LA police call for calm, condemn spasm of gun violence

Los Angeles police are calling for calm in the streets after a rash of shootings south of downtown have killed four and left 19 wounded in the past week

LOS ANGELES — Police Chief Michel Moore called for calm in the streets Friday after what he called a spasm of gun violence in South Los Angeles killed four and wounded 19 wounded in the past six days as the city has recorded nearly 40 more homicides so far this year than last year.

“This is a pace of shooting and violence that we’ve not seen in years,” Moore said as he and community leaders condemned the crimes. “I fear, given the velocity, where is the lid on this?”

The shootings have occurred across a 59 square-mile (152 square-kilometer) area that comprises 12% of the city’s population but now accounts for 39% of the homicides and 45% of the shootings, Deputy Chief Regina Scott said. The city as a whole has recorded 39 more killings and 101 more shootings to date compared with last year.

Shootings in the area once known as South Central have claimed victims over a wide range of ages, but they have been particularly cruel to “our very young and our very innocent,” Moore said. Forty victims have been under age 18, and nine of them were under 10.

A 14-year-old youth football player was among those gunned down in the past week. A young man who wants to become a police officer was ambushed in his car at a traffic light and wounded when he was shot in a case of mistaken identity.

Some victims were gang members. But people were picked off in cross walks and struck by gunfire in their homes.

A 79-year-old woman was shot standing beside her car, Scott said. A 77-year-old woman and her 58-year-old daughter were struck by gunfire inside their home.

Moore blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for fueling the violence because of the economic turmoil it has caused while also giving people few outlets for social contact.

He was accompanied by a group that included two city councilmembers, clergy and other leaders who called on community members to lay down their arms, come together and not be afraid to speak out if they have witnessed a crime.

“We have so many of our young people that are dying for no reason at all,” Bishop Grover Durham of the Good Citizen Deeds Foundation said. “This has got to stop. … This is a call for a cease fire.”

Moore, who has had his department’s budget modestly trimmed as a result of the defund police movement, urged the City Council to continue to invest in the department.

City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a former police officer, said trust remained high between the community and LAPD, but he said officers need help to do their jobs.

“It’s not going to take only the LAPD to help. It’s going to take you the community,” he said. “Come forward if you have information on these knuckleheads who are terrorizing our community.”

Scott, whose son and grandson live in the area, said that in addition to the four people killed since Sunday, 19 were shot and 11 were fired at but not struck.

A week ago, she met with mothers of murder victims and heard “countless stories” of children no longer with them.

“Today, sadly,” she lamented, “I’m adding four mamas to that number.”


Coinbase Employees Have Begun to Take Severance Packages

Companies can’t become “apolitical” overnight.

According to multiple Coinbase workers, the plan to offer a clean exit for mission-dissenting staffers has been in the works for over six months. So far, at least three people in the 1,200-person firm have taken the severance package, one of these sources told CoinDesk on Friday.

In the past week, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong published a blog post discouraging politics in the office and offered a severance package for employees who disagreed with a new mission statement. According to three employees, who all spoke with CoinDesk on the condition of anonymity, Armstrong and other managers at the San Francisco-based crypto exchange said in company-wide meetings that they had been planning this move for six months.

Armstrong began to plan for the company’s new position after several Coinbase engineers closed their laptops one day over the summer after Armstrong wouldn’t say “black lives matter” externally amid social unrest over police killings of unarmed black men and women. 

Armstrong recently clarified in company meetings that he could say “black lives matter” (lowercase) and admit to societal injustice but not “Black Lives Matter” (uppercase) and associate himself with the social movement for racial equity. On the day of the walkout Armstrong tweeted:

Another source familiar with the company’s inner workings said the policy was rolled out in response to polarizing political conversations happening in all-company Slack channels and other venues rather than the walkout itself.

Employees are still allowed to have political conversations in non-general channels created by employees, this source added.  

One employee said Armstrong could have avoided controversy if he had communicated the company’s new direction only internally. (Employees learned of the decision a week prior to the public blog post, staffers said.) 

“I think that if he was trying primarily to communicate this to employees and had consulted and listened to really anyone who might be sensitive to the concept of selling this to his employees, this could have blown over and turned into something banal and corporate,” the employee said.

Still another employee said that the timing of the policy’s release was bad. It came at the end of the third quarter, amid rumors of the firm going public, and after a Louisville grand jury failed to charge police officers for murder in the controversial killing of Breonna Taylor.

“I don’t think it was targeted at Black Lives Matter in general,” the employee said of the blog post and new company mission. “We just have a lot of projects we need to get done.” 

Multiple employees said the company has distanced itself from employees by moving questions in all-hands meetings to messaging platform Slido after the summer walkout. In a companywide “ask-me-anything” held Thursday, Armstrong and company leadership explained that the new direction doesn’t mean that Coinbase is going after employees that dissent.

“Everyone reaffirmed in the AMA that they do support the blog post but were walking back some of the more extreme implications that might come with being an apolitical company and reaffirmed the commitment to diversity and employee support,” one employee said. “What people might imagine – whether the company is going to be crushing all internal discourse or ejecting employees with strongly held political beliefs – isn’t going to happen.” 

It is unclear what punishments employees might face should they not abide by the new decision. That said, leadership has made it clear that the rules around non-work discussions are loose so long as they’re not tied directly to politics. 

In response to employees asking if they could make a #spaghetti-monster-for-president Slack channel, leadership said that would be fine, these employees said.

Family of autistic teen will get $7.5M over golf cart death

The mother of an autistic teenager who died in a golf cart crash at a Southern California high school will receive $7.5 million in a lawsuit settlement

The agreement with the Orange Unified School District was announced Friday by attorneys for the mother of 15-year-old Emmanuel Perez .

The lawsuit contended that Perez, who had behavioral issues, was left unsupervised when he jumped into the electric cart on Sept. 9, 2019 at El Modena High School in Orange.

The cart sped forward and hit a metal railing. Perez suffered chest and abdominal injuries and died at a hospital.

Attorneys for the boy’s mother contended that instructional aides had left him alone with the cart’s ignition turned on and that Perez inadvertently hit the accelerator during a tantrum.

The school district has denied wrongdoing and has said that two aides with the boy had tried to talk him out of the cart and tried to block it when it began moving forward.


Ex-AP, Baltimore Sun reporter Erika Niedowski dies at 46

A former journalist for The Associated Press and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Baltimore Sun has died

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Erika Niedowski, a former journalist for The Associated Press and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Baltimore Sun, died Friday after a brief and sudden illness. She was 46.

Niedowski’s longtime partner, Patrick Laverty, said she died after being hospitalized with flu-like symptoms that were not COVID-19-related.

Born Oct. 4, 1973, Niedowski grew up in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and held degrees from Georgetown and Tufts, where she earned a master’s in public policy. She was an avid cyclist and ice hockey player whose “favorite season was hoodie season,” Laverty said.

At AP, Niedowski was an acting correspondent and reporter in Providence from 2001-2014, anchoring coverage of the Rhode Island Statehouse. She also reported extensively on the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and the controversy around former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s failed 38 Studios video game venture.

“Erika reported the news the way she skated in the hockey rink: hard-charging and relentless,” said William J. Kole, AP’s New England editor. “She left an indelible impact not just on journalism but on the lives of everyone she touched.”

Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island’s secretary of state, tweeted her appreciation Friday for Niedowski’s “comprehensive and insightful” coverage.

Prior to joining AP, Niedowski was web editor for The Hill and a foreign correspondent in Moscow for The Baltimore Sun, where she was a 2004 finalist for a Pulitzer in explanatory reporting on medical mistakes. She also worked at Congressional Quarterly, Washington City Paper and The National in the United Arab Emirates, among other publications.

At the time of her death, she was Northeast director for Solar Access, a coalition promoting the use of solar energy as a clean fuel alternative.

A celebration of her life will take place at a future date, Laverty said.


Videos: Man who died in handcuffs said he couldn’t breathe

A family member says she is not satisfied with findings that led prosecutors not to charge Las Vegas police with a crime in the death of a 50-year-old Black man after he was stopped for riding a bicycle in the dark without a light

LAS VEGAS — A family member said Friday she wasn’t satisfied with findings that led prosecutors not to charge Las Vegas police with a crime in the death of a 50-year-old Black man after he was stopped by patrol officers for riding a bicycle in the dark without a light.

After abandoning his bicycle and leading two officers on a foot chase, Byron Williams is seen on police body-camera saying he can’t breathe while the officers pin him face-first to the ground to handcuff him. One has his knee on Williams’ back in video made public during an airing of elements of the investigation.

A family attorney suggested a lawsuit may be coming.

A Las Vegas police lieutenant said policy changes enacted since Williams died in September 2019 require officers to more closely monitor the health of people in their custody — particularly if they complain of breathing trouble.

Officers are now taught to more quickly get people in handcuffs into a seated position, Lt. James LaRochelle said, and a policy change requires them not to turn off body-worn cameras until they are no longer assigned to an event.

“The family of Byron Williams continues to grieve,” Teena Acree, Williams’ niece, said in a statement through her attorneys. Acree sat during the three-hour presentation with several other family members.

“The lack of complete information and the disrespect from their unwillingness to deal openly with us makes it impossible for our family to heal,” Acree said of police and public officials.

Chicago-based attorney, Bhavani Raveendran, representing the family, called Friday’s proceedings “just the start of transparency.”

“More steps need to be taken,” she said.

Relatives raised questions about Williams’ death even before the Clark County coroner ruled it a homicide a year ago — citing “prone restraint” by police as a significant factor. Medical examiners also found Williams had methamphetamine in his system, high blood pressure and heart and lung disease.

Williams’ name has been invoked during recent protests in Las Vegas calling for racial justice following the police deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

The coroner’s October 2019 ruling that Williams’ death was caused by another person was not a finding that it was a criminal act, and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson later declined to pursue criminal charges.

That led to Friday’s proceedings — a non-judicial process created when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department underwent a U.S. Justice Department policy review in 2012 following public pressure about police shootings and uses of force.

The officers involved in Williams’ arrest, Benjamin Vasquez and Patrick Campbell, were not involved in Friday’s proceeding. They are back at work, a department spokesman said.

Their union executive, Steve Grammas, called Williams’ death unfortunate, but he said the officers did not cause it.

Detective Scott Mendoza, a department investigator who spoke Friday, noted video showed Williams and the officers were all breathing hard after scaling two block walls and veering into an apartment complex courtyard. The foot chase lasted about two minutes before Williams surrendered face-down on his stomach.

Mendoza said he counted Williams say 24 times while he was being handcuffed that he could not breathe.

One officer is heard replying that was because of the chase.

Video showed Williams initially struggle to keep an arm beneath him, and still talking and conscious when he was lifted by his arms to his feet.

No weapon was found, but Williams appeared to try to kick away small plastic bags of a white substance and an orange bottle with white pills that dropped to the ground when he stood. Mendoza said the substances were methamphetamine and hydrocodone.

Paramedics were summoned, but Williams became unconscious on the ground before they arrived. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

Attorney Joshua Tomsheck, the appointed public advocate for the hearing, identified several gaps in body camera video during and after Williams’ arrest and medical treatment.

Michelle Fleck, a county prosecutor who questioned Mendoza, noted Williams was supposed to be on house arrest in a pending felony drug and forgery case in Las Vegas and was wearing an ankle bracelet tracking device when he died.

Police said Williams had a history of criminal arrests and felony drug convictions in California and Nevada.


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Walking Dead: World Beyond Will Answer Our Questions About the Group That Took Rick

The Walking Dead’s second spinoff, the limited series The Walking Dead: World Beyond, finally premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC, bringing answers to long-lingering questions about the Three Rings group that’s been seen on the other two Walking Dead shows.

This large, heavily-armed group — which uses a Three Rings logo — has become a very big part of the Walking Dead TV-verse over the past few years. Walking Dead Universe boss Scott Gimple referred to the group as the “CRM” during World Beyond’s Comic-Con panel, and a clip from World Beyond has revealed that the organization’s military is called the “Civic Republic Military.”

What we know heading into World Beyond, which takes place 10 years into the zombie apocalypse (so just a little bit ahead of The Walking Dead), is that the Civic Republic is one part of a wider group, “The Alliance of the Three,” that is represented by the Three Rings or Three Circles symbol. It represents three communities: the Civic Republic (location unknown), a township somewhere around Portland, and the World Beyond’s “Campus Colony” near Omaha.

We talked to the cast of World Beyond, who all play characters living in the walled-up Campus Colony, and asked them about how their new series ties into The Walking Dead story at large. World Beyond centers on two teen sisters, Iris and Hope Bennett, who leave the safety of their home and venture out to find their scientist father, who they believe is in danger working for the Civic Republic. Stars Alexa Mansour and Aliyah Royale told us about the possible duplicitous nature of the CRM.

“The university is a really awesome self-sufficient community,” Royale, who plays Iris, said. “We call it the Campus Colony because obviously, it was a university prior to the apocalypse. There’s an entire system in place. There’s a system of trading. They have a system of not-so-typical ways of punishment and correcting behavior. There’s classes for how to handle ‘Empties.’ At the same time, there’s a choir class. It’s combining post-apocalyptic life with trying to give everyone the world they once knew.”

“Everyone has seen the Three-Ring symbol,” Royale added. “Especially on the helicopter where Rick is being carried out. I think it’s going to be fun for everyone to see what that is and what that means. Who the CRM is. What the Alliance of the Three is. It only gets more complicated.”

“I think they’re up to no good,” Monsour said. “Well, Hope definitely thinks so,” she clarified of her character’s mistrust of the group. “[Hope] thinks they’re holding her father against his will. She just got a message from him that was pretty much telling her and her sister that he’s not doing well and he loves them. So the people you’re supposed to trust to get us somewhere are not really trustworthy.”

The Americans’ Annet Mahendru, who plays Campus Community security officer Huck, shared how exciting this new premise was.

“The mythology all connects, so we are one community, one of the rings,” she said, “and you will find as the story unfolds how we connect to the other rings. We’ve always been part of this world, it’s just the story hasn’t been told yet. And we’ll see people in other parts of the post-apocalyptic world making their way and trying to survive.”

Nico Tortorella, who plays Campus Community security head Felix promised a huge revelation right out of the gate: “[World Beyond] very much ties in the other two shows,” he said. “This show is leading us to a bigger storyline that connects the entire universe. And right off the bat, in the first episode of this show, Walking Dead fans will get huge news, and things will make sense across all three shows in ways they didn’t know they needed.”

The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC following episode 16 of The Walking Dead Season 10 (which will now no longer be the official finale, since AMC has added six more episodes to Season 10 that will air in 2021).

Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at

Kansas City police arrest of pregnant woman criticized

Video of a Kansas City police officer kneeling on the back of a pregnant Black woman while arresting her has reignited calls for the resignation of Kansas City’s police chief and the the firing of the officer involved

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Videos of a Kansas City police officer kneeling on a pregnant Black woman while arresting her have reignited calls for the city’s police chief to resign and for the officer involved to be fired.

The videos show the woman on the ground with the officer’s knee on her back while people in the crowd yell to stop because she is pregnant. Some officers can be heard telling the crowd they will be arrested if they don’t move back.

Kevin Woolfolk, director of membership engagement for The Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Greater Kansas City, said the videos showed another example of how badly Kansas City police treat the Black community.

“This most recent act of brutality is shameful and is further evidence that the Kansas City police department is wholly infected with the sin of racism and grossly incapable of protecting the peace and safety of the public where Black lives are concerned,” Woolfolk said at a news conference Friday.

Police and a lawyer for the woman told different versions of what happened during the confrontation Wednesday night at a business in east Kansas City.

The woman’s lawyer, Stacy Shaw, said the woman was attending a balloon release for a homicide victim at an intersection that has been the scene of civil justice and anti-crime demonstrations for years.

The woman was filming the event and complained when an officer backed into her. The officer responded by pushing the woman and then throwing her to ground and arresting her, Shaw said.

Kansas City police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said in a statement Thursday officers went to the scene after a business owner reported people were fighting.

He said the women in the video and a man interfered with officers trying to arrest another man. The officer tried to arrest the woman while she was standing but placed her on the ground when she continued to resist, Jackson said. The officer said he tried not to put pressure on the woman’s back while arresting her, according to the statement.

Civil rights leaders ridiculed that version of events Friday at a news conference and said the videos show the woman was not resisting.

Troy Robertson, who has led demonstrations for peace at the intersection, said he was the one police were trying to arrest. He said police have beaten him several times over the years because of his demonstrations.

Robertson said when the woman asked why police were arresting him, people started yelling that she was pregnant and the officer reacted by throwing her on the ground.

“Why (does) nothing ever happen to them when they are wrong, but if I’m wrong I go to jail,” Robertson said. “… I’m tired. Something gotta give. When these officers are wrong, hold them accountable for what they are doing.”

The woman was evaluated at a hospital and released but was in extreme pain, Shaw said, adding she was checked Friday by an obstetrician and the baby seemed to be fine.

“This is another example of the lack of humanity that the Kansas City police department has shown to the Black community,” Shaw said in an interview. “It’s another instance of how people in our community have suffered at the hands of Chief Rick Smith and officers of the police department … There is no justification, there is no excuse and we will be holding the officers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Civil rights advocates have been calling for Smith’s resignation or firing for months, particularly after clashes during demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Smith has said he has no intention of resigning.

Police released a video Friday that shows people standing between officers and Robertson, who runs out of the frame. The arrest of the woman is not shown on video, which jumps to when she is on the ground. Police did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.


Sheriff: Men in truck chased, shot at Black teens on ATVs

A white father and son in rural Mississippi have been arrested after they allegedly chased two Black teenagers on ATVs off the road and repeatedly shot at them from a pickup truck

JACKSON, Miss. — A white father and son in rural Mississippi have been arrested after they allegedly chased two Black teenagers on ATVs off the road and repeatedly shot at them from a pickup truck, a sheriff’s deputy said Friday.

Wade Twiner, 48, and his son, Lane Twiner, 22, have each been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, said Chief Deputy Joseph Head of the Yazoo County Sheriff’s Office in central Mississippi. No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred on Sunday night, Head said.

The two teenagers were riding ATVs on a country road close to the Twiners’ home, Head said. At some point, the father and son began chasing after the two boys, firing several shots and bumping into one of the ATVs with the pickup. A 9 mm handgun was recovered by authorities Sunday night. Both Twiners were arrested and transported to Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility.

The Twiners have been released on bail. It was not immediately clear whether they have an attorney who could comment for them.

Yazoo County Sheriff Jake Sheriff told WLBT that the Twiners told law enforcement they own land on both sides of the road and that they shouldn’t have to deal with people riding ATVs on the road, since that’s against the law.

Although operating ATVs on public roads is illegal in Mississippi, that regulation is not strictly enforced. The sheriff told WLBT there were other people riding ATVs in the area of the Twiners’ home on the day they allegedly confronted the teens.

Head said they were looking into whether it was a potential hate crime, but he did not provide details as to why. The sheriff said in an interview with the Clarion Ledger that they were looking at social media posts made by one of the Twiners.

One Facebook post displayed the words “Redneck Neighborhood Watch” and a photo of a Confederate flag, the sheriff told the newspaper. The posts appear to have since been taken down.

Until recently, the Confederate flag was depicted on the Mississippi state flag. Legislators voted to change it in June after criticism that the flag is widely considered a racist symbol.

A hate crime is defined as a crime typically involving violence that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds.

Authorities did not disclose further information, citing an ongoing investigation. Head said authorities are conducting interviews with everyone involved, and have one more potential witness to interview this weekend.

FBI spokesperson Brett Carr said the FBI is aware of the incident and is in regular contact with local authorities.

“If in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate,” he said.


Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.