With Crime rising through our nation Police reach out to the Church

Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Important Takeaways:

  • As Crime Surges in US Cities, Strained Police Forces Turn to Houses of Worship for Help
  • Major American cities are facing a perfect storm. Violent crime is growing and law enforcement agencies are struggling to keep officers on the job.
  • In Gresham, Oregon, Sgt. Travis Garrison says a crime spike is forcing his department to choose which calls and crimes they can send officers to. “We’re only able to investigate murders,” Sgt. Garrison said. “We’ll routinely respond to shootings but if the person is going to survive, we are not going to follow up on that.”
  • In Philadelphia, police disbanded their abandoned car unit. In Los Angeles, police cut their homeless outreach and animal cruelty teams.
  • In an unprecedented move, departments are turning to houses of worship, hoping faith can help reduce that trend.
  • More than 25 law enforcement groups joined prominent faith leaders on Capitol Hill, Tuesday – inviting communities to participate in the National Faith and Blue Weekend.
  • Chief Patrick Ogden, Associate Chief of Police at the University of Delaware, sees these partnerships as key to building stronger and safer communities.

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Murder rates across the nation

Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Important Takeaways:

  • Emerging crime capitals of America: These cities have the highest murders per capita
  • There are certain U.S. cities that have consistently battled violent crime — particularly homicide — throughout the past three decades: Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, even New York City.
  • A compilation of June police data from cities with populations greater than 200,000 by AH Analytics co-founder Jeff Asher lists the top 31 U.S. cities with the highest murder rates, in order, so far in 2022.
    • New Orleans has a murder rate of 36.8 per capita so far this year,
    • followed by Baltimore at a rate of 29.1;
    • Birmingham at a rate of 29.1,
    • St. Louis at a rate of 27.8,
    • Milwaukee at a rate of 19,
    • Cleveland at a rate of 16.9,
    • Rochester at a rate of 16.6,
    • Philadelphia at a rate of 15.1,
    • Atlanta at a rate of 14.9,
    • Kansas City, Missouri at a rate of 14.6.
  • These numbers only reflect murder numbers halfway through 2022 and are subject to change.
  • “I think … you can see a trend in increased violence across our country as a whole”

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NYC man defending his life thrown into Rikers Prison

Psalm 11:5 The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Important Takeaways:

  • Crime tipping point: NYC bodega case could spark crackdown on violent criminals
  • After an argument between 61-year-old bodega worker Jose Alba and a woman customer, the woman’s boyfriend, Austin Simon, entered the bodega and attacked Alba behind the counter. During the struggle, Alba grabbed a knife and stabbed Simon. At some point Simon’s girlfriend also joined the fight, stabbing Alba several times in the arm. Simon died of his wounds. Alba was arrested by police and charged with intentional murder by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
  • Alba was sent to New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail after the DA requested $500,000 bail (which the judge knocked down to $250,000).
  • Meanwhile, Simon’s girlfriend, who told Alba, “I’m gonna bring my n—– down here and he gonna f— you up,” faces no charges, and Alba’s untreated stab wounds became infected at Rikers.
  • In Manhattan, Bragg entered office this year by issuing a notorious “reform” memo that instructed prosecutors to avoid jail time for all but the most serious crimes – all while crime was significantly up in New York over the prior year in nearly every major category (index crimes are up another 38% so far this year).

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One of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives dies in police shootout

Mark 13:12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.

Important Takeaways:

  • A Texas inmate suspected of murdering five people after he escaped from a prison bus was killed by authorities
  • The victims were four students who attended Tomball Independent School District and their grandfather, school officials said Friday.
  • Lopez, who was serving a life sentence for a capital murder in Hidalgo County and an attempted capital murder in Webb County, managed to break free from his shackles, overpower a bus driver and escape from custody

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Murder rates surge while American’s stress over pandemic

Mark 13:12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Stress, Anxiety, Lot of Anger:’ Pandemic and Other Factors Fueling America’s Surging Murder Rate
  • Experts say the spike in homicides began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • “Pent up stress, anxiety, a lot of anger. People started losing their jobs. People are drinking more,” Criminologist Dr. Alex Piquero
  • “All of these things put together have occurred in every city in the United States,” said Piquero.
  • In 2021, Chicago, a city long plagued by deadly gun violence, saw its deadliest year in 25 years with 797 murders.
  • Los Angeles counted nearly 400 deaths in 2021 and 134 in Oakland. Both California municipalities’ murder rates reached 15-year highs.
  • Austin, Texas, recorded an unprecedented number of murders last year.

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Three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia

By Jonathan Allen and Rich McKay

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Reuters) – Three white men were convicted of murder on Wednesday for chasing and shooting a Black man named Ahmaud Arbery as he ran in their neighborhood, with a Georgia jury rejecting a self-defense claim in a trial that once again probed America’s divisive issues of race and guns.

The verdict was delivered by the jury, consisting of one Black man and 11 white men and women, after about a two-week trial in the coastal city of Brunswick in a case that hinged on whether the defendants had a right to confront the unarmed 25-year-old avid jogger last year on a hunch he was fleeing a crime.

Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were charged with murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony. They face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Jurors reached their verdict on the second day of deliberations.

There was never any dispute that the younger McMichael fired his pump-action shotgun three times at Arbery at close range on Feb. 23, 2020, in the suburban community of Satilla Shores. It was captured on a graphic cellphone video made by Bryan, stoking outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learned that none of the three men had been arrested.

Lawyers for the McMichaels argued that the killing was justified after Arbery ran past the McMichaels’ driveway in a neighborhood that had experienced a spate of property thefts. Both McMichaels grabbed their guns and jumped in their pickup truck in pursuit, with Bryan, unarmed, joining moments later.

Prosecutors said the defendants had “assumed the worst” about a Black man out on a Sunday afternoon jog. He was chased by the defendants for about five minutes around the looping streets.

The three men face a federal trial next year on hate-crime charges, accused in an indictment of violating Arbery’s civil rights by embarking on the fatal chase because of his “race and color.”

Some Black Americans used a despairing phrase to describe a case seen as another example of Black people falling under suspicion while innocently doing an everyday activity: “running while Black.” Arbery’s name was added to those invoked in nationwide anti-racism protests in 2020 that erupted after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom were Black.

The prosecution was widely seen as another test case in how the U.S. justice system handles instances of unarmed Black people killed by white people. During the trial, there was almost no evidence presented or discussion of race as a motive.

The issue of race hung over the trial. A nearly all-white jury was selected, and one of the defense lawyers repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, sought the removal of Black pastors and civil rights leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson from the courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said he was required to accept the “race-neutral” reasons defense lawyers gave for the removal of all but one potential Black juror. Black activists said it showed again how the justice system was skewed against Black Americans.

CITIZEN’S ARREST

Defense lawyers cited a Georgia law codified during the 19th century U.S. Civil War that allowed anyone to make a citizen’s arrest of someone they have reasonable suspicion is fleeing a serious crime they committed. The law was repealed in the wake of Arbery’s killing.

The elder McMichael’s lawyer, Laura Hogue, told jurors the defendants had a duty to catch Arbery, who she portrayed as a frightening burglar with “long dirty toenails,” using a description from the autopsy report.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski chided the defense for aiming to “malign the victim,” calling that “offensive.”

No evidence ever emerged connecting Arbery to any Satilla Shore thefts.

Travis McMichael, a former U.S. Coast Guard mechanic and the only defendant to take the witness stand, tearfully testified that he fired in self defense as Arbery grabbed the shotgun he was carrying while chasing him in the truck.

Under cross-examination by a prosecutor, he conceded he told the police hours after the shooting he could not say for sure if Arbery actually grabbed the gun.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Brunswick; Editing by Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman)

Accused Colorado supermarket shooter deemed mentally incompetent

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) -Psychologists who evaluated a 22-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Colorado grocery store in March have found him incompetent to stand trial, but prosecutors are seeking a second mental health evaluation, court records showed on Monday.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, and dozens of attempted murder and related charges stemming from the March 22 rampage at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, about 28 miles northwest of Denver.

Prosecutors allege Alissa stormed the supermarket and opened fire with a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic pistol that he had legally purchased six days before the rampage.

Among those killed was a responding Boulder policeman.

Alissa has been held without bond since his arrest, and last month a judge ordered that he undergo a competency evaluation.

The report by the two court-appointed psychologists has not been released, but their conclusions were set out in a motion filed by prosecutors for a second examination, to which defense lawyers object.

In their motion, prosecutors argued that the initial evaluation showed Alissa is aware of his legal predicament.

“Defendant indicates an understanding of his charges, the potential sentence, the roles of the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney,” the prosecution motion said.

In objecting to the prosecution request, defense attorneys said Alissa mistakenly believes he could be executed if found guilty.

“The death penalty is not a potential sentence in this case, and the report reflects his (Alissa’s) fixation on that as a sentence,” the defense motion said.

Under Colorado law, a judge is required to conduct a competency hearing before ruling on whether a defendant is mentally fit to stand trial.

The judge has not ruled on the prosecution request, though the issue will likely be argued during an Oct. 14 competency review hearing.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Grebler and Alistair Bell)

Uganda charges lawmakers allied to opposition leader with murder

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan prosecutors on Tuesday charged two lawmakers allied to opposition leader Bobi Wine with the murder of three people, following a spate of unsolved killings that have stoked widespread public alarm.

Wine’s opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) dismissed the prosecution of the two MPs, Muhammad Ssegirinya and Mr Allan Ssewanyana, both NUP members, as a politically motivated attempt by authorities to smear the party.

Appearing at a court in Masaka town in central Uganda, south of the capital Kampala, the two were charged with the three murders and remanded in prison, Joel Ssenyonyi, a fellow NUP lawmaker and the party’s spokesperson, told Reuters.

Security agencies have been investigating a spate of killings of at least 26 people in a wide area around Masaka in recent weeks.

In accounts widely reported in local media, machete-wielding men would arrive at victims’ homes in the middle of the night and cut them to death. Most of those killed were elderly people.

The area where the attacks have occurred voted overwhelmingly against incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, 76, in a presidential election in January 2021.

Police on Monday said they had arrested 23 suspects linked to the killings, adding some implicated the two lawmakers during interrogation as “the masterminds behind the vicious murders.”

The motive, police said, citing suspects, was to attack elderly residents who had voted for Museveni. Information minister Chris Baryomunsi last month told local television that politicians were behind the killings, but did not name them.

The NUP reacted dismissively.

“This is just political witch-hunt,” Ssenyonyi said.

“This is just a plan they hatched to implicate the opposition … they know the real killers,” Ssenyonyi said.

Riding on his youthful energy and his fame, 39-year-old Wine, who is also a pop star, has gathered a large youth following. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has presented a formidable challenge to Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement party.

Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, was ultimately declared winner of the election, although Wine rejected the results as fraudulent. The United States and other western countries said the poll lacked credibility.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema, Editing by William Maclean)

Haiti former first lady calls for help in unraveling husband’s murder

By Dave Sherwood

(Reuters) – The widow of Haiti’s slain President Jovenel Moise called on the international community to help track down those responsible for gunning down her husband in a late night raid by suspected mercenaries at the couple’s home in July.

Moise’s assassination plunged the Caribbean nation, already plagued by hunger and gang violence, further into chaos, and triggered a hunt for the masterminds across the Americas.

Wearing a black dress and sling following the injuries she suffered during the attack, Martine Moise told Reuters in a room flanked by bodyguards on Monday that while Haitian authorities had made some advances, she feared progress had slowed.

“I feel that the process is… stalling a little,” she said. “The people that did this are still out there, and I don’t know if their name will ever be out. Every country that can help, please help.”

Nearly two months after the July 7 assassination of her husband, key aspects of the murder remain shrouded in mystery. Haitian police have arrested more than three dozen suspects, including 18 Colombian mercenaries, an obscure Haitian-American doctor they say aspired to be president, and the head of Moise’s security team.

But they have made public little in the way of evidence.

“Those people (they have arrested) did it, but someone gave the orders, someone gave the money,” Moise told Reuters.

She said she had spoken twice with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and felt they could “find the people that financed that odious crime.”

As security worries have dogged the investigation in Haiti, one judge investigating the case stepped down, citing concerns for his safety.

First lady Moise said Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is also now dealing with the aftermath of an August earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people, must call for elections as soon as possible to ensure stability.

“I think the advice that my husband would give him (is) try to have an election. With the election you can have peace, you can think long term,” she said.

Elections initially slated for September have been postponed until November, and some have speculated they could be delayed further following the quake.

“If they want elections to happen, (they) will,” said Moise.

Moise confirmed previous comments she had made in interviews on her interest in running for president herself but said that she would take care of her family first.

“I want to run for president. I won’t let the vision of the president die with him. With the earthquake too, there’s a lot to be done in Haiti,” she said.

HAITI RUMOR MILL

Amid the ongoing investigation and arrests, conspiracy theories about the murder in Haiti have swirled for weeks.

Friends of the murdered president have told Reuters he feared for his life immediately before he was killed.

His wife on Monday said he had not talked to her of a specific plot against him.

“If he knew he would talk about it… but he never did,” she said. “Because having Colombians, having soldiers here in Haiti, they are here for something.”

She denied social media rumors that Moise had squirreled away millions in cash in his official residence in the upscale suburb of Petion-Ville.

“It is a president. There is some money. But the amount of $48 million that I heard in social media, that can’t be true. Where in the room (can you stick) $48 million?”

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Head of Belarusian exile group found hanged in Ukraine, police open murder case

By Ilya Zhegulev and Margaryta Chornokondratenko

KYIV (Reuters) – Vitaly Shishov, an exiled Belarusian activist who was found hanged in a park in Kyiv in what police say could have been a murder, was an outspoken critic of the government in Belarus and staged rallies against it in Ukraine’s capital.

After leaving Belarus last autumn during huge anti-government protests that he took part in, the 26-year-old set up and led a Kyiv-based organization that helped Belarusians fleeing a sprawling crackdown on dissent.

Shishov, who was sporty and a boxing enthusiast, was sure he was under surveillance in Kyiv and he outed purported Belarusian agents at rallies, friends and colleagues said.

“He would photograph the person, film him and after that it wasn’t too hard to find him online,” Denis Stadzhi, a Belarusian journalist and diaspora member, told Reuters.

Police say his death was either a suicide or a murder made to look like a suicide. His colleagues accuse the Belarusian security services of murdering him. Authorities in Minsk have not commented.

Shishov was a fierce critic of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko whose declared win at last year’s elections sparked mass protests. Shishov described him in one post as a “bloodthirsty monster” and a “dictator”.

In Kyiv, he set up the Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU) together with a Latvian national. The group helps fleeing Belarusians find accommodation, jobs and legal advice. Kyiv has become a haven for Belarusians fleeing the crackdown.

Shishov’s group staged rallies and were involved in opposition events like a sit-in outside the Belarusian embassy and an event to commemorate Belarusian post-Soviet independence.

Ihor, 24, a group member who declined to give his surname, said the group had written manuals to help Belarusians settle in and legalize themselves.

“He didn’t shy away from anything. He advised people on how to leave Belarus, he organized food aid… He wrote posts with information, articles. He did everything,” he said.

“Vitaly was being followed… There was a case when a car followed him straight out of Kyiv. They noticed the tail, made a detour and saw that it really was following them,” he said.

Yuri Shchuchko, a close friend and activist, told Reuters that Shishov had run several channels on Telegram messenger that Belarus has labelled “extremist”. He said some of those related to a movement that “intended to struggle against the Lukashenko regime using not the most peaceful methods”.

Shishov was reported missing by his partner on Monday after failing to return home from a run.

“When a man is a warrior, he is ready for death,” Shchuchko said. “Judging from what I know about Vitaly, he was ready for the fight, he was a warrior, he suppressed his fear and that’s why went out for jogging (in the wood).”

Shchuchko said he had identified Shishov’s body and that a police officer at the site had said Shishov had a broken nose.

Police later said he did not have a broken nose, but there were abrasions on his nose and knee. It said a proper examination was needed to determine if he had been beaten.

(Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy and Natalia Zinets; Writing by Tom Balmforth, Editing by William Maclean)