Michigan to charge state’s top medical official in Flint water deaths

Reuters finds 3,810 U.S. areas with lead poisoning double Flint’s

(Reuters) – Michigan’s top medical official will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the city of Flint’s water crisis, which was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths, state prosecutors said on Monday.

Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive who already faced lesser charges, would become the sixth current or former official to face involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the crisis.

The state intends to add involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office to the other charges of obstruction of justice and lying to police that Wells already faces, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

Jerold Lax, an attorney for Wells, said he first learned of the proposed additional charges at a pre-trial hearing on Monday when special prosecutor Todd Flood announced the state’s intention to file them.

Flood “indicated on the record that he would be providing us some additional information in relation to the charges,” Lax said, adding that he had no further comment.

The charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014.

Wells was among six current and former Michigan and Flint officials charged in June. The other five, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, were charged at the time with involuntary manslaughter stemming from their roles in handling the crisis.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

In court documents, prosecutors had previously said Wells lied to police about when she became aware of the Legionnaires’ outbreak and that she threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease.

Flood said Monday he was seeking the new charges based on new review of documents and testimony that came out last week, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The crisis in Flint erupted in 2015 when tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the predominantly black city of about 100,000.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have since fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators, state officials have said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool)

Michigan to charge top medical official in Flint water deaths

A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western High School in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water in Michigan, May 4, 2016.

(Reuters) – Michigan’s top medical official will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the city of Flint’s water crisis, which was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths, state prosecutors said on Monday.

Dr. Eden Wells, who already faced lesser charges, would become the sixth current or former official to face involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the crisis.

The state intends to add involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office to the other charges of obstruction of justice and lying to police that Wells already faces, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

An attorney for Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, could not immediately be reached by Reuters but Jerold Lax, one of her attorneys, told the Detroit Free Press they only learned of the proposed additional charges at a pre-trial hearing on Monday.

The charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014.

Wells was among six current and former Michigan and Flint officials charged in June. The other five, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, were charged at the time with involuntary manslaughter stemming from their roles in handling the crisis.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

In court documents, prosecutor had previously said Wells lied to police about when she became aware of the Legionnaires’ outbreak and that she threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease.

Special prosecutor Todd Flood said Monday he was seeking the new charges based on new review of documents and testimony that came out last week, the newspaper said.

The crisis in Flint erupted in 2015 when tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the predominantly black city of about 100,000.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have since fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators, state officials have said.

 

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

 

U.S. medic awarded Medal of Honor for Vietnam War heroism

U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to James McCloughan, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 71-year-old former Army medic from Michigan who saved wounded comrades under fire during the Vietnam War was given the highest U.S. military award by President Donald Trump in a White House ceremony on Monday.

James McCloughan, a retired high school teacher and coach from South Haven, received the Medal of Honor for his valor in saving the lives of 10 members of his platoon at the Battle of Nui Yon Hill in May 1969.

“Jim, I know I speak for every person here when I say that I am in awe of your actions and your bravery,” Trump said before fastening the medal with its star and blue ribbon around the white-haired veteran’s neck.

It was Trump’s first award of the Medal of Honor since taking office in January.

Ten men from McCloughan’s unit attended the medal ceremony, including five he saved, the president said.

McCloughan was 23 and serving as an Americal Division medic when he returned to the battlefield multiple times over 48 hours of fighting to retrieve the wounded soldiers, despite being hit himself with grenade shrapnel and gunfire, his citation said.

He refused to be evacuated to treat his wounds and held a strobe light in an open area at night for a resupply air drop, it said. He also destroyed a North Vietnamese Army position with a grenade.

The Medal of Honor generally must be awarded within five years of the actions that justify it. A former platoon leader began campaigning in 2009 for McCloughan to get the award, resulting in an act of Congress in December to waive the time limit.

President Barack Obama signed the act, making McCloughan eligible for the medal before he left office.

McCloughan left the service with a rank of specialist five and returned to Michigan. He taught psychology and sociology at South Haven High School and coached football, wrestling and baseball.

He is a member of the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. South Haven is about 180 miles (290 km) west of Detroit.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Steve Orlofsky)

Michigan sues Flint over failing to approve long-term water deal

FILE PHOTO - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan, U.S. on February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

By Suzannah Gonzales and Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – Michigan sued the city of Flint on Wednesday in federal court over its failure to approve a long-term drinking water source for residents.

Flint switched its water supply in 2014, sparking a crisis that was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and at least 12 deaths, as well as exposure of residents to dangerously high lead levels. Since October 2015, the city has obtained its water from the Great Lakes Water Authority.

But the Flint city council’s refusal this week to approve a long-term agreement with the supplier, negotiated by the city’s mayor, without proposing a reasonable alternative, will “cause an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health in Flint,” according to the lawsuit filed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The state is asking the court to bar Flint from changing water sources and adopt the long-term agreement.

“While disappointing that the state and federal government are now involved in making a decision we as city leaders should be making for Flint, I cannot say that I am surprised,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. She added that her plan was best option.

Instead of approving the long-term agreement, the city council voted on Monday to extend until September its contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority, local media reports said.

City Council President Kerry Nelson told the Detroit News the state’s June 26 deadline was too rushed for council members, who needed more time to examine the deal.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and state officials on Wednesday called on the council to approve the mayor’s deal.

“The city is well on its way to a full recovery, and to hinder that progress now would be a major and costly setback for residents,” Snyder’s spokeswoman, Anna Heaton, said.

The crisis erupted in 2015 after tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the industrial city of about 100,000, whose population is predominantly black.

The city had started using the Flint River for water in 2014. Water to Flint from the Great Lakes Water Authority comes from Lake Huron.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have now fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators.

Earlier this month, six current and former Michigan and Flint officials were criminally charged for their roles in the crisis.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by G Crosse, Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)

Suspect in Michigan airport stabbing to make court appearance

By Steve Friess

FLINT, Mich. (Reuters) – A man charged with stabbing an airport police officer in an attack federal investigators are probing as an act of terrorism is expected to appear in a Michigan federal court on Wednesday.

Amor Ftouhi, 49, of Quebec, Canada, was charged in federal court with violence at an international airport for stabbing officer Jeff Neville at the Bishop International Airport in Flint on June 21. Neville underwent surgery and has left the hospital, local media reported.

Ftouhi, originally from Tunisia and who holds dual Tunisian-Canadian citizenship, is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis at the federal courthouse in Flint on Wednesday morning.

Ftouhi legally entered the United States from Lake Champlain, New York, on June 16 before making his way to Flint, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. Officials said Ftouhi targeted a city with an international airport, but declined to say why Flint was chosen.

Ftouhi, who was not on the radar of U.S. or Canadian authorities before the attack, was in Michigan as early as June 18, the FBI said. U.S. and Canadian investigators are probing his travel before the attack.

According to the criminal complaint, Ftouhi yelled in Arabic “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) before stabbing Neville.

He also said something to the effect of “You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die,” the complaint said.

Ftouhi attempted to buy a gun before the attack, but was unable to do so, the FBI said.

FBI officials declined to provide details on where Ftouhi attempted to buy the gun or what type of gun he tried to purchase. The 12-inch, serrated knife Ftouhi used in the attack was bought in the United States.

(Additional reporting and writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Judge in Michigan blocks deportation of 100 Iraqis

Protesters rally outside the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By Dan Levine

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the deportation of about 100 Iraqi nationals rounded up in Michigan in recent weeks who argued that they could face persecution or torture in Iraq because they are religious minorities.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Michigan issued an order staying the deportation of the Iraqis for at least two weeks as he decides whether he has jurisdiction over the matter. Goldsmith said it was unclear whether the Iraqis would ultimately succeed.

The arrests shocked the close-knit Iraqi community in Michigan. Six Michigan lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives urged the government to hold off on the removals until Congress can be given assurances about the deportees’ safety.

The Michigan arrests were part of a coordinated sweep in recent weeks by immigration authorities who detained about 199 Iraqi immigrants around the country. They had final deportation orders and convictions for serious crimes.

The roundup followed Iraq’s agreement to accept deportees as part of a deal that removed the country from President Donald Trump’s revised temporary travel ban.

Some of those affected came to the United States as children and committed their crimes decades ago, but they had been allowed to stay because Iraq previously declined to issue travel documents for them. That changed after the two governments came to the agreement in March.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the Iraqis in Michigan, said: “The court’s action today was legally correct and may very well have saved numerous people from abuse and possible death.”

The U.S. government has argued that the district court does not have jurisdiction over the case. Only immigration courts can decide deportation issues, which can then only be reviewed by an appeals court, it said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said that people with convictions for murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, burglary and drugs and weapons charges were among the Iraqis arrested nationwide.

The ACLU argued that many of those affected in Michigan are Chaldean Catholics who are “widely recognized as targets of brutal persecution in Iraq.”

Some Kurdish Iraqis were also picked up in Nashville, Tennessee. In a letter on Thursday, Tennessee Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat, asked the Iraqi ambassador whether Iraq would be able to ensure safe passage for them if they were returned.

(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Eric Walsh in Washington; Editing by David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman)

FBI says probing Michigan airport stabbing as ‘act of terrorism’

Police investigators talk outside the home of Amor Ftouhi, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 21, 2017. Ftouhi has been identified as a suspect by the FBI in the stabbing of a police officer inside the main terminal of a small airport in Flint, Michigan. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

By Ben Klayman and Christinne Muschi

DETROIT/MONTREAL (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Wednesday it was investigating as an act of terrorism the stabbing of a police officer inside the main terminal of a small airport in Flint, Michigan.

“I will tell you that we are investigating this incident today that happened at about 9:45 this morning as an act of terrorism,” David Gelios, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the FBI, told reporters outside Bishop International Airport.

The U.S. Department of Justice identified the suspect as Amor M. Ftouhi, 49, of Quebec, Canada. Ftouhi legally entered the United States from Lake Champlain, New York, on June 16 before making his way to Flint, Gelios said.

According to a criminal complaint, Ftouhi yelled in Arabic “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) before stabbing Lieutenant Jeff Neville of the airport’s Department of Public Safety.

Neville was in satisfactory condition after undergoing surgery and expected to fully recover, police said.

“When the subject went up to the officer and stabbed him, he continued to exclaim ‘Allah’ and made a statement, something to the effect of ‘You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and we are all going to die,” Gelios said.

Ftouhi has been charged with violence at an international airport, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Gelios said other charges could be lodged against Ftouhi.

U.S. officials, who have questioned Ftouhi, currently believe he acted alone and was not part of a larger plot, Gelios said.

“Suffice it to say, he has a hatred for the United States,” Gelios said of Ftouhi.

Gelios described the weapon as a 12-inch knife with an 8-inch serrated blade. Ftouhi was a “lone wolf attacker,” he said.

It took four people to subdue Ftouhi, including the officer he stabbed and a nearby maintenance worker, said Chris Miller, the airport’s director of public safety. Miller and another officer also assisted.

According to the criminal complaint, after he was subdued Ftouhi asked why he had not been killed.

The airport was evacuated and there were no other injuries. It reopened on Wednesday evening.

A small regional airport, it has, on average, 16 commercial flights arriving or departing each day, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

Officials in the United States and Canada condemned the attack and said that agencies in both countries would work together to investigate the incident.

“Any attack on someone who serves and protects our citizens will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, adding that he had spoken with FBI officials about the attack.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the attack “heinous and cowardly.”

“We will do everything we possibly can to assist in this matter,” Goodale told reporters.

Police in Montreal went to an apartment building in the city’s Saint Michel area on Wednesday in connection with the stabbing, according to Radio-Canada, the French-language arm of Canada’s public broadcaster.

Radio-Canada reported that police questioned three people but did not search the apartment.

Police were guarding the entrance and rear doorway of the four-story building in Saint Michel, a lower income neighborhood with a large immigrant population, according to a Reuters eyewitness. A small crowd had gathered across the street.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not immediately return Reuters requests for comment.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago, Erich Beech in Washington and Anna Mehler Paperny and Amran Abocar in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Toni Reinhold)

Officer stabbed in attack at Michigan airport

(Reuters) – Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, was evacuated on Wednesday after a police officer was stabbed in the neck in what a U.S. government official familiar with the situation said was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism.

All passengers were safe, the airport said in a brief statement on its Facebook page. The officer who was stabbed is Lieutenant Jeff Neville of the Bishop International Airport Department of Public Safety, Michigan State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito said by telephone.

Neville underwent surgery after the attack and is stable, Dougovito said. Asked if the stabbing was under investigation as possible terrorism, the government official, who asked not be named, said “yes.”

The officer was stabbed inside the airport’s main terminal, Michigan State Police spokesman David Kaiser said in a telephone interview from the airport.

“We are aware of reports that the attacker made statements immediately prior to or while attacking the officer, but it is too early to determine the nature of these alleged statements or whether or not this was an act of terrorism,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit field office said in a statement.

Police have taken a “person of interest” into custody, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. Officials increased security at Flint City Hall, including additional police officers, in “an abundance of caution,” the statement said.

Bishop Airport is a small regional airport with two runways that has, on average, 16 commercial flights arriving or departing each day, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

The airport warned of potential cancellations and delays after the incident.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Brown)

Six Michigan officials criminally charged in Flint water crisis

FILE PHOTO - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan, U.S. on February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) – Six current and former Michigan and Flint officials were criminally charged on Wednesday for their roles in the city’s water crisis that was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths, the state’s attorney general said.

Five of the officials, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, were charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from their roles in handling the crisis, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Lyon, 49, was also charged with one count of misconduct in office. The felony charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Four current and former state and Flint officials were also charged with involuntary manslaughter. The four had all been previously charged with lesser crimes in connection with the water crisis.

The state’s chief medical executive, Eden Wells, was charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice and lying to police.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement that Lyon and Wells have his “full faith and confidence” and would remain on duty and help in Flint’s recovery.

An attorney for Lyon could not be reached for comment. It was not immediately known if Wells had an attorney.

Schuette said his team had not spoken with Snyder as part of the investigation.

“We attempted to interview the governor. We were not successful,” Schuette said. He declined to elaborate.

Previously, Schuette, when asked if Snyder was a target in the investigation, said there were no targets but “nobody is off the table.”

Some critics have called for high-ranking state officials, including Snyder, to be charged. Snyder previously said he believed he had not done anything criminally wrong.

“The governor isn’t going to speculate on where the investigation is or is not headed, but he continues to cooperate fully,” Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, said in a statement that Snyder was made available to testify under oath this spring after being told a subpoena would be produced, but that never occurred. He added that Snyder previously testified under oath to Congress.

Wednesday’s charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including the fatalities, that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source to the Flint River from Lake Huron in April 2014.

Lyon was aware of the Legionnaires’ outbreak in Genesee County at least one year before he informed the public, according to court documents. His deliberate failure to inform the public resulted in the death of Genesee Township resident Robert Skidmore, 85, from Legionnaires’ in December 2015, the documents said.

Wells lied to police about when she became aware of the outbreak, according to the documents. She also threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease, court documents said.

“It’s good to see that state Attorney General Schuette and his team are taking this matter seriously,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. “We all are waiting to see what else the investigation uncovers.”

The crisis in Flint erupted in 2015 when tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the predominantly black city of about 100,000.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have now fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators, state officials said last January.

Others charged with involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday included former state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Flint city employee Howard Croft, and former state Department of Environmental Quality officials Stephen Busch and Liane Shekter-Smith.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis)

DNA links man to two Michigan police shootings: law enforcement

(Reuters) – A man charged in the shooting of two Detroit police officers earlier this week has been linked through DNA evidence to the fatal shooting of a university police officer last year, authorities said.

Raymond Durham, 60, who was charged in shootings of two Detroit officers on Wednesday, is now the “prime suspect” in the November shooting death of Wayne State University Police Sergeant Collin Rose, Detroit Police Chief James Craig told the media on Friday.

Craig declined to provide details on the DNA evidence that links Durham to Rose’s death, citing the ongoing investigation.

Durham was charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor on Friday in connection with the shootings of the two Detroit officers, the Detroit Free Press reported.

He was arraigned while in hospital, where he is receiving treatment after being shot in the leg during a shoot-out with officers.

One officer was shot once in the ankle and twice in the upper torso, but was wearing protective body armor that likely saved his life. The other officer was shot in the neck, police said. They are both recovering in hospital, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The shoot-out occurred while officers were investigating drug activity on the city’s West Side, just blocks from where Rose, 29, was shot on Nov. 22. He died a day later.

Police are compiling evidence to present to prosecutors regarding Rose’s killing, Craig said on Friday. He said he anticipated charges would be filed against Durham for that shooting.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Paul Tait)