Thanksgiving leftovers: Storm serves U.S. Northeast second helping of snow

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A vast wintry storm that has been raging across the United States since before Thanksgiving served a second helping of snow to the Northeast on Monday, closing offices and threatening to disrupt the evening rush-hour commute.

Alternating rain and snow showers were forecast to switch completely to snow, piling up by the workday’s end to 1 to 3 inches in New York and 4 to 6 inches in Boston, said meteorologist Bob Oravec of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

Heavier snow totals were expected in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, northwestern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire and Maine, with some areas already receiving 1 foot of snow, Oravec said.

“When it’s all said and done, some areas will have over 2 feet of snow from this storm, especially over parts of the Poconos and Catskills,” Oravec said of the mountain regions.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all non-essential state employees in the capital region to stay home on Monday. State offices in New Jersey opened as usual on Monday, but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said all non-essential workers should head home at noon due to weather conditions.

Travel glitches on U.S. flights began mounting throughout the morning, with most of the 1,500 cancellations and delays posted by late morning at airports in San Francisco, Albany, Boston, Chicago and Newark.

The storm that started on the West Coast ahead of Thanksgiving, the busiest U.S. travel holiday, slowly rolled across the entire country, drenching some areas with rain, blanketing others with snow and blasting still others with winds. Three tornadoes were reported northwest of Phoenix.

“It’s uncommon to have a tornado in Phoenix, but it’s not uncommon to have multiple types of weather with a big winter storm like that,” Oravec said.

The storm was expected to linger in New York until just before sunrise on Tuesday, in Boston until early Tuesday afternoon and in Maine until Wednesday morning.

“There have been huge impacts from the storm since it occurred during the Thanksgiving week of travel and coming home from the holiday,” Oravec said.

“It hit about possibly the worst time it could hit, and it went right across the entire country.”

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Regulator ties pipeline work to deadly Massachusetts gas explosion

FILE PHOTO: A burnt Columbia Gas of Massachusetts envelope sits on the sidewalk outside a home burned during a series of gas explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Liz Hampton

HOUSTON (Reuters) – A NiSource Inc affiliate failed to require contract repair crews to relocate pressure sensors during natural-gas pipeline work, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Thursday, resulting in overpressured lines that caused explosions and fires in three Massachusetts communities last month.

Overpressurized gas poured through Columbia Gas Co of Massachusetts’ distribution system in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, flooding into homes and businesses and sparking explosions and fires that killed one person and injured 21.

Critical valves controlling the gas flow were not shut for nearly 3-1/2 hours after the first alarm was raised at Columbia Gas’s monitoring center, NTSB said in a preliminary report. The center had no ability to remotely open or close valves on its own, but did notify technicians, it added.

NiSource is fully cooperating with the NTSB, Chief Executive Joe Hamrock said in a statement on Thursday. However, it will not comment on the cause of the incident until the NTSB completes its work, he added.

The incident raised safety concerns about the sprawling U.S. networks of aging pipelines. The September explosions and fires damaged 131 homes and businesses as Columbia Gas was replacing cast-iron pipe with safer plastic lines when the accident occurred.

The NTSB laid out the timetable of events in a dry account of the company’s activities that day.

Crews were working for Columbia Gas in Lawrence, a city northwest of Boston, to replace an aged cast-iron main with a new plastic distribution main line. The abandoned main had regulator sensing lines used to detect pressure in the system.

After that main line was disconnected, the sensing lines lost pressure and the regulators fully opened, “allowing the full flow of high-pressure gas into the distribution system supplying the neighborhood,” the report said.

Columbia Gas had approved a “work package (that) did not account for the location of the sensing lines or require their relocation to ensure the regulators were sensing actual system pressure,” according to the NTSB.

Minutes before the explosion, Columbia Gas’ monitoring center in Columbus, Ohio, received high-pressure alarms for its South Lawrence gas pressure system. The company shut down the regulator at issue about 25 minutes later, around 4:30 p.m, the NTSB said.

September’s explosion was the largest U.S. natural gas pipeline accident since 2010 in terms of structures involved. Eight years ago, an interstate gas transmission line operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company ruptured in San Bruno, California, killing eight people, destroying 38 buildings and damaging 70 others, according to the NTSB.

Columbia Gas has said all cast iron and bare steel piping in affected neighborhoods will be replaced with high-pressure plastic mains that have regulators at each service meter.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Chang)

Gas explosions drive thousands from homes in Boston suburbs

A police officer stands outside a home where a man died in a series of gas explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Ted Siefer

ANDOVER, Mass. (Reuters) – Some 8,000 people were prevented from returning home in Boston suburbs on Friday as investigators scrambled to find out the cause of dozens of gas explosions that killed at least one person and injured about 12 more.

The blasts on Thursday destroyed scores of homes and other buildings in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, left more than 18,000 homes and businesses without power and forced thousands of people from their homes.

A fire engine is seen near a building emitting smoke after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States in this September 13, 2018 still image from social media video footage by Boston Sparks. Boston Sparks/Social Media/via REUTERS

A fire engine is seen near a building emitting smoke after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States in this September 13, 2018 still image from social media video footage by Boston Sparks. Boston Sparks/Social Media/via REUTERS

Investigators suspected “over-pressurization of a gas main” belonging to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts led to the series of explosions and fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said on Thursday.

Massachusetts State Police said around 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odor had been reported.

“This has been obviously an incredibly difficult day,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a news conference early on Friday.

Those driven from their homes “should expect that the restoration process will take several days or longer,” Andrew Maylor, the town manager of North Andover, said on Twitter.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said it would likely take investigators some time to examine the pipeline’s design, maintenance, and upgrades.

“The truth of the matter is we really don’t have any factual information at this point to confirm,” Sumwalt said on Friday.

Columbia Gas, a unit of utility NiSource Inc, is investigating, NISource spokesman Ken Stammen said on Thursday. Before the explosions, Columbia Gas had said it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs.

NiSource shares fell more than 9 percent on Friday morning.

A building burns after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States in this September 13, 2018 photo from social media by Boston Sparks. Boston Sparks/Social Media/via REUTERS

A building burns after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States in this September 13, 2018 photo from social media by Boston Sparks. Boston Sparks/Social Media/via REUTERS

SAFETY CHECKS

Firefighters raced for hours from one blaze to another and utility crews rushed to shut off gas and electricity to prevent further explosions on Thursday. Fire and utility crews were still going door to door on Friday to conduct safety checks and shut off gas meters, officials said.

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon died when his car was crushed by a falling chimney, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney’s office said. Lawrence General Hospital said it had treated 13 people for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to blast trauma.

Guilia Holland, a 35-year-old mechanic in a wheelchair, said she had just gotten off a bus returning home when she saw “a big flash of light” at the house where she had been renting a room for a month.

“Good thing I wasn’t home or I wouldn’t be talking about it,” she said outside an elementary school in Lawrence that the Red Cross had converted into a shelter for about 170 people.

South Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera urged residents to stay away from their homes.

“There could be still a gas leak in your home,” Rivera said. “You can’t see it and in some cases you won’t be able to smell it, and God forbid you go to sleep and don’t wake up.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it was sending a team to support the state’s emergency response efforts.

“At this time, the focus remains on ensuring the public safety,” Baker said. “Once that’s complete, we will work with federal government and others to investigate how this occurred and hold the appropriate parties accountable for their actions.”

(Additional reporting by Ross Kerber and Nate Raymond in Boston; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Makini Brice in Washington; editing by Larry King and Susan Thomas)

U.S. judge upholds Massachusetts assault weapons ban

FILE PHOTO - AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday upheld a Massachusetts law banning assault weapons including the AR-15, saying the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of Americans’ right to bear firearms does not cover them.

U.S. District Judge William Young in Boston ruled that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines covered by the 1998 law fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment’s personal right to bear arms.

He also rejected a challenge to an enforcement notice Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued in 2016 clarifying what under the law is a “copy” of an assault weapon. Healey announced that notice after a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The decision released on Friday came amid renewed attention to school shootings, gun violence and firearms ownership after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty at a Florida high school in February, prompting a surge of gun control activism by teenage students.

In a 47-page ruling, Young cited former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative who died in 2016, as having observed that weapons that are most useful in military service may be banned. Young said the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was such a weapon.

He acknowledged arguments by plaintiffs including the Gun Owners’ Action League who noted the AR-15’s popularity in arguing the law must be unconstitutional because it would ban a class of firearms Americans had overwhelming chosen for legal purposes.

“Yet the AR-15’s present-day popularity is not constitutionally material,” Young wrote. “This is because the words of our Constitution are not mutable. They mean the same today as they did 227 years ago when the Second Amendment was adopted.”

Healey, a Democrat, in a statement welcomed the decision.

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” she said.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for comment.

They had filed their lawsuit in 2017 and based part of their case on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Scalia authored in 2008 that held for the first time that individual Americans have a right to own guns.

The justices have avoided taking up another major gun case in the years since and in November refused to hear a similar case challenging Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Snow storm pounds U.S. Northeast, closing schools, snarling commutes

A man takes shelter as snow falls in Times Square in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The second winter storm in a week will continue to dump wet, heavy snow on New England on Thursday, forcing schools to close and leaving hundreds of thousands without power as it promised to slow the morning commute across the region.

A foot (30 cm) of snow and fierce wind gusts of up to 55 miles per hour (88 km/h) were expected from eastern New York through northern Maine on Thursday after the storm slammed the region on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said in several watches and warnings.

Up to 2 feet of snow accumulation was expected in some inland parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts and 18 inches was possible in Maine.

Boston public schools along with dozens of schools throughout New England canceled classes on Thursday as local officials and forecasters warned commuters of whiteout conditions and slick roads.

“With snow removal efforts underway, motorists are asked to stay off roads, stay home and stay safe,” the Boston Police Department said on Twitter.

Amtrak suspended passenger train services between New York City and Boston until at least 10 a.m. local time and canceled dozens of routes on Thursday.

Two dozen flights were already canceled early on Thursday morning after about half of all scheduled flights were canceled at the three major airports serving New York City on Wednesday.

The website said more than 2,100 flights had been delayed and 2,700 canceled, most of them in the Northeast, as of 8 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

The dense snow and strong winds downed trees and power lines, knocking power out for hundreds of thousands in New England and the Mid Atlantic, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks outages.

“4am, no power (no heat), waiting for a text from work to say “we will be closed today”. Fingers crossed!” tweeted Jessica Squeglia in Peabody, Massachusetts.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy ordered many state workers to head home early on Wednesday afternoon at staggered intervals to avoid traffic snarls on slippery roads.

The governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency, giving them access to support from the U.S. government if needed.

Last week’s storm brought major coastal flooding to Massachusetts, killed at least nine people and knocked out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses in the Northeast.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Flooded streets and evacuations as storm pounds Boston and U.S. Northeast

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Seawater on Friday flowed onto some coastal streets around Boston, where businesses set up flood barriers and piled sandbags around their doors as a powerful storm threatened to flood pockets of the U.S. coast from Maine to Virginia.

Over 700,000 homes and businesses were without power in the U.S. Northeast, hundreds of flights were canceled at New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International, and the federal government closed offices in Washington.

It was the second time this year that Boston streets, including areas around the Long Wharf and the rapidly developing Seaport District, flooded in a winter storm.

“It’s crazy. I guess this is sea-level rise in action,” said Bob Flynn, 38, who had stepped out from his work at Boston’s Children’s Museum to survey a partially submerged walkway along the city’s Fort Point Channel.

Heavy rains, extreme high tides and a wind-driven storm surge could combine to cause several feet of water to flow onto streets in coastal Massachusetts, with government and private weather forecasters warning of a repeat of an early-January storm that drove a couple of feet of icy seawater onto Boston’s streets. High winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) could also bring extensive power outages.

“The winds are going to keep on increasing and the seas are going to go higher and higher for the next three high tide cycles,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. Floodwater surged in during high tide around 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT), and forecasters warned that strong winds coming in off the ocean could keep levels high through the next two high tides.

Residents of coastal areas that regularly flood in storms, including the towns of Newburyport, Duxbury and Scituate had been encouraged to evacuate their homes and head to higher ground, said Chris Besse, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

He added that it is hard to predict where the storm will take its heaviest toll.

“It could be that the first high tide washes away dunes from one beach and the second washes away houses,” Besse said.

Sarah Moran, a 59-year-old mother of six, was fretting whether her family’s oceanfront home in Scituate, Massachusetts, south of Boston, would survive the storm.

“Every house south of mine has been washed away since the 1978 blizzard. That risk is part of the package – the house comes complete with ocean views, taxes, maintenance and risks,” she said in a phone interview from Burlington, Vermont, where she owns a catering business.

The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine through coastal Virginia, including New York’s eastern suburbs, and was also tracking a snowstorm heading east from the Ohio Valley that could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State. It forecast storm surges of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) for eastern Massachusetts.

More than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power across the region, with the largest number of outages in New York, utilities said.

Federal offices closed on Friday in Washington, while dozens of schools throughout the region canceled classes. More than a quarter of flights into and out of New York’s three major airports and Boston’s airport were canceled, according to tracking service Flightaware.com.

Southern California was also facing weather dangers, with risks of rain-driven mudslides prompting mandatory evacuations ordered for some 30,000 people living near fire-scarred hills around the Santa Barbara coast.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jonathan Oatis)

Deep freeze keeps grip on eastern United States; four die

Elena Barduniotis from Colorado waits in Times Square ahead of New Year's celebrations in Manhattan.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A record-shattering Arctic freeze kept its grip on much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday but temperatures everywhere except the Northeast were expected to warm within 24 hours.

Many school districts shut their classrooms due to the cold snap, which claimed four lives over the long New Year’s weekend.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill warnings for Tuesday as dangerously low temperatures were due from eastern Montana across the Midwest into the Atlantic coast and the Northeast and down through the deep South.

School districts in Iowa, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina canceled or delayed the start of classes as bitterly cold temperatures, 20 degrees to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 17 degrees Celsius) below normal, were expected across the eastern half of the United States.

“Just the bitter cold which is just too dangerous to put kids out on the street waiting for a bus that may not come,” Herb Levine, superintendent of the Peabody Public Schools, north of Boston, told a local CBS affiliate television station.

The cold was blamed for the deaths of two men in separate incidents in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A homeless man was found dead on a porch in Charleston, West Virginia, while another man was found dead outside a church in Detroit and police said he may have froze to death, local news outlets reported.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to call the city if they saw people outside.

“We want every resident to have shelter and warmth,” she said in a tweet.

Many places across the United States experienced record low temperatures over the last few days. Omaha, Nebraska, posted a low of minus 20F (minus 29C), breaking a 130-year-old record, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, shattered a record set in 1919 with a temperature of minus 32F (minus 36C).

The cold should ease across most of the country after Tuesday, but the northeastern section of the country will see a repeat of the frigid weather on Thursday or Friday as another arctic blast hits the area.

Private AccuWeather forecaster said the cold snap could combine with a storm brewing off the Bahamas to bring snow and high winds to much of the Eastern Seaboard as it heads north on Wednesday and Thursday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jeffrey Benkoe)

South Carolina capital could be first U.S. city to ban gun bump stocks

An example of a bump stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate is seen at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, U.S. on October 4, 2017.

By Harriet McLeod

(Reuters) – South Carolina’s capital on Tuesday could become the first U.S. city to ban the use of bump stocks, a gun accessory that has drawn national scrutiny after being found among the Las Vegas mass shooter’s arsenal of weapons in the October rampage.

Last month, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law that explicitly bans bump stocks.

Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, the South Carolina capital, said the city council was expected in a vote on Tuesday night to approve an ordinance barring the devices, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute like fully automatic machine guns.

“One of the common refrains that you hear, whether it was in Texas or Vegas or Sandy Hook, is that a good guy with a gun could have stopped the carnage,” Benjamin, a Democrat, said in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s time for the good guys with guns to begin to pass some really good policy.”

Authorities said Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had 12 rifles outfitted with bump stocks in the hotel room where he launched his attack on an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Since then several states and cities have proposed measures outlawing or restricting the attachments, and the U.S. Justice Department said earlier this month it was considering a ban on certain bump stocks.

California and New York do not prohibit bump stocks outright, but the devices fall under the definition of an automatic weapon, which are illegal in those states, according to Anne Teigen, who covers firearm legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some other states and the District of Columbia have assault weapons bans that could include bump stocks.

“We are not aware of any cities that have passed ordinancesbanning bump stocks,” said Tom Martin, a spokesman for the National League of Cities.

In Columbia, four of the council’s six members approved the city’s proposed ordinance on a first reading earlier this month.

The measure also would ban the use of other gun attachments that allow rifles to fire faster. Owners would be required to keep them stored separately from any weapon.

Trigger-enhancing devices are not gun parts, gun components, weapons or ammunition, which state law prohibits cities from regulating, Benjamin said.

The mayor, who has a background in law enforcement and said he owns guns, said the measure had drawn support from local police and council members who support the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting gun ownership rights.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler)

Trial of Islamic State beheading plot in Massachusetts nears end

BOSTON (Reuters) – The case of a Massachusetts man who prosecutors say plotted to attack police and behead a conservative blogger on behalf of Islamic State nears a close on Tuesday as lawyers make closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors contend that David Wright, 28, along with his uncle and a friend had plotted to kill the woman who organized the 2015 “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, a plan they said unraveled when the uncle lost patience and said he wanted to kill police officers instead.

Wright, who took the witness stand in his own defense last week, testified that his discussions with the other two men about Islamic state were “role playing” that served as a distraction when he was broke, weighed 530 pounds (240 kg), and was living in his family’s home in the Boston suburb of Everett and spending his days playing video games.

“I created a fantasy world,” Wright testified, denying that there had been a plan to kill Pamela Geller, the organizer of the “Draw Mohammed” contest. “I’m beginning to realize how horrible some of the stuff I said was. It makes me really sick.”

Prosecutors said they had been monitoring communications between Wright, his uncle, Usamaah Abdullah Rahim, and friend Nicholas Rovinski, and heard them plot the attack. They also overheard Rahim when he told the pair he planned to kill law enforcement officers, a message that prompted police to try to question him in a supermarket parking lot.

Rahim pulled a knife on the officers, who shot him dead.

If Wright is found guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, he could face a life sentence. He is also charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, allegedly for telling Rahim to destroy his phone before attacking police, as well as for attempting to destroy all information on his computer.

Geller had organized the Texas event in May 2015 highlighting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event and were shot dead by police.

Geller contends her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Rovinski in 2016 pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Rahim’s family have denied he had shown any signs of radicalization.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Trial opens for American in Islamic State-linked police beheading plot

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – A Massachusetts man charged with plotting to behead police officers in an effort to help Islamic State was due in court on Wednesday for the start of his trial on charges including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism.

Federal prosecutors charge that the man, David Daoud Wright, along with his uncle and a friend, had first plotted to kill the woman who organized a 2015 “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas. But they contend Wright’s uncle, Usamaah Abdullah Rahim, lost patience and in June 2015 told Wright and the third man that he instead planned to kill police officers.

Law enforcement had been monitoring communications between the three and overheard the threat, prosecutors said. When police approached Rahim in a Boston supermarket parking lot to question him, he drew a large knife and officers shot him dead.

Police later arrested Wright, who lived in the Boston suburb of Everett, and a third conspirator, Nicholas Rovinski. Wright has denied all wrongdoing. Rovinski last year pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

If Wright is found guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, he could face a life sentence. He is also charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, allegedly for telling Rahim to destroy his phone before attacking police, as well as for attempting to destroy all information on his computer.

Prosecutors said the men initially wanted to behead New York resident Pamela Geller, who had organized the Texas event in May highlighting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event, and were shot dead by police.

Geller contends her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Rahim’s family have denied he had shown any signs of radicalization.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown)