chabad of Poway synagogue in suburban San Diego, witnesses said. She was hit and quickly died.

Goldstein was shot in the hands but recovered, and said that Gilbert-Kaye’s action saved his life. Congregants also praised the heroism of Oscar Stewart, 51, a U.S. Army and Navy veteran who served in Iraq and who chased the assailant outside, screaming, “I’m going to kill you!”

“I was an instrument of God,” Stewart said afterward. “I had no conscious effort in what I was doing.”

BAR BOUNCER STARES DEATH IN THE FACE, SAVES DOZENS

When a gunman opened fire on a Dayton, Ohio, street known for its night life, panic ensued. But the toll of nine dead and 14 wounded would have been far worse had it not been for Jeremy Ganger, who was working as a bouncer at the Ned Peppers bar. Security camera footage showed Ganger helping dozens of people into the bar and away from the gunman.

“I was grabbing people off the street, telling them to get in and get down,” Ganger told ABC News afterward, adding that he “would’ve died before that guy came in.” Video showed the shooter turning to enter the bar and shouldering his rifle before the police shot him dead.

NAVY SAILOR SAVES LIVES IN FLORIDA SHOOTING

Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 2019 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, had just arrived at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, beginning his journey to become an aviator. That dream was taken on Dec. 6, when a Saudi Air Force lieutenant being trained at the base opened fire with a handgun in a classroom building. A wounded Watson, 23, made it outside and told responders where the shooter was before dying.

“He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” Joshua’s brother Adam wrote on Facebook after his family was briefed by authorities. Two other sailors died in the shooting and eight more people were shot and injured.

The Navy posthumously awarded Wings of Gold to all those killed, making Watson a naval aviator in death.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Scott Malone and Diane Craft)

More U.S. children die in mass shootings at home than at school: study

By Brad Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Three out of four U.S. children and teens killed in mass shootings over the past decade were victims of domestic violence and generally died in their homes, according to a study released on Thursday by the gun control group Everytown.

While the specter of school shootings looms darkly in the minds of American parents who remember massacres in Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida, and around the country, the group’s review of shootings from 2009 through 2018 found far more children are killed in their own homes.

“These are not random acts of violence, yet people have the perception that the killings come out of nowhere,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown’s research director. “That is simply not the truth.”

The Everytown report, based on police and court records, as well as media reports, found that 54% of mass shootings involved the shooter killing a family member or intimate partner.

A total of 1,121 people were killed in 194 mass shootings in the decade examined – one-third of whom were children or teens.

Nearly two-thirds of all mass shootings took place entirely inside homes, the study found.

Burd-Sharps said Everytown hopes that its report helps the public gain more understanding about the statistical realities of mass shootings, which it defines as an incident that kills at least four people, excluding the shooter.

The federal government and other groups set a lower threshold for what constitutes a mass shooting. Those definitions can result in higher totals than Everytown’s count.

Only 1% of the nearly 35,000 gun deaths averaged in the United States each year in the past decade involved mass shootings, but Burd-Sharps said she believes public interest in them can help propel gun-safety legislation that could cut gun deaths across the board.

At the top of Everytown’s wish list is a “red flag” law that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to seize firearms from a person they think is a threat to themselves or others.

The group also believes a comprehensive federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales would quickly be effective in decreasing gun deaths.

The link between domestic violence in mass shootings was seen this week in San Diego, when a man who had a restraining order against him killed his wife and three of their four young sons before taking his own life.

“When you look at all these cases of kids who lost their lives, if some family member had been able to heed the warning signs and temporarily had guns removed from the home, many of those children would still be alive,” Burd-Sharps said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)

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.