U.S. Supreme Court wrestles over ‘D.C. Sniper’ life sentence appeal

U.S. Supreme Court wrestles over ‘D.C. Sniper’ life sentence appeal
By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday questioned whether a lower court sufficiently considered that a man convicted in the deadly 2002 “D.C. Sniper” shooting spree in the Washington area was a minor at the time of the crimes when he was sentenced to life in prison.

The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by the state of Virginia objecting to the lower court’s decision ordering that Lee Boyd Malvo’s sentence of life in prison without parole be thrown out.

Malvo, now 34, was 17 during the shootings in which 10 people were killed. He participated with an older accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, who was given the death penalty.

If Malvo prevails, he and other prison inmates in similar cases involving certain crimes committed by minors could receive new sentencing hearings to allow judges to consider whether their youth at the time of the offense merits leniency.

Malvo’s best chance of victory appears to be an alliance of the court’s four liberal justices and at least one conservative justice. The most likely contender based on questions he asked during the argument would be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The shootings occurred over three weeks in Washington, Maryland and Virginia, causing panic in the U.S. capital region. Muhammad also was convicted and was executed in 2009 at age 48 in a Virginia state prison.

Virginia appealed after the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that Malvo should be resentenced. The 4th Circuit cited Supreme Court decisions issued since the shooting spree finding that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional, and that this rule applied retroactively.

Malvo received four life sentences in Virginia, where he was convicted of two murders and later entered a separate guilty plea to avoid the death penalty. He also received a sentence of life in prison without parole in Maryland.

Virginia’s appeal concerns the scope of a 2012 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that mandatory life sentences without parole in homicide cases involving juvenile killers violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In 2016, the court decided that the 2012 ruling applied retroactively, enabling people imprisoned years ago to argue for their release.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan appeared convinced that the 2012 ruling, which she authored, dictates the outcome.

“It can be summarized in two words, which is that youth matters,” Kagan said.

Fellow liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the “odds are greater than 50-50” that the judge did not consider Malvo’s youth during sentencing.

Kavanaugh questioned whether the Virginia sentencing process gave judges leeway not to impose sentences of life without parole, a finding that would favor Malvo. Kavanaugh described that question as the “tough part of the case.”

President Donald Trump’s administration backed Virginia in the case. Among those backing Malvo’s claim in the case are Paul LaRuffa, who was shot and injured outside the restaurant he ran in Clinton, Maryland during the 2002 spree, and two relatives of people killed in shootings.

Malvo’s Maryland sentence would not be directly affected by the outcome in the Virginia dispute.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Parkland massacre survivors unveil sweeping U.S. gun-control plan ahead of 2020 election

FILE PHOTO: David Hogg, a student at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of a February mass shooting which left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida, thrusts his fist in the air as he speaks during the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

By Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre on Wednesday released a sweeping gun-control plan that would ban assault-style rifles and take other steps in hopes of halving U.S. firearms deaths and injuries.

The proposal included a measure to register more young voters, and the group’s leaders addressed it to 2020 candidates seeking the presidential nomination, urging them to make gun control a top priority.

“We urge them to take a look at this agenda,” Tyah Amoy-Roberts, a former student who survived the shooting, said in a statement. “We cannot allow mass shootings in grocery stores, churches, shopping malls, and schools to be the new normal.”

The former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have worked to inspire a sense of urgency about gun violence since they started the national campaign “March for Our Lives” after a former student massacred 17 people with an assault rifle at their high school on Feb. 14, 2018.

Their plan comes the same month that saw 31 people killed in back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, within 24 hours.

The steady drumbeat of shootings has provoked limited federal action. Days after the twin massacres, President Donald Trump publicly mulled backing stronger background checks for gun buyers but by this week Congressional Democrats were accusing him of backtracking after a meeting with the National Rifle Association gun lobby.

The NRA and gun-rights supporters say the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution blocks most restrictions on gun ownership. NRA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Parkland student’s plan calls for several hard-line gun control measures, including a national gun buy-back and disposal program, a federal system of gun licensing that requires background checks and annual renewals, and it urges politicians to declare a national emergency around gun violence.

The plan also calls on the government to automatically register all U.S. citizens to vote when they turn 18, a measure that March for Our Lives has pushed in an effort to turn out the youth vote and sway elections to yield tighter gun policies.

March for Our Lives and ally Giffords are planning an Oct. 2 forum for 2020 candidates to discuss gun violence.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Between gun massacres, a routine, deadly seven days of U.S. shootings

FILE PHOTO: A man walks down a street past a handmade sign posted in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A boy accidentally killed by his father during a fishing trip in Montana. A woman dead and her husband behind bars after a single gunshot in a Dallas hotel room. A teenager cut down on his porch on a warm day in Washington state.

During the week bookended by mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, in which gunmen killed 34 people, hundreds of others were shot to death across 47 U.S. states, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that uses local news and police reports to track gun incidents.

The deaths were the sort of everyday murders, suicides and accidents that may not grab the headlines of mass shootings, but in many ways show the true toll of the gun violence endemic to the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/File Photo

More than 36,000 people are shot to death every year on average in America, according to U.S. government data compiled by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That works out to about 100 a day, or one every 14-1/2 minutes. Suicides account for more than 60 percent of those deaths. Slightly more than a third are homicides.

Here are some of the victims of deadly shootings during the week between the attack in Gilroy and the attack in Dayton:

SUNDAY, JULY 28

Soon after a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Steven Parsons was sitting in a parked car with two other people 1,500 miles away in an alley in Kansas City, Missouri.

The 27-year-old died there along with another man, Montae Robinson, shot by a gunman who is still at large, police said. The third person in the car is being sought by police for questioning but is not a suspect.

“I have a wedding dress in my closet that I will never wear,” Marissa Tantillo said during Parsons’ funeral service on Wednesday evening at a chapel in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

They had two daughters together and planned to marry in a few months. She urged mourners never to take their loved ones for granted. “All I want you to do is hold your husband a little closer, hold your wife a little tighter,” she said.

Tantillo recalled a romance that began when she and Parsons were barely teenagers.

“So many of us don’t believe in love anymore,” Tantillo told the gathering. “In Steven, I knew I found my soul mate.”

Parsons had a sense of adventure as a boy, his father, Steve Parsons, said at the service. “We’d be cruising along in the old white van and he’d say, ‘What’s that way?’ and so we’d turn and go that way,” Parsons said.

People should remember the years his son lived, not the day he died, he said. “Do not let the last day destroy all the good days you had with him.”

MONDAY, JULY 29

Guests at the Hotel ZaZa in Dallas heard a commotion and screams from the room where Jacqueline Rose Parguian and her husband, Peter Nicholas, were staying on Monday night.

When hotel security staff knocked on the door, no one answered. Paramedics, responding to a 911 call about a woman loudly in distress and a report of a possible drug overdose, listened to the commotion outside as they waited for police to arrive, per department rules. A noisy hour passed. A gunshot rang out. The arguing stopped. Parguian was dead.

“Jackie had a passion for beauty,” an obituary published by Parguian’s family said. She pursued a degree in cosmetology and graduated from a Dallas beauty school in 2016.

She loved ’90s pop music, especially the boy band NSYNC, and collected concert tickets in a box of memories. One of six children, she was known for checking in frequently with her younger siblings.

She was 32. Her sons are 2 and 8.

“How do we explain to those little angels that their parents are both not going to be there anymore, ya know?” Parguian’s mother said in an interview. Friends and relatives had soon pledged more than $25,000 in donations to a GoFundMe fundraiser in support of the boys’ uncertain future.

When their father, known to some Dallas music fans as DJ Pete Mash, opened the hotel room door on Monday night to police, he had blood on him and an extension cord wrapped around his neck, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Police said he seemed high on drugs and that they had to subdue him with a stun gun after he began screaming and fighting. They found a handgun in a backpack in the room near Parguian’s body.

Explaining the delayed response, police later said officers were responding to higher-priority calls that night before reports of a gunshot came through.

Nicholas, 30, was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder. He was later released on a $250,000 bond. An attorney for Nicholas did not respond to a request for comment.

“Peter is a nice young man,” Parguian’s mother, Tess Parguian, told a local ABC television affiliate. “He’s very polite, and that’s why I cannot believe he could do such a thing.”

TUESDAY, JULY 30

It was a warm day in Tacoma, Washington, and Jamone Pratt was out on a friend’s front porch when he was shot in the head. Witnesses told police they saw at least two cars speeding away. Pratt was 16 years old.

Police have made no arrests. Jamone’s mother, Kyndal Pierce, has filled her Facebook page with anguished posts, saying she’s finding it hard to go on without her eldest son, a “tall and skinny” kid the family called Junior and who was inseparable from his sister.

“He made some bad choices, you know, got involved with the wrong people,” Pierce said in an interview with a local news channel. “I don’t know what happened, but I know my baby didn’t deserve this.”

A schoolmate of Jamone’s who makes music under the name KiingCalebb recorded a rap tribute to his friend called “MonesWrld.” The lyrics include oblique references to gang rivalries.

“Thought you were going to make it to 18,” the lyrics went. “All you wanted were your dreams / but now you fly high.”

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31

Growing up in the Miami area as a black transgender woman, Kiki Fantroy faced a lot of bullying – but that never altered her natural inclination to trust and forgive other people, her mother said.

Fantroy, 21, was shot several times early in the morning after leaving a house party, becoming the 13th black transgender woman killed in the United States this year, activists say.

The killing prompted several events in her memory, including a “Take Back the Night” event held by a local transgender women’s group and a candlelight vigil.

In an interview, Fantroy’s mother, Rhonda Comer, switched back and forth between using her daughter’s preferred name, Kiki, and her birth name, Marquis, and between masculine and feminine pronouns.

Comer said she supported Fantroy’s decision to begin transitioning as a teenager.

Fantroy always had a flair for fashion, Comer said.

“He would make clothes, he would tell me what to wear, what he wanted to wear, and he would always put his twist on things,” said Comer, 44. “Kiki could take a shirt and a skirt and make it a whole different outfit; you can’t ask me her favorite color because, honey, she wore it all.”

Fantroy loved and trusted people implicitly, Comer said, a trait that sometimes worried her – especially after Fantroy was sexually assaulted and “dumped in a tomato field” at age 16 by someone she had met online.

Fantroy had just left a house party with a friend, another transgender woman, and Comer said she was convinced they were deliberately targeted. Police in Miami-Dade County have declined to call the shooting a hate crime.

Police later arrested a 17-year-old boy and charged him with murder after a witness picked him out of a lineup.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1

Caden Lacunza, 11, had finished cleaning one fish and was just starting on the second one he had caught near Crow Creek Falls in rural Montana when he was shot in the head.

His father, Cadet, dropped the .357 revolver he had just fired, sprinted toward his fallen son and began yelling for his wife.

Hours later, he was under arrest for negligent homicide.

The details of the incident, laid out in a Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office report, indicate Cadet Lacunza didn’t intend any harm when he shot off a round in the direction of the river.

He had seen his family, including his wife, his son and his daughter, near the campfire, and decided to shoot his pistol, according to the report. While he was retrieving the gun from his pickup truck, however, Caden made his way to the river to clean the fish he had snared.

Lacunza’s lawyer, Greg Beebe, said his client was innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.

“This was just a tragic accident, and not a negligent homicide,” Beebe said. “At the center of this, we have a family who’s been devastated.”

Lacunza’s wife, Victoria, told Reuters in a Facebook message that the shooting was an accident but declined to comment further.

At the scene, officers retrieved Lacunza’s revolver, the cylinder still loaded except for a single spent round. In the river, about 10 feet from where Caden collapsed, they found a cleaned fish; the other fish was on the ground where the boy had dropped it, a small cut in its belly and a knife lying nearby.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2

Deante Strickland came running out of his grandparents’ house in Portland, Oregon, in mid-afternoon, bleeding from the chest.

“I don’t want to die,” he said, according to a construction worker who was at a site nearby. “My sister shot me.”

Strickland, 22, died near his home despite efforts to save his life. His sister, Tamena Strickland, has been charged with his murder, as well as with wounding her grandmother and aunt.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the shooting. Tamena Strickland’s defense lawyer, Robert Crow, said it was still too early to know exactly what had happened.

“Everybody is of the belief that this isn’t who Tamena is,” he said, adding that many family members attended her initial court appearance on Monday in support of both her and her brother. Tamena Strickland has not entered a plea and remains in custody in the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Crow said neither sibling had a criminal record, and there was no outward sign of any dispute between them.

“That’s part of what makes it such a mystery to people,” he said.

Strickland was a standout basketball and football player in high school. He spent two years at a junior college in Wyoming before transferring to his hometown school Portland State University, where he played on the basketball team.

He was entering graduate school at PSU in the fall and planned to play for the football team.

Friends and teammates flooded social media with remembrances of “Strick,” praising his devotion to Portland, his near-permanent smile and his love for basketball.

In a video he filmed shortly before graduation this year, Strickland said, “My advice to you: Don’t take the time for granted. It goes by fast, so try to enjoy every moment.”

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3

It was a cheerful summer Saturday afternoon in Denise Wimberly’s house in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

As music filled her home, the 61-year-old mother of four relaxed on her couch with her niece as her son Calvin Seay got ready for an afternoon basketball game.

“He came back in the house to lay his clothes out because he was a neat freak,” she said. “Then he left to go down the street to show the neighbors the phone he just got.”

Moments after the 23-year-old left, police officers responded to an alert from the department’s gunshot-detection system.

They found Seay, a father of one, lying on the sidewalk steps from his home. He had been shot once in the head and once in the chest.

“My other son ran down the street, saying Calvin got shot,” Wimberly said. She jumped up and threw down her cigarette. “I almost set my couch on fire.”

“He was my baby,” she said. “They need to stop the shooting, because they are shooting people that they don’t need to be.” No suspects have been arrested.

Seay’s slaying was part of a bloody weekend in Chicago in which seven people were killed and at least 45 others were wounded, including a 5-year-old boy.

“What will it take for people to become sick and tired at the level of gun violence in this country?” Chicago Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson asked at a news conference.

Seay, whose daughter turned 6 last week, loved to draw and play basketball and had just gotten a job with the Chicago Park District, where he was working with children at a summer camp.

“He was no person to go hang out on the street. He wasn’t like that at all,” Wimberly said. “He said that since he got the job, he was going to send me on vacation. That’s how he was.”

Less than 12 hours after Seay’s death, a gunman opened fire on the street in downtown Dayton, killing nine people.

Another week of gun violence in America was drawing to an end.

(Additional reporting and writing by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Kari Howard)

Lone wolf attackers inspire each other, NATO chief says

FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference after a NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Nations must work together to stop lone-wolf attackers, who take inspiration from each other, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, during a visit to a mosque in New Zealand where a gunman killed dozens of people in March.

His comments came as the United States reels from two mass shootings at the weekend that killed 29 people and injured dozens in Texas and Ohio, provoking calls for tighter gun controls and prompting worries over a resurgence of white nationalism and xenophobic politics.

Stoltenberg, making a two-day trip to New Zealand, visited Christchurch, where 51 Muslim worshippers were killed in the attacks on two mosques by a suspected white supremacist.

“These attacks are committed by lone wolves but they are at the same time connected because they use each other as inspiration and they refer to each other in the different manifestos,” Stoltenberg told state broadcaster TVNZ.

“It highlights that we have to fight terrorism in many different ways, with many different tools.”

The Texas shooter who killed 20 people at a Walmart store expressed support for the Christchurch gunman in his manifesto.

New Zealand authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, with murder following the attacks. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Society has to stand up for values of freedom, openness and tolerance, Stoltenberg said.

“We see that many of the terrorists are one of us,” he said. “They are home-grown, they are coming from our own societies. So this is very much also about addressing the root causes.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is due to meet Stoltenberg on Tuesday, said New Zealand would only want to be remembered for the way it rejected the act of violence and hatred.

“This is a global challenge,” she told a news conference later in the day.

“Of course we can do what we can to defeat acts of hatred, violence and racism in our own domestic areas. But, as an international community, we should also be united against acts of hatred, violence and terrorism.”

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

No arrests after 66 shot, 12 killed, in weekend Chicago gun violence

A Chicago police officer attends a news conference announcing the department's plan to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. on September 21, 2016.

(Reuters) – Chicago police have made no arrests tied to the shootings of 66 people over the weekend, 12 of them fatal, but dozens were taken into custody on gun charges, the city’s police chief said on Monday.

Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said additional officers had been deployed to prevent retaliatory shootings, leading to the arrests of 46 people on firearms charges. Police seized 60 guns, adding to a total of 5,600 already confiscated in Chicago so far this year.

“I share the anger and frustration that many Chicagoans are having today because, if anything, this should underscore the continuing issue that we have with illegal guns and offenders that are out on the street that are willing to use them,” Johnson said.

Johnson told reporters there were some promising leads in investigations of the weekend bloodshed, but he did not elaborate and provided few updates on crime statistics for the third most populous U.S. city. Authorities had previously said gun violence was on a decline this year.

“What happened this weekend did not happen in every neighborhood of Chicago but it is unacceptable to happen in any neighborhood of Chicago,” the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, told reporters on Monday.

“There are too many guns on the street. Too many people with criminal records on the street. And there is a shortage of values of what is right and what is wrong,” said Emanuel, a Democrat.

An earlier wave of shootings in Chicago emerged as a talking point for Republican Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign, as he pledged to crack down on street crime.

The rash of shootings over the weekend also elicited comments from President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who has touted his crime-fighting record there.

Giuliani urged Chicago residents to vote against Emanuel’s bid for a third term next February and back Garry McCarthy, also a Democrat, who served as the city’s police chief for four years until 2015.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tom Brown)

Suspected Houston serial killer in custody after crime spree: police

(Reuters) – Houston police on Tuesday arrested a suspected serial killer who they believe murdered at least three people in a weekend crime spree that had prompted city authorities to warn residents of Texas’ largest city to be on “high alert.”

Officials said they arrested Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, who they described as having gang ties and having days earlier removed a monitoring device that he wore as a condition of his parole before his crime spree.

Police said they would release more details on Rodriguez’ capture later on Tuesday.

The Houston area had been on edge after three people were killed beginning Friday. Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez held a joint news conference on Monday to warn that Gonzalez posed a threat to the community.

“Let’s get this man off the street as soon as possible,” Acevedo posted on Twitter.

The victims included a widow and two people who were killed in mattress stores, officials said.

In addition to the murders, Rodriguez is also suspected of a July 9 home-invasion robbery and the Monday shooting and robbery of a bus driver who is expected to survive the attack, Acevedo said at Monday’s news conference.

Acevedo did not discuss Rodriguez’ prior criminal convictions, and Houston police officials could not be reached for immediate comment. Local news media reported that the suspect was a registered sex offender.

“He cut his monitor just a matter of days ago, and next thing you know we believe he’s involved in this,” Acevedo said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

California manhunt under way after random shootings target 10 drivers

A bullit hole in a victim's vehicle window is shown in this photo in Fresno County, California, U.S., provided December 21, 2017.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Police in California’s Central Valley have launched a manhunt for at least one suspect after a series of 10 random shootings on vehicles left one woman wounded this holiday season, officials said on Thursday.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has warned the shooting attacks, which have occurred in her jurisdiction and neighboring Madera County, could turn deadly.

“If this keeps going, it’s going to be a matter of time before we have a murder investigation,” Mims said at a news conference. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

Witnesses described the suspect’s vehicle as a dark colored pick-up truck with oversized tires, Mims said. The motive for the shootings is unknown, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

A woman was struck by a bullet when she was driving on Dec. 1 in rural Fresno County near the town of Kerman, less than 200 miles (322 km) southeast of San Francisco.

Her injuries were not life-threatening.

In the other nine shootings, which occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 17, cars were struck by gunfire but no one was wounded, authorities said. Most of the shootings were in Fresno County, just outside Kerman with its population of 15,000 people.

The drivers of those cars said they heard a bang, as another vehicle passed by, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators are not sure if a single suspect is behind the attacks, or if others may be involved, said Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti.

But Mims, speaking in general terms, addressed a single suspect during her remarks at the news conference.

“To the suspect, this is a cowardly act and we are working very hard to find you,” Mims said. “We will hold you responsible.”

Authorities believe the victims were randomly chosen.

A number of communities in the United States have dealt with random shootings on roadways over the years.

In 2015, 11 vehicles were struck by gunfire and a teenager was lightly wounded, in a series of shootings in the Phoenix area. A landscaper was arrested and charged later that year in connection with the attacks, but defense attorneys called into question ballistics evidence used to charge him.

A judge in 2016 tossed out charges against the landscaper, after prosecutors asked for them to be withdrawn.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Diane Craft)

Freeport evacuating Indonesian mine worker families after shootings

Freeport evacuating Indonesian mine worker families after shootings

TIMIKA, Indonesia (Reuters) – U.S. miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc is evacuating spouses and children of workers from its giant Indonesian copper mine after a string of shootings in the area raised security concerns.

The move follows efforts by Indonesian authorities on Friday to evacuate villages near Freeport’s Grasberg mine in the eastern province of Papua that authorities said had been occupied by armed separatists.

Since August at least 12 people have been injured and two police officers have been killed by gunmen with suspected links to separatist rebels.

Freeport has asked family and household members of its employees to prepare over the weekend for a temporary relocation from the mining town of Tembagapura, about 10 km (6.2 miles) from Grasberg, company sources said. Workers have been asked to stay behind and maintain their work schedule, they said.

Details of the evacuation or the number of people impacted were not immediately clear. Shots were fired at a light vehicle and two large mining trucks were set on fire at Grasberg on Saturday, one of the sources said. The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Freeport in a statement on Saturday confirmed the evacuation plan and said it will be carried out immediately.

“We are working closely with government and law enforcement to ensure the safety of our people and those in the communities we support, and to bring about the return of peace and stability as soon as possible,” it said.

Grasberg is the world’s second-largest copper mine by volume.

The separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM) says it is at war with Indonesian authorities and wants to “destroy” Freeport in an effort to gain sovereignty for the region.

TPN-OPM has claimed responsibility for the shootings but denies police allegations it took civilian hostages.

(Reporting by Sam Wanda in TIMIKA; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy and Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Tampa police hunt possible serial killer after three shootings

City of Tampa Police badge

(Reuters) – Police in Florida warned residents of a central Tampa neighborhood not to go out alone after dark as they search for a possible serial killer they believe fatally shot three people in nighttime ambushes over the last two weeks.

At least two of the victims were trying to catch a bus in the Seminole Heights section when they were shot, police said.

Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was alone at the bus stop after dark when he was shot on Oct. 9. Monica Hoffa, 32, was walking through the neighborhood two days later to meet a friend when she was shot. Anthony Naiboa, 20, was trying to find a bus stop when he was shot on Oct. 19.

Police say they think a single killer is behind all three attacks because they happened so near to each other at roughly the same time in the evening and without any obvious motive.

“We need everyone to come out of their homes at night and turn on their porch lights and just not tolerate this type of terrorism in the neighborhood,” Brian Dugan, the Tampa police department’s interim chief, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

He said people should not go out alone and should pay attention to their surroundings.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer or killers.

Police have released an indistinct video of a person wearing a hooded top they think may be the killer.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jeffrey Benkoe)

 

Rainbows, angels mark a year since Florida nightclub shooting

Guests visit the memorial outside the Pulse Nightclub on the one year anniversary of the shooting, in Orlando, Florida.

By Christopher Boyd

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – The names of the 49 people killed at a Florida gay nightclub where a gunman turned a dance party into a massacre last year were read aloud on Monday at ceremonies marked by rainbow-hued memorials and guarded by supporters dressed as angels.

On the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, officials asked Americans to join in acts of “love and kindness” to honor victims of the three-hour June 12, 2016 rampage at the now-shuttered Pulse club, including survivors still reeling from emotional and physical wounds.

Vigils and rallies were planned across the United States in a show of solidarity with victims of the attack, which authorities called a hateful act against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“People have asked me what has changed in my life. I tell them everything,” Pulse owner Barbara Poma told several hundred people gathered for a midday ceremony outside the club. “We are all changed.”

Choking back sobs, Poma said she missed everything about Pulse, whose site will become a permanent memorial.

Forty-nine pale yellow wreaths emblazoned with the victims’ names adorned a wall at the nightclub on Monday, and many people at the ceremony wore T-shirts bearing messages such as “we will not let hate win.”

Two women, one with a rainbow flag in her hair, embraced as the names of the victims were read aloud.

“We just had to come here today,” said Joe Moy, 56, of Orlando, who has two gay children and attended the event with his wife. “It was a tremendous outpouring of love.”

Survivors and victims had gathered privately at Pulse at 2:02 a.m. ET (0602 GMT) to mark the exact moment that gunman Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire during the club’s popular Latin night. He shot patrons on the dance floor and sprayed bullets at others cowering in bathroom stalls.

Holding hostages during his standoff with police, Mateen claimed allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State militant group before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire with authorities.

His widow, Noor Salman, is charged in federal court with aiding and abetting Mateen’s attack and lying to authorities. She was not present for the shooting and has pleaded not guilty.

With the massacre, more LGBT people were killed in the United States in 2016 than any of the 20 years since such record-keeping began, according to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

(Writing by Letitia Stein; Additional reporting by Chris Michaud in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Richard Chang)