White Kenosha cop cleared in shooting of Jacob Blake

KENOSHA, Wisc. (Reuters) – Prosecutors on Tuesday cleared a white police officer in the Aug. 23 shooting of Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, an incident that touched off deadly street protests and inflamed racial tensions in the United States.

The decision by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley against charging police officer Rusten Sheskey of any crimes could incite more demonstrations, which have repeatedly broken out in American cities in recent years after police have been cleared in shootings of Black men.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Gunman shot dead by police at NYC church after concert; no one else wounded

By Jeenah Moon and Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gunman shouting “Kill me!” opened fire from the steps of New York City’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine just after an outdoor choir performance there on Sunday, and was himself shot dead by police, according to police and a Reuters photographer at the scene.

No one else was struck by gunfire thanks to quick action by three officers on the scene who confronted the suspect, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters following the late-afternoon violence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The suspect, who was not identified, was struck at least once in the head during the gun battle and was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Shea said police fired a total of 15 rounds at the suspect.

Police recovered two semiautomatic handguns from the scene, and a bag apparently belonging to the suspect that contained a full can of gasoline, rope, wire, several knives, a Bible and tape, according to Shea.

“I think we can all surmise the ill intentions of the proceeds of this bag,” he added.

The shooting occurred outside the landmark cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, located at Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street, about 15 minutes after the conclusion of an outdoor choir performance on the church steps attended by about 200 people.

The choir’s annual Christmas holiday concert had been moved outside in keeping with COVID-19 health safety rules. The performers and most of the audience had either gone inside the church or left before the shooting began, Shea said.

Only about 15 people were still present when the gunman appeared at the top of the steps, screaming, “Kill me,” and “shoot me,” as he fired a handgun, sending bystanders running for cover in panic, according to a Reuters photographer who was on the scene.

Police officers who had taken cover ordered the suspect several times to drop his weapon before shooting him, the photographer said. Members of the choir were already back inside the church by the time of the shooting, which lasted several minutes, she said.

“Thankfully, this year with COVID, there was a much smaller event than normal,” Shea said at the scene. “It is by the grace of God today that we don’t have anyone struck.”

Reuters photographs of the gunman showed him wearing a black winter coat, a white baseball-style cap and a face mask emblazoned with the flag of the Dominican Republic, as he stood wielding two pistols, one in each hand. He also was carrying a large backpack strapped to his shoulders.

Footage from local news media showed police searching a car parked nearby as well.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter that “quick action of our NYPD officers kept the crowd safe.”

(Reporting by Jeenah Moon and Peter Szekely in New York City; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Diane Craft)

Ohio city braces for demonstrations over police shooting

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Protesters were expected to gather on Friday evening in downtown Columbus, Ohio, to demand transparency in investigations in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old Black man killed by a sheriff’s deputy while entering his home last week.

The shooting occurred on Dec. 4 after a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy said he spotted a man with a gun in the Northland neighborhood of Columbus, according to authorities. The officer fired his weapon after the man failed to obey commands to drop the gun, police said.

The family of the slain man, Casey Christopher Goodson, said he had been shot while returning from a dental appointment after buying three sandwiches at a local shop. A coroner’s report said that he was shot multiple times in the torso.

“I’m calling for justice and that’s all I’m calling for,” Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, said in a news conference Thursday. “My son was a peaceful man and I want his legacy to continue in peace.”

Lawyers for the deputy, identified as Jason Meade, said that Goodson had pointed a gun at him before the shooting, CBS News and other media reported.

The shooting is the latest in a spate of killings of African Americans by police in the United States this that have triggered a wave of protests over racial injustice and brutality by law enforcement.

Columbus police, along with federal authorities, have launched investigations into the shooting, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Tom Quinlan, chief of police in Columbus, has promised an “independent, meticulous unbiased investigation.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Alistair Bell)

‘Death coming for me’: Gunmen cut young lives short in Kabul campus slaughter

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Orooj Hakimi and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) – As Mohammad clambered out of a second-floor window at Kabul University on Monday to escape gunmen rampaging across the campus, he was sure death was close.

Minutes earlier, the 20-year-old had been sitting in his classroom in the Afghan university’s National Legal Training Center building, waiting for a lecturer at the start of what should have been a regular Monday morning.

Then three gunmen began shooting, killing at least 35 in an attack on unarmed young people that has shocked a country where insurgent violence is common despite peace talks between Taliban militants and the U.S.-backed government.

“Sounds of screaming, gunshots and hand grenade explosions reverberated inside the building,” Mohammad, who asked to go by his first name, told Reuters by ‘phone. “Many lives and dreams were shattered.”

The brazen attack has been claimed by Islamic State, a jihadist group that is an enemy of the Taliban and not part of Afghanistan’s halting peace process.

The Taliban, which wants a share of power as U.S. troops withdraw after nearly 20 years of shoring up the government in Kabul, has denied involvement in Monday’s massacre.

That has done little to reassure a nation where trust in the Taliban – responsible for killing thousands of civilians and government troops in recent years – is at a low ebb.

The fact that young people were specifically targeted just over a week after a suicide bomber killed 24 people – most aged between 15 and 26 – at a Kabul education centre, has only heightened the sense of anger and loss.

About a hundred students gathered near Kabul University campus on Tuesday to protest against the peace talks, which are being held in Doha.

“We want to raise our voices to the world and say we shall never give up,” said M. Younus, one of the demonstrators. “No matter how many they kill, we will continue our studies.”

MORNING CALM SHATTERED

The gunmen entered the building Mohammad was in – located beside an entrance to the campus – at around 11 a.m. (0630 GMT).

Officials say they are still piecing together the sequence of events. They have yet to establish whether the attackers entered the campus by force or if arms had been stored on site to be accessed after they entered the grounds.

“With the start of gunshots I looked outside and saw well-equipped men in police force uniforms running toward our building,” said Mohammad, a third year student in the law and political science faculty.

It was not clear whether he was referring to the insurgents or security forces who engaged them in battle. In some previous militant attacks in Afghanistan, perpetrators have disguised themselves as members of the police or army.

Along with his classmates, Mohammad rushed to wedge chairs and tables in front of their classroom door to stop the attackers from entering. As the explosions and gunshots neared, the students desperately looked for a way to escape.

“Our class had windows facing the rear of the building where there are many trees; using the trees we managed to climb down,” said Mohammad, who heard screams behind him from the building he had fled.

“I saw death coming for me, I don’t know whose prayers saved me.”

FROZEN IN FEAR

A short distance away on the sprawling campus, Somaya Mohammadi, 20, had been taking notes in her Islamic Culture lecture when she looked out of the window and saw a large number of students running frantically toward the exit gate.

“One of the students shouted that suicide attackers had entered the university,” Mohammadi, a student at the Faculty of Engineering, recalled.

There was shock and panic as she and her classmates grabbed their belongings and rushed out of the building.

Mohammadi said she froze in fear.

“I was shivering and could not walk at all … I got out of the building with the help of my friends.”

Outside, there was chaos.

“Everyone was running … the university was very crowded,” said 21-year-old Niloufar Alamyar.

A third year student, Alamyar had been training to be a journalist – a difficult and dangerous job in Afghanistan. But she was not prepared for what she saw.

“I did not think I would ever see such a scene in life,” she said, adding that students were directed to flee via the south gate of the campus, away from where the attackers had entered and were exchanging heavy fire with security forces.

The battle continued for some six hours, according to officials.

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE

Mohammad, Mohammadi and Alamyar made it out alive, unharmed. Others were less fortunate.

Mustafa Jan witnessed classmates being killed.

“I saw an attacker pass by the classroom. When he returned, he fired into the classroom. He killed and wounded a number of my classmates and then went to other classes.”

Outside, as Mohammadi fled, she desperately tried to call her best friend Marzia, who did not respond. She was to meet Marzia after class to return a book she had borrowed.

“Bring it tomorrow after the class,” Marzia, who was in the final year of a public policy course, had texted the night before. The two had been friends for nine years and graduated school together.

When Marzia did not answer, Mohammadi called one of her classmates, who informed her that Marzia was dead.

“I just could not believe it,” said Mohammadi, who stumbled across a picture of Marzia on social media laying lifeless on the floor, covered in blood.

“Marzia was very talented student, and she was top of her class,” said Mohammadi, weeping. “I’ll miss her loud laugh and jokes. I still can’t believe she is no more.”

(Additional reporting by Hameed Farzad; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Euan Rocha and Mike Collett-White)

Security guard held on suspicion of murder in shooting at Denver political rallies

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A security guard hired to protect a Denver television news crew covering opposing rallies of right-wing and left-wing political activists is being held in custody on suspicion of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a protester, police said on Sunday.

The deadly gunfire erupted on Saturday following a “verbal altercation” between the suspect and victim just as a “Patriot Rally” and a counter-demonstration dubbed a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” was drawing to a close, Denver Police division chief Joe Montoya said.

The suspected gunman, identified by police as Matthew Dolloff, 30, was arrested just after the shooting, which occurred in a courtyard outside an art museum, but he has not been formally charged, Montoya said.

The man shot to death was not immediately named by authorities, but the Denver Post identified him, according to the victim’s son, as Lee Keltner, 49, a Navy veteran who ran a hat-making business in the Denver area for many years.

“He wasn’t a part of any group,” the son, Johnathon Keltner, told the Post. “He was there to rally for the police department, and he’d been down there before rallying for the police department.”

Denver station KUSA-TV, an NBC affiliate, said in its own account posted online that Dolloff was contracted by KUSA through the Pinkerton security agency, and that one of the station’s news producers was with Dolloff during the altercation.

Pinkerton did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Denver police tweeted on Sunday they are unaware if Dolloff was affiliated with any political group but said he was not a protest participant.

An image of the incident captured by Denver Post photographer Helen Richardson showed a man spraying a chemical agent at another man pointing a handgun in his direction. Montoya said two guns were recovered from the scene.

Richardson said on Instagram that the shooting victim, who she said was with the patriot rally, and the other man “exchanged heated words” before violence ensued.

The “patriot hit the man in the face, then backed up to spray what looked like pepper spray at him,” Richardson wrote. “Literally in that split second the man who had gotten hit by the patriot pulled out a gun from his waistband and shot the patriot.”

By all accounts, nobody from the side of the Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist counter-rally was directly involved in the deadly confrontation.

Dolloff made his first court appearance on Sunday, where a magistrate judge ordered the arrest warrant affidavit sealed and ruled that the suspect be held without bond, local media reported.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)

Man charged in shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies

(Reuters) – Los Angeles prosecutors on Wednesday said they charged a suspect with attempted murder in the shooting of two sheriff’s deputies earlier this month.

Deonte Lee Murray, 36, was charged in the shootings, which took place on Sept. 12 when he allegedly walked up to a car and opened fire on two sheriff’s deputies.

Video footage showed a man walk up to a parked patrol car at a transit station in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton and fire a pistol into the passenger side of the squad car. The man then ran away.

Both deputies received serious head wounds, but both survived and have been discharged from the hospital. The deputies, who have not been identified by name, were described as a 31-year-old female officer who is a mother and a 24-year-old man, police said.

Murray is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday and prosecutors said in an emailed statement that they were recommending bail be set at $6.15 million. He has been in custody since Sept. 15, when he was arrested in connection with a different shooting and armed carjacking.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks, Editing by Franklin Paul and Chizu Nomiyama)

Shooting of 27-year-old man under investigation in Pennsylvania

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – The mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday called for an overhaul of how the city responds to mental health situations after a police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old man who ran at him, allegedly threatening him with a knife.

The shooting on Sunday sparked sometimes-violent protests overnight, turning the city of about 60,000 people into the latest flashpoint in a summer of civil unrest across the United States over racism and use of force by the police.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Police released body camera footage which appeared to show Ricardo Munoz cursing, and running at the officer with a knife in his right hand. The officer shot and killed Munoz, who died at the scene.

Munoz was out on $1 million bail after being charged with aggravated assault last year, court records showed.

At a press conference on Monday, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace called on the governor and state legislators to work together to come up with better protocols for responding to 911 calls involving people who may have mental health issues.

She said the shooting highlighted a broader problem of poverty impacting as many as half of the city’s residents — a predicament exacerbated by budget cuts and the coronavirus pandemic and disproportionately impacting minority communities.

“We must fund housing, social services, and education equitably and adequately in this city,” she said. “Lancaster, if we care so deeply about loving our neighbor then let’s do it.”

The Lancaster police department said it had arrested 8 people early on Monday for arson and other crimes, with four of those detained from outside the county. Some protesters threw bricks at the police station and post office, the police said.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a statement her office was investigating the shooting to determine whether there was a justified use of force.

She said a preliminary review showed “that the officer fired as a man, clearly armed with a knife, ran toward the officer in a threatening manner.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

$100,000 reward offered in ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County deputies

(Reuters) – As the manhunt for the lone gunman who ambushed and shot two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies enters its third day, authorities are offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Video footage of the shooting showed a man walk up to a parked patrol car on Saturday evening at a transit station in the Compton community and fire a pistol into the passenger side of the squad car. The man then ran away.

Both deputies received critical head wounds, but both are expected to survive, police said. The deputies are described as a 31-year-old female officer who is a mother and a 24-year-old man, police said.

“We’ll see what the long-term impact is. We don’t know that yet, but they survived the worst,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters on Sunday.

“We would like to offer our sincerest appreciation for the overwhelming support being offered from all over the Nation,” he wrote on Twitter.

The reward was offered late Sunday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

A few demonstrators gathered overnight Saturday outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood where the deputies were being treated, according to social media video and the sheriff’s department, blocking the entrance and chanting anti-police slogans.

Two people were later arrested, including a journalist who was later released.

The description of the shooter still remains vague.

“At this point we have a very, very generic description of a dark-skinned male and that came from one of the victims,” Captain Kent Wegener told a news conference Sunday.

President Donald Trump retweeted the video early on Sunday and wrote: “Animals that must be hit hard!”

Later, referring to the deputies, Trump tweeted: “If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer. Only way to stop this!”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in for Nov. 3 presidential election, called for the gunman to face “the full brunt of the law.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta)

L.A. sheriff’s deputies fatally shoot Black man after suspected bike violation

By Lucy Nicholson and Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Black man who was stopped on his bicycle for an alleged “vehicle code” violation was shot to death by two Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, who fired 15 to 20 rounds after the man punched one officer and dropped a pistol on the ground, authorities said on Tuesday.

A semiautomatic handgun apparently fell from a bundle of clothes that the man, identified as Dijon Kizzee, 29, had been clutching and dropped when he struck an officer in the face, said Lieutenant Brandon Dean, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman.

Dean said the two officers opened fire when Kizzee made “a motion that he’s going to pick up the firearm.”

“Whether the firearm was actually in his hand, if he was motioning towards it, I don’t have those specifics because we haven’t interviewed the actual deputies who were there yet,” Dean said.

Initial news of Monday afternoon’s shooting drew scores of angry demonstrators to the scene of the Westmont community on the southern edge of Los Angeles, becoming the latest flashpoint in a summer of protests over African-Americans killed at the hands of police.

“You don’t kill any race but us, and it don’t make any sense,” Fletcher Fair, Kizzee’s aunt, told reporters on Tuesday at the shooting scene, where activists called for an independent investigation by California’s attorney general.

A protest march was being organized for Tuesday evening by local activists from the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who was retained to represent Kizzee’s family, posted on Twitter: “They say he ran, dropped clothes and a handgun. He didn’t pick it up, but cops shot him in the back 20+ times then left him for hours.”

A neighbor who said she watched the scuffle and the shooting that followed from her home directly across the street from the scene told Reuters on Tuesday that she never saw Kizzee throw a punch, never saw a gun, and that he “wasn’t a threat.”

Deja Roquemore, 31, said the two deputies kept firing at Kizzee even as he lay motionless, face down, on the ground.

“I watched him go from living, to dying to dead,” Roquemore said in a telephone interview. Roquemore, who is home during the day overseeing her 6-year-old’s online school lessons, said she was interviewed by investigators.

Dean told Reuters that the deputies, together, fired a total of 15 to 20 gunshots. He said Kizzee sustained several wounds to his upper torso, but the number of bullets that struck him would not be known until an autopsy was performed.

The two officers involved have been removed from patrol duty for the time being, he said.

According to Dean, events leading to the shooting began when the deputies saw a man, since identified as Kizzee, riding his bike “in violation of the vehicle code” and tried to stop him.

Kizzee jumped off his bike and darted away on foot, before the two officers caught up with him a short distance away, where the deadly encounter occurred.

In the version of events given by Roquemore, she said she witnessed Kizzee and one of the officers “tussling” over the clothes bundle before it fell to the ground.

At that point, she recounted, Kizzee threw both hands in the air, yelling, “I don’t have anything. What do you want?” before turning to run away. She said an officer then fired a Taser into Kizzee’s legs, and the two deputies gunned him down when he pivoted back toward them.

Dean denied that officers ever deployed a Taser, and he offered no explanation for the differing accounts.

Dean said he did not know what vehicle code Kizzee was suspected of violating. He told reporters on Monday: “It is not uncommon for deputies to conduct vehicle stops of bicycles. They have to adhere to the same rules of the road as a vehicle does.”

(Reporting by Lucy Nicholson and Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Heather Timmons in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Protesters sue Kenosha claiming arrests, curfew violate U.S. Constitution

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) – Four people arrested for curfew violations while protesting the shooting of a Black man by a white policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin sued the city and county governments on Tuesday, claiming they were denied free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs argue that more than 150 people protesting the shooting have been taken into custody while pro-police demonstrators have been allowed to freely take to the streets, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

“In Kenosha, there are two sets of laws – one that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police,” the plaintiffs argue in their complaint, which seeks a temporary restraining order until the litigation can be heard in court.

Reuters could not reach city and county officials for comment after business hours.

Kenosha has been the scene of sometimes violent protests after video footage surfaced showing a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back.

Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down and the officer, Rusten Sheskey, was placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

The protesters claim in their lawsuit that police were using the curfew to prevent them from taking part in constitutionally protected activity.

The plaintiffs also say police are selectively enforcing the curfew by not arresting pro-police demonstrators, a violation of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the constitution.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, was filed on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump visited Kenosha over the objections of some local officials.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stephen Coates)