Dayton gunman had cocaine, Xanax, alcohol in his system during attack

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a memorial for those killed in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – The gunman who killed nine people outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, had cocaine, Xanax and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting rampage, the county coroner said on Thursday.

Dayton police announced the findings at a press conference and on Twitter and said that two victims of the massacre were struck by gunfire from law enforcement officers responding to the scene.

“While it weighs heavily on us that our response caused harm to these victims, we are comforted that none of our rounds caused the death of any of these innocent people,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said on Twitter.

Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner, said at the news conference that an autopsy conducted on the body of 24-year-old Connor Betts found the drugs and medication in his system.

It was not clear how much of each drug was present at the time of the attack.

The Aug. 4 massacre, which ended when police shot and killed the gunman, was one of three mass shootings over three weeks that stunned Americans and stoked a long-running debate over gun rights.

Earlier this week a friend of Betts, 24-year-old Ethan Kollie, was charged in federal court with lying his drug use on a form he filled out to buy a gun and with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

In announcing the charges, prosecutors said Kollie admitted that he had purchased body armor, an accessory for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a 100-round double drum magazine that Betts used during the shooting.

Kollie kept the items at his apartment in the Dayton suburb of Kettering to conceal them from Betts’ parents, according to court papers. Kollie is not accused with helping plan or carry out the attack.

Betts opened fire outside a bar in the Oregon District of Dayton at 1 a.m. on Aug. 4. The shooting ended rapidly when police moved in and shot Betts dead. Those killed included Betts’ 22-year-old sister, Megan.

The FBI said last week that Betts had a history of violent obsessions and had mused about committing mass murder before his rampage in Dayton’s historic downtown.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

New York attorney general probing Brooklyn police shooting death

Saheed Vassell points a metal pipe at a pedestrian in Brooklyn April 4, 2018, in a still image from surveillance video released by the New York Police Department in New York City, New York, U.S. on April 5, 2018. Images of some faces have been obscured at source. NYPD/Handout via REUTERS

By Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York State attorney general’s office said on Thursday it would investigate the fatal shooting by police of an unarmed black man in Brooklyn after he pointed a metal pipe at officers that they believed was a gun.

Saheed Vassell points a metal pipe at a pedestrian in Brooklyn April 4, 2018, in a still image from surveillance video released by the New York Police Department in New York City, New York, U.S. on April 5, 2018. NYPD/Handout via REUTERS

Saheed Vassell points a metal pipe at a pedestrian in Brooklyn April 4, 2018, in a still image from surveillance video released by the New York Police Department in New York City, New York, U.S. on April 5, 2018. NYPD/Handout via REUTERS

“We’re committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive and fair investigation,” Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in a statement.

The death of Saheed Vassell on Wednesday was the latest fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by police, fueling more protests and heightening a nationwide debate over the use of excessive force by police and accusations of racial bias in the criminal justice system.

More than 200 demonstrators and activists took to the streets of the Crown Heights neighborhood in which Vassell was shot, chanting “Justice for Saheed.”

“They murdered my son and I want justice for him,” Lorna Vassell, his mother, said at the protest.

The family has demanded a coroner’s inquest.

Police said Vassell was killed by officers responding to reports of a man aiming a gun at pedestrians. When the officers arrived, police said, Vassell took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at them.

The officers believed the suspect was holding a firearm, a senior police official told a news conference on Wednesday, and three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer fired 10 shots. Vassell died in a hospital.

Saheed Vassell points a metal pipe before being shot to death by police in Brooklyn April 4, 2018, in a still image from surveillance video released by the New York Police Department in New York City, New York, U.S. on April 5, 2018. NYPD/Handout via REUTERS

Saheed Vassell points a metal pipe before being shot to death by police in Brooklyn April 4, 2018, in a still image from surveillance video released by the New York Police Department in New York City, New York, U.S. on April 5, 2018. NYPD/Handout via REUTERS

Police on Thursday released security camera footage that showed Vassell approaching people on the street and pointing the pipe at them as if it were a pistol. They also released partial transcripts of three 911 emergency calls.

“There’s a guy walking around the street, he looks like he’s crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he’s pulling the trigger,” one of the callers said.

Local media reported that Vassell was 34 years old, suffered from mental illness, and was well known in parts of Crown Heights.

His killing followed the fatal shooting by police of an unarmed black man, Stephon Clark, 22, in Sacramento, California, that has sparked more than two weeks of demonstrations.

Officers responding to a report of someone breaking windows killed Clark on March 18 in his grandmother’s backyard. The officers feared he had a gun, but it turned out he was holding a cellphone, Sacramento police said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bill Trott, Tom Brown)

Rising tensions at protests over killing of black man in California

Salena Manni (L), fiancee of Stephon Clark, holds their son Cairo and an unidentified man holds son Aiden (2nd R) while Basim Elkarra speaks and Rev Shane Harris listens at a rally in Sacramento, California, U.S., March 31, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong

By Bob Strong

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Tensions mounted over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Sacramento, California, black man when a protester sustained minor injuries when struck by a sheriff’s patrol car that was under attack by demonstrators, authorities said on Sunday.

About 150 people demonstrated in Sacramento on Saturday night to protest the March 18 shooting death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was gunned down in his grandmother’s yard.

The death of Clark, a father of two, was the latest in a string of killings of black men by police that have triggered street protests and fueled a renewed national debate about bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Protesters on Saturday night surrounded two marked Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and “began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement early Sunday.

“A collision occurred involving the sheriff’s patrol vehicle and a protester who was walking in the roadway,” the statement said. “The patrol car was traveling at slow speeds.”

The protester was identified by local media as Wanda Cleveland, 61, who regularly attends Sacramento City Council meetings.

The protester was transported by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department to a hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries, the Sheriff’s Department said.

“Vandals in the crowd” damaged the patrol car, which “sustained scratches, dents, and a shattered rear window,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

Demonstrators interviewed by local radio and television stations, who prompted a flurry of similar Twitter responses, said the sheriff’s car failed to stop and called the incident a hit-and-run accident.

The incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Saturday’s demonstration brought together a multi-racial crowd, many in it holding signs such as “Stop Police Rage” and “Power to the People.” It was led by retired National Basketball Association player Matt Barnes, who grew up in the area and had two stints with the Sacramento Kings franchise.

Clark was shot by police responding to a report that someone was breaking windows. Police said the officers feared he had a gun but that he was later found to have been holding a cellphone.

Police have said he was moving toward officers in a menacing way. The shooting was captured on a body cam video released by police.

In several days of sporadic protests, protesters have blocked traffic and twice delayed fans from reaching games played by the Kings at the Golden 1 Center.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York: editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Video poses new questions about 2014 Ferguson police shooting

Police line up in front of the Ferguson Market Liquor during a protest, following a release of previously undisclosed video of Michael Brown

(Reuters) – Previously undisclosed video of Michael Brown, recorded hours before the unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has raised new questions about his final hours.

The footage shows Brown – whose death in 2014 prompted national protests and kindled a debate about how U.S. police treat minorities – at a convenience store the night before he was killed. It was unearthed by a documentary filmmaker, according to the New York Times.

Shortly after Brown’s death, local police released video of a later visit to the same store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, which showed Brown pushing a worker before walking out with cigarillos in an apparent robbery.

Brown’s family and protesters criticized the release of the video as an effort to demonize the teenager.

Witnesses have given conflicting accounts of his deadly encounter a short time later by police officer Darren Wilson. Local and federal investigations cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing.

The new video, which appears in the documentary “Stranger Fruit,” an extract of which was published by the Times, shows Brown in an earlier, seemingly more amicable exchange.

The video shows Brown giving store employees what appears to be a small bag, the contents of which the employees pass around and sniff. One employee gives Brown two boxes of cigarillos in a carrier bag.

Brown takes a few steps away before turning back and handing the bag back to an employee who appears to stash it behind the counter.

Jason Pollock, the documentary filmmaker, said the video shows Brown exchanging marijuana for cigarillos and undermines the police account that Brown may have robbed the store.

“Mike traded the store a little bag of weed and got two boxes of cigarillos in return,” Pollock says in the documentary. “He left his items at the store and he went back the next day to pick them up. Mike did not rob the store.”

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, also appears in the documentary, saying, “There was some type of exchange, for one thing, for another.”

Jay Kanzler, a lawyer for the convenience store, was quoted by the Times as disputing the filmmaker’s explanation, saying the store did not exchange anything with Brown.

“The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door with unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back,” Kanzler was quoted as saying.

Kanzler did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

North Carolina police officer justified in black man’s shooting

Keith Scott looks over to police with hands by his sides just before he was shot four times by Charlotte police in Charlotte, North Carolina,

By Greg Lacour

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – The police officer who shot and killed a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September “acted lawfully” and will not be charged for his use of force, the local district attorney said on Wednesday.

Officer Brentley Vinson reasonably believed he and fellow officers faced an imminent threat from Keith Scott, 43, who was armed with a cocked and loaded gun when they confronted him in the parking lot of a Charlotte apartment complex, District Attorney Andrew Murray told a news conference.

“Officers can be heard at least 10 times ordering Mr. Scott to drop the gun,” Murray said. “Mr. Scott did not comply with those commands.”

Scott’s family has denied he had a weapon during the Sept. 20 incident, which sparked a week of sometimes violent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city and a U.S. banking hub.

But Murray said “all of the credible and available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, armed.”

The shooting made Charlotte another flashpoint in two years of protests over police killings of black men, many of them unarmed, across the country.

A day after Scott was killed, demonstrators took to the streets in the upscale urban area known as “Uptown,” where some looted businesses, smashed windows and blocked traffic.

Dozens of people were arrested, and a man was fatally shot amid the chaos.

(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Justice Department opens probe into black Louisiana man’s death

Sandra Sterling, reacts during community vigil in memory of her nephew, Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police, at the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.

By Edward Krudy

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the fatal police shooting of a black man in Louisiana’s capital, the state’s governor said on Thursday, as two deadly encounters between law enforcement and black men triggered protests in the United States.

The probe comes as community leaders in Baton Rouge urged authorities to conduct a full-scale criminal probe of two white police officers over the slaying of Alton Sterling, 37, on Tuesday.

“I want you to know that a criminal investigation is under way. It is being led by the U.S. Department of Justice,” Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards told hundreds of people at Living Faith Cathedral in Baton Rouge on Thursday evening.

“We are going to come out of this tragedy stronger and more united than ever,” he added.

Sterling was pinned to the ground and fatally shot in the chest outside a convenience store after the officers responded to what police said was a call about a black man reported to have made threats with a gun.

The Justice Department said on Wednesday it would conduct a civil rights investigation into Sterling’s death.

The city’s mayor and police chief welcomed the move, but community leaders said they worried the probe would be too limited and urged authorities to consider all possible federal and state criminal charges against officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake.

“We don’t want this to be a narrow investigation,” Edgar Cage, a spokesman for the community organization Together Baton Rouge, said at a church earlier on Thursday. “We plan to use this tragic event as a tool, a stimulant to change the culture.”

President Barack Obama said in a statement he had full confidence in the Justice Department’s ability to conduct a “thoughtful, thorough and fair inquiry” into Sterling’s death.

Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, CNN reported on Thursday that a homeless man placed the 911 call after seeking money from Sterling, who was selling CDs outside the store.

The 300-pound (135-kg) Sterling showed the man his gun and said to leave him alone, the official told CNN. Reuters could not independently confirm that account with Baton Rouge police, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Sterling, a father of five, had several criminal convictions since the mid-1990s for battery, resisting arrest, burglary and other crimes. He was a registered sex offender after spending nearly four years in prison on a charge he had sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 20.

COMMUNITY-POLICE CHASM

Sterling’s death was the first of two fatal police shootings of black men in two days. Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on Wednesday near Minneapolis.

The shootings and videos showing their bloody aftermath have sparked protests, including an overnight rally in Baton Rouge that drew about 300 people who stood in a peaceful vigil near the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was killed.

Obama said that “all Americans should be deeply troubled” by the two deaths, which he said were indicative of wider problems in the U.S. criminal justice system.

At the Baton Rouge church on Thursday, Edwards said there would be a new focus on training and retraining in the police department, and stressed the need to introduce people to the police at an early age.

His words appeared to address concerns voiced by many community leaders in recent days about a chasm between the black community and the police.

Video recorded by a bystander’s cellphone showed an officer confronting Sterling and ordering him to the ground. The two officers then tackled him to the pavement, with one pulling a gun from his holster and pointing it at Sterling’s chest.

One officer shot Sterling five times at close range, and the other took something from his pants pocket as he was dying, another video recorded by Abdullah Muflahi, owner of the store where Sterling was killed in the parking lot, showed.

Police said Sterling was armed. Muflahi said in an interview that police took a gun out of Sterling’s pocket after shooting him.

Officers Lake and Salamoni have been put on administrative leave, police said. In Lake’s three years and Salamoni’s four years on the force, both have been cleared by the police department after prior complaints against them regarding use of force, the Advocate newspaper reported, citing records.

The deaths of Sterling and Castile were the latest in a string of incidents in recent years involving police treatment of black men and boys in cities including Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Cleveland.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Bryn Stole; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney)