Category Archives: US

‘My God, we’re scared’: Serial attacks put a suburb on edge

WALTHAM, Mass. — The attacks come after dark, without warning, usually from behind.

The victims, all men, are hit so hard on the head with some sort of blunt object that they are often knocked to the ground and require medical attention.

The apparently random string of at least 10 attacks in the Boston suburb of Waltham has angered city leaders, frustrated police and frightened residents.

“There is definitely a fear factor in our city right now,” police detective Sgt. Steve McCarthy, who is leading the investigation, said at a news conference Tuesday.

“People are concerned, and a small group of people are genuinely scared,“ said City Councilor Sean Durkee, whose ward includes Gardencrest. “I have always told people that there is no place in Waltham I would not let my mother walk at night — until last week. It’s not the sort of thing that happens here.”

Unnerved residents are changing their routines and paying more attention to their surroundings.

“My God, we’re scared,” Amos Frederick, 37, said Wednesday as he walked through the complex. “All of us stay indoors except during the day. If someone is just walking to their car, we watch out for them.”

Nathan Lumunye, 24, works nights at a home improvement store.

“I have to go to work,” he said. “So I make sure I leave the house earlier and keep an eye out.”

The victims have all been men, and all on foot, but they range in age from 20 to the mid-40s and are of various ethnic backgrounds, Police Chief Keith MacPherson said. All have been ambushed after dark by someone wearing a mask or with a hoodie pulled tight around their face, the chief said.

One victim was walking a dog. One was getting into a vehicle. A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was also attacked.

Some required hospitalization.

“They’re pretty serious injuries, including orbital facial fractures, fractured nose, lacerations to the face. So we don’t believe it can be just someone’s fist,” the chief said.

Emerson Antonio Aroche Paz was struck in the head twice around 10 p.m. Nov. 25, he told The Boston Globe.

He wiped the blood from his face so he could see his assailant, but the person had fled. He called 911 and went to the hospital.

“My nose broke. Part of my head is cracked,” Aroche Paz said. “But my brain is fine.”

Because of the manner of the attacks, and because the attacker immediately flees, victims have not been able to provide a clear description to investigators.

The city has released surveillance images of a suspect that have led to some tips, and offered a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

“We do have a couple persons of interest,” McCarthy said.

What is sparking the attacks remains unclear.

“The motive is somewhat in question but it appears to be a thrill of the assault, or someone who’s very violent and enjoys seeing someone hurt by this,” MacPherson said Tuesday. “There’s never been a robbery. It’s always been just an assault and the assailant takes off.”

Waltham police consulted with Boston police to determine whether the attacks could be some sort of gang initiation, but that does not appear to be the case.

Although police are not sure if they are searching for one attacker or more, the suspect is likely working alone and is probably motivated by thrills, enjoyment, a sense of power and a sense of dominance, James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“This person is holding the entire city of Waltham in his grip of terror,” said Fox, who has written several books on mass murderers.

The fact that the victims are men may indicate the attacker has some sense of morality.

“He may feel attacking women is unfair. It’s too easy. He believes you don’t hit a girl or a woman,” Fox said.

In response to the attacks, police have stepped up patrols with both uniformed and plainclothes officers and are also using drones for aerial surveillance.

The fact that the suspect has gotten away with so many attacks may be his undoing, Fox said.

“At some point his luck runs out and he makes a blunder,” Fox said.


Prosecutor: No charges in buggy crash that killed Amish kids

An elderly motorist whose SUV slammed into the back of a horse-drawn buggy on a southern Michigan road, killing three Amish children from the same family, will not be charged

An elderly motorist whose SUV slammed into the back of a horse-drawn buggy on a southern Michigan road, killing three Amish children from the same family, will not be charged, a prosecutor’s office said Wednesday.

“After a complete analysis of the case and possible consequences, the conclusion was reached that formal charging and conviction of Ramsey was not likely to accomplish more than a conviction on paper,” the office said. “The ends of justice would not be advanced by such a prosecution.”

The three siblings — ages 8, 10 and 13 — were killed and their 6-year-old brother was hurt when their buggy was struck on a road near Charlotte, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. They were heading home from school at the time.

The buggy was properly marked with lights and a slow-moving vehicle triangle, and it was on right side of the road when it was struck. One of the children was wearing a reflective safety vest.

Ramsey, of Vermontville, was travelling 60 mph in a 55 mph zone and told investigators that he didn’t see the buggy until his Chevy Equinox hit it.

“I relive that every day, especially with three little ones gone,” Ramsey told The Associated Press during a phone call Wednesday. “I can’t help but relive it.”

Ramsey said he no longer drives.

He could have been charged with three misdemeanor counts of committing a moving violation that caused a death, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. The three counts would have been served at the same time, according to the prosecutor’s office statement.

Ramsey’s driving privileges were suspended for a year. Before he’d be allowed to drive again, he would have to pass a vision exam, a written knowledge test and a road test.

“The decision to not charge Ronald Ramsey for the crash is not a statement about his criminal culpability, rather a decision that charging him would not be likely to result in any additional sanction or punishment,” the prosecutor’s office said.

The children’s parents were consulted before the decision was made to not charge Ramsey was made, it said.


Police guide that calls BLM a terrorist group draws outrage

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A prominent law enforcement training group is promoting a lengthy research document riddled with falsehoods and conspiracies that urges local police to treat Black Lives Matter activists as terrorists plotting a violent revolution.

The document distributed by the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association contains misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that could incite officers against protesters and people of color, critics said. It alleges Black Lives Matter and antifa, an umbrella term for leftist militants, are “revolutionary movements whose aims are to overthrow the U.S. government” and claims they are planning “extreme violence.”

Phillip Atiba Goff, a Yale University professor who is an expert on racial bias in policing, called the document dangerous, noting that the association is an important source of training materials for many small and midsize departments across the country.

“It’s stunning. It’s distressing in many ways. It’s untethered to reality,” said Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. “I worry that it leads to people dying unnecessarily.”

The association in October sent a link to the 176-page paper, “Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare,” in an email news update to its thousands of members. The document, labeled “restricted to law enforcement only,” is one of the few publicly available materials on its website. The Associated Press learned of the document from one of the policing organization’s members.

The group’s executive director, Harvey Hedden, defended the document, which he called one member’s opinion and open for critique and debate. He said the association supports the exchange of ideas and strategies to improve criminal justice training but does not endorse specific approaches.

Hedden argued that fact-checking the paper or restricting its distribution would amount to censorship and that its publication would allow for peer review by other trainers.

“There will always be differences of opinion on training issues but so long as the disagreements remain professional and not personal we do not censor these ideas,” he said. “I am willing to allow the trainer to evaluate the information themselves.”

He added, “Just like law enforcement, I am afraid BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others might be overgeneralizations.”

The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013 after the acquittal of the Florida man who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and exploded in size and influence earlier this year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Protests across the nation were largely peaceful but occasionally marked by clashes with police or the destruction of property. Since then, many activists have been working to reduce the scope and cost of local police departments and overhaul police training.

The law enforcement association, known by its nickname ILEETA, says in a mission statement that it’s “committed to the reduction of law enforcement risk” and saving lives through high-quality training. The association promotes its annual conference, set for St. Louis this coming March, as the “largest gathering of law enforcement trainers in the world.” It publishes a research journal, provides other educational and training materials and operates a Facebook page for members to network and share ideas.

An official with Color of Change, a nationwide racial justice organization, called on police departments Wednesday to cut training ties with the association, saying it encourages a warrior-style mindset that creates more conflict in communities.

“This is disturbing to read but not at all surprising to me. This is the type of thinking that is sadly pretty prominent within police culture,” said Scott Roberts, its senior director of criminal justice campaigns.

Goff said police executives with whom he’s discussed the document this week were “disturbed by it.” He and others said it was irresponsible for the group to promote the paper.

“This document is below the belt because of how much misinformation there is, how many conspiracy theories there are, how much violence it promotes and how many reasons it gives to justify dehumanizing people,” said Sherice Nelson, assistant professor of political science at Southern University and A&M College who studies Black political movements.

She said the paper repeatedly promotes “wildly outlandish” claims about Black Lives Matter, shows cultural ignorance by falsely conflating the movement with antifa, and primes officers to use force by painting both as terrorists plotting to kill police.

Among its many unsupported claims is that the two movements have “trained, dedicated snipers” stationed in certain cities, are fronts for Russia and China, and planned attacks before and after last month’s presidential election.

The paper claims that those who participated in months of protests earlier this year in Portland and Seattle were “useful idiots” designed to give cover to the “hard-core, terrorist trained troops” that would follow. “Extreme acts of violence are expected and called for,” the document warns.

The paper claims that military officials who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned about the movements because they “have witnessed these types of terrorist groups organizing, creating insurgencies and the horrible consequences of it.”

The FBI is largely “clueless” about the nature of their threat and, along with the news media, has wrongly focused attention on violence carried out by white supremacists, it argues.

Goff, whose group works with departments to make policing “less racist and deadly,” said the document showed why it’s important for critics to engage directly with local law enforcement to seek changes.

Otherwise, he said, “you are abandoning that profession to the worst impulses of this country.”


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Naval Academy midshipman reaches a milestone for Black women

A midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy has become the first Black woman selected for the academy’s top student leadership position

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Midshipman Sydney Barber had her doubts about applying for the top student leadership position at the U.S. Naval Academy. A Black woman had never held the post in the 44 years women have been able to attend the 175-year-old institution.

A Black academy alumna of another generation saw her potential. Navy Capt. Tasya Lacy, class of 1997, pressed Barber to apply. Next semester, Barber will become the first Black woman to be the academy’s brigade commander.

The brigade commander represents about 4,400 midshipmen — future Navy and Marine Corps officers — before the academy’s commandant. It’s a top leadership position that enables a midshipman to lead peers in achieving the goals of the brigade. The commander has a staff and helps academy officials keep a pulse on the needs of the brigade. Barber compares it to a student government president at a civilian university.

“This was never something that I dreamed of,” Barber said, adding of Lacy: “She had no doubt in her mind that I was the right person for the job, and hearing her say that and being so confident in that, that really helped me to be more confident in myself.”

Barber, who was selected for the position a few weeks ago, has achieved the milestone at a time of continuing national discussions about social and racial injustice — a debate that she says helped inspire her to step up.

“It’s definitely been a challenge and it’s definitely taken a lot of courage to … make this step, especially in this time of social disharmony, but these times bring a heavier calling, I feel,” said Barber, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering major from Lake Forest, Illinois.

Lacy remembers having doubts about applying for positions like brigade commander when she was a midshipman. Now an active-duty Navy captain, she said she learned “not to self-eliminate.”

“Those were the words that I used when I talked to her, and I did tell her to reach for the stars and not to sell herself short,” said Lacy, who is now legislative director for the Office of the Chief of Navy Reserve.

Barber, who aspires to be commissioned as a Marine Corps ground officer, will be the 16th woman to be brigade commander at the academy. The first, Juliane Gallina, held the position in 1991.

Similar ground was broken at the U.S. Military Academy in New York in 2017, when Simone Askew became the first Black female first captain, the highest position in the cadet chain of command at West Point.

Women were first allowed into the nation’s service academies in 1976. That’s also when Janie Mines became the first Black woman to enter the Naval Academy, graduating four years later in 1980. While the number of women at the academy has been rising, it’s still currently about 72% male and 28% female.

In a social media post, Mines wrote that Barber’s selection “brought me to tears. This young woman, Midshipman Sydney Barber, will be the first Black Female Brigade Commander at the U.S. Naval Academy. 40 years later. Thank you, Sydney! Love you!”

Lacy said Mines’ graduation paved the way for her, while Barber’s accomplishment will inspire more young women to both attend and seek top student positions at the academy.

“It is tremendously significant because there are people who sometimes don’t aspire for certain jobs because they’ve not seen anyone look like them get into that job,” Lacy said.

Lacy volunteers in the academy’s sponsor program, through which people who live nearby welcome midshipmen to a home-away-from home for breaks, free of the rigors of academy life. She is Barber’s sponsor, and last fall she attended a first-ever Black female networking breakfast students organized. Lacy also noticed other groups and activities promoting diversity that did not exist when she attended.

“So, as I see this, I know that growth is happening,” Lacy said. “Change is happening, and I’m ecstatic about it.”


Prosecutors seek to have 3 tossed Pilot convictions restored

Federal prosecutors are seeking to restore the tossed convictions for the former president of Pilot Flying J and two former employees related to a rebate scheme to cheat trucking companies out of millions of dollars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal prosecutors are seeking to restore the tossed convictions for the former president of Pilot Flying J and two of his former employees related to a rebate scheme to cheat trucking companies out of millions of dollars.

The petition filed this week asks a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel to reconsider its ruling that jurors should not have heard recordings of racist language by the former president, Mark Hazelwood.

The panel’s split decision in October vacated convictions for Hazelwood, who received the harshest prison sentence at 12 ½ years, and two others. The panel ordered the case to be sent back to a lower court for a new trial, ruling further that it would not be necessary to assign the case to a different judge.

At trial, the jury heard secret recordings of Hazelwood using racial slurs and profanely criticizing his board of directors and his boss’s football team and fans. Hazelwood later apologized for his language.

The majority wrote that the racist recordings were wrongly admitted on the “theory that if the defendant was reckless enough to use language that could risk public outrage against the company, he was a ‘bad businessman,’ and as a bad businessman, he was also reckless enough to commit fraud.”

In their petition for reconsideration, prosecutors wrote that they offered the recordings to “rebut Hazelwood’s assertion that he was too good an executive and businessman to do anything that could jeopardize the company’s viability and success” because the racist remarks “would have damaged Pilot’s success and reputation” if they became publicly known.

Hazelwood was convicted in 2018 of conspiracy, wire fraud and witness tampering. Former company Vice President Scott “Scooter” Wombold was convicted of wire fraud and sentenced to six years in prison, and former account representative Heather Jones was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and sentenced to more than 2 ½ years.

Fourteen former Pilot Flying J employees pleaded guilty earlier.

Pilot Flying J is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The Haslams have not been charged with any wrongdoing. The former governor has not been involved with the company in recent years.

The company earlier agreed to pay an $85 million settlement to defrauded customers and a $92 million penalty to the government.


Man pleads guilty to killing woman after remains found

A Kentucky man has pleaded guilty to killing a woman whose remains were found six months after she disappeared

LANCASTER, Ky. — A Kentucky man has pleaded guilty to killing a woman whose remains were found six months after she disappeared, according to court records.

David Sparks, 25. entered the plea Monday in Garrard County Circuit Court, news outlets reported, citing court records. He was indicted last year on murder and other charges in the death of Savannah Spurlock, 23. Spurlock was last seen in January 2019 leaving a Lexington bar with Sparks and two other men.

A tip about a foul odor led authorities to search property connected to Sparks’ family in Garrard County, where they discovered Spurlock’s naked remains buried in a shallow grave and wrapped in a rug and garbage bags, with her feet bound.

Sparks pleaded guilty to murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence, court records show and a prosecutor confirmed.

“I think justice was served,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Andy Sims said. “I knew from the beginning he killed her, and it was important for me that he stood in court and admitted it.”

The plea agreement calls for Sparks to be sentenced to 50 years in prison. Sentencing was set for Dec. 17.


FBI agent shot, Ohio homicide suspect killed in Louisiana

An FBI agent was shot and an Ohio homicide suspect was killed during a shooting in Louisiana while the agent was executing a search warrant for the suspect

PINEVILLE, La. — An FBI agent was shot and an Ohio homicide suspect was killed during a shooting in Louisiana while the agent was executing a search warrant for the suspect.

The FBI did not release the identity of the person who was killed, but said the suspect was wanted for homicide in Cleveland.


Woman who fled business fraud sentencing seeks early release

An Ohio woman who fled the U.S. ahead of her sentencing in one of the country’s biggest corporate fraud cases is asking for early release from prison

She is asking for early release, saying she suffers from “a rare blood disease that has no cure,” and other ailments, including arthritis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cholesterol. She also fears contracting COVID-19 while in prison.

In a six-page, single-spaced letter to Marbley filed in federal court last month, Parrett apologized to the judge for leaving the country, saying she was overwhelmed with depression and at “the lowest point of my life.”

“I truly am sorry for the additional aggravation and work that I created for you and others,” Parrett wrote. “My state of mind was stuck on terminating my life and I never had any thought of other consequences at the time.”

“I truly am sorry for the additional aggravation and work that I created for you and others,” Parrett wrote. “My state of mind was stuck on terminating my life and I never had any thought of other consequences at the time.”

Parrett described tough early years, including an abusive first marriage. She included notes of support from a chaplain, a minister, a doctor and friends, who spoke of charity work she did while in Mexico, including volunteering at an orphanage.

A response from the judge is likely weeks away. The government has not filed a formal response but is expected to oppose Parrett’s request.

Bureau of Prisons records show more than 4,700 federal inmates and more than 1,400 staffers currently have confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 20,000 inmates and more than 1,800 staff members having recovered. There have been 145 federal inmate deaths and two federal prison staff deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Prosecutors likened the fraud uncovered at National Century, based in suburban Columbus, to a privately held-company version of the Enron or WorldCom scandals.

The company called itself the country’s largest health care financing company when it collapsed in 2002. Prosecutors said executives authorized millions in unsecured loans to the health care providers, then misled investors about the loans.

Four other National Century executives, including the company’s founder, were convicted of multiple counts of wire and securities fraud and money laundering.


St. Paul police chief: Officer shouldn’t have shot Black man

St. Paul, Minnesota’s police chief says an officer who shot and wounded a Black man who emerged naked from a dumpster while being sought in connection with a sexual assault failed to measure up to department standards

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A St. Paul officer who shot and wounded a Black man who emerged naked from a dumpster while being sought in connection with a sexual assault failed to measure up to department standards, the city’s police chief said.

Chief Todd Axtell said Tuesday at a news conference where he released police bodycam video of the confrontation that he’d taken “swift, decisive and serious action” against the officer, identified by state investigators as Officer Anthony Dean.

Axtell said state law precludes him from releasing details of the action. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing law enforcement sources they did not identify, reported that the officer was fired following Saturday night’s shooting of Joseph Javonte Washington.

“When I asked myself if the officer’s actions on Saturday night were reasonable and necessary,” Axtell said, “the only answer I could come up with is “No.”

St. Paul Police Federation President Paul Kuntz defended the officers involved, saying they were trying to apprehend “a violent and dangerous felon.”

“The officers worked to arrest the man using many de-escalation techniques,” Kuntz said in a statement before Axtell’s news conference. “This was a difficult situation for everyone involved.”

The union declined to confirm whether Dean had been fired. The officer’s race wasn’t immediately known.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, said Dean shot Washington, who had no weapons or other possessions when he emerged from the dumpster behind a funeral home. Washington, 31, of Lakeville, is recovering at Regions Hospital.

In the body camera footage, a female officer attempts to coax Washington out of the dumpster and onto the ground. He gets out and an officer shouts “Don’t run!” before shots are fired. Washington is bitten by a police K-9 and then screams for the dog to get off him.

It wasn’t known whether Washington had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.

No officers were injured and all of those involved had been placed on a standard administrative leave following the shooting.

Washington has been charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping, and one count of second degree assault in connection with an alleged attack several hours earlier in Lakeville.


Police: Beaten bowling manager asked patrons to wear masks

Authorities say the manager of a Maryland bowling alley was assaulted after he asked some patrons to wear face masks

GLEN BURNIE, Md. — The manager of a Maryland bowling alley was assaulted after he asked some patrons to wear face masks, police said.

Anne Arundel police said the manager of Bowl America in Glen Burnie asked several patrons to leave on Saturday because they refused to wear face masks, which the bowling alley requires, The Capital Gazette reported.

According to police, one of the men pushed the manager when he was asked to leave. When the manager escorted the patrons outside, one of the men punched the manager and knocked him down. Police said the other men in the group then hit and kicked the manager while he was down.

Another bowling alley employee came to help the manager and was also assaulted by the group, police said.

The manager was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, police said.

Police said anyone with information on the case, should contact authorities.