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Soldier's Grieving Mother in Insurance Battle With Army
Jan-13-2011 1200 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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A Tennessee man wore a gorilla mask, carried a rope and tried to hand out bananas at a college Black Lives Matter protest Wednesday, police said.

East Tennessee State University campus police arrested freshman student Tristan Rettke, who is white, on a charge of civil rights intimidation following the disruption, the Johnson City Press reported. University officials condemned his act and scheduled a community discussion.

A video published by the newspaper showed the man later identified as Rettke wearing overalls and also holding a burlap sack with a marijuana leaf and Confederate flag on it. He dangled a banana with the rope toward the dozen or so demonstrators in the video.

“I think he thinks it’s OK because he got a mask on his face,” one of the protesters said.

“I’m just the gorilla,” Rettke said. “I identify as the gorilla. I’m just supporting my people.”

A police officer later escorted Rettke to a bench where he took off the mask at the 14,500-student public university’s Borchuck Plaza.

He found out about the event on the social media app Yik Yak and came out Wednesday to try “to provoke the protesters,” Rettke told the police, according to an arrest report obtained by WCYB-TV.

His classmates had organized three days of protests on campus this week in response to the recent police shootings in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C., ETSU sophomore Jaelyn Grimes told the student newspaper, the East Tennessean.

“He was just trying to get a reaction out of us,” Grimes said. “If we would have lashed out violently, that would have been another problem, and we would’ve all got in trouble.”

ETSU administrators told WJHL-TVthey placed Rettke on interim suspension. The university held a community dialogue between students and top administrators at an auditorium on campus Wednesday night.

“The actions of this one individual go against the values of our university where people come first and all are treated with dignity and respect,” ETSU officials said in a statement.

“We are exceptionally proud of the students who were peacefully participating in the event and the manner in which they exercised restraint, thoughtfulness and strength in the face of inappropriate and offensive behavior.”
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CBS NEWS Sep-29-2016 62 0
The U.S. Supreme Court had outlawed legal segregation in 1955, but blacks were living living under a reign of terror.

That year, a teenage boy became the latest victim of it. His story may have been lost to history, if not for his mother’s decision to expose his brutal death, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

Before the protest in Charlotte and Ferguson, or the chants of Black Lives Matter, there was the story of Emmett Till.

It started when the 14-year-old walked into a Mississippi general store with his cousins.

“Why did he do that?” Miller asked.

“Ah. I tell people, I say, ‘I think he wanted us to laugh,’” Wright said.

Police found Emmett’s body floating in a river seven days later -- so badly beaten that his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, could barely identify him.

A young filmmaker named Keith Beauchamp interviewed Mobley 16 years ago, shortly before her death.

“I saw his tongue had been choked out and it was lying down on his chin,” she told him. “This eye was out and it was lying about mid-way the cheek. I discovered a hole. And I said, ‘Well, was it necessary to shoot him?’”

In the midst of grief, disbelief and horror, Mobley made the decision to expose her only child to the world. Photos of his body in an open casket were published in the black press.

“I said I want the world to see this because, there is no way I could tell this story and give them the visual picture of what my son looked like,” Mobley said.
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“It’s unbelievable that someone can do that to another human being,” Wright said. “It just put in your mind how evil those people were.”

“Those black people in the deep South -- this was finally testimony to what they endured,” said Michael Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor. “It was meant to make them stay in their places. Instead, it ignited a movement.”

Justice, Delayed But Not Denied Key witness to 1955 Emmett Till murder dies at 76 FBI: Emmett Till Probe Complete

Rosa Parks said it was Till’s face she saw when refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. Martin Luther King Jr. summoned his memory during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

“This one image conjured the pain, the acrimony of lynching, and showed to America, ’This is what you do to us. This is evil,’” Dyson said.

“You cannot have justice without truth,” Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp has spent the last 25 years on a quest for both, unearthing new details about Till’s death that he’s revealing in an upcoming feature film. It’s his chance to finally tell the complete story.

“When you see that photo and you juxtapose it against the video of Rodney King, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile and Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, does it still have the same impact?” Miller asked.

“There’s no other story in civil rights history that will speak to this generation than the story of Emmett Till,” Beauchamp said.

No one was ever convicted of Till’s murder, but his mother believes his legacy has become his justice.

“It took something to stir people up and let them know we are either going to stand together, or we’re going to fall together,” Mobley said.

Beauchamp’s reporting led the FBI to reopen the case. In 2005, Till’s body was exhumed, but his casket was left forgotten, until a family member found it and donated it to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
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The University of Missouri temporarily suspended a fraternity on Wednesday over accusations of racial slurs directed toward black students, in the latest incident of racial tension that has roiled the campus for nearly a year.

The university action followed the national organization of Delta Upsilon fraternity, which suspended the chapter earlier on Wednesday.

The incident began late Tuesday night when a group of white students walked past two female members of the Legion of Black Collegians' Activities Committee.

The legion said in a statement that one of the white students yelled a racial slur at the women, who then contacted other legion members. Police then arrived.

"It was at this moment, outside the Delta Upsilon Fraternity house, that while police were attempting to de-escalate the situation, members of the fraternity began recording the interaction, as well as shouting a variety of obscenities at the Committee," the statement said. The legion said those obscenities included a racial slur.

Justin Kirk, executive director of Delta Upsilon International, said in a statement that the emergency suspension would be in effect while the incident is investigated.

"Racism and sexism have no place in our fraternity and we expect our members to be positive contributors to inclusive campus environments," Kirk said.

The university statement on the fraternity's suspension said that the chapter had been cited for other violations of campus policy, including alcohol violations.

A suspended fraternity cannot use university facilities or participate in campus activities such as Homecoming and social events, the university said.

The incident follows campus turmoil last year, when student protests over what some saw as administrators' indifference to racial issues culminated in the resignations of some top university leaders in October.

The university said Wednesday that police have identified the students involved, and that the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX have been notified and "are taking appropriate action."

Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said in a statement that he was "outraged and saddened" to hear about the incident. He said students who violate the university's nondiscrimination policy can face expulsion.

"We have zero tolerance for actions like this," Foley said.
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CBS NEWS Sep-28-2016 125 0
Authorities are charging a Georgia police officer with fabricating a story that she was shot by a suspect she described only as a black man.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday that agents have obtained warrants charging Jackson police Officer Sherry Hall with making false statements, tampering with evidence, interference with government property and violation of oath of office.

The GBI says Hall made a police radio call early on Sept.13, and said she had been shot. Hall said she saw a black man near a woodline while she was on routine patrol, and she approached him to ask him why he was there. He became argumentative and shot her, she claimed. She said she fired two shots at the suspect with the Glock .22 issued to her by the Jackson Police Department, but said he fled into the woods.

Hall is white. Police said previously that Hall was shot in the abdomen but her bulletproof vest protected her.

Jackson police chief James Morgan said he called in the GBI to conduct an independent investigation. According to the GBI, Hall told investigators she hadn’t turned on her police car’s video or audio recording devices. But when investigators turned up video and audio from the unit’s hard drive, they found her statements inconsistent with the recordings and other evidence.

The GBI says investigators determined she was not a victim of a shooting.

At a press conference Friday, investigators and prosecutors didn’t say whether they believe Hall shot herself, citing the ongoing investigation. But they said they do not suspect she had accomplices.

Her claim that an armed suspect was still on the loose instilled fear in the small central Georgia city of just over 5,000. Jackson Mayor Kay Pippin said she was “disappointed anyone would contribute to such fears.”

“For two weeks, the good people of the city of Jackson poured out their hearts in expressions of concern and support for what we believed to be a police officer – one of our own – harmed in the line of duty, Pippin said.

Hall’s daughter spoke to CBS affiliate WGCL shortly after the incident, pleading for the gunman to turn himself in.

Friday, officials reassured the community there was no gunman at large.

Morgan said Hall is on paid administrative leave. She had been with the department for about three months before the incident and had been in law enforcement for about four years, Morgan said.

Officials said she had checked herself into a private facility, but wouldn’t elaborate. She was expected to be arrested and booked on the charges upon her release.
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Tobias Salinger Sep-28-2016 111 0
A San Diego-area officer fatally shot a man who witnesses claim was mentally challenged and unarmed Tuesday afternoon, making him the latest victim in an unsettling series of black men killed by police.

Gunfire rang out around 2 p.m. local time in a parking lot at the Broadway Village Shopping Center in El Cajon, California, after police received multiple calls about a man who was "not acting like himself," Police Chief Jeff Davis told the Daily News in a statement.

Upon arriving, the first responding officer discovered a black male in his 30s frantically pacing back and forth, "not only endangering himself, but motorists," Davis said.

The officer allegedly ordered the man to remove his hand from his front pants pocket. When the man didn't comply, the officer drew his firearm.

A second officer arrived shortly thereafter and prepared to stun the man with a Taser. But as the officer prepared the electronic device, the man allegedly pulled out an object from his pocket, placed his hands together and took "what appeared to be a shooting stance," Davis said.

Both officers discharged their weapons simultaneously, fatally striking the man with several bullets as well as a high-voltage Taser shock. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead Tuesday evening.

Police released a grainy screen grab that appears to show the victim with his hands locked together as two officers surround him with their weapons drawn. The screengrab, Davis said, is taken from cellphone footage recorded by a bystander.

"That was the only phone provided to officers in this investigation," Davis said.

Cops charged in Freddie Gray’s death hailed at right-wing gala

Police would not immediately say what the object the victim pulled from his pocket was, but noted no weapons were retrieved from the scene.

Several eyewitnesses said the victim had his hands above his head when he was shot, but police spokesman Rob Ransweiler disputed those accounts, adding he was "confident that the community will support the decision made by the officer."

"The investigation just started, but based on the video voluntarily provided by a witness, the subject did NOT have his hands up in the air," the police department said on Twitter late Tuesday.

Nonetheless, several dozen protesters gathered at the scene of the shooting and outside the police headquarters late Tuesday. Many cursed at officers guarding the scene and video showed several people at one point pushing through police tape.

Police had not released the victim's name by early Wednesday, but a family friend identified the dead man as 30-year-old Alfred Olango.


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Unanswered questions still surround the fatal police shooting of a black man by a black police officer in North Carolina despite a week of rallies and marches calling for wider investigations and more transparency by law enforcement.

Authorities have said officer Brentley Vinson, 26, shot Keith Lamont Scott, 43, after the man refused to drop a pistol as he exited a vehicle parked at an apartment complex where officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department were waiting to arrest someone else. They also have released two police recordings of the moments before and after the fatal gunfire, and Scott's family has released a video taken by his wife, who was nearby.

But the explanations and images haven't erased all the questions about the shooting. Here are some of them:

Police said Scott had a loaded gun that had been reported stolen previously, and they said testing showed the weapon found at the scene carried both his fingerprints and DNA. But Scott's relatives and demonstrators dispute that.

On the video taken by Scott's wife, the woman tells officers "He has no weapon" several times, even as officers yell at him, "Drop the gun." Demonstrators have consistently repeated claims that Scott was unarmed when he was killed.

But Scott had a weapon a year ago, according to a court document filed by his wife. In asking a judge for a restraining order against her husband in October 2015, Rakeyia Scott wrote that officers should consider her husband a potential threat because he carried a 9mm gun. "He said he is a 'killer' and we should know that," she wrote.

After the shooting, police released an evidence photograph of a cocked, Colt .380-caliber handgun lying in a parking lot with the safety disengaged to illustrate their claim that Scott was armed when Vinson opened fire. The .380-caliber weapon is a form of a 9mm gun, a weapons expert said, and could be referred to as a 9mm, as Scott described in her complaint.

But it's not clear if the gun mentioned in the restraining order is the same one police said they recovered.

The image is vital because Scott's family said he had a book, not a gun. Several things appear to be on the ground around where Scott fell, but no gun is clearly evident. A video from an officer's body camera at one point shows something on the ground near Scott's feet that could be a gun. But it isn't visible as the video continues, and it's unclear what it is. Several things appear to be on the ground in the video taken by Scott's wife, but it's unclear what they are.

Did the gun get kicked away in the seconds after the shooting, or did an officer stand on it or pick it up perhaps? Police haven't explained.

Police say two plainclothes officers were sitting inside an unmarked car waiting to serve an arrest warrant at the apartment complex when Scott pulled in beside them in a white sport-utility vehicle. Officers first saw him rolling what appeared to be a marijuana blunt and then saw him hold up a gun, prompting officers to order him out of the SUV seconds before the shooting, police have said.

Police have not said who they were attempting to arrest. Police Lt. David Robinson said the suspect remained at large and was wanted on a federal probation violation.

The suspect was not related to Scott, police have said.

Scott's family and advocacy groups complain that authorities have made public only about three minutes of footage from two police cameras, one on a dashboard and the other from a police officer's body, despite at least four officers being present. The footage does not include body camera video from Vinson.

Police Chief Kerr Putney has said the officer who shot Scott was not wearing a body camera that day because he was serving with a tactical unit in which members are not equipped with the devices. He previously said he was reluctant to make officers in high-risk operations wear cameras that could reveal tactics and locations.

The American Civil Liberties Union has questioned whether the department is violating its own body camera policy instituted in April 2015. The policy, according to the department's site, states the cameras must be activated in situations including arrests and encounters with suspicious people. It doesn't address whether tactical units must wear them.

But only one officer at the time of Scott's shooting was equipped with a body camera, and all video footage from that camera leading up to, involving and immediately after the shooting has been released, said Robinson, the police spokesman.
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Nina Mandell Sep-28-2016 133 0
The team's president, Peter Feigin certainly thinks so - or at least used that as a reason to defend the $250 million in taxpayer money the team is using to finance it's new arena, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

When speaking to a Rotary Club last week in Madison according to the Wisconsin State Journal, Feigin said that he believed the new arena will help Milwaukee and the team is dedicated to "wellness, education and work development."

"We know we can't cure the world," Feigin said. "But we are very determined to get ourselves involved in programs that we can measure a difference in and put our claws into for a long period of time and show a difference.

"Very bluntly, Milwaukee is the most segregated, racist place I've ever experienced in my life. It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example."

While these deals with professional sports rarely work out as well as teams promise they will for taxpayers, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal the Bucks are at least saying the right things.

The Bucks organization has been pro-active in requiring its construction contractors to hire Milwaukee city and Milwaukee County residents, as required by the team's development agreement with the city and the requirements for projects in the Park East corridor land the Bucks bought from Milwaukee County. The Bucks also agreed to pay wages of at least $12 per hour- escalating to $15 by 2023 - for service-sector jobs at the new arena and related facilities and hire union-represented employees and union-signatory subcontractors.

When asked by the Business Journal about his reported comments to the Rotary Club, Feigin said he was talking about the "hard truths" about Milwaukee's problems.

Feigin's comments come nearly two months after riots broke out in the city earlier this year after a black man was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop, one of many police-involved shootings that have heightened tensions in recent months.
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Wesley Lowery Sep-26-2016 165 0
Crucial evidence in the police shooting death of Keith Scott is not available because one of the officers failed to activate his body camera as soon as he responded to the encounter, in violation of department policy.

The department released two videos late Saturday after four days of sometimes violent protests here over the death of Scott, who police said had a gun. Neither video is conclusive on that question.

The grainy body camera video begins showing an officer who appears to be yelling, his weapon drawn, as he and the officer wearing the body camera stand behind Scott’s white vehicle. Next the officer with the camera can be seen striking Scott’s truck with his baton. Scott gets out of the vehicle, four shots are fired by an officer not seen on the video, and Scott falls to the ground.

The officer recording retreats back behind the truck, then doubles back toward Scott’s dying body.

But none of those moments in the first 30 seconds of the bodycam video have audio. All are silent, denying investigators and the public key details of what happened immediately prior to the shooting Sept. 20. That indicates the officer, who has not been identified, did not turn on the camera until after the shooting, when audio begins.

Officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD are equipped with Axon Flex body cameras made by Taser. The city spent more than $7 million in 2015 to buy and implement the use of 1,385 of the cameras, making Charlotte the first major city in North Carolina to have body-worn cameras on all of its patrol officers. (It also bought 15 of a different model of body camera for its K9 officers).

These cameras come with a “buffer” function. When a camera is simply turned on, it saves only the 30 seconds of soundless video filmed before an officer “activates” the camera. Audio, however, does not begin to be recorded until the moment an officer manually activates the camera.

“When you go on duty, you turn the camera on. But when you turn the camera on it is only in the buffer mode,” explained Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser. “What it’s doing is recording nothing but video. It’s recording constantly, but it’s only saving the last 30 seconds of video.”

Charlotte police use Taser Axon body cameras. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Charlotte police use Taser Axon body cameras. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
[Amid pressure, Charlotte police release videos in shooting of Keith Lamont Scott]

In order to activate audio recording and to begin saving video, an officer must double tap a large button on the camera, Tuttle said. The camera then begins recording all audio and video moving forward and automatically saves the video images of the previous 30 seconds.

“When you watch some of these videos, they are totally silent for 30 seconds,” Tuttle said. “Then you instantly hear the double beep and that was the very instant the person double clicked the event button.” In the body camera footage released Saturday, the double beep and audio recording are not heard until after Scott has been shot.

The department’s body camera policy, effective June 2016, states that officers must fully activate their body cameras “prior to or in anticipation of” interactions with civilians resulting from traffic stops, suspicious vehicle or persons investigations, arrests, use of force incidents and voluntary investigative conduct. In the policy, “voluntary investigative conduct” is defined as “the mere suspicion of some type of criminal activity by a person,” which fits the description of why police say officers confronted Scott.

According to the police narrative of the incident, an officer saw Scott hold up a gun, which prompted the plainclothes officers to leave the area, put on vests marked with police insignia, and then return to detain Scott.

Those officers did not have cameras. Another officer, responding to a call about a man with a gun, soon arrived. According to the department’s policy, this officer should have activated his camera as soon as he left his vehicle. Instead, he waited for at least 45 seconds, and perhaps longer, before activating his camera.

The police department confirmed Sunday that the first 30 seconds of the body camera footage has no audio because it occurred before the officer had manually activated his body camera. “Once the cameras are activated manually they begin recording audio, however it will go back visually 30 seconds,” police department spokeswoman Jessica Wallin said in an email.

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Erin Durkin Sep-26-2016 121 0
City Councilman Jumaane Williams has been targeted with racist hate mail since he refused in protest to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Brooklyn Democrat got one letter calling him a “f---ing plantation monkey.”

“Plantation owner should have aborted your great-grandmother. You sit during the pledge — well hope you have an accident that causes such physical trauma you will not be able to stand or kneel,” read the letter obtained by the Daily News.

Williams remained seated with his head bowed in prayer when the pledge was recited at the opening of a City Council meeting earlier this month.

He said he wanted to protest killings of black men by police in addition to other injustices, and show solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has taken a knee during the national anthem.

The backlash against Williams included another hate-spewing note that said the protest “brings attention to how pathetic some if not most Blacks are.”

The writer went on to rant about affirmative action and rap music and wrote, “Black parents wait (some pray) that a son will get shot by a cop; of course he was on his way to college or usually church. This is called Payday for them. The ghetto lottery. What’s one kid when they usually have 6-8 maybe 10.”

Williams said the blatantly racist missives just go to show how much there is to protest.

“It just underscores that we really haven’t gone as far as we think we have on these issues,” he said. “People try to pretend we’re past that in this country, and we’re not.”

Another note sent to his office contained an article about his sitting out the pledge with the message “Drop dead you f---” scrawled over it.

Williams said he has long declined to recite the pledge but always stood out of respect, and has now decided to make his private protest public.

“I feel sorry for someone who can’t even see how illogical it is what they’re saying,” Williams said. “They’re walking around with so much anger in their hearts. It’s a disappointing thing, but that’s what we’re dealing with.”
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