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Soldier's Grieving Mother in Insurance Battle With Army
Jan-13-2011 1213 1


The mother of a North Texas soldier killed in Afghanistan says the U.S. government is giving her grief over his life insurance.

Pvt. Devon Harris from Mesquite was killed in action Nov. 27 at the age of 24.

His mother, Sorainya Harris, said the Army is denying coverage that she said her son arranged.

"I'd rather have him," she said. "I really would rather have him. If he was still with me, it would make me happy. But I know he will never come back."

Sorainya Harris said her life insurance form completed two weeks before her son deployed to Afghanistan indicates that he was increasing his coverage.

Documents that she said came from her son's Army file show that he submitted a form requesting $100,000 coverage on Dec. 29, 2009. Another form that appears to request $400,000 in coverage is dated Sept. 27, 2010.

"My conclusion is that, when he filled out the second one, he wanted his policy to be increased," Sorainya Harris said. "He's being deployed. He filled this out two weeks before he left."

She said Army officials were rude and disrespectful to her when she inquired about the issue.

"Devon did everything that was asked of him -- everything," she said. "He went, and he fought, and he died in the war. He made one request, and they denied it."

A spokesman at the U.S. Army Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. said the Army does not comment on matters concerning a soldier's confidential personnel file.

Sorainya Harris wrote to U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the family’s congressman in Washington.

Hensarling spokesman George Rasley said the congressman's office is looking into the matter.




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State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, said his panel has received questions from “interested parties” on the issue, prompting him to ask about a law enforcement agency’s ability to withhold or release footage.

"I respectfully request a formal opinion from your office to clarify the circumstances under which a law enforcement agency is authorized or required to release, or is prohibited from releasing, certain audio or video recordings from a body worn camera made by a member of a municipal law enforcement agencies,” Lucio, a Democrat, wrote in his request for an attorney general’s opinion.

He asked Paxton to determine whether law enforcement leaders have the ability to withhold footage if they believe that releasing the video could interfere with “the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime."

Opinions from the attorney general are not rulings on law and are not binding. Instead, they serve as interpretations of existing laws or practices.

Lucio said responses from Paxton’s office on these questions could help determine “the need for future legislation in this area.”

Law enforcement agencies in El Paso County, Nueces County, Dallas, Houston, Austin and other Texas cities have rolled out body camera programs for officers.

The cameras have been touted as a way to increase officer accountability in light of concerns about race and officer-involved shootings. Law enforcement agencies in Texas can require their officers to wear cameras and can outline usage requirements for the cameras.



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MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Sep-18-2017 126 0
A 23-year-old white man whom police call a "person of interest" in the fatal shootings of two black men in Baton Rouge has been released from jail after his arrest on drug charges over the weekend.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola, a department spokesman, said Monday that Kenneth Gleason "has not been cleared" and remains a "person of interest" in the shootings.

A homicide detective's report described Gleason as a "suspect" in the case. Sgt. L'Jean McKneely, another department spokesman, has said there was a "strong possibility" that the shootings were racially motivated. On Monday, interim police chief Jonny Dunnam said in a text message that investigators "still don't know for sure what the possible motive is." Gleason was released on $3,500 bond late Sunday.

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McKneely said on Sunday that shell casings from the shootings linked the two slayings and a car belonging to Gleason fit the description of the vehicle police were looking for.

Kenneth Gleason is shown in an undated booking photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Police believe the slayings of two black men in Baton Rouge were likely racially motivated and said Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, that they have a person of interest — Gleason— in custody. Gleason, was being held on drug charges. Authorities do not yet have enough evidence to charge him with murder, Baton Rouge Sgt. L'Jean McKneely told The Associated Press. (East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office via AP)© The Associated Press Kenneth Gleason is shown in an undated booking photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Police believe the slayings of two black men in Baton Rouge were likely racially motivated and said Sunday, Sept… He said authorities had collected other circumstantial evidence but he wouldn't say what it was. In both shootings, the gunman fired from his car then walked up to the victims as they were lying on the ground and fired again multiple times, according to McKneely, who said neither victim had any prior relationship with Gleason. The shootings happened about five miles from each other.

The first occurred Tuesday night when 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, who was homeless, was shot to death.

The second happened Thursday night when 49-year-old Donald Smart was gunned down while walking to his job as a dishwasher at a cafe popular with Louisiana State University students, McKneely said. Smart's aunt, Mary Smart, said she was still dealing with the shock of her nephew's death. Smart had a son and two daughters, she said. She declined to comment on police allegations that her nephew might have been shot because of the color of his skin. "I cannot say," she said.

"Only God knows." Terrell Griffin, 49, has a food stand in a parking lot less than a block from where Cofield was shot.

Griffin said he was friends with Cofield and heard the gunshots that killed him. Griffin waited for the gunfire to quiet before he ran over to find his friend lying face-down on the ground. He described Cofield as a smart man and said he thought he was an engineer, but had been homeless for at least a year. "He didn't bother nobody," Griffin said. "It's not right."
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Jessica Schladebeck Sep-15-2017 164 0
The brother of a black motorist who was killed following a high-speed chase with law enforcement slammed the judge’s decision to acquit the former St. Louis officer who fatally shot his loved one.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson on Friday found former police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith.

His brother, Antwan Johnson, told Fox 2 he felt the judge shirked his obligations because his time on the bench is almost up. Wilson will have to retire when he turns 70 in December.

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Johnson, who said Stockley jailed him just eight days before the fatal altercation with his brother in December 2011, joined demonstrators Friday afternoon to protest the verdict.

“We’re coming together to shut it down. We all need to come together as people,” he told Fox. “The justice system doesn’t care about us. These laws are not made for us.”

Stockley, who resigned as an officer in 2013, shot Smith following a police chase that reached speeds of nearly 90 mph. The former officer said he and his partner followed him after spotting what they believed was a drug deal in the parking lot of a restaurant.

Stockley pleaded “not guilty” to a first-degree murder charge last year and waived his right to a jury trial — ultimately handing Wilson the power to decide his fate.

“This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” Wilson wrote in his ruling.

The acquittal sparked protests in St. Louis, with several people attempting to block intersections and disrupt traffic on Interstate 64. Activists promised peaceful demonstrations would unfold should the ex-cop be acquitted.

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Floyd Mayweather came to the defense of President Donald Trump, arguing that the crude comments he made about women during a conversation with Billy Bush is a candid reflection of how men speak privately.

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Mayweather previously called Trump a friend after the businessman won the presidential election. Trump attended Mayweather's fight against Manny Pacquiao in May 2015.
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Larry Brown Sep-11-2017 357 0
Kevin Sumlin and his family intend to take legal action against the sender of the threatening letter they received last week, his wife said on Twitter Sunday.

Last week, Sumlin’s Texas A&M Aggies blew a 44-10 lead at UCLA in their season opener and lost 45-44. Days later, Sumlin’s wife Charlene posted on Twitter a photo of a letter she says their family received at their home. The letter contained a racist word and threat.

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Manigault has served as Trump's chief advisor on African-American issues in the White House, and earlier this month attacked the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for "showboating" and refusing to meet with Trump.

"Coming to the table over and over again to work through these issues is the only effective way to get where they wanted to go," Manigault told Fox Business Network's Charles Payne.

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Andy Mai Sep-10-2017 96 0
A man fired one shot at Tytianna Sparks, 19, at about 12:40 p.m. on Dean St. near Howard Ave. in Brownsville before running off.

Medics rushed her in critical condition to Brookdale University Hospital, police said.

"When I came downstairs I heard a lady screaming," said Louis Leak, 64, who knows Sparks from the neighborhood. "She was laying between two cars and she didn't look like she was alive to me. She was already bleeding out."

Yvonne Stevenson, 47, said the woman was seven months pregnant and her mother was planning a baby shower at the end of the month.

Sparks' niece ran over to her after the shot rang out, Stevenson recalled.

"She was kneeling over her trying to help her and hold her. She was in shock as well," she said.

"When they turned her around, you seen blood coming out her face and head."

Man dies after being shot in the head outside Bronx deli

Detrea Issacs, a family friend, also ran outside after hearing two shots.

"This is heavy on the heart. It happened in broad daylight," she lamented. "I just pray she's OK. This is sad.”

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AP Sep-06-2017 228 0
Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett accused Las Vegas police on Wednesday of racially motivated excessive force, saying he was threatened at gunpoint and handcuffed following a report of gunshots at an after-hours club at a casino-hotel.

Bennett said on a Twitter message titled "Dear World," that police "singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Police later attributed a report of gunfire at Drai's at the Cromwell resort to the sharp sound of velvet rope stands being knocked to a tile floor. It happened a few hours after the Aug. 26 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.

Bennett, a 6-foot-4 (193 centimeters) defensive end who has been a leader of the national anthem protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick , said he was among several hundred people running away.

He said he was handcuffed face-down on the ground after an officer held a gun to his head saying he would blow his head off if he moved.

"All I could think of was 'I'm going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat,'" he wrote. He said he thought of his wife and children.

Bennett said he was taken to the back of a police car "until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player." He was released without charges.

Las Vegas police Officer Jacinto Rivera said police were checking for casino and police body camera video and written reports. He said the department couldn't immediately verify Bennett's account or identify the officers involved.

"Without looking at video footage or reading any reports we can't say yet what happened," Rivera said.

A video posted by celebrity news site TMZ shows a view from a balcony as a police officer kneels on the back of a man who looks like Bennett. Protests are heard, including, "I wasn't doing nothing," and, "I was here with my friends. They told us to get out and everybody ran."

Bennett's attorney, John Burris in Oakland, California, confirmed the words were Bennett's. The attorney said he believed the 30-second video clip showed some of how his client was treated.

"We think there was an unlawful detention and the use of excessive force, with a gun put to his head," Burris told The Associated Press. "He was just in the crowd. He doesn't drink or do drugs. He wasn't in a fight. He wasn't resisting. He did nothing more or less than anyone in the crowd."

Burris said Bennett waited to make public his account of the incident until after Burris contacted Las Vegas police last week by letter and email, seeking police records of Bennett's detention.

Bennett's brother, Martellus Bennett, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, posted an Instagram account of a telephone call he said he got from Michael Bennett. He said he heard fear in his brother's voice.

"The emotion and the thought of almost losing you because of the way you look left me in one of the saddest places ever," Martellus Bennett said.

Michael Bennett has been one of the most outspoken pro athletes on numerous social issues. Last month, he held a benefit for the family of a pregnant black woman who was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers in June. Police said the woman threatened the officers with at least one knife after calling 911 to report that someone had broken into her apartment and stolen video-game consoles.

"For me it's always finding a way to impact the community on every single level; locally, nationally, and globally," Bennett said following the benefit. "To be able to have something happen in your city and to be able to build a bridge between people regardless of color, regardless of gender, and regardless of economic hardships, you want to be able to bring people together and be able to do something for kids."

Advocates on Wednesday cited Bennett's treatment by police as an illustration of troubled race relations in America.

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter advocacy group, called it "a testament to the police violence targeting black people in the United States."

Cullors endorsed an online petition calling for Las Vegas police to release information about what she called an assault on Bennett.

Jocelyn Benson, chief executive of the nonprofit Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, released a statement crediting Bennett with "courage and leadership in addressing issues of racial injustice in our country."

"The revelation of Michael Bennett's terrifying experience with Las Vegas police officers last month underscores the need to continue fighting against racial profiling and inequality," Benson said.
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Tom O'Connor Sep-03-2017 372 0
The White House announced Friday it's switching up the format of an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and representatives of historically black colleges. The move comes as his administration continues to face deep criticism over its polarizing views on race relations in the U.S.

While the White House statement did not detail what modifications were being made, it did hint that the administration was looking to downsize Trump's meeting with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs). Trump found early success in reaching out to these schools, which were at times critical of his predecessor, but the Republican leader's attacks on their funding, controversial comments following last month's deadly white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia and his poor approval rating among black communities in general have strained this relationship.

"Responding to suggestions and feedback from many key stakeholders, the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will modify its planned conference to best meet the current needs of HBCUs, their students and the broader HBCU community, " the administration said.

"This more intimate HBCU week will feature a series of strategic meetings for students and leaders to share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges facing the HBCU community. The events will also focus on how the Administration can best work and support HBCU schools and students," it added.

Just over a month after coming to office earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order designed to boost federal funds for HCBUs. The move was seen as an opportunity for the Trump administration to win support of an influential black organization that often criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for not sufficiently addressing the community's needs, despite him being the first black U.S. president. Trump's support, however, was short-lived.

The administration did not increase funds and actually cut Pel grant reserves and other crucial investment HBCUs had asked for, according to The Washington Post. In May, Trump signed a federal budget that controversially included language at the end suggesting he questioned the constitutionality of funding black colleges in the first place.

Recent national events have also highlighted the president's troubled relationship with a community he once famously tried to court on the campaign trail a year ago by asking "What the hell do you have to lose?"

On August 12, a man with white supremacist sympathies ran over a crowd of counter-protesters who were demonstrating against a massive far-right rally that swept the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed and over a dozen more injured. Trump condemned violence "on both sides" of the rally, remarks that garnered him considerable scorn even from within his own party.

These troubles have followed him to Washington. The Congressional Black Caucus may soon become one of the leading voices on the Hill calling for Trump's removal from office. Democratic Representative and Black Caucus leader Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said last month he was considering joining existing efforts to remove the president due to issues with Trump's "competency and fitness to serve."

He also vowed that the caucus would "keep its foot on the Trump administration’s neck by calling their racist and discriminatory policies what they are."

A poll released earlier this week by The Economist and market research company YouGov revealed that 57 percent of people in the U.S. think Trump doesn't care about the needs of black people. Among black respondents, three out of four said he either didn't care much or "not at all."


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