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Fresno shooter wanted to kill many white people, police say

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 20:59

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A man wanted in the slaying of a security guard set out to kill as many white people as he could on Tuesday, gunning down three men on the streets of downtown Fresno before he was captured and admitted to the shootings, authorities said.

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, was arrested shortly after the morning rampage that left three white men dead, police said. Muhammad, who is black, fired 16 rounds in less than two minutes at four places within a block, shooting men who appeared to be going about their day, authorities say.

During his arrest, Muhammad shouted “Allahu Akbar,” but Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the shootings had “nothing to do with terrorism in spite of the statement he made.”

“This is solely based on race,” Dyer told reporters.

Muhammad on Tuesday first walked up to a utility truck and shot a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee sitting in the passenger seat. The driver of the truck, who is Latino, sped off to the police department for help, but the worker, a 34-year-old white man, died.

Muhammad then shot at another person and missed, police said. He aimed at a third, killing the 37-year-old on the sidewalk as he walked with a bag of groceries in a neighborhood lined with tall trees. The final victim, 58, was gunned down in the parking lot of a charity building, authorities said.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Muhammad approached a vehicle in between shootings, but he spared the lives of two women who were in the car with a child. The women were Latinas, he said.

“These individuals who were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got,” Dyer said. “These were unprovoked attacks by an individual that was intent on carrying out homicides today. He did that.”

Police had put out a news release hours before the shootings Tuesday, saying that Muhammad was armed and dangerous and wanted in the shooting death of a security guard at a Motel 6 last week. The guard, 25-year-old Carl Williams, was white.

Muhammad told officers at his arrest that he was the guy they were looking for, Dyer said.

“I did it. I shot them,” Dyer said Muhammad told officers.

Police are searching for the revolver Muhammad said he tossed into a pile of clothing. The gun may have been picked up by someone else, Dyer said.

Muhammad faces four counts of murder and at least two additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Stephen Hughes, 66, said he and his wife rushed home Tuesday after receiving a frantic call from a neighbor. Hughes came home to see a body draped in a blanket on the sidewalk leading to his front door.

He first thought the shooting was gang-related, but then he noticed the bag of groceries near the body. “It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store,” Hughes said.

On what appeared to be Muhammad’s Facebook page, he repeatedly posted “#LetBlackPeopleGo” and encouraged “black warriors” to “mount up.” A flurry of posts emerged in the past day.

He wrote that his “kill rate increases tremendously on the other side” and also posted about “white devils.” On several occasions, he wrote updates that included the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic.

Muhammad has a criminal history that includes arrests on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats. He had been associated with gangs but he was not a confirmed member, police say.

Muhammad was charged in 2005 with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, court records show. Federal prosecutors said at the time that he was also in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two rifles after being convicted of a felony.

He claimed insanity, and his attorney requested a psychiatric examination for his client, saying Muhammad “appeared eccentric with some bizarre beliefs.” A psychiatrist who examined Muhammad believed he had psychosis, Muhammad’s attorney said in the court filing.

He also “suffered auditory hallucinations and had at least two prior mental health hospitalizations,” according to court documents. His attorney said that Muhammad had “paranoia” and thought the justice system and his defense attorney were conspiring against him, court papers said.

The attorney who represented Muhammad in that case did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Public records list Muhammad as Cory Taylor and other aliases with addresses in Fresno and Sacramento. Fresno police chief said his former name was Cory McDonald. A woman who identified herself as Taylor’s grandmother said Tuesday that the family last saw him on Easter Sunday. She hung up the phone before giving her name.

Police say two of the victims may have been clients of Catholic Charities, which provides a variety of services for refugees, the homeless and those with disabilities.

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Contributing to this report are Associated Press writers Kristin J. Bender, Olga R. Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco; Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson in Sacramento; Mike Balsamo in Los Angeles; and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York City

Categories: Local News

Ex-gang members work with law enforcement to evoke change

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 19:36

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Concerns about recent gang violence has prompted a local group to hit the streets. Hope for the Hood Ministries is a group of community members, some of which are ex-gang members, that are now working with the police to improve their neighborhoods. There’s been some recent deaths in the community that have sparked this ministry to take their outreach to another level; knocking on doors. They tell us, this effort is not just to spread the word but to educate people on the resources available to them and today they started on the northside.

“Hey how are you, I’m Angel Martinez,” said a Hope For The Hood advocate as he knocked on the door. “I’m here to talk to you about a peace event we have coming up and let you know we are here in the neighborhood as a resource.”

This direct move has a simple message, peaceful neighborhoods. Angel spent his day with Benin Santibenez, the head of Hope For The Hood, as they hit the pavement taking their mission door to door.

“My focus is centered around helping people,” said Beni.

Beni is an ex-gang member who feels it’s his responsibility to clean up what he and many others started.

“We were the first wave of gangs back in the 90’s,” explained Beni.”We sowed that seed back in the day and we’re taking responsibility for that now.”

Hope For The Hood has partnered with law enforcement to tackle gang violence in the community.

“Patrol North has been working closely with Beni and Angel in trying to solve problems in the neighborhood. but more than solve, prevent problems,” said Wichita Police Officer, Steve Jarrel. “There vision was similar to what are vision is in providing safer communities so it was a natural no brainer to work together.”

The ministry says that working with the police also helps to erase the stigma.

“Everybody is keeping their mouth closed because there’s a stigma that the police are the bad guys,” said Angel Martinez. “They want to say, don’t talk to the police or you’re a snitch when in reality who do we call when we need someone to help us, we call the police.”

Hope For The Hood will be hosting a peace event next weekend. The first will be at Plainview Park on Saturday April 29th and the next at Evergreen Park on Sunday the 30th. The event will have raffles, food, prizes, clinics for both men and women as well as a freestyle battles and more.

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Categories: Local News

Kansas grocery stores will start selling full-strength beer

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 19:15

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas grocery and convenience stores will be able to sell regular beer starting in 2019 after a years-long effort to get full-strength brews into the stores.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Tuesday allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with up to 6 percent alcohol by volume. They can now sell cereal malt beverage with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. In exchange, liquor stores will be able to sell cereal malt beverages and more non-alcoholic products, such as shot glasses, mixers, lottery tickets and tobacco products.

The House and Senate passed the bill earlier this month.

Lawmakers have debated the issue for years. Some said they were concerned large grocery chains would put independent liquor stores out of business. But grocery and liquor stores found the compromise.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Categories: Local News

Marshall talks health care and budget with voters

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 18:46

JOHNSON CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Congressman Roger Marshall is on a listening tour of the 1st district. He stopped by Johnson City on Tuesday where healthcare was a common theme.

“It’s right that we need to make our changes with Obamacare,” said Johnson City resident Bill Seyb.

“Democrat or Republican or Independent or Libertarian, healthcare really is important for everybody,” said Bill Troup, another resident and a local doctor.

Many Johnson City voters expressed their frustrations with the healthcare debate.

“Republicans have voted forty-some times when they knew it was going to get vetoed,” said Seyb, “and yet they don’t have a plan to replace it. I think they should have had the plan before they ever talked about the repeal.”

Marshall insisted he’s not done trying to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“We did get knocked on our shorts a little bit a couple of weeks ago,” said Marshall, “but what do Americans do? We get back up, and we’ve been working very, very hard on it. I’m very optimistic that we’re going to see something pass here in the near future.”

The president’s proposed budget also concerned residents, like Dr. Bill Troup, who has treated patients in Africa on mission trips.

“When I’ve seen reports that maybe we’re going to be cutting foreign aid,” he said, “it kind of concerns me that some of these programs of food and HIV assistance and things like that might be curtailed.”

There was also concern about potential cuts to the arts, humanities, and library funding programs, which support the local museum.

“All of those dollars don’t stay at the museum,” said Katie Herrick, who works at the local museum. “They go out to suppliers. They go out to buy lumber. They go out to buy photograph reproductions. That money is passed around in the community.”

To those concerns, Marshall said cuts have to be made somewhere.

“What you’ve sent me to Washington to do is to prioritize things,” said Marshall, “and we do have a finite amount of money.”

Marshall also vowed to fight to save programs like Meals on Wheels.

Categories: Local News

Former Dallas Cowboys tailback Joseph Randle faces jury trial on multiple charges

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:59

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Former Wichita high school football star and Dallas Cowboys tailback, Joseph Randle, is in court again today.

He is facing a jury trial on multiple charges including aggravated battery, burglary, and criminal damage to property along with marijuana possession. He is also accused of deliberately hitting three people with his car at a party. Nobody was critically injured in the incident.

One witness today said that Randle got upset at a party in Wichita and then hit the witness with his car after being asked to leave.

“I go over the top actually, again,” said Loy Alexander, talking about Randle allegedly hitting him with a car on the night of Feb 20th, 2016. “I don’t know where my sister went this time but I know I went over the top.”

Alexander said on the stand that his sister was hit by Randle’s car as well.

The defense offers a different story. Attorney Steve Mank says Randle got into an argument at the party, before trying to leave.

“Joseph goes to his car to leave,” said Mank. “Tries to. There are a number of people surrounding the vehicle… he tries to back out, he doesn’t make it.”

The prosecution has seven witnesses that can talk about the party where they claim Randle hit three people with his car. The defense, however, says that Randle is being unfairly targeted.

No word yet whether or not Randle plans to take the stand. KSN will be in the courtroom as the trial continues Wednesday morning.

 

 

Categories: Local News

South Hutchinson officer seizes 44 pounds of pot in traffic stop

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 16:00

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A South Hutchinson officer seized 44 pounds of pot in a traffic stop on Saturday.

According to police, Sgt. Jake Graber initiated a traffic stop on Highway 50 after observing a vehicle traveling at 89 mph in a 65 mph zone. He received consent to search the vehicle which resulted in the seizure of 44 pounds of marijuana and $1,000 in cash.

Authorities arrested Alyssa L. Holler of Mesa, Arizona. She was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and transported to the Reno County Correctional Facility.

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Categories: Local News

Rabid skunk found in Riverside

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 14:42

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Animal Services Section said a rabid skunk was found in the 1100 block of North Perry.

A note was sent to residents telling them to call Animal Control at 350-3360 if you witness any animals acting ill, aggressive, or in an unusual state of manner.

If you own pets, make sure they have a current rabies vaccination.

If you have any questions call Wichita Animal Control at 350-3360.

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Categories: Local News

KBI, Russell police investigating child abuse case

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 14:26

RUSSELL, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Russell Police Department are investigating a case of child abuse. The KBI said the case involves a 14-month-old boy.

The Russell Police Department said he is being treated at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

No other details were immediately released by authorities.

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Categories: Local News

Employees told St. Francis in Topeka no longer viable

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 13:54

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Employees at St. Francis Health Center are hoping and praying that a last minute save comes through after being told the hospital is “no longer viable” in today’s world, according to sources inside a private staff meeting held Tuesday morning.

The meeting was held amidst rumors that the hospital will close. Hundreds showed up for a candlelight vigil at the hospital Monday night.

Doctors learned at the meeting their contracts would not be extended past 90 days, an employee told KSNT News. Reporters were not allowed inside the meeting.

St. Francis’s Denver-based owners, SCL Health, has reported financial losses in recent years. It placed St. Francis on the market 11 months ago, leaving 1,600 employees increasingly anxious about its future.

Governor Sam Brownback today issued the following statement regarding St. Francis Hospital:

“Yesterday, I had a meeting with Mike Slubowski, the CEO of SCL Health, about the status of St. Francis Hospital. He committed to me that they would not announce a closure of St. Francis on Tuesday, and that they would work with us to find a solution that keeps St. Francis open.

“I intend to hold Mr. Slubowski to his commitment and anticipate further negotiations in the coming days and weeks. As I have said previously, St. Francis is an important local and regional health care provider, and a significant Kansas charitable asset that has long served its stated mission of improving the health of those who are poor and vulnerable.”

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Categories: Local News

Wichita selected to host the NCAA tournament in 2021

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 13:18

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita State was selected to host the Division 1 Men’s Basketball first and second rounds at Intrust Bank Arena on March 19 & 21, 2021.

The NCAA made the announcement around noon. Click here to see the rest of the sites.

Wichita State University will serve as host at Intrust Bank Arena, in partnership with Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, Visit Wichita, Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita.

In November of 2014, members of that group completed a successful bid for 2018 First and Second Round games, returning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships to Wichita for the first time in 24 years. Tuesday’s announcement continues the momentum.

“Landing the 2018 tournament was significant, but our goal all along has been to make Wichita a regular host. Securing a second bid for 2021 is another step in that direction,” said WSU Associate Athletic Director and tournament manager, Brad Pittman. “We’re grateful for the many groups that pulled together to make this happen and look forward to another opportunity to showcase our university and community.”

It will be the men’s tournament’s 11th stop in Wichita and second at Intrust Bank Arena (including 2018). Wichita State’s Levitt Arena played host to 22 games spanning eight different tournaments between 1956 and 1981. In 1994, the Kansas Coliseum hosted six NCAA Midwest Sub-Regional contests.

RELATED LINK | History of the NCAA Tournament in Wichita

“Being selected by the NCAA to host the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship again in 2021 is an honor and we’re thrilled about the opportunity to host this prestigious event for a second time,” added A.J. Boleski, SMG General Manager for Intrust Bank Arena. “The success of Wichita State University’s men’s basketball program has helped put Wichita on the map as a host site for NCAA events and we look forward Wichita’s world-class facilities being showcased on a national stage in both 2018 and 2021.”

WATCH the @NCAA Press Conference from @INTRUSTarena LIVE at 2pm. #NCAAHost pic.twitter.com/v9rJrgBxPm

— INTRUST Bank Arena (@INTRUSTarena) April 18, 2017

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Man sought in Cleveland Facebook killing is dead

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 11:55

ERIE, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania State Police say the suspect in the random killing of a Cleveland retiree posted on Facebook has shot and killed himself after a brief pursuit.

State police say Steve Stephens was spotted Tuesday morning by state police in Erie County, in the state’s northwest corner. Authorities say police tried to pull Stephens over and, after a brief pursuit, he shot and killed himself.

Stephens was wanted on an aggravated murder charge in the shooting death of a 74-year-old retired man in Cleveland on Sunday.

He posted video of that shooting on Facebook.

Steve Stephens was spotted this morning by PSP members in Erie County. After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself.

— PA State Police (@PAStatePolice) April 18, 2017

Categories: Local News

Oklahoma deputy shot, suspect believed in stolen vehicle

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 11:36

MULHALL, Okla. (AP) – Authorities say an Oklahoma deputy sheriff was shot and wounded by a suspect who then escaped in the deputy’s patrol car.

Logan County Sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Valencia says the deputy was responding to a call in Mulhall, about 50 miles north of Oklahoma City, when he was shot in the face Tuesday morning.

The deputy’s name and condition have not been released. Valencia said he’s being taken to a hospital.

Valencia said after the suspect shot the deputy and took the patrol car he drove to a convenience store near the town of Coyle about 25 miles away where he abandoned the police car and stole another vehicle and drove away.

UPDATE: The Logan County shooting suspect is described as a white male wearing a black shirt with tattoos on his neck. 1/2

— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) April 18, 2017

The stolen vehicle is a gray 2010 Mazda. Oklahoma tag: AEN-616. Vehicle was last seen traveling south on Henney Rd from HWY 33. 2/2

— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) April 18, 2017

Categories: Local News

Governor names lawmaker as new state treasurer

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 11:12

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed a legislator as the next state treasurer to replace Republican Ron Estes after Estes won a special congressional election.

Brownback announced Tuesday that GOP state Sen. Jake LaTurner of Pittsburg will serve the rest of Estes’ four-year term as treasurer. LaTurner is expected to seek a full term in 2018.

Twenty-nine-year-old LaTurner has been active in Republican politics in southeast Kansas for at least a decade. He previously served on congresswoman Lynn Jenkins’ staff, was elected to the Senate in 2012 and re-elected last year.

The 60-year-old Estes was elected last week to replace former congressman Mike Pompeo in the 4th District of south-central Kansas following Pompeo’s appointment as CIA director.

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5 things to know about Tax Day

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:52

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tuesday is Tax Day, that dreaded day when millions of procrastinators rush to fulfill their civic duty by filing state and federal tax returns.

But for most, it’s not that bad. Sure, the forms are complicated and yes, there is math. But tax season also generates about $300 billion in refunds, a significant boost to the U.S. economy.

Five things to know about Tax Day:

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MOST GET REFUNDS

The IRS so far has processed 101 million tax returns from individuals and about 80 percent have qualified for refunds. The average refund is $2,851, an increase of $53 over last year.

By the end of filing season, the IRS expects to process 150 million returns. That’s after millions file for automatic six-month extensions.

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CHANCES OF GETTING AUDITED ARE SLIM

The number of people audited by the IRS in 2016 dropped for the sixth straight year, to just over 1 million. That’s less than 1 percent of filers.

The last time so few people were audited was 2004. Since then, the U.S. has added about 30 million people.

The IRS blames budget cuts as money for the agency shrank from $12.2 billion in 2010 to $11.2 billion last year.

But rich people beware. The higher your income, the more likely you are to be audited. Agents audited 5.8 percent of returns that reported more than $1 million in income.

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RETURNS DOWN, REFUNDS DELAYED

Tax season got off to a slow start because the IRS delayed refunds for more than 40 million low-income families as part of the agency’s efforts to fight identity theft.

The delays affected families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. The tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both.

The tax filing season started Jan. 23. But a new law required the IRS to delay tax refunds for people claiming these credits until Feb. 15.

The delay was designed to give the agency more time to screen the returns for fraud. Throughout the tax filing season, the number of tax returns processed by the IRS has been lower than last year.

As of April 7, the IRS had received 104 million tax returns and processed 101 million. Both numbers are down about 3.5 percent from last year.

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PEOPLE ILLEGALLY IN US PAY TAXES

There is a common myth that people in the U.S. illegally don’t pay taxes. But data from both the IRS and the Social Security Administration says otherwise.

Yes, some work in the underground economy. But in 2015, the Social Security Administration estimated that immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally paid $100 billion in Social Security payroll taxes over the previous decade. They paid the taxes even though few will ever be able to collect benefits.

How does Social Security know when it receives taxes from immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally? One way is by tracking reported wages in which the Social Security number does not match the name the agency has on file.

Some of these are clerical errors or unreported name changes. But the agency estimates that a majority of the wages come from immigrants who have made-up Social Security numbers or used someone else’s.

Also, the IRS has issued more than 20 million Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to foreigners.

The ITINs are supposed to be used by foreigners who have some form of U.S. income, and therefore owe U.S. taxes. However, the tax agency believes that many of them are used by people who are working in the U.S. illegally.

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TAX DAY ISN’T MUCH OF A DEADLINE IF YOU’RE DUE A REFUND

The IRS doesn’t like to talk about it, but penalties for filing late federal tax returns apply only to people who owe money. The penalty is a percentage of what you owe. If you owe nothing, there is no penalty.

But it doesn’t make much sense to file late if you are owed a refund. And beware — if you have unpaid taxes, the late fees add up quickly.

The failure-to-file penalty is generally 5 percent of your unpaid tax bill for every month, or part of a month, you are late. It kicks in on April 19. In general, the maximum penalty is 25 percent of your original tax bill.

There also is a penalty for failing to pay your tax bill, separate from the penalty for failing to file at all, but it’s much smaller. That’s because the IRS wants you to file a return even if you don’t have enough money to pay your bill.

The failure-to-pay penalty is 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes for every month, or part of a month, you don’t pay.

Categories: Local News

High-speed chase ends in northeast Wichita

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:30

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A high-speed chase ended around 7:30 a.m. in northeast Wichita. The chase ended after the truck ran off the road and into a ditch at K-254 and Oliver.

Officials started chasing the truck after a home burglary in Newton. The chase went down I-135. The truck crossed over into the northbound lanes running other cars off of the roadway. The truck exited I-135 near 125th Street and fled south toward Kechi. Officers were able to deploy stop sticks, and the truck eventually stopped near K-254 and Oliver.

The suspects fled. They were all taken into custody within 20 minutes, and no one was harmed. The suspects were returned to Harvey County where they will face charges. Officers are searching the area for a weapon the suspect may have discarded.

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Categories: Local News

Boeing to issue layoff notices to hundreds of employees

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:01

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Boeing will issue hundreds of layoff notices to engineers in Washington state this week.

The Daily Herald reported Monday that a memo from the company’s vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes John Hamilton says the cuts are necessary to stay competitive.

Hamilton also said in the memo that more cuts in engineering could come later this year.

In just over the past year, Boeing Commercial Airplanes reduced its workforce by more than 9,000, mainly through buyouts and retirements.

At the end of March, the division employed nearly 74,200 people, down from over 83,000 at the end of 2015.

 

Categories: Local News

Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:00

VARNER, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas officials vowed to carry out a double execution later this week after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a setback to the state’s plan to resume capital punishment for the first time in nearly 12 years with a ruling sparing an inmate just minutes before his death warrant was set to expire.

The court’s decision was the second time Don Davis has been granted a reprieve shortly before execution — he came within hours of death in 2010. It capped a chaotic day of legal wrangling in state and federal courts Monday as Arkansas tried to clear obstacles to carrying out its first executions since 2005.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had set an aggressive schedule of eight executions by the end of April, when the state’s supply of midazolam, a key lethal injection drug, expires. If the state had been able to move ahead with its 11-day execution plan, it would have been the most inmates put to death by any state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The executions of Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two of those executions Monday, but Ward received a stay and the state did not appeal the decision. The state did challenge a stay granted to Davis, but the last-minute U.S. Supreme Court ruling ensured that he would not enter the death chamber Monday.

Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight.

Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 death of Jane Daniel in Rogers, Arkansas. The woman was killed in her home after Davis broke in and shot her with a .44-caliber revolver he found there.

Despite the setbacks, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Arkansas would press ahead with other planned executions, including two set for Thursday — Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson.

“There are five scheduled executions remaining with nothing preventing them from occurring, but I will continue to respond to any and all legal challenges brought by the prisoners,” Rutledge said.

Lawyers for the inmates were not immediately available after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Earlier in the day, the state had cleared two of the main obstacles to resuming executions. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge’s ruling blocking the executions over the use of midazolam, a sedative used in flawed executions in other states. The state Supreme Court also lifted a lower court ruling preventing the state from using another lethal injection drug that a supplier said was sold to be used for medical purposes, not executions.

The high court’s order sparing Davis offered no explanation, but none of the justices voted in favor of lifting the stay. Monday marked the first day that the U.S. Supreme Court was in session with new Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench.

Arkansas enacted a law two years ago keeping secret the source of its lethal injection drugs, a move officials said was necessary to find new supplies. Despite the secrecy measure, prison officials have said it will be very difficult to find a supplier willing to sell Arkansas midazolam after its current stock expires.

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DeMillo reported from Little Rock. Associated Press writers Jill Bleed in Little Rock and Kelly P. Kissel in Varner contributed to this report.

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Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy and Andrew DeMillo at http://www.twitter.com/ademillo .

Categories: Local News

Videos show desperation of suspect in Facebook video killing

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:58

CLEVELAND (AP) — The suspect in the random killing of a retiree posted on Facebook made his living mentoring teens in Cleveland, but his life appeared to be unraveling under the weight of gambling debts and trouble with his girlfriend.

Rambling videos he shared showed his despair, saying he was out of options and wanted to kill as many innocent people as he could.

While authorities have not found any evidence that he killed anyone else, the manhunt for Steve Stephens stretched into a third day on Tuesday and far beyond the neighborhood where police said he shot a 74-year-old man who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday after spending Easter with some of his children.

Stephens, 37, could be anywhere, authorities said, calling it a nationwide search. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his capture and prosecution.

Stephens posted a video of himself killing Robert Godwin Sr., a former foundry worker who had 10 children, police said. In it, he said, “I snapped, I just snapped.” But police would not speculate on what was behind it.

“Only Steve knows that,” Williams said.

In the video, Stephens told Godwin a woman’s name and said, “She’s the reason that this is about to happen to you.” Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.

The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text message to CBS that “we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened.”

She also said Stephens was “a nice guy” who was good to her and her children.

Police say Stephens had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

WEWS-TV reports that a video Stephens posted to Facebook last year showed him firing rapidly at targets at the Sherwin Shooting Sports range, in violation of its safety rules, and being warned to stop by an employee.

The owner of the Willoughby gun range, Blake Frederick, told Cleveland.com that he recalls Stephens as nice and jovial and doesn’t remember anything negative about him.

Stephens filed for bankruptcy two years ago despite holding down a job as a counselor helping young people develop job skills and find employment. The behavioral health agency where he worked said an extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome.

In one video posted on Facebook, Stephens said that he gambled away everything and that he and his girlfriend had planned to marry but did not, without saying why. He blamed her for what was about to happen.

Some friends said they knew about his gambling. But the videos showed a man they did not recognize.

Alexis Lee, who saw Stephens last week, said his childhood friend always seemed respectful and got along with everybody.

“He never ever told me he had problems or issues. It was always good things,” Lee said. “He was always just so happy and cool, calm, collected, like, that’s why it’s so shocking.”

Other neighbors said he was quiet as a kid and intelligent, recalling how he went to college and got a master’s degree.

“He was just a no problem person at all, compared to a lot of people,” said Cynthia Coley, a former neighbor.

In one video in which he blamed his girlfriend, Stephens said he woke up last week and “couldn’t take it anymore.”

Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.

On Monday evening, Facebook announced that it was launching a review for reporting harmful content following the killing. The company said that Stephens posted a video of himself announcing his intent to commit murder, then two minutes later posted another video of himself shooting and killing Godwin. A few minutes after that, he went live and confessed.

The company said it disabled Stephen’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the video of the fatal shooting and two hours after receiving any report.

“In this case we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted,” said Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations. “We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended.”

Officers searched dozens of places around Cleveland without finding Stephens or any other victims before expanding the manhunt. Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.

Law enforcement officials said his cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cleveland. Police in Philadelphia said eight elementary schools and a high school were locked down Monday while they investigated reported sightings but found nothing.

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Associated Press reporters Dake Kang and Delano Massey in Cleveland and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.

Categories: Local News

Trump, GOP face referendum in Georgia; Dems aim for upset

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:55

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) — Republicans are bidding to prevent a major upset in a conservative Georgia congressional district where Democrats stoked by opposition to President Donald Trump have rallied behind a candidate who has raised a shocking amount of money for a special election.

Tuesday’s jungle-style primary lumps all 18 candidates on one ballot and is expected to be more competitive than Republicans’ single-digit victory in Kansas last week that also tested both parties’ strategies for the 2018 midterm elections with Trump in the White House.

Trump underperformed other Republicans in the suburban Atlanta district, an affluent, well-educated swath filled with the kind of voters Democrats need if they hope to reclaim a House majority next year.

Republicans essentially concede that Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer, will lead Tuesday’s voting. That leaves 11 Republican candidates hoping the 30-year-old investigative filmmaker fails to reach a majority. If he doesn’t, Ossoff and the top GOP vote-getter would meet in a June 20 runoff.

Five Democrats will appear on the ballot, but Ossoff is the GOP’s greatest threat. He raised more than $8.3 million, most of it from outside the district. Two independent candidates also are running. The winner will succeed Tom Price, who resigned to become Trump’s health secretary.

Ossoff has enough momentum to draw attention from Trump himself.

The president took to Twitter on Monday to blast the “super liberal” Democrat in the contest without naming names. He said the “super liberal” Democrat “wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!” In a statement, Ossoff, who has used anti-Trump sentiments in his campaign, answered that Trump is “misinformed,” but added that he’s “glad the president is interested in the race.”

Republicans and Democrats alike see the contest as an important barometer of Trump’s standing ahead of 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats will try to regain control of Congress.

Both major parties have dispatched paid field staffers. Republican groups are running a blitz of ads trying to tie Ossoff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; a political action committee backed by House Speaker Ryan has spent more than $2 million.

Karen Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has led the Republican field. Technology executive Bob Gray; and two former state senators, Dan Moody and Judson Hill — are polling closest to Handel in a fight for the No. 2 spot.

The GOP scramble has been intense, with GOP rivals accusing Handel of being a political opportunist and the conservative Club for Growth spending six figures on ads to defeat her.

National Republicans say any of the four competitive GOP candidates could defeat Ossoff in a second round of voting. GOP voters, they predict, would be energized in a Republican vs. Democrat scenario, making it harder for Ossoff to run above the fray as he has leading up to the primary.

Handel said Monday that she is confident enough Republicans will cast ballots to hold Ossoff short of a majority, thus setting up a June 20 runoff between the Democratic upstart and Tuesday’s top Republican performer.

“Republican voters are not going to sit by and let this district go to a Democrat,” Handel said.

Ossoff has tried to walk a line between liberals looking for a chance to oppose Trump and Republicans who couldn’t support him in November. Ossoff pledges to fight Trump when he “embarrasses” the country. But he tells voters in one ad, “I’ll work with anybody in Washington who respects your tax dollars.”

Handel is among the Republican candidates trying to maintain some distance from Trump, rarely discussing him unless asked. Gray has instead tried to portray himself as a “willing partner” for the president. Other Republican candidates, though, have questioned whether Gray always backed Trump or is simply strategizing a path to a runoff election.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Follow Foody and Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KatieFoody and https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP

Categories: Local News

Britain’s prime minister to seek early election on June 8

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:55

LONDON (AP) — In a shock announcement, Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early general election to be held June 8 to seek a strong mandate as she negotiates Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Standing outside 10 Downing Street, May said she would ask the House of Commons on Wednesday to back her call for an election, just two years after the last vote and three years before the next scheduled date in May 2020.

She said that since Britons voted to leave the EU in June, the country had come together, but politicians had not. She said the political divisions “risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.”

At present, May’s governing Conservatives have a small majority, with 330 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons.

With the main opposition Labour Party weakened and divided under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats holding just nine Commons seats, May is calculating that the election will bring her an expanded crop of Conservative lawmakers.

That would make it easier for her to ignore opposition calls for a softer EU exit — making compromises to retain some benefits of membership — and to face down hardliners within her own party who want a no-compromise “hard Brexit” that many economists fear could be devastating.

May triggered a two-year countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU last month, and high-stakes negotiations to settle divorce terms and agree on a new relationship are expected to start within weeks.

May took office in July following an internal Conservative leadership contest, after predecessor David Cameron stepped down when voters rejected his call to remain in the EU. Since then she has repeatedly ruled out calling an early election to get her own mandate.

But May said Tuesday she had “reluctantly” changed her mind.

“We need a general election and we need one now,” she said.

May said that if there is not an election soon, “the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election.”

“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country,” she said.

May said that “our opponents believe that because the government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course” on leaving the EU.

“They are wrong,” she said. “They underestimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country.”

Under Britain’s Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, elections are held every five years, but the prime minister can call a snap election if two-thirds of lawmakers vote for it.

That is highly likely to happen on Wednesday. Labour Party leader Corbyn said he welcomed May’s decision “to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”

Labour campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, but Corbyn says he will respect voters’ decision to leave. He said Labour would fight the election promising a fairer society and economy, and “a Brexit that works for all.”

Polls give May’s Conservatives a double-digit lead on Labour. But the election is still a risk for May, and could widen divisions within the United Kingdom. The country voted 52-48 percent to leave the EU, but Scotland backed remaining by a large majority, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a referendum on independence from the U.K.

Sturgeon said Tuesday that May was seeking “to crush the voices of people who disagree with her.”

She said it was “all the important that Scotland is protected from a Tory Party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the U.K. further to the right – forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process.”

The Scottish National Party currently holds 54 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the British Parliament, making it the third-largest party there.

The pound surged 0.7 percent against the dollar to $1.2658, recovering from a 0.4 percent drop an hour earlier as rumors swirled about the surprise statement.

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Danica Kirka contributed to this story.

Categories: Local News

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