Florida trucker arrested, charged with plotting church shooting: prosecutors

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(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)

At least 24 police officers hurt in Memphis street clashes after marshals kill black man

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – At least two dozen police officers were injured in overnight clashes with protesters, some throwing rocks, in Memphis, Tennessee, after U.S. Marshals Service agents fatally shot a black man during an attempted arrest, officials said on Thursday.

The man, identified as 20-year-old Brandon Webber, was shot by the agents after he rammed his vehicle into their vehicles as they sought to arrest him on multiple warrants at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the working-class neighborhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Public records show that Webber was arrested five times, for driving violations and on charges that included possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana. The outcome of those arrests was not clear from the records. The bureau said Webber was carrying an unspecified weapon when he got out of his vehicle.

At least 24 officers and deputies were injured, with six hospitalized, during the confrontation, Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement, adding that two journalists also were injured. The injuries were mostly minor, police said, and the crowd eventually dispersed. It was not clear how many civilians were hurt or whether anyone was arrested.

Shortly before he was shot, Webber posted a live video on Facebook that showed him in a car, rapping and apparently smoking a marijuana cigarette. In the video, he looked out the window and said he saw police. With a laugh, he looked directly into the camera and said the officers would “have to kill me.”

Authorities did not state the reason for the arrest warrants.

The tense scene afterward raised the possibility of more disturbances in the predominantly black city, evoking memories of a string of sometimes violent protests against police brutality that broke out in other cities in recent years. Those clashes, notably many days of protests after an unarmed black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Marshals Service, an arm of the U.S. Justice Department, arrests fugitives, among other roles.

As news of the death spread, an angry crowd estimated at about 300 people gathered in the streets. Some threw rocks and spat at the police, the mayor said in his statement. Police strapped on protective riot gear and tried to control the crowd by spraying chemicals, according to officials and media reports. Video footage of the protests showed one man bashing a police car with a chair. The mayor said “multiple police cars” were vandalized.

Leslie Earhart, a spokeswoman for the bureau, declined to provide further information about the shooting while the investigation was ongoing, including the type of weapon Webber was reported to have had, the reason for the arrest warrants, and whether Webber’s father and neighbors were correct when they said Webber had been shot between 16 and 20 times.

Dave Oney, a spokesman for the Marshals Service, declined to say why marshals were seeking to arrest Webber.

The Facebook page for Webber, who was a father, was filled with tributes from friends mourning his death.

“The U.S. Marshals killed my son,” Sonny Webber, Brandon Webber’s father, said in a brief telephone interview. “He just had his first daughter a couple of weeks ago, and another daughter on the way.”

The younger Webber was also the father of a 2-year-old son, and had planned to attend the University the Memphis in August, his father said.

Tami Sawyer, an elected member of the board of county commissioners, said on Twitter many people in the crowd were enraged by the belief that Webber had been shot more than a dozen times.

The mayor chastised the protesters in his statement. “Let me be clear,” Strickland wrote, “the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Christians Fill Memphis Ballpark To Praise God During Atheist Convention

Attendees at an atheist convention that had used anti-Christian imagery to promote their event were shocked when they weren’t met with large protests and condemnation.

Instead, Christians filled Memphis’ baseball stadium to praise and rejoice over Jesus.

The event was called “Memphis Exalts Jesus” and was held during the Saturday of the American Atheists convention in Memphis.  The event was held at AutoZone Park, next to the Peabody Hotel where the atheists had gathered to mock the film “God’s Not Dead” and listen to speeches from anti-faith speakers.

The organizer of “Memphis Exalts Jesus” told the Christian Post that as he prayed about the atheist convention, he felt God calling him not to focus on them.

“We asked the Lord, should anything occur in light of the atheists convention coming to Memphis. As we prayed we sensed the Lord did not want any demonstrations or protests, but He seemed to stir in our hearts a gathering to focus only on His Son,” Steve Coplon said.

“We had an extended season of fasting and prayer and then found out that others had a similar burden. This led to a coming together of a few hundred to plan the event. Many who came are those who have really been praying for years for the Lord to do something significant in Memphis.”

Danielle Muscato of American Atheists said that her only concern about the Christian event is that people who are “in the closet about their atheism” wouldn’t come to the convention for fear of being seen by Christians who know them.