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Soldier's Grieving Mother in Insurance Battle With Army
Jan-13-2011 1089 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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Bank in Cook County, Illinois. She learned from an employee at the sperm bank that she had been inseminated with sperm from No. 330, a black donor, and not No. 380, a white donor she and Zinkon, who are white, had chosen.

"How could they make a mistake that was so personal?" Cramblett said during a telephone interview on Wednesday.

According to the lawsuit, her excitement about the pending birth was replaced with "anger, disappointment and fear."

"They took a personal choice, a personal decision and took it on themselves to make that choice for us out of pure negligence," Cramblett said.

Telephone calls to Midwest Sperm Bank were not returned on Wednesday. It's unclear who the sperm bank's attorney is.

Cramblett said she and Zinkon love their 2-year-old daughter, Payton, very much and wouldn't change anything about her. But they are concerned about raising her in the predominantly white community where they live.

The lawsuit said they had moved from Akron to Uniontown for better schools and to be closer to Cramblett's family. She said that as a lesbian she has felt the sting of prejudice but doesn't know what it's like to be mistreated because of her skin color.

The lawsuit says Cramblett also is worried about how Payton will be treated in her "all-white, and often unconsciously insensitive family."

Therapists have recommended that Cramblett, Zinkon and Payton move to a more a racially diverse community with good schools, the lawsuit said.

Cramblett said she decided to sue to prevent the sperm bank from making the same mistake again. The lawsuit says the sperm bank has no electronic record-keeping and no quality controls that would have prevented it from sending the wrong sperm to fertility clinics.

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $50,000 in damages. Cramblett's attorney, Tim Misny, said some of the compensation would pay for ongoing counseling.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Wedding photos plastered around a hospital room are being credited with bringing a newlywed bride's memory back after it was almost washed clean following a near fatal brain hemorrhage in July.

It was only one month after Tunicia Hall, 43, exchanged vows with Raleigh Hall, 50, that the Queens, N.Y. woman suffered what she'd describe as the worst headache of her life.

When she finally came to at Long Island's North Shore hospital she didn't know what year it was or how old she was. When she turned to her husband she startlingly asked, "Are we married?" NBC New York reported.

The blow proved near crushing to her husband's ears.

"I felt like I lost her," he admitted in an emotional press conference Tuesday.

Initially he hoped that her memory would come back on its own, but after about two days, he became determined to help coax it back himself.

"I was fighting to get her back. Whatever came to mind, I tried," he said.

One method involved plastering her hospital room with photos of their wedding.

Tunicia recalls watching him put each picture up, but without any understanding of what he was doing or the memories he was holding.

It did, however, get her thinking.

"She started coming around and it drew questions about when were we married? And are we married?" said Raleigh.

Finally, slowly but surely, her memory began to return as if by a miracle.

On Tuesday the couple celebrated their three-month wedding anniversary with a toast "to life" during a heartwarming press conference at the hospital.

They clinked champagne glasses and cut a white wedding cake while reaffirming their love for one another.

"With his love and God's grace I'm here," said Tunicia.

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AP Oct-01-2014 172 0
A Florida jury found Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in an argument over loud rap music.

Dunn, 47, a software engineer, testified he thought he was defending himself from an armed threat when he fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying Jordan Davis, 17, and three other black teens at a Jacksonville gas station parking lot. Dunn and the teenagers had argued about the loud music coming from the SUV.

The jury, composed of 10 whites and two blacks, took about five hours to reach Wednesday's verdict. In a February trial, a jury deadlocked on charge in Davis' death after four days but convicted Dunn on three counts of attempted murder for firing at the three surviving teens in the vehicle.

Dunn testified he was sure he saw a gun as a teenager appeared to emerge from the SUV making verbal threats against his life. Davis was unarmed, prosecutors said, and no weapon was found in the youths' vehicle.

During the weeklong retrial, prosecutors argued that Dunn's actions went far beyond self-defense.

Davis was struck by three bullets while leaning away from the gunfire, an expert testified during the trial. Dunn faced intense questioning as to why he did not call 911, which he blamed on fear and shock.

Under Florida law, Dunn will be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Davis, plus 60 years in jail for his February convictions.

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Funnyman Tracy Morgan leaned on a cane and grimaced at times Wednesday as he struggled to climb down the front two steps of his New Jersey home.

Morgan, who was badly hurt in a deadly crash that killed a close pal, could be seen pausing between steps before soldiering on in exclusive obtained by The Daily News.

Dressed in a white hoodie, jeans and a do-rag that was later replaced by a New York Giants cap, Morgan came out to inspect some landscaping work that had been completed at his Cresskill, N.J., home.

The beloved comedian was met with encouraging smiles from people who appeared to be relatives, but the cane soon gave way to a sturdier walker and his progress appeared to be painfully slow as he inched his way to a waiting SUV.

There have been few public sightings of the “30 Rock” star since June 7, when a Wal-Mart truck smashed into Morgan’s limousine bus on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Morgan was critically injured with a broken leg and broken ribs and another comedian, 62-year-old James (Jimmy Mack) McNair, was killed.

The 45-year-old former Saturday Night Live star sued Wal-Mart for negligence, arguing the company was culpable because driver Kevin Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.

The retail giant blamed Morgan for not wearing a seat belt and denied any responsibility for the wreck.

Roper was going 65 mph, about 20 mph over the speed limit, when he rammed Morgan's limo, federal investigators said.

Morgan's lawsuit alleges Roper fell asleep at the wheel.

Roper has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (AP) — Ernest Satterwhite was a laid-back former mechanic with a habit of ignoring police officers who tried to pull him over — an act of defiance that ultimately got him killed.

The 68-year-old black great-grandfather was shot to death after a slow-speed chase as he parked in his own driveway, by a 25-year-old white police officer who repeatedly fired through the driver's side door.

Investigators determined that North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven broke the law. A prosecutor, in a rare action against a police officer, sought to charge him with voluntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But the grand jury disagreed, indicting him on a misdemeanor.

The debate over how police use force against unarmed people has become a national issue since an unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot to death in August by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where unrest still lingers.

But most police shootings make only local headlines, and just for a day or two. The refusal of authorities to release public information about these on-duty actions by taxpayer-paid officials is a big reason why. As with many such killings, Satterwhite's death in February remains shrouded in mystery.

Video can make a difference: South Carolina gained the national spotlight last week after a dashboard camera showed how in just a few seconds Trooper Sean Groubert went from asking motorist Levar Jones for his license for a supposed seat belt violation, to shooting at him repeatedly without provocation, even as Jones put his hands in the air. Jones was hit once and is recovering.

State Public Safety Director Leroy Smith called that shooting "disturbing," and Groubert was promptly fired and charged with felony assault.

Sometimes, the video can exonerate officers: In August, a South Carolina prosecutor refused to file criminal charges against a York County deputy who wounded a 70-year-old man after mistaking his cane for a shotgun during an after-dark traffic stop. Using video, the sheriff showed how the cane's shaft could be mistaken for a gun barrel in the dim light.

So far, 35 people were shot by police in South Carolina this year; 16 were killed. The state is on pace to surpass last year's total of 42 people shot by police.

In Satterwhite's case, prosecutors won't say why they sought a felony charge against Craven, who chased Satterwhite for 9 miles, beyond city limits and into Edgefield County.

Experts say it's the first time an officer was charged in a fatal shooting in roughly a decade. But the grand jury opted for "misconduct in office," a charge used for sheriffs who make inmates do their personal work, or officers who ask for bribes. Their single-page indictment, returned in August, contains no details other than accusing Craven of "using excessive force and failing to follow and use proper procedures."

Black leaders were astonished that an officially unjustified shooting of an unarmed man should merit such a light charge.

"It diminishes the nature of the violation — of the death. This man's life is only worth a misdemeanor?" said state Rep. Joe Neal, a Democrat who has spent decades speaking out against racism in law enforcement and demanding accountability through data and police cameras.

Neal, who is black, also wants authorities to release evidence more quickly in police-involved shootings. Authorities often say doing so could taint potential jurors. Neal says that doesn't give people enough credit.

The State Law Enforcement Division denied requests filed by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act to learn what evidence was gathered against Craven. Solicitor Donnie Myers, who is handling the case, didn't return phone calls. North Augusta Police, the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office and Craven's lawyer, Jack Swerling, declined to comment.

The few details released raised concerns among law enforcement experts. In the likely 10 to 15 minutes he trailed Satterwhite, Craven should have had time to learn he was headed home and had no violent incidents on his criminal record, said University of South Carolina criminology professor Geoffrey Alpert.

Police records show Satterwhite had been arrested more than a dozen times for traffic violations, most of them for driving under suspension or under the influence. Most of the charges led to convictions. He also was charged at least three times for failing to stop as officers tried to pull him over. But his record shows no evidence he ever physically fought with an officer.

Edgefield County deputies who joined in the chase reported that Craven ran up to Satterwhite's parked car and fired several shots into the driver's side door, telling the other officers that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun. The other officers couldn't get Satterwhite's door open, so they broke the passenger side window, unlocked that door and dragged him out.

"Why would he run up to the car like that?" asked Alpert. "Why would he put himself in a situation to use deadly force? Why would he put his gun close enough for him to grab it?"

Satterwhite, who worked for years as a mechanic, liked to fish and was remembered by his family as a laid-back man who kept to himself, left behind six children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Seven months after the funeral, and eight days after his indictment, Craven was put on administrative leave — with pay.

Satterwhite's family then sued the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, Edgefield County and its sheriff's office.

The lawsuit alleges Craven ignored the Edgefield deputies' orders to stop and let them manage the chase when it entered their county, about 2 miles from Satterwhite's home. It claims Satterwhite never tried to grab the officer's gun when Craven fired five times, hitting him with four bullets — two in the chest.

The family says the officers yanked the mortally wounded man out of the car, restrained him and left him on the ground unattended until paramedics arrived.

Their lawyer, Carter Elliott, hopes to force authorities to release any video and other evidence.

North Augusta's Public Safety Department has refused to release any details about Craven's history. City officials didn't make him available for interviews, and he didn't respond to emails.

Police agencies hurt their own credibility when they withhold information, allowing rumors and speculation to fill the void, Alpert said.

"They work for us — the public," Alpert said. "You need to put as much accurate information out there as you can to get in front of the issue and create your own story."

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Sep-30-2014 233 0
Suspected gang members shot a seventh-grader to death on Chicago's gun-plagued South Side Sunday, authorities said.

Demureye Macon, 13, was returning to a playground in Marquette Park with a friend after walking a girl to a bus stop at around 8:30 p.m. when a group stopped them, asked Macon if he was in a gang and then shot him in the torso, friends and family told The Chicago Tribune.

Macon tried to escape, but collapsed on the sidewalk on South Talman Ave., where he was later pronounced dead.

Cops were hunting for the shooter, but didn't have any suspects as of Tuesday.

"Why? Why would they do this? It's senseless," the boy's mother, Tawana Macon, told the Tribune.

"Quit doing this to these kids. They babies," she said.

The Fairfield Elementary Academy student's killing capped a bloody weekend in the city that left five dead and at least 40 wounded.

Both Chicago police and the slain boy's mother said he had no gang ties. He was the oldest of four children.

John Phillips, who lives near the shooting site, recalled hearing several gun blasts on the night the boy was killed.

"It was a boom, boom, boom. Like you could tell that they hit something," Phillips told local ABC 7. "If you really know the gunfire, you could tell they hit something."

On Monday, friends and family gathered at the shooting site to weep and comfort one another, and some mourners placed stuff animals on the spot where the boy died.

"He (was) too young," Phillips said. "He didn't even live out the weekend."

The little boy's death came about a week after police nabbed four gangbangers in the murder of 9-year-old Antonio Smith, Jr., who was shot to death on the South Side on Aug. 20.

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Philip Caulfield Sep-29-2014 274 0
A Los Angeles man was playing with a gun when he accidentally shot his best friend — and then, in a moment of intense grief, committed suicide in front of a crowd of their friends, authorities said.

Dominique Barnett, 24, was showing off his piece to around 10 friends hanging out in front of Jerrod Taylor's Willowbrook home early Sunday when the gun suddenly went off, striking Taylor with a single round, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Taylor, 23, would die later at a local hospital.

Overcome with guilt by what he'd done to his best friend, Barnett then shot himself in the head at the scene.

Police described the grim turn of events as an accident brought on by the collision of tragic luck and a loaded gun.

Witnesses said Taylor was upset Barnett was showing the gun off and was trying to take it away from him when it went off, CBS Los Angeles reported.

"Preliminary investigation is indicating that both the gunshot victims knew each other, and that they were friends, so there was no malicious intent at this point that we know of for the shooting to occur," L.A. Sheriff's Det. Steven Lankford told the station.

Those who knew them said the pair had been best friends since they were 11. Taylor had a child.

"Jerrod was a great kid," his cousin, Laretha Kelly, told KTLA-TV.

"He worked very hard. … He was just so willing to help people."

Antoine Barnett, Dominique's father, said he was sickened to receive a phone call early Sunday saying his son was dead.

"Being a father, getting that phone call in the morning is nothing easy," Barnett said.

He said he imagined his son was "distraught" by the accident and didn't see a way out of the situation.

"I wish he would have called me, there's not much more I could have done, but at least I (could have) talked to him," Barnett said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "I didn't even get the chance to say bye to him. "

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Sep-28-2014 298 0
A Florida school plagued with allegations of bullying which led to the on-campus suicide of a 14-year-old boy deliberately ignored and in some cases hid student discipline issues to boost its image, according to an anonymous letter allegedly written by a staff member.

In the eye-opening letter claiming to have been written by an employee of Greenwood Lakes Middle School, where Lamar Hawkins shot himself on Sept. 10, administrators are accused of trading student and teacher safety for funding.

"For many years now, referrals have been downgraded to minor offenses ... Some referrals would not be dealt with for weeks, until the teacher who wrote them would have forgotten about them," just one allegation packed in the letter reads.

Attorney Matt Morgan, who's representing Lamar's parents, revealed the letter this week after it was sent to him unsigned to allegedly protect the author's employment.
In addition to accusing administrators of eliminating In School Suspension for the last two years and banning the word "bully" from staff emails and referrals, the letter reads: "We had at least 10 fights on campus. Only 2 were reported. The other fights were downgraded to 'horseplay.'"

Reasons for blanketing such crucial issues at the school are blamed on it affecting their financial standing.

When the school dropped to a C-rated school during the 2013-14 school year, "the teachers were blamed for that," the letter accuses. "We were instructed to handle discipline in our classroom with more 'tolerance.' We needed to keep the students in our classes at all cost."

When they were stamped as a Title I school at that year's end, due to their percentage of low income students and having "no serious discipline problems," they were awarded with $200,000.

"I will let you draw the conclusions why last year admin wanted our number of referrals down," the anonymous author states.

Since Lamar's tragic death, his parents have said that they had reported their son being bullied to school officials "multiple times," but nothing was done.

A friend of Lamar's, 11-year-old Jordan Gonzalez, has also since come out saying he not only witnessed his friend being abused on a regular basis, but that he was bullied too.

In a disturbing letter later sent by Jordan to his mom, the boy said he too wants to die because of the non-stop abuse, his mom revealed.

Requests for comment from Greenwood Lake's principal and the Seminole County school district's Superintendent were not immediately returned to the Daily News Friday.

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Victoria Taylor Sep-28-2014 296 0
Fired UPS employee Walter Earl Morrison, 20, has been accused of stealing a valuable diamond from a UPS cargo plane and swapping the gem, which was valued at $160,000, for $20 worth of marijuana, according to KNXV.

Authorities said Morrison swiped the stone at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix and hid the package under his shirt.

He then supposedly traded the expensive rock for pot before he was caught.

A UPS spokesperson told KNXV that the diamond has been recovered and given to the intended recipient,

Morrison reportedly faces felony theft charges and is scheduled to appear in the Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

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