Teen victim of Texas mass shooting straddled bi-national culture, other victims identified

Two Horizon High School students mourn at a vigil in honor of Javier Rodriguez, who was killed while shopping at Walmart, two days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

By Julio-Cesar Chavez

HORIZON, Texas (Reuters) – Several hundred students, teachers and relatives filled a high school athletic stadium in Texas on Monday to honor a teenager of U.S.-Mexican citizenship who was the youngest of 22 killed in a shooting rampage police suspect was driven by racism.

Javier Rodriguez, 15, was one week into his sophomore year at Horizon High School, where he played on the soccer team, when he was cut down by gunfire at a Walmart store on Saturday in the west Texas border city of El Paso.

“Javier was just a young man full of life, running in this same stadium we’re in now,” Juan Martinez, superintendent of the Clint Independent School District outside El Paso, told the crowd. “He didn’t deserve to die in a tragedy like this.”

The hour-long memorial service in the El Paso suburb of Horizon opened around twilight with the school principal welcoming Javier’s parents and sister onto a stage, where they released a white dove into the clear evening sky.

A group of teachers simultaneously released 21 more doves, one for each of the other victims, ranging in age from 23 to 90, most of them with Hispanic surnames.

A 21-year-old white man who police said drove more than 600 miles (956 km) from suburban Dallas to El Paso to carry out the shooting spree and surrendered to police at the scene has been charged with capital murder.

Authorities have said they are investigating the rampage as a hate crime, citing a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto posted online shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect, Patrick Crusius.

In it, the author called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

Martinez said, “Apparently, Javier was a target because of the color of his skin. Javier did not choose the color of his skin, nor did I, nor did you.”

As the superintendent spoke, a member of the high school band, overcome by emotion, was escorted away sobbing.

Not only was Javier the youngest killed on Saturday, he perhaps as much as anyone represented the mixed heritage and culture of El Paso, which together with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande and the neighboring New Mexico city of Las Cruces, forms the largest bi-national, bilingual metropolitan area in North America.

Friends said Javier held dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship. Police identified seven others killed in the attack as Mexican nationals, and one as German. The rest were U.S. citizens, police said.

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also spoke, mentioning that Javier’s uncle was among the wounded, describing the nephew’s life as “an expression of the hope we now have in one another.”

O’Rourke added, “Please understand that this violence, this hatred will not define this community, nor will it define the Rodriguez family.”

The 21 others killed on Saturday were identified by police as: Andre Pablo Anchondo, 23; Jordon Anchondo, 24; Arturo Benavidez, 60; Leonard Cipeda Campos, 41, Maria Flores, 77; Raul Flores, 77; Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61; Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68; Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66; David Alvah Johnson, 63; Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90; Maria Eugenia Legarrega Rothe, 58; Elsa Libera Marquez, 57; Marie Loyal, 56; Ivan Hilierto Manzano, 46; Gloria Irma Marquez, 61; Margie Reckard, 63; Sarah Esther Regaldo Moriel, 66; Teresa Sanchez, 82; Angelina Sliva-Elisbee, 86; and Juan Velazquez, 77.

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez in Horizon; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Police seek motive for shooting at California garlic festival

Justin Bates, a survivor of the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting, and his mother, Lisa Barth, attend a vigil outside of Gilroy City Hall, in Gilroy, California, U.S. July 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

GILROY, Calif. (Reuters) – Police continued on Tuesday to look into what motivated a teenager to shoot visitors attending a popular California food festival over the weekend, killing three people, including a 6-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl.

Santino William Legan, 19, cut through a fence at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday and shot people, seemingly at random, with an assault-style rifle, according to the Gilroy police department. Police officers on the scene fatally shot the gunman within about a minute of him opening fire.

Police had obtained search warrants for a home in Gilroy associated with the suspect and a car they believe he drove to the festival, a decades-old annual event celebrating the produce farmed in the countryside south of San Jose.

Police and FBI agents were also looking into unconfirmed reports by witnesses that Legan may have had an accomplice.

Shortly before the attack, a couple of posts were published on what appeared to be Legan’s Instagram account, including one featuring a photograph of Sunday’s festival. One urged people to read “Might is Right,” an obscure racist and sexist tract written in the 19th century.

The post also railed against overdevelopment in nearby Silicon Valley to build housing for what he called “hordes” of white people and Latinos with European ancestry. Legan described himself on his account as having Italian and Iranian ancestry.

Cellphone videos of the attack showed people fleeing past tents in panic, as loud rapid-fire popping sounds are heard.

The three people who were killed were Stephen Romero, 6; Keyla Salazar, 13, of San Jose, and Trevor Deon Irby, 25, of Romulus, New York, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Romero’s mother and grandmother were also wounded by bullets in the attack, according to media interviews given by Romero’s family.

At least five of the wounded were still recovering in hospital on Monday night. A 12-year-old child and a 69-year-old were among those injured, officials said.

Police believe Legan, who was originally from Gilroy, purchased the rifle legally on July 9 in Nevada, where he had recently been living.

Police planned to hold a news conference on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage, writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

Britain strips citizenship from teenager who joined Islamic State in Syria

FILE PHOTO: Renu Begum, sister of teenage British girl Shamima Begum, holds a photo of her sister as she makes an appeal for her to return home at Scotland Yard, in London, Britain February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Laura Lean/Pool/File Photo

By Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain stripped a teenager who traveled to join Islamic State of her citizenship on security grounds, triggering a row over the ramifications of leaving a 19-year-old mother with a jihadist fighter’s child to fend for herself in a war zone.

The fate of Shamima Begum, who was found in a detention camp in Syria last week, has illustrated the ethical, legal and security conundrum that governments face when dealing with the families of militants who swore to destroy the West.

With Islamic State depleted and Kurdish-led militia poised to seize the group’s last holdout in eastern Syria, Western capitals are trying to work out what to do with battle-hardened foreign jihadist fighters, and their wives and children.

Begum, who gave birth to a son at the weekend, prompted a public backlash in Britain by appearing unrepentant about seeing severed heads and even claiming the 2017 Manchester suicide attack – that killed 22 people – was justified.

She had pleaded to be repatriated back to her family in London and said that she was not a threat.

But ITV News published a Feb. 19 letter from the interior ministry to her mother that said Home Secretary Sajid Javid had taken the decision to deprive Begum of her British citizenship.

“In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today, and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made,” the letter said.

The letter asked Begum’s mother to inform her daughter of the decision and set out the appeal process.

When asked about the decision, a spokesman said Javid’s priority was “the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here”.

Begum was one of three outwardly studious schoolgirls who slipped away from their lives in London’s Bethnal Green area in February 2015 to fly to Turkey and then over the border into the cauldron of the Syrian civil war.


Islamic State propaganda videos enticed her to swap London for Raqqa, a step she still says she does not regret. She fled the self-styled caliphate because she wanted to give birth away from the fighting.

“When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam,” she told The Times which first discovered her in the camp in Syria.

She was equally harsh when describing the videos she had seen of the beheaded Western hostages, The Times said.

Begum has named her newborn, Jerah, in accordance with the wishes of her jihadist husband, Yago Riedijk, a Dutch convert from Arnhem. He was tortured on suspicion of spying by Islamic State but later released.

Another son, also called Jerah, died at eight months old. A daughter, Sarayah, also died aged one year and nine months, The Times said.

Her family’s lawyer said he could seek to challenge the British government’s decision to deprive her of citizenship.

“We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision,” said lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee.

British law does allow the interior minister to deprive a person of British citizenship when conducive to the public good, though such decisions should not render the person stateless if they were born as British citizens.

Police in Bangladesh said they were checking whether Begum was a Bangladeshi citizen, and Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the government’s decision was wrong.

“If the government is proposing to make Shamima Begum stateless it is not just a breach of international human rights law but is a failure to meet our security obligations to the international community,” Diane Abbott, Labour spokeswoman on home issues.

Ken Clarke, a former Conservative minister, said he was surprised that Javid’s lawyers had given him such advice.

“What you can’t do is leave them in a camp in Syria being even more radicalised… until they disperse themselves through the world and make their way back here,” he said.

“I think the Germans, the French and ourselves have got to work out how to deal with this difficult and, I accept, dangerous problem,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Stopped from joining Islamic State fiance in Syria, teen planned London attack

Rizlaine Boular, aged 22 and sister of Safaa Boular, who has pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts, can be seen in this undated Metropolitan Police handout photograph in London, Britain, June 4, 2018. Metropolitan Police/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – A London teenager who wanted to attack the British Museum with grenades and firearms after she was prevented from traveling to Syria to marry an Islamic State militant was convicted on Monday of planning acts of terrorism.

Safaa Boular, now 18, had started chatting online to fighter Naweed Husain when she was 16. She had decided to join him in Syria so they could marry, then carry out a suicide attack there while holding hands.

Husain had sent Boular’s older sister, Rizlaine Boular, 3,000 pounds ($4,000) to pay for Safaa’s travel arrangements, but the sisters were arrested in August 2016. They were released on bail but had their passport confiscated.

Safaa Boular continued chatting to Husain, and the pair discussed plans for her to attack the British Museum, one of central London’s top attractions for visitors, with what she called “pineapples” – grenades.

“Safaa Boular’s intention was to cause serious injury and death,” said Sue Hemming of the Crown Prosecution Service.

After Husain was killed in Syria on April 4, 2017, Boular wrote that she wanted to be granted “martyrdom”.

“My heart yearns … to be reunited with my dear husband for the very first time,” she wrote.

Instead, she was arrested eight days later, but her sister Rizlaine took on the planning of an attack on targets in central London, supported by the young women’s mother Mina Dich.

The mother and daughter went on a reconnaissance visit to major landmarks in Westminster on April 25, 2017, and the following day they bought knives from a supermarket. They were arrested a day later.

Rizlaine Boular, 22, and Dich, 44, both pleaded guilty in February to planning acts of terrorism. Their pleas could not previously be reported because of the risk of prejudice to Safaa Boular’s trial by jury.

The trio will be sentenced at a later date.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Philippines’ Duterte says police can kill ‘idiots’ who resist arrest

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte greets Lorenza de los Santos and husband Saldy, parents of 17-year-old high school student Kian Delos Santos, who was killed recently in police raid in line with the war on drug, during their visit at Malacanang presidential complex in metro Manila, Philippines August 28, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told police on Monday they could kill “idiots” who violently resist arrest, two days after hundreds of people turned the funeral of a slain teenager into a protest against his deadly war on drugs.

Duterte met the parents of the schoolboy, 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, at the presidential palace in Manila on Monday, to assure them their son’s case would be handled fairly.

Delos Santos’ mother, Lorenza, said she was confident the president would help quickly resolve the case, while the father, Saldy, said he no longer feared for their lives and felt reassured by the meeting.

“He promised he would not allow those who have committed wrong to go unpunished,” the mother said in an interview posted online by Duterte’s communications office on a Facebook page after the meeting.

Duterte unleashed the anti-drugs war after taking office in June last year following an election campaign in which he vowed to use deadly force to wipe out crime and drugs.

Thousands of people have been killed and the violence has been criticized by much of the international community.

Domestic opposition has been largely muted but the killing of delos Santos by anti-drugs officers on Aug. 16 has sparked rare public outrage.

Residents stay at a wake of a victim of a shooting by masked motorcycle-riding men during a local community protest march against extrajudicial killings in Sampaloc, metro Manila, Philippines August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi

Residents stay at a wake of a victim of a shooting by masked motorcycle-riding men during a local community protest march against extrajudicial killings in Sampaloc, metro Manila, Philippines August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

More than 1,000 people, including nuns, priests and hundreds of children, joined his funeral procession on Saturday, turning the march into one of the biggest protests yet against Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.

Earlier, Duterte broke off midway through a prepared speech at the Hero’s Cemetery on the outskirts of Manila and addressed impromptu comments to Jovie Espenido, the police chief of a town in the south where the mayor was killed in an anti-drugs raid.

“Your duty requires you to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting … (if) he resists, and it is a violent one … you are free to kill the idiots, that is my order to you,” Duterte told the police officer.

Duterte added that “murder and homicide and unlawful killings” were not allowed and that police had to uphold the rule of law while carrying out their duties.

Delos Santos was dragged by plain-clothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in Manila before he was shot in the head and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses whose accounts appeared to be backed up by CCTV footage.

Police say they acted in self defense after delos Santos opened fire on them, and Duterte’s spokesman and the justice minister have described the killing of the teenager as an “isolated” case.

U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, described the killing of delos Santos as “murder” in a tweet on Aug. 25, earning the ire of Duterte who in a separate speech on Monday called her “son of a bitch” and “stupid”.

“She should not threaten me,” Duterte said as he challenged Callamard to visit and see the situation in the Philippines.

A planned visit by Callamard in December was canceled because she refused to accept Duterte’s conditions that she must hold a debate with him. She turned up in unofficial capacity in May to address an academic conference on human rights.



(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel)


Austrian teenager says he built ‘test bomb’ in Germany: minister

VIENNA (Reuters) – An Austrian teenager arrested on suspicion of planning an Islamist attack in Vienna has told investigators he built a “test bomb” in Germany, where another suspect has been arrested, Austria’s interior minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The Austrian suspect, a 17-year-old with Albanian roots, was arrested on Friday after tip-offs from unspecified foreign countries. Austria alerted Germany to a related suspect, a 21-year-old who was arrested in the western city of Neuss on Saturday. A boy thought to be 12 has also been held in Austria.

Whether the German and Austrian suspects are believed to have planned separate attacks or a joint one, and of what nature, is not clear. Austria has said public places in Vienna including its underground transit system might have been a target.

“A test bomb seems to have been put together,” Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told broadcaster ORF, even though no explosives were found in the apartment in question. “That is all we can announce today from the questioning.”

Asked what he meant by a test bomb, Sobotka said: “Where one tries to put together materials obtained on the market from instructions on the internet.” He added that what had been established in the questioning was changing daily.

An Interior Ministry spokesman declined to elaborate.

The German admitted during questioning that the Austrian had visited him for two weeks at the end of last year, a spokesman for the Duesseldorf prosecutor said on Monday.

Germany’s Focus magazine had said the man was planning a bomb attack on police and soldiers. Both he and the Austrian had experimented with materials to create explosives in the Neuss apartment, it said.

German authorities have been on high alert since a Tunisian whose bid for asylum had been rejected rammed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on Dec. 19, killing 12 people.

Police in Vienna have been put on heightened alert since Friday’s arrest and have increased patrols at transport hubs and busy public places.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Virginia Teen Jailed for Attempting to Help ISIS

A Virginia teenager will spend the next eleven years of his life in prison because he attempted to help Islamic terrorist group ISIS.

Ali Shukri Amin, 17, will also have a lifetime of probation and will have all of his online activity monitored for the rest of his life.

Amin had faced 15 years in prison.  His lawyer argued that because he had cooperated with federal authorities and didn’t try to radicalize anyone but his friend Reza Niknejad that he should only get six years in prison.

Family members and friends, including two imams, were in the courtroom when Amin received his sentence.

In addition to attempting to radicalize a friend, Amin operated a Twitter account where he had 4,000 followers to his ISIS propaganda.  He instructed people on how to make donations to ISIS via the computer currency Bitcoin.

Prosecutors called for the maximum sentence because of the “danger he will continue to pose to society” after his release.

Teen Goes For Swim, Ends Up Rescuing 20 Hikers

Sonny Boiser is your typical 15-year-old who wanted to kick back in the evening and swim at a swimming hole near the Blue Hole hiking trail in Kauai.

The trail is located along the second rainiest spot on Earth, so there is always  plenty of fresh water in the hole to swim.

That’s when Sonny suddenly heard cries for help.

He walked from the trailhead where he parked his car to find 20 hikers stranded on the other side of a stream flooded with raging water.  The stream, which earlier in the day had been so dry the hikers could walk across it, filled after a light rain turned into a downpour.

“We couldn’t cross the river even if we tried to,” Micah Phillips-Lam told the Garden Island newspaper. “When we got there, my friend Will, he tried to swim across and he almost got swept away, so we didn’t try again. It was raining and we were all cold, the whole group of us, and we just waited. We didn’t know what to do, honestly.”

“There was this brown rushing water and giant logs going downstream,” Phillips-Lam added. “We didn’t want to take our chances.”

Boiser took a rope that one of the hikers carried and tied it to the back of his truck as the hikers secured another end to a tree.  Boiser then kept pulling the truck forward to keep the rope taut for the hikers to use to cross.

“It was a crazy experience. We got so lucky,” Phillips-Lam said. “[Boiser is] a really cool kid.”

“I was glad I got there and they didn’t have to spend the night there,” said Boiser, who has his learner’s permit and was driving with his older sister.