History > 2012 > USA > Gun violence (I)
Stand your ground laws
Trayvon Martin shooting, February 2012
Dave Granlund's cartoons
have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune,
Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek.
March 21, 2012
The New York Times
By ROBERT GOODING-WILLIAMS
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues
both timely and timeless.
temporarily stepped down from his position last week as chief of the Sanford,
Fla., police department, Bill Lee Jr., gave an explanation of his decision not
to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. Lee said he had no reason
to doubt Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. Though Lee is no longer in the
spotlight, his words linger for at least one compelling reason: his explanation
bears an eerie resemblance to cases brought under the Fugitive Slave Law during
the Antebellum period. Today, a legal standard that allowed the police chief to
take Zimmerman at his word recalls the dark past of slave-owners claiming their
property. The writings of Martin Delany, the African American political
philosopher and activist, shed light on the uncanny resemblance.
During his trip through the free states west of New York to solicit
subscriptions for the North Star, the newspaper that he and Frederick Douglass
published, Martin Delany regularly corresponded with Douglass. One of his
letters to Douglass, dated July 14, 1848 (Bastille Day), details the events of
the so-called “Crosswhite affair,” which involved a court case brought under the
Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. The presiding judge for the case was John McClean,
associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Delany’s philosophical analysis of
McClean’s charge to the jury is enlightening. A little background may be
In 1843 Adam Crosswhite, his wife Sarah, and their four children, after learning
that their master Frank Giltner intended to break up the family, fled Carroll
County, Ky., where they lived as slaves. After traveling through Indiana and
southwest Michigan, the family settled in Marshall, Mich., where a fifth child
was born, and where close to 50 blacks, many of them escaped slaves from
Kentucky, already resided. Only a few years had passed when in 1847 Frank
Giltner’s son, David Giltner, and his nephew, Francis Troutman, came to Marshall
with two other Kentuckians to arrest the Crosswhites and reclaim them as Frank
Giltner’s property under the Fugitive Slave Law. That law authorized slave
owners residing in one state to enter another state to recapture their property.
Soon a crowd of more than 200 people gathered at the Crosswhite home, some of
whom strongly supported Michigan’s status as a free state. One man, Charles
Gorham, a local banker, protested Troutman’s attempt to seize the Crosswhites,
after which Troutman was arrested, tried, and fined $100 for trespassing. In the
meantime, the Crosswhites were spirited out of Marshall and escaped to Canada.
West Virginia University LibraryMartin R. Delany
Delany’s discussion of the Crosswhite affair came more than a year later when he
arrived in Detroit during a trial (Giltner v. Gorham) in which suit was brought
against Gorham and other members of the Marshall crowd concerning their role in
hindering the arrest and abetting the rescue of the Crosswhites. Ultimately the
jury was hung and the case discharged, yet Delany dwells on it due to what he
considers to be the implications of McClean’s charge to the jury. In particular,
Delany responds to the judge’s elaboration of his charge in his reply “to an
interrogatory by one of the counsel for defense”:
It is not necessary that the persons interfering should know that the persons
claimed are slaves. If the claimant has made the declaration that they are such,
though he should only assert it to the fugitives themselves — indeed, it could
not be expected that the claimant would be required the trouble of repeating
this to persons who might be disposed to interfere — should any one interfere at
all, after the declaration of the claimant, he is liable and responsible to the
provisions of the law in such cases.
Delany’s main point against McClean is that the fact that the judge holds
interfering persons to be criminally accountable shows that he takes the 1793
Fugitive Slave Law to carry the presumption that any individual, having declared
that one or another “colored” person is an escaped slave (whom he is entitled to
arrest), is simply to be taken at his word, and so cannot legally be interfered
with in his effort to arrest that colored person. In conclusion, then, Delany
reasons that the Fugitive Slave Law reduces “each and all of us [that is, each
and all colored persons] to the mercy and discretion of any white man in the
country,” and that under its jurisdiction, “every colored man in the nominally
free states…is reduced to abject slavery; because all slavery is but the
arbitrary will of one person over another.”
On Delany’s account, the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, at least as Judge
McClean interprets it, is to subject all unowned black persons to the domination
of all white persons. For by requiring that the self-proclaimed slave catcher be
taken at his word, the law leaves unconstrained the ability of any white person
to arrest and seize any black person. In effect, it renders all titularly free
blacks vulnerable to the power available to all whites in exactly the way that,
according to Frederick Douglass, a black slave is vulnerable to the power
exercised by his or her white master.
The affinity to the Trayvon Martin incident is perhaps obvious. Chief Lee’s
statement that Zimmerman was not arrested for lack of evidence sufficient to
challenge his claim that he had not acted in self-defense (“We don’t have
anything to dispute his claim of self-defense”) appears to imply that, absent
such evidence, a white or otherwise non-black man (there is some controversy as
to whether Zimmerman should be identified as white, or Hispanic, or both,
although no one seems to be claiming he is black) claiming self-defense after
killing a black man is simply to be taken at his word. It is hard to resist the
thought that race matters here, for who believes that, had an adult African
American male killed a white teenager under similar circumstances, the police
would have taken him at his word and so declined to arrest him?
In contrast to Judge McClean, Lee does not propose that, if a certain sort of
declaration has been issued, interference with a white man’s attempt to seize a
black man would be illegal. Rather he argues that, if a certain sort of
declaration has been issued — “I acted from self-defense”— a white or other
non-black person who has admitted to killing a black person cannot legally be
arrested if the police have no reason to dispute the truth of his declaration;
or more technically, if in keeping with sections 776.032 and 776.013 of the
Florida Statues the police have no “probable cause” to believe that Zimmerman
did not “reasonably believe” that killing Martin was necessary “to prevent death
or great bodily harm to himself.” Though the two cases are different, we should
notice that Lee, like McClean, intends to highlight considerations that legally
constrain action (interference in one case, arrest in the other ) in the face of
an assault on an African American. This should give us pause to worry that
Florida’s Stand Your Ground legislation, in its application to cases where
whites (or other non-blacks) kill blacks and then claim self-defense, could
prove to be the functional equivalent of a fugitive slave law.
In short, it appears that whites (or other non-blacks) may hunt down blacks with
immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not
acting to defend themselves; or, to echo Martin Delany, that Florida’s Stand
Your Ground law threatens to render some citizens subject to the arbitrary wills
If it seems a stretch, finally, to paint Zimmerman in the image of the slave
catchers of yesteryear, recall that he himself invited the comparison when,
while stalking the African-American teenager against the orders of a 911 police
officer, he complained, using an expletive to refer to Trayvon, that they
“always get away.”
Gooding-Williams is the Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor of Political Science
at the University of Chicago. He is the author of “Look, A Negro!: Philosophical
Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics” (Routledge, 2005) and “In The Shadow of
Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America” (Harvard 2009).
Fugitive Slave Mentality, NYT, 27.3.2012,
Reflecting on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy
The New York Times
Re “A Personal Note as Obama Speaks on Death of Boy” (front page, March 24):
President Obama’s eloquence and firm leadership are much needed at this time.
But when he and other political leaders question how the tragic shooting of an
innocent youth, Trayvon Martin, occurred, it seems to me that the answer —
complex sociological and psychological issues aside — centers on the easy
availability of guns and the vigilante mentality implicitly, and often
explicitly, condoned by the National Rifle Association and many Republican and
As long as citizens who are not members of sanctioned law enforcement agencies
are able to obtain handguns and assault weapons, more tragic deaths like Trayvon
Martin’s, and life-altering injuries like those sustained by Gabrielle Giffords,
Private citizens should not have access to guns, or the ability to use them at
will. We must wake up and take sane steps to prevent this before more madness
Brooklyn, March 25, 2012
To the Editor:
Re “Shooting Focuses Attention on a Program That Seeks to Avoid Guns” (news
article, March 23):
In the last week, as a result of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a
self-appointed guardian of a Sanford, Fla., gated community, George Zimmerman,
it now seems that every type of citizen patrol is under extra scrutiny.
Unfortunately, Mr. Zimmerman has become the face of the average citizen
patroller, and that is an outrage.
When I hear what actions Mr. Zimmerman took after being told by the police on
his 911 call to back off, I see the face of Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” and
not a volunteer who is part of organized efforts in the United States that have
tens of thousands of participants.
I am the founder and president of the Guardian Angels, which now runs unarmed
safety patrols in 17 countries and 140 cities. To avoid problems of
overreaction, you have to have a vetting process that eliminates the potential
Zimmermans in advance. You patrol as a group so there are checks and balances to
make sure that one person does not go over the edge. You are always subordinate
to the police, and if told to avoid contact that’s what you must do.
I have seen armed and unarmed volunteer patrols in a wide variety of
communities. This Zimmerman effect should not taint the heroic, selfless service
that is provided to communities day in and day out throughout our country.
Brooklyn, March 26, 2012
To the Editor:
Should black families burn their hoodies? On Thursday I noticed my son leaving
for school wearing a hoodie. I immediately had a talk with him and explained why
he should change into a white buttoned-down shirt.
The tragic death of Trayvon Martin has changed the way I teach students about
fashion. As an assistant chairman in a top fashion school in New York City, I
found myself lecturing my son on why it might be dangerous for blacks to be
fashionable. This is the new Jim Crow.
New York, March 23, 2012
To the Editor:
Re “Florida’s Disastrous Self-Defense Law,” by John F. Timoney (Op-Ed, March
The Stand Your Ground law solves no problem, and it makes the prosecution of
murderers more difficult. Those who passed it are in fact anti-law-enforcement
and soft on crime. They serve the National Rifle Association rather than public
They should repeal this law immediately or be held accountable for the
consequences of their folly.
Brookline, Mass., March 24, 2012
To the Editor:
Under the Stand Your Ground law, a shooter who claims self-defense can typically
avoid any legal or civil sanctions. In effect, this law privatizes justice,
perhaps the ultimate libertarian norm.
But in a democracy, the citizenry expects the government, acting on its behalf,
to administer the justice system. By permitting its armed citizens to act as if
they were peace officers, the Florida legislators have, perhaps unwittingly,
subverted the moral order upon which social comity rests.
JOHN S. ZAWACKI
Cruz Bay, V.I., March 24, 2012
The writer is professor emeritus of social sciences at Boston University.
To the Editor:
As the parent of an autistic teenage boy, I was shocked to learn that a private
citizen in Florida can essentially serve as cop, judge and jury and impose the
death penalty on a fellow citizen. My son has been known to approach strangers
quickly and tell them to stop whistling, humming or chewing, all while standing
much too close. He often wears a hoodie because the hood helps to block out
offending sounds and light.
My son was hoping that we could visit Disney World and Universal Studios in
Florida this summer. We are now having serious second thoughts.
Corona del Mar, Calif., March 25, 2012
Reflecting on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy, NYT, 26.3.2012,
Silencing the Guns
The New York Times
By DREW WESTEN
Gabrielle Giffords tendered her resignation from the House of Representatives to
Speaker John Boehner because she did not feel she could continue to serve at her
current level of disability, the entire House erupted in a rare moment of
bipartisan unity, supporting their brave colleague who had survived a bullet
through the brain at point-blank range.
That was not, however, the first bipartisan moment related to the attack on
Gabby Giffords, nor would it be the last. In 2004, Congress let the assault
weapons ban Bill Clinton had passed “sunset” despite overwhelming public
support. That law limited the number of rounds of ammunition a shooter could
fire before having to reload, and letting it die an untimely death allowed a
mentally ill young man in Tucson to purchase a handgun with a 33-round magazine.
Had the assault weapons ban remained in place, he may well have been able to
shoot the congresswoman, but he would not have been able to empty his clip,
killing 6 people and wounding 13 others, before being tackled to the ground.
That moment was followed by another bipartisan moment, when President Obama
delivered a moving speech on Jan. 12 at the scene of the carnage in Tucson. In
it, the president called on the nation to mourn not only the shooting of a
beloved member of Congress but the lives of the people who died at the hands of
Giffords’ assailant, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. But on
neither that national day of mourning nor on any day since has the president or
the members of Congress, who are either too frightened or too corrupted by the
National Rifle Association, honored Giffords or the memory of those who died in
that massacre in Tucson in the most appropriate way: with a return to common
sense, like reestablishing the assault weapons ban that might have saved their
lives. Later in January, Representative Carolyn McCarthy and Senator Frank
Lautenberg proposed legislation to outlaw high-capacity magazines; it has gone
The first President Bush, unlike his swaggering son (who advocated the demise of
a ban on assault weapons whose sole purpose is to hunt humans) showed political
courage by publicly quitting the N.R.A. in disgust in 1995 when it began
advocating ideas like its contention that citizens need military-style assault
weapons to protect themselves against our own government (members, for example,
of the National Guard). In colorful but paranoid language, it called law
enforcement officers “jack-booted government thugs,” prompting the elder Bush to
condemn the group for its disrespect for the law and those who defend it. Since
then, it has successfully advocated for increasingly radical laws. One of them,
of course, is Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which discourages de-escalation
of potential firefights in public with predictable results, like the shooting
death in Sanford, Fla., of Trayvon Martin.
Between the Giffords massacre and Martin’s death, we have seen more shootings
and more bipartisan moments. Around the anniversary of the Tucson massacre that
cut short the congressional career of an extraordinary woman — a woman I had
come to know personally and adore in her five years in Congress — came two more
mass killings. One occurred in Chardon High School in a small town in Ohio, as a
17-year-old opened fire on students with a Ruger .22-caliber semiautomatic with
a capacity of 10 rounds. Fortunately the alleged shooter, T.J. Lane, didn’t have
access to a gun with more firepower. About two weeks later, a man entered one of
the nation’s premiere medical centers, at the University of Pittsburgh, with two
semiautomatic handguns, and opened fire.
And in yet another show of bipartisanship, political leaders on both sides of
the aisle put on their silencers. If an assassination attempt on one of their
own did not move members of Congress to ask whether the N.R.A. has a little too
much sway in their chambers, a few dead and wounded teenagers, medical patients,
and their family members were not going to unlock their safeties. Most have
clearly made the risk assessment that they have more to fear from the N.R.A.
than they do from an occasional sniper. In the 2010 election cycle, the N.R.A.
spent over $7 million in independent expenditure campaigns for and against
specific candidates, and it has a remarkable record of success at taking out
candidates and elected officials with the misfortune of being caught in its
Over a million Americans have lost their lives to gunfire since that awful
spring of 1968 when both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed
by assassins’ bullets. Last year alone guns killed or wounded another 100,000
Americans; roughly 30,000 of them died. Had that occurred elsewhere, we would
call it genocide. We don’t know exactly how many have been killed in the
fighting in Libya, Egypt and Syria, but our elected officials have had far less
trouble calling for the ouster of Middle Eastern leaders than the leadership of
the N.R.A. But it’s not just money that prevents common-sense action on gun
violence in America. Millions of Americans hunt, and a third of all households
in the United States own a gun. Guns were part of the frontier culture that
shaped the American psyche, and hunting has passed from generation to generation
in much of America. As a son of the South, I could give an intruder a run for
his money (although, like most people, I would do better to rely first on our
security service and the loud alarm a break-in sets off), and I put on my
thickest Southern accent and tease my soon-to-be teenage daughter that I’ll be
out on the front porch “cleaning my shotgun” when her first date arrives at the
In so many cases, it’s a failure of our leaders — Republicans, who prey on the
fears of their constituents and don’t even bother anymore to hide the puppet
strings pulled by large corporations, and Democrats, who too frequently forget
that humans are supposed to be vertebrates (and hence to have a spine) — to
speak to Americans’ ambivalence about guns. Over the years in my capacity as a
strategic messaging consultant, I’ve tested a range of messages on guns, and the
messages that resonate with hunters and gun owners sound like this: “If you need
an M-16 to hunt deer, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a damned gun,” or “If
you’re hunting with an AK-47, you’re not bringing that meat home for dinner.”
The first things responsible hunters teach are never to point a gun anywhere but
up or down unless you mean to shoot, and where the safety is.
It’s no wonder that Democrats have backed off of even talking about guns since
Clinton signed the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban into law nearly two
decades ago. The last thing you want to be armed with as an advocate of common
sense are phrases like “gun control,” which makes a government-wary public and
law-abiding gun-owners uneasy — and susceptible to tendentious “slippery slope”
arguments about how “they want to take away your guns.” In contrast, everyone
but the lunatic fringe in America supports gun safety laws — such as eliminating
the gun-show loophole that allows the sale of military-grade weapons without
background checks, and has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans
as well as Mexicans, whose drug cartels find the loophole extremely helpful.
Democrats could steel their spines if they could find the point of intersection
between law-abiding gun owners and law-abiding citizens who may or may not own a
gun but want to keep their families safe. In national testing, we’ve found that
a simple, non-equivocating statement focusing on that point of intersection —
law-abiding — beats the toughest “they want to take away your guns” message we
can fire at it. It leads every demographic group other than those who stockpile
weapons to support common-sense gun safety laws. Offered a message that speaks
to their ambivalence, people readily recognize that a 33-round clip makes it
virtually impossible to tackle a shooter until he has had time to kill 15 or 16
people. They understand that allowing people to purchase military-style weapons
at gun shows without a background check renders gun safety laws meaningless. And
they find it incomprehensible that we have laws on the books that tie the hands
of law enforcement officials trying to track down where a gun was bought and
sold, and that we keep such sloppy records that criminals, people with a history
of commitment for care for serious mental illness, and people with active
restraining orders on them can slip by background checks even where they’re
Beginning with a statement of principle both makes clear the speaker’s intent
and inoculates against all the slippery-slope arguments used by the N.R.A. and
the elected officials in its employ or fearful of its power: “My view on guns
reflects one simple principle: that our gun laws should guarantee the rights and
freedoms of all law-abiding Americans. That’s why I stand with the majority who
believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns to hunt or protect
their families. And that’s why I stand with the majority who believe they have
the right to send their kids to school and see them return home safely at
night.” Versions of a message containing that principle win by over a 2:1 margin
with independents, and they win in every region of the country, including in my
own backyard, in the red clay of Georgia.
This shouldn’t be an issue of left or right. Grocery stores in Tucson, where
Gabby Giffords was shot (and where my mother-in-law shops — she just happened to
be out of town that Saturday), are not hotbeds of “socialism.” I don’t know the
party affiliations of the fallen teenagers in Chardon or the staff members,
patients or families in Pittsburgh, but I suspect they ranged across the
Guns don’t kill people. Silence does.
Drew Westen is
a professor of psychology at Emory University
and the author
of “The Political Brain:
The Role of
Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”
Silencing the Guns, NYT, 26.3.2012,
Account of Beating by Teenager Is Detailed
The New York Times
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and LIZETTE ALVAREZ
Fla. — In an account given to the Sanford police that was passed on to the state
attorney’s office, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot
17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, said that Trayvon had punched him and
then repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk in the moments leading up to
The details were the most thorough yet to be revealed from Mr. Zimmerman’s point
of view, and emerged on Monday as thousands were arriving in town to march and
attend a meeting about the shooting and the investigation that followed. In the
911 calls that have been released, Mr. Zimmerman is heard deciding, against a
dispatcher’s advice, to follow Trayvon, whom he deemed “up to no good.”
In Mr. Zimmerman’s account to the police, he returned to his S.U.V. after he was
unable to find him. Trayvon then approached Mr. Zimmerman from behind and they
exchanged words. Then, Mr. Zimmerman said, Trayvon hit him hard enough that he
fell to the ground — which would explain what Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig
Sonner, has said was a broken nose — and began slamming his head into the
The account first appeared in The Orlando Sentinel on Monday and was later
confirmed by the Sanford police as “consistent with the information provided to
the state attorney’s office by the Police Department.”
At a news conference on Monday, the Martin family, their lawyer and supporters
said the police were attempting to demonize Trayvon by leaking Mr. Zimmerman’s
account to the media.
The most relevant fact in Trayvon’s death, they said, is that Mr. Zimmerman
chose to pursue Trayvon, who was unarmed and walking home, despite a police
dispatcher’s advice to stay in his car.
“They have killed my son,” Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said tearfully at
the news conference. “And now they are trying to kill his reputation.”
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing the Martin family, said it was clear from
the conversation between Trayvon and his girlfriend just before the shooting
that Trayvon was being pursued by a man he did not know, and that he was worried
and wanted to get away from him.
The Martin family’s supporters continued to demand Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest and
demanded a repeal of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which police cite in their
inability to arrest Mr. Zimmerman.
“Zimmerman is alive and can say whatever he wants,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton,
who attended the news conference along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “And Trayvon
is dead and can’t defend himself.”
On Monday evening, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sharpton and the Martin family attended a
City Commission meeting, which drew so many people that it was moved from City
Hall to Sanford’s civic center. About 500 people sat on folding chairs inside
and hundreds more stood outside watching on a jumbo screen, many wearing
T-shirts saying, “Do I Look Suspicious?” or “My Hoodie Does Not Mean I’m a
“Something will change because of this,” said Tasha Barnes, 26. “It’s got to
change. Police don’t want a riot, and if justice is not made, there will be a
Mr. Jackson, members of the Martin family and Mr. Sharpton spoke at the meeting,
with Mr. Sharpton telling the Sanford city commissioners that the city is
risking going down in history as Birmingham and other infamous cities did during
the civil rights era
More information came out earlier in the day about Trayvon’s 10-day suspension
from high school, a topic the family has been reluctant to discuss but that led
to his being brought by his father to Sanford in the days before his death.
Saying that the issue had become a distraction, Mr. Crump announced that Trayvon
had been suspended from his Miami high school after school officials found in
his bookbag a plastic bag with traces of marijuana inside. Mr. Crump said that
he believed at least one other student was suspended in the episode.
“What he was suspended for has no bearing on what happened on Feb. 26,” Mr.
Crump said. “He didn’t do anything violent or criminal.”
Later, The Miami Herald reported that Trayvon had been suspended two other
times, once for truancy and another time for graffiti. While investigating the
graffiti offense, The Herald reported, a school employee found jewelry, a watch
and a screwdriver in Trayvon’s backpack.
Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, confirmed those two suspensions in a brief
interview. But he said that the truancy suspension was because of repeated
lateness, not absences, and added that he had never heard anything about jewelry
or screwdriver in a bag. “Absolutely not,” he said.
Gunman’s Account of Beating by Teenager Is Detailed, NYT, 26.3.2012,
In Slain Teenager’s Case, a Long Route to National
The New York Times
By BRIAN STELTER
Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was fatally shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The
next day his death was a top story on the Fox-affiliated television station in
Orlando, the closest big city to Sanford. Within a week it was being covered by
newspapers around the state.
But it took several weeks before the rest of the country found out.
It was not until mid-March, after word spread on Facebook and Twitter, that the
shooting of Trayvon by George Zimmerman, 26, was widely reported by the national
news media, highlighting the complex ways that news does and does not travel in
the Internet age.
That Trayvon’s name is known at all is a testament to his family, which hired a
tenacious lawyer to pursue legal action and to persuade sympathetic members of
the news media to cover the case. Just as important, family members were willing
to answer the same painful questions over and over at news conferences and in TV
Notably, many of the national media figures who initially devoted time to the
shooting are black, which some journalists and advocacy groups say attests to
the need for diversity in newsrooms. The racial and ethnic makeup of newsrooms,
where minorities tend to be underrepresented relative to the general population,
has long been a source of tension for the news industry.
“On this story, there is a certain degree of understanding that comes from
minorities, and particularly African-Americans, just because we’ve lived it,”
said Don Lemon, a CNN weekend anchor who has covered the case extensively for
the last two weekends. He recalled that in a planning meeting for his program,
one of his producers, a black mother of two teenage boys, was “almost in tears”
as she said, “We’ve got to do something on this story.”
As the case was catapulted onto the national agenda and calls for Mr.
Zimmerman’s arrest increased, prominent black journalists and commentators wrote
about it in highly personal terms. “This is the fear that seizes me whenever my
boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find
them ‘suspicious,’ ” Charles M. Blow of The New York Times wrote on March 17.
A day later, Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post wrote of the rules he was
taught as a teenager: “Don’t run in public,” “Don’t run while carrying anything
in your hands,” “Don’t talk back to the police.”
“One of the burdens of being a black male,” he wrote, “is carrying the heavy
weight of other people’s suspicions.”
Mr. Zimmerman, a volunteer for a neighborhood watch group, has claimed
self-defense and has not been charged with any crime, causing an uproar that was
readily apparent on social media Web sites. But for the first 10 days after
Trayvon’s death, the story was covered solely by the Florida media.
The first national attention appears to have come from CBS News, on March 8,
after the network’s southeast bureau, based in Atlanta, was tipped off. Mark
Strassmann, a correspondent, and Chris St. Peter, a producer, contacted the
family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, and then sent an e-mail suggestion to a group
of “CBS This Morning” producers. “We can interview the victims’ parents
tomorrow,” they wrote in the e-mail, promising an exclusive. Within 40 minutes,
the producers had said yes.
Mr. Strassmann and Mr. St. Peter “knew a story when they saw it, they sniffed it
out, and they did all the legwork,” said Chris Licht, the executive producer of
the morning show and vice president for programming for CBS News.
Also on March 8, The Huffington Post and TheGrio.com, an arm of NBC News,
covered the case. By the end of the week, CNN and its sister channel HLN were
also on the story, as were some black radio hosts and bloggers.
National coverage increased somewhat the week of March 12, but really
intensified only after March 16, when tapes of 911 calls were released, showing
that Mr. Zimmerman had been told by a dispatcher that he did not need to follow
Trayvon. Having the audio — which the police had previously declined to release
— was critical because it gave radio and TV reporters more material for their
segments and because it aroused more suspicion about Mr. Zimmerman.
Within days of the national media scrutiny, the Justice Department said it would
investigate the case, and on March 23, President Obama addressed it directly,
furthering the media dialogue.
Some reporters and anchors, like Mr. Lemon and Mr. Blow, said they were urged by
their followers on Facebook and Twitter to find out about the shooting —
evidence of the effect that the Web can have on news coverage. “People started
sending me tweets saying, ‘What are you going to say about this case?’ ” Mr.
He then looked up local stories about it, contacted Mr. Crump, and arranged for
an interview with Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton. “They were very open to
talking, and that was very important,” he said.
On television, the family spoke early and often to the Rev. Al Sharpton, the
civil rights activist who has radio shows and an MSNBC television show. He was
made aware of the shooting by Mr. Crump, who had previously enlisted Mr.
Sharpton to speak out against the death of a Florida boy at a boot camp in 2006.
“The attorney called and said, ‘I need you again,’ ” Mr. Sharpton recalled in a
telephone interview from Florida, where he staged a rally Thursday night to call
for justice. He took his radio and TV shows with him, thereby amplifying his
Mr. Sharpton has used his shows for all manner of advocacy He analogized radio,
with its hours of airtime and calls from listeners, to “ground forces” and MSNBC
as “air strikes” and said, “If you have a war, you’re going to need both.”
Mr. Crump has publicly thanked the media for paying attention, and so, too, has
the family. Trayvon’s father, Tracy, told Gayle King on CBS last Friday, “The
world knows Trayvon now.”
In Slain Teenager’s Case, a Long Route to National Attention, NYT, 25.3.2012,
5 People Found Dead in San Francisco House
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FRANCISCO (AP) — The bodies of three women and two men have been found in a home
across the street from a private high school in a quiet neighborhood and police
are investigating the deaths as a possible murder-suicide.
A woman with access to the house discovered three of the bodies around 8 a.m.
Friday, police said.
She found one man shot to death in the foyer by the front door, said Police
Chief Greg Suhr. She then saw a man and a woman dead in the garage before
running out and calling police.
When officers arrived, they found the other two deceased women. Police
spokeswoman Cmdr. Lyn Tomioka said at least two of the victims were shot, and
investigators were still looking into how the others died.
"It's kind of frightening. It's usually quiet over here," said Mark Wong, 45,
who lives on the next block. "Nothing like this has ever happened before."
The identities haven't been released but police said that at least four of the
people were related.
Tomioka stopped short of confirming it was a murder-suicide but said no suspects
were being sought outside the home.
"We do not believe we have a suspect at large," she said. "We do believe at this
stage that this incident is specific to this address."
Police said Friday evening there was no new information to release in the
The neighborhood in the southern part of the city is home to Lick-Wilmerding
High School and San Francisco's City College, in addition to a thriving
immigrant community, largely from Asia.
Mayor Ed Lee called the incident a terrible tragedy.
"As the San Francisco Police Department thoroughly investigates this incident, I
extend, on behalf of the city, our support and sympathy to all family members
and friends of the victims involved in this crime," Lee said in a statement.
Investigators believe all of the victims lived in the orange, two-story home in
the Ingleside District.
Rick Moody, 50, who lives across the street, said his wife heard some shouting
late at night.
"We're surprised that it happened in our neighborhood," he said. "This area is
Police: 5 People Found Dead in San Francisco House, NYT, 24.3.2012,
Albuquerque Mayor Urges Police Union
Payments to Officers in Shootings
The New York Times
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER
of Albuquerque called Friday for an end to a police union practice of paying
officers involved in fatal shootings as much as $500 — a program that critics
have compared to a bounty system that promotes and legitimizes brutality.
“The administration has nothing to do with how the union conducts their
business, but I was shocked yesterday when made aware of this practice,” Mayor
Richard J. Berry said, addressing a report in The Albuquerque Journal. “It needs
to end now.”
In a statement released to The Journal, the Albuquerque Police Officers’
Association said “a deadly force encounter leaves a police officer with a
particular kind of stress” and that, as a result, “this association has often
assisted its members when they have been involved in critical incidents.”
The group denied that the payments were awarded “for the officer merely
‘shooting someone,’ ” but to cover costs for officers “when they decide to get
away from the area for a few days” after a shooting. The payments did not exceed
$500, the association said.
Messages left on Friday evening for the association’s president and vice
president were not answered.
Mr. Berry called on the city’s police chief, Ray Schultz, to “work with the
union to ensure this practice no longer continues.”
Chief Schultz told The Journal he was unaware of the practice and said through a
spokesman that he did not receive money from the association after he was
involved in a shooting after an armed robbery in 1986.
Mike Gomez, whose son was fatally shot by an Albuquerque officer last year, told
The Journal that the program “just sounds like a reward system, a bounty.”
“If it’s in these cops’ minds that they’re going to get rewarded if they shoot
someone, even if they don’t kill them, that’s just not good," he said.
According to The Associated Press, Albuquerque police officers have shot 23
people — 18 fatally — since 2010. Historically, the city average for
police-involved shootings was about five or six a year, The A.P. said.
The department came under additional scrutiny last year after an officer who had
been involved in a fatal shooting described his occupation as “human waste
disposal” on Facebook. Another officer wrote on Myspace that “some people are
alive only because killing them is illegal,” The A.P. said.
Albuquerque Mayor Urges Police Union to Stop Payments to Officers in Shootings,
in Bell Killing Is Fired; 3 Others to Be Forced Out
The New York Times
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and AL BAKER
York City police detective who fired the first shots in the 50-bullet barrage
that killed Sean Bell in 2006 has been fired, and three others involved in the
shooting are being forced to resign, law enforcement officials said on Friday.
The decision came after a Police Department administrative trial in the fall
found that the detective, Gescard F. Isnora, had acted improperly in the
shooting that killed Mr. Bell on what was supposed to have been his wedding day
and that he should be fired.
“There was nothing in the record to warrant overturning the decision of the
department’s trial judge,” Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said on Friday
Law enforcement officials said word of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s
decision came late Friday. Detective Isnora, an 11-year veteran, will not
collect a pension, one official said. “He loses everything,” the official said.
Three other officers — Detectives Marc Cooper and Michael Oliver, who fired
shots at Mr. Bell; and Lt. Gary Napoli, a supervisor who was at the scene but
did not fire any shots — are being forced to resign.
Detectives Isnora, Cooper and Oliver were acquitted in a criminal trial in 2008
on charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.
A fourth officer who fired his gun during the episode, Detective Paul Headley,
has already left the department, and a fifth, Officer Michael Carey, was
exonerated in the department’s administrative trial.
Detective Cooper and Lieutenant Napoli, who worked in the department for more
than 20 years, will receive their pensions, a law enforcement official said.
Detective Oliver, who has served for 18 years, may collect on a pension on the
20th anniversary of his start date, the official said.
The shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, who did not have a gun, occurred in the early
morning on Nov. 25, 2006, as Mr. Bell and two friends were leaving a strip club
in Jamaica, Queens, where they had been celebrating. The case drew widespread
scrutiny of undercover police tactics.
Prosecutors questioned the judgment of the shooters, with one arguing in the
department’s trial that Detective Isnora overreacted, leading to “contagious
firing” from those who followed his cue.
Detective Isnora testified that he thought Mr. Bell and a friend were about to
take part in a drive-by shooting. He has said he believed, after overhearing a
heated argument in front of the strip club, that the friend had a gun.
In July 2010, the city agreed to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal
lawsuit filed by Mr. Bell’s family and two of his friends.
Sanford A. Rubenstein, a lawyer who has represented the Bell estate and the two
men wounded along with Mr. Bell, said, regarding Detective Isnora, “The police
commissioner followed the trial judge’s ruling, which was clearly appropriate
based on the evidence.” Of the other disciplined officers, Mr. Rubenstein said,
“I think the fact that they’re no longer on the police force is appropriate.”
Mr. Isnora’s lawyer, Philip E. Karasyk, said, “The commissioner’s decision to
terminate Detective Isnora is extremely disheartening and callous and sends an
uncaring message to the hard-working officers of the New York Police Department
who put their lives on the line every day.”
Michael J. Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association,
called Detective Isnora’s firing “disgraceful, excessive, and unprecedented.”
He continued: “Stripping a police officer of his livelihood and his opportunity
for retirement is a punishment reserved for a cop who has turned to a life of
crime and disgraces the shield. It is not for someone who has acted within the
law and was justified in a court of law and exonerated by the U.S. Department of
Many detectives were bracing for the decision after Deputy Commissioner Martin
G. Karopkin, acting as the trial judge, recommended the punishment in November.
One law enforcement official said that, as the reality of the decisions sink in,
they could have a drastic impact on how detectives view their work, particularly
in the department’s undercover programs.
Rashbaum contributed reporting.
Officer in Bell Killing Is Fired; 3 Others to Be Forced Out, NYT, 23.3.2012,
Personal Note as Obama Speaks on Death of Boy
The New York Times
By JACKIE CALMES and HELENE COOPER
— President Obama did not mention race even as he addressed it on Friday,
instead letting his person and his words say it all: “If I had a son, he’d look
Weighing in for the first time on the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black
teenager shot and killed a month ago in Florida by a neighborhood watch
volunteer, Mr. Obama in powerfully personal terms deplored the “tragedy” and, as
a parent, expressed sympathy for the boy’s mother and father.
“I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about
this boy, I think about my own kids,” Mr. Obama said. “Every parent in America,”
he added, “should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we
investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together — federal,
state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”
While speaking movingly from his perspective as the father of two girls, one a
teenager, Mr. Obama notably made no reference to the racial context that has
made the killing of Trayvon and the gunman’s claim of self-defense a rallying
point for African-Americans. Since Mr. Obama first began campaigning to be
“president of all the people,” as his advisers would put it when pressed on
racial issues, he has been generally reluctant to talk about race. And after his
historic election as the first black president, Mr. Obama learned the hard way
about the pitfalls of the chief executive opining on law enforcement matters
involving civil rights.
His remark at a news conference in the summer of 2009 that a white police
officer in Cambridge, Mass., had acted “stupidly” in arresting a black Harvard
law professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., at his home led to a national controversy
that ended with Mr. Obama holding a peacemaking “beer summit” with the two men
at the White House.
Until Friday, Mr. Obama had refrained from commenting on the death of Trayvon,
17, a high school student who was killed on the night of Feb. 26 in Sanford,
Fla., near Orlando. George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch volunteer, said
he fired at Trayvon in self-defense, although there is no apparent evidence that
the teenager, who held only a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea, was doing
But when a reporter asked about the case at a White House event introducing Jim
Yong Kim as his choice to be president of the World Bank, Mr. Obama, who
typically leaves such events ignoring the shouted questions of reporters, seemed
“It was inevitable given the high-profile nature of this story that he would be
asked about it,” his press secretary, Jay Carney, said later. He added that Mr.
Obama “had thought about it and was prepared to answer that question when he got
Mr. Carney himself had refused for days to speak for Mr. Obama about Trayvon’s
death, and other advisers on Friday likewise declined to weigh in on the
thinking at the White House about the case and its repercussions. Mr. Obama’s
mostly white male inner circle has long been reluctant to talk for their boss
when the subject is race, given how personal it is for him. One aide, speaking
only on the grounds of anonymity, said that there was no internal debate about
how to respond to Trayvon’s death, but that Mr. Obama wanted to await the
Justice Department’s initial review of the case and the announcement this week
by his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., that the civil rights division
In his remarks, Mr. Obama endorsed the Justice Department investigation as well
as efforts by local and state agencies in Florida to examine the circumstances
of the shooting. Trayvon’s parents “are right to expect that all of us as
Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that
we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” Mr. Obama said.
The president indicated his caution in not reacting earlier was due to the
hazards of addressing an issue under inquiry. “I’m the head of the executive
branch and the attorney general reports to me so I’ve got to be careful about my
statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking
place right now,” he said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who organized a rally on Thursday
night in Florida protesting the handling of the case and has been working with
the Martin family, praised Mr. Obama’s comments and took issue with black
critics who say the president should have spoken out sooner.
“We’re trying to win a case, not just have the president make high-profile
statements,” Mr. Sharpton said in an interview. “As one who’s been with the
family, the president making a statement before the Justice Department announced
an investigation could have been used by Zimmerman to say the White House was
pre-judging a legal case.”
Charles J. Ogletree, an African-American law professor at Harvard who taught Mr.
Obama there and remains a confidant, said there was no doubt the president had
been moved by Trayvon’s death. “Nothing is more frightening for a parent than
losing a child,” Professor Ogletree said. “I know personally that he felt this
pain, from the moment he was made aware of the case.” He added: “He has two
young daughters. This is personal.”
Mr. Carney said he could not say whether Mr. Obama planned to call Trayvon’s
parents, as some black activists have urged. Boyce D. Watkins, a Syracuse
University professor and the founder of the Your Black World coalition, said
Friday in a Twitter message, “If Trayvon’s mother were white, would Obama give
her a call?”
Dr. Watkins, in an interview, called Mr. Obama’s statement “a step in the right
direction,” but added that the president could “squash a great deal of the
criticism” with a call to the parents. And while applauding Mr. Obama’s comment
that his own son would look like Trayvon, Dr. Watkins said the president’s
remarks were characteristic of how Mr. Obama talks to black people.
“That’s what I would refer to as a standard political smoke signal that
President Obama sends through the back door to the black community,” Dr. Watkins
said. “He communicates to the black community in code language. That’s a subtle
way of saying, ‘I know this kid is black.’ ”
Mr. Obama’s comments appeared to prompt several of the Republicans campaigning
to run against him to weigh in against the shooting for the first time. Both
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum said that based on what they knew, Florida’s
“Stand Your Ground” self-defense law should not apply in Mr. Zimmerman’s case.
Speaking publicly for the first time on Friday evening, Craig A. Sonner, Mr.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, said on CNN that he would not use the Stand Your Ground
defense should his client be charged in the shooting. He said he would use
Mr. Santorum, campaigning at a shooting range in Louisiana, which holds a
presidential primary on Saturday, called the decision of local officials not to
immediately prosecute Mr. Zimmerman “another chilling example of horrible
decisions made by people in this process.” Mitt Romney, the Republican
front-runner, told reporters in Louisiana that the shooting was “a terrible
tragedy, unnecessary, uncalled for and inexplicable at this point.”
Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from West Monroe and Shreveport, La.
A Personal Note as Obama Speaks on Death of Boy, NYT, 23.3.2012,
Florida Man Lives to Tell of 'Shoot First' Horror
The New York Times
(Reuters) - On June 5, 2006, not long after Florida enacted the first "Stand
Your Ground" law in the United States, unarmed Jason Rosenbloom was shot in the
stomach and chest by his next-door neighbor after a shouting match over trash.
Exactly what happened that day in Clearwater, Florida, is still open to dispute.
Kenneth Allen, a retired police officer, said he shot Rosenbloom because he was
trying to storm into his house.
Rosenbloom told Reuters in a telephone interview this week he never tried to
enter the house and was in Allen's yard, about 10 feet (3 meters) from his front
door, when he was shot moments after he put his hands up.
Now living in Hawaii, Rosenbloom said he had been unaware of the growing outrage
over last month's shooting in Sanford, Florida, of an unarmed black teenager by
a neighborhood watch captain.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot by George Zimmerman on February 26 while walking
back to the house where he was staying with his father in a gated community.
Sanford police have not arrested Zimmerman, largely because Stand Your Ground
requires them, without clear evidence of malice and in the absence of eyewitness
testimony to the contrary, to accept Zimmerman's argument he was acting in
Allen was not arrested in the shooting of Rosenbloom. Sergeant Tom Nestor of the
Pinella's County Sheriff's Office said Allen was found to have acted in
self-defense when he pumped two rounds into Rosenbloom with his 9mm
"He meant for me to be dead and he never called 911," said Rosenbloom, 36,
adding that Allen, now 65, bent over him and using an expletive, warned him not
to tangle "with an ex-cop" as he lay bleeding on the ground.
"The police closed it on his words alone," said Rosenbloom, explaining how the
case that began with a complaint about him leaving eight trash bags on the curb
instead of the regulation six, was closed after what he described as only a
"They made me the bad guy," he added.
Allen, contacted by phone in rural Georgia, said on Thursday he had "no regrets"
about shooting Rosenbloom, describing him as a "little punk" who was "lucky to
He denied using profanity after shooting his neighbor, who he claimed had forced
his way into the house and threatened to "beat my ass."
LATITUDE IN CASE OF SELF-DEFENSE
Police say Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which loosened formerly restrictive
rules for using deadly force and gives people wide latitude to employ it in
self-defense, was never officially cited in the Rosenbloom case.
But Rosenbloom considers himself one of the first victims of the new law in
Florida and one of the few who has lived to give a first-hand account of how he
said it can be used to shoot to kill with impunity.
The law, which extended the "castle doctrine" allowing residents to shoot
would-be burglars or intruders entering their homes, gives legal protection to
anyone, anywhere, to use deadly force in a case where a person is attacked and
believes his life or safety is in danger.
One of the law's legislative sponsors said it was partly motivated by a rash of
looting and theft after a series of hurricanes hit Florida in 2005.
Dubbed the "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later" law by critics, the statute
extends even beyond self-defense and is seen by some as encouraging vigilante
"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity ... has no duty to retreat
and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force,
including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so
to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to
prevent the commission of a forcible felony," the law says.
"I think it's a very foolish law meant to turn a blind eye," Rosenbloom said,
referring to how Stand Your Ground has been criticized in the past for
protecting people who might formerly have been prosecuted for assault or murder.
The law, approved under former Governor Jeb Bush after a big push by pro-gun
advocates led by the National Rifle Association, was passed over numerous
objections from the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and state law
enforcement officials. Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, announced the
formation of a task force on Thursday to "thoroughly review" the law in the wake
of the Martin shooting.
"Basically it's a law that fixed something that wasn't broken, and then it
created a lot of problems," said William "Willie" Meggs, veteran state attorney
for the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, the Florida capital.
"I have been an outspoken critic of the law since it came into existence and I
would suspect we may be doing something about it after all the interest we're
seeing in it now," he said.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, at least 23 states have
passed laws similar to Florida's since 2005.
Florida does not keep comprehensive records to gauge the impact of Stand Your
Ground. But the St. Petersburg Times found that in the first five years after
the law was enacted, "justifiable homicides" in Florida more than tripled, to
more than 100 in 2010 from just over 30. The Stand Your Ground law was invoked
in at least 93 cases over that time period, involving 65 deaths.
Despite assertions from supporters of the law that it has worked as a deterrent
of violent crime, Dennis Henigan, a lawyer and veteran vice president of the
Brady Campaign, said the state was still saddled with a "tragic record" on
"It's quite remarkable how consistently awful Florida's record has been,"
Henigan said. "It takes some work to finish in the top five in violent crime
among all the states every single year for the last 30 years."
'LICENSE TO KILL'
Supporters of Stand Your Ground say it has worked well, while arguing it should
not be applied in the Zimmerman case.
"It's not a 007 license to kill," said Sean Caranna, who heads a gun rights
group called Florida Carry.
Republican State Representative Dennis Baxley, one of the authors of the Stand
Your Ground law, said it did not protect people who pursued and confronted their
victims, as occurred in Sanford, according to lawyers for the parents of the
"That's where he (Zimmerman) stepped out on thin ice away from protection of
this statute," he said.
Defending Stand Your Ground, Baxley said that while errors may occur, such as
the death of Martin, it was important that the law err on the side of those who
fear they are facing "a perceived" threat.
"That's good public policy. I think we have a good statute and I would hate to
lose anything in it that protects people from harm. It saves lives," Baxley
Rosenbloom still has health problems stemming from his injuries and a bullet
remains lodged in his right hip.
"Now I live as far away from Florida in America as you can freaking get," he
said, explaining his recent move to Hawaii was aimed at leaving a lot of bad
memories behind in what he now calls the "Gunshine State," a play on Florida's
nickname, "the Sunshine State."
His family was struck by a second tragedy only three days after he was shot by
Allen. Rosenbloom said his younger brother Joshua was shot and killed by police
after threatening to commit suicide by disemboweling himself with a sword.
Twenty-year-old Joshua Rosenbloom, a manic depressive, was acting out after
hearing his brother was in intensive care in a Tampa hospital, recovering from
his gunshot wounds, Rosenbloom said. He was shot three times in his bedroom when
police approached while he was still holding the sword in his hands, his older
reporting by David Adams; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Florida Man Lives to Tell of 'Shoot First' Horror, NYT, 23.3.2012,
Pity the Poor Gun Lobby
The New York Times
By GAIL COLLINS
nothing so dangerous as a lobbying organization that’s running out of stuff to
I am thinking in particular of the National Rifle Association. These people are
really in desperate straits. The state legislatures are almost all in session,
but some of them have already pushed the gun-owner-rights issue about as far as
it can go. You can only legalize carrying a concealed weapon in church once.
This year, in search of new worlds to conquer — or at least to arm — a couple of
states are giving serious attention to bills that would allow gun owners to
carry their concealed weapons in places like day-care centers and school buses.
People, do you think there is a loud public outcry for more guns on school
buses? I truly believe that this is all the product of a desperate N.R.A.,
trying to show its base that there are still lots of new battles to be won.
“I subscribe 100 percent to that theory,” said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign
to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that is never going to suffer from a problem of
not having anything left to work on.
Why, other than a frantic search for ways to show your gun bona fides, would
legislators pass something like the Stand Your Ground law? As the whole country
learned this week, 21 states now have laws allowing people to shoot anyone they
feel is putting them in imminent physical danger, whether they’re at home, in a
bar or on the street being hassled by an irritating panhandler. It was thanks to
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that a crime-watch volunteer was not arrested
after he fatally shot an African-American teenager with no criminal record —
and, as far as we can tell so far, no intent to do anything more dangerous than
carrying home a bag of Skittles.
“Florida is the N.R.A. utopia,” said Malte. “Make it as easy as possible to
carry a loaded gun in public, virtually anywhere. And then instill the mentality
that you can shoot first, ask questions later.”
The N.R.A. did not respond to my request for comment, although, to be fair,
they’ve been having a pretty busy week.
This is big business. The N.R.A. takes in more than $200 million a year, which
is a heck of a lot more than it made back in the old days, when its principal
activity was running marksmanship classes. A considerable chunk of the cash
comes from gun manufacturers and gun sellers. I cannot help but think that this
was the constituency its lobbyists had in mind when they recently pushed
Virginia to repeal its one-handgun-a-month purchase law. According to a recent
poll, two-thirds of the residents of the state liked the law just fine. However,
it did pose a considerable hardship for hard-working small businessmen involved
in the transport of large quantities of weaponry up the East Coast to drug gangs
in Philadelphia and New York City.
But guns-on-campus bills are perhaps the best proof that success is driving the
N.R.A. to levels of craziness it never would have contemplated in the past.
Arizona, which has already passed absolutely every other law the
anti-gun-violence crowd opposes, is currently considering a bill making it legal
to carry guns on the campuses of public colleges and universities. The State
Board of Regents estimates that administering it would cost the equivalent of 25
full-time faculty positions a year.
The legislation, which sailed through last time around only to be vetoed by the
governor, currently seems to be stalled. If you are a person so intensely
optimistic that you find this to be good news, I salute you. Perhaps you should
consider a career in the gun control lobbying field.
Since no amount of gun-related tragedy seems sufficient to get state lawmakers
to dial back on their firearms-friendly laws, we need to find a different
approach, or face a future in which citizens of some states are required to
carry a weapon with them at all times except when bathing.
I am thinking that the best solution for all concerned would be a strict
national gun-control law that makes it very difficult to get a concealed weapons
permit, permits gun dealers to sell only one handgun per individual per year,
and makes it illegal for even permit holders to keep handguns anywhere but their
home, store or car glove compartment unless they are employed in the security
The N.R.A. would have a whole new lease on life, and the donations from the gun
industry would come flooding in. Legislators in red states would be kept out of
other mischief for a decade, while they devoted their entire careers to passing
new gun-friendly laws. And it’s very possible that the purple states would find
that they like the new order of things just fine. Everybody wins!
No need to thank me. It’s the least I could do for the school bus drivers.
Pity the Poor Gun Lobby, NYT, 21.3.2012,
Criticizes Police Chief After Shooting
The New York Times
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
Facing mounting protests over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by
a neighborhood watch volunteer, the Sanford City Commission voted on Wednesday
that they had no confidence in the city’s police chief.
The vote of 3 to 2 came on a day when demonstrators, many wearing hoodies as
Trayvon Martin, 17, was when he was shot to death on Feb. 26, marched in New
York City and Miami. The marchers demanded that the police arrest George
Zimmerman, the watch volunteer in Sanford, a small city north of Orlando.
Mr. Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic, told the police that he shot Trayvon in
self-defense after an altercation. The teenager was walking home from a
convenience store, where he bought iced tea and Skittles, when he was shot once
in the chest.
The commissioners cannot fire the police chief, Bill Lee Jr., who reports to the
city manager. Norton Bonaparte, the city manager, said he would take the
no-confidence vote under advisement.
Velma Williams, one of three city commissioners who voted no confidence at the
three-hour special meeting, said afterward that she could not understand why the
police had not made an arrest in the case. “Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder can see
through all of this,” she said.
But Commissioner Randy Jones, who chose not to vote against the police chief,
was not so sure, saying Chief Lee was welcoming a review of the department’s
handling of the shooting. “The wheels of justice turn at 55 miles per hour, to
make sure it’s deliberate, that everything lines up,” Mr. Jones said.
Chief Lee has served only 10 months leading a police department that has had a
troubled relationship with blacks in Sanford. His predecessor, Brian Tooley, was
forced out of the job after a scandal that involved a police lieutenant’s son.
The son attacked a homeless man in December 2010 but the police did not
immediately arrest him after the episode, which was recorded on video. Even
after being sent a video of the attack, Chief Tooley failed to act promptly.
This came five years after two white security guards killed a black teenager.
One of the guards was the son of a former Sanford police officer and the other
was a volunteer in the department. The security guards claimed self-defense,
saying that the black teenager tried to run them over. The teenager died from a
gunshot wound in his back.
A judge dismissed the case over lack of evidence. The case inflamed passions in
the town about the treatment of blacks by the criminal justice system.
“There is one issue after another here between the Police Department and the
black community,” said Turner Clayton, president of the Seminole County branch
of the N.A.A.C.P.
The Department of Justice and the state attorney in Seminole County have opened
inquiries into the shooting.
contributed reporting from Sanford, Fla.
City Criticizes Police Chief After Shooting, NYT, 22.3.2012,
Outrage Prompts U.S. Probe Into Killing of Florida
The New York Times
Florida (Reuters) — Responding to an international petition, celebrity tweets,
and spreading public outrage, the Justice Department opened an investigation on
Monday into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who
More than 435,000 people, many alerted by tweets from celebrities like movie
director Spike Lee and musician Wyclef Jean, signed a petition on Change.org, a
social action website, calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI announced swiftly
that they have opened an investigation into the shooting in Florida of
17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when he was killed.
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the
evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,”
the Justice Department said in a statement.
The campaign to draw attention to the case is the third largest in Change.org’s
history, and surpassed a petition of about 300,000 signatures credited last year
with persuading Bank of America to drop plans for a $5 debit card fee, said
Megan Lubin, a Change.org spokeswoman.
The victim’s family lawyer, Ben Crump, said public pressure was behind an
earlier promise by the Justice Department to review the case. And some Florida
legislators are moving to consider a change in the law to prevent a recurrence.
“People all over the world, more than 400,000 people, said we demand you make an
arrest. That’s what is building pressure to look at it,” Crump said.
The shooting occurred February 26 when Zimmerman spotted Martin walking home
from buying candy and iced tea at a convenience store.
Zimmerman, patrolling the neighborhood in his car, called the 911 emergency
number and reported what he called “a real suspicious guy.”
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s
raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman told
The dispatcher, hearing heavy breathing on the phone, asked Zimmerman: “Are you
“Yeah,” Zimmerman said.
“Okay, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher responded.
But several neighbors subsequently called 911 to report a scuffle between
Zimmerman and Martin. While some of the callers were still on the phone, cries
for help followed by a gunshot can be heard in the background.
“I recognized that [voice] as my baby screaming for help before his life was
taken,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told Reuters.
Police declined to arrest Zimmerman, and turned the case over to prosecutors
where it remains under review. Police cited Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law,
enacted in 2005 and now in effect in at least 16 other states.
Dubbed “Shoot first (ask questions later)" by opponents, the Florida law allows
a potential crime victim who is “in fear of great bodily injury” to use deadly
force in public places.
The landmark law expanded on legislation, known as the Castle Doctrine, that
allowed use of deadly force in defense of “hearth and home.” Passed under former
Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005, it overturned a centuries-old doctrine that
required the potential victim to retreat and avoid confrontation if possible,
according to Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a
Washington-based advocacy group.
“No one could argue that Zimmerman could not have safely retreated and avoided
this conflict, and I think that is the critical element here and why these laws
are so dangerous,” Everitt said. “He (Zimmerman) does not have a duty to retreat
Crump said Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law.
“It’s illogical, you can claim self defense after you chase and pursue
somebody,” he said. “That’s a courtroom defense. That’s not something the police
accept on the side of the street.”
Five years after Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was enacted, a 2010 review by
the St. Petersburg Times found that reports of justifiable homicides had
tripled, and a majority of cases were excused by prosecutors or the courts.
Meanwhile, the petition drive, started by a friend of Trayvon’s mother, has been
signed by people across the globe from Canada to Thailand, Lubin said.
Celebrity tweets over the weekend made #Trayvon a trending topic on Twitter, she
said. Additional celebrities tweeting and posting on Facebook about the case
include singers Clay Aiken and John Legend, film director Michael Moore and
actress Mia Farrow.
“This is a great moment for the entire nation to become educated in these Stand
Your Ground laws,” Everitt said. “It’s unbelievably dangerous and really takes
us to a situation where the rule of law is beginning to erode on our streets and
vigilantism is being actively encouraged by these laws.”
reporting by Tom Brown in Miami;
David Adams, Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson)
Outrage Prompts U.S. Probe Into Killing of Florida Teenager, NYT, 20.3.2012,
911 Calls Add Detail to Debate Over Florida Killing
The New York Times
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
MIAMI — It
was raining the night of Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman, a crime watch volunteer,
set out to patrol his neighborhood in his sport utility vehicle, as was his
habit in recent weeks. Several break-ins had been reported in the area, and Mr.
Zimmerman was especially alert.
He spotted a young black teenager wearing a sweatshirt, with the hood draped
over his head. Mr. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic man, trailed him a bit.
Then he called 911, the first of seven calls from Mr. Zimmerman and panicked
neighbors that begin to flesh out the details in the death of Trayvon Martin,
17, whom Mr. Zimmerman shot. The police released the recordings to local
reporters late Friday night after nearly three weeks of pressure from Trayvon’s
parents and their supporters.
The 911 calls from a gated community in Sanford, north of Orlando, culminate
with a faint voice in the distance crying and pleading for help. A gunshot is
heard, and then silence. Mr. Zimmerman told the police that he had shot Trayvon
in self-defense, after the two got into a fight and Mr. Zimmerman wound up on
the ground. There have been no arrests in the case. The unarmed teenager, who
carried Skittles and a can of iced tea, was walking to the home of his father’s
girlfriend from a convenience store.
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something,” Mr. Zimmerman
told dispatch, in his initial call. “It’s raining and he’s just walking around,
looking about.” Mr. Zimmerman continued: “He’s here now just looking at all the
houses. Now he’s just staring at me.” Then he added a second later: “He’s coming
to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is.
Can you get an officer over here?”
Then he got out of the car with his licensed 9-millimeter pistol, and a worried
dispatcher asked: “Are you following him? O.K., you don’t need to do that.”
At that point, Trayvon ran, and Mr. Zimmerman continued to follow. The
dispatcher told him to wait for the police. A suggestion was made that Mr.
Zimmerman and the police should meet by a mailbox. But then Mr. Zimmerman
changed his mind. “Actually, could you have him call me and I’ll tell him where
The next spate of calls came from anxious neighbors. A faint cry for help and
terrified howls can be heard in the background. Neighbors said they had seen two
men nearby in the dark. They reported hearing a gunshot.
“A guy yelled, ‘Help! Oh, my God,’ ” one man told the dispatcher. “There is two
guys in the backyard with flashlights. There is a black guy down and it looks
like he’s been shot and he’s dead.”
One caller said: “I think they’re yelling help, but I don’t know. Send someone
It is not clear from the audio whether one or two shots was fired. And, with the
voice muffled in the distance, it is difficult to know which of the two men is
crying out for help.
The police told The Orlando Sentinel on Friday that they believed the voice
crying for help was Mr. Zimmerman’s. They say that prosecutors have told them
they do not have enough evidence to dispute Mr. Zimmerman’s claim that he acted
in self-defense. Florida affords people who act in self-defense greater
protection than most states, allowing them to take action if they have a
reasonable fear that their lives are in peril. The case was turned over to the
state attorney’s office last week.
“That is the circumstance we are dealing with: If we arrest, we open ourselves
to a lawsuit,” Sgt. Dave Morgenstern, a spokesman with the Sanford Police
Department, said. “I would have to say I don’t think we have conducted a
racially biased investigation at all.”
Sergeant Morgenstern said that Mr. Zimmerman was in contact with the police and
was cooperating with the investigation. In a letter to The Orlando Sentinel last
week, Mr. Zimmerman’s father said that his son had black relatives and friends
and was not the aggressor in the case.
Mr. Zimmerman, who is studying criminal justice, was arrested once in 2005 on
charges of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence. The
charges were dropped.
Trayvon had no criminal record. He was suspended from his Miami high school for
10 days in February, which is the reason he was visiting his father. The family
said the suspension was not for violent or criminal behavior but for a violation
of school policy.
Representative Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat, and Sanford’s mayor, Jeff
Triplett, have joined the parents’ request for a Department of Justice
Trayvon’s parents say they have no doubt that it is their son’s voice pleading
for his life in the background. They say they can imagine Trayvon reacting with
fright or concern upon seeing a burly stranger trailing him in his car, then
getting out to follow him.
“I listened to the tapes and it just broke my heart again to hear him screaming
out for help and pleading for his life, and he was still murdered,” said Sybrina
Fulton, Trayvon’s mother. “There is no question in my mind that is his voice.”
911 Calls Add Detail to Debate Over Florida Killing, NYT, 17.3.2012,
The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin
The New York Times
By CHARLES M. BLOW
that Tray was gone.”
That’s how Sybrina Fulton, her voice full of ache, told me she found out that
her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, had died. In a wrenching telephone call,
the boy’s father, who had taken him to visit a friend, told her that Trayvon had
been gunned down in a gated townhouse community in Sanford, Fla., outside
“He said, ‘Somebody shot Trayvon and killed him.’ And I was like, ‘Are you
sure?’ ” Fulton continued in disbelief. “I said ‘How do you know that’s
Trayvon?’ And he said because they showed him a picture.”
That was Feb. 27, one day after Trayvon was shot. The father thought that he was
missing, according to the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, but the boy’s body
had actually been taken to the medical examiner’s office and listed as a John
The father called the Missing Persons Unit. No luck. Then he called 911. The
police asked the father to describe the boy, after which they sent officers to
the house where the father was staying. There they showed him a picture of the
boy with blood coming out of his mouth.
This is a nightmare scenario for any parent, and the events leading to Trayvon’s
death offer little comfort — and pose many questions.
Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local
7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a
28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle.
Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked “real suspicious,” according
to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers
were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy.
Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car
and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun.
The two allegedly engaged in a physical altercation. There was yelling, and then
When police arrived, Trayvon was face down in the grass with a fatal bullet
wound to the chest. Zimmerman was standing with blood on his face and the back
of his head and grass stains on his back, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Trayvon’s lifeless body was taken away, tagged and held. Zimmerman was taken
into custody, questioned and released. Zimmerman said he was the one yelling for
help. He said that he acted in self-defense. The police say that they have found
no evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s claim.
One other point: Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not.
Trayvon was buried on March 3. Zimmerman is still free and has not been arrested
or charged with a crime.
Yet the questions remain: Why did Zimmerman find Trayvon suspicious? Why did he
pursue the boy when the 911 operator instructed him not to? Why did he get out
of the car, and why did he take his gun when he did? How is it self-defense when
you are the one in pursuit? Who initiated the altercation? Who cried for help?
Did Trayvon’s body show evidence of a struggle? What moved Zimmerman to use
This case has reignited a furor about vigilante justice, racial-profiling and
equitable treatment under the law, and it has stirred the pot of racial strife.
As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is
the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a
gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot
and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in
my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them:
running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the
cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line.
The racial sensitivity of this case is heavy. Trayvon’s parents have said their
son was murdered. Crump, the family’s lawyer, told me, “You know, if Trayvon
would have been the triggerman, it’s nothing Trayvon Martin could have said to
keep police from arresting him Day 1, Hour 1.” Even the police chief recognizes
this reality, even while disputing claims of racial bias in the investigation:
“Our investigation is color blind and based on the facts and circumstances, not
color. I know I can say that until I am blue in the face, but, as a white man in
a uniform, I know it doesn’t mean anything to anybody.”
Zimmerman has not released a statement, but his father delivered a one-page
letter to The Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. According to the newspaper, the
statement said that Zimmerman is “Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family.”
The paper quotes the letter as reading, “He would be the last to discriminate
for any reason whatsoever” and continues, “The media portrayal of George as a
racist could not be further from the truth.” And disclosures made since the
shooting complicate people’s perception of fairness in the case.
According to Crump, the father was told that one of the reasons Zimmerman wasn’t
arrested was because he had a “squeaky clean” record. It wasn’t. According to
the local news station WFTV, Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for “battery on a
law enforcement officer.”
Furthermore, ABC News reported on Tuesday that one of the responding officers
“corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help.”
And The Miami Herald published an article on Thursday that said three witnesses
had heard the “desperate wail of a child, a gunshot, and then silence.”
WFTV also reported this week that the officer in charge of the scene when
Trayvon was shot was also in charge of another controversial case. In 2010, a
lieutenant’s son was videotaped attacking a black homeless man. The officer’s
son also was not initially arrested in that case. He was later arrested when the
television station broke the news.
Although we must wait to get the results from all the investigations into
Trayvon’s killing, it is clear that it is a tragedy. If no wrongdoing of any
sort is ascribed to the incident, it will be an even greater tragedy.
One of the witnesses was a 13-year-old black boy who recorded a video for The
Orlando Sentinel recounting what he saw. The boy is wearing a striped polo
shirt, holding a microphone, speaking low and deliberately and has the heavy
look of worry and sadness in his eyes. He describes hearing screaming, seeing
someone on the ground and hearing gunshots. The video ends with the boy saying,
“I just think that sometimes people get stereotyped, and I fit into the
stereotype as the person who got shot.”
And that is the burden of black boys, and this case can either ease or
The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin, NYT, 16.3.2012,
Teenager Is Charged in Killing of 3 at a School
The New York Times
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Ohio — Prosecutors on Thursday formally filed murder charges against T. J. Lane,
the teenager accused of methodically killing three students and wounding two
others in a shooting rampage on Monday in a high school cafeteria east of
The Geauga County prosecutor, David Joyce, filed the charges in juvenile court,
but he has said that the seriousness of the case would probably mean that Mr.
Lane, 17, would be charged as an adult. If he is found guilty of the charges —
three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder and one county
of felonious assault on a student who was nicked in the ear — he could face life
in prison without parole.
It was a grim prospect for Mr. Lane, a slightly built teenager whose alleged
attack — shooting dead three students at point-blank range — have left this
tightly-knit community struggling for answers.
”I don’t know why this happened,” said Frank Hall, an assistant football coach
who helped chase the gunman out of the cafeteria, and spoke at a news conference
on Thursday. “I only wish I could have done more.”
The case remained a puzzle. No motive has been suggested and the police have
said that Mr. Lane told them he did not know the victims and was shooting at
random. But numerous accounts from friends and other students seem to contradict
that. Mr. Lane rode a bus with several of them. He and one of the boys who died,
Russell King, were said to have dated the same girl.
As a profile of Mr. Lane emerged, the mystery surrounding his actions seemed to
grow deeper. Friends and neighbors described him as a good listener, a skilled
skateboarder, a kind young man who loved to be outside and cared diligently for
his dog, Bowser. Though he had fallen behind in school — he was attending Lake
Academy, a school for at-risk youth — Whitney Goodlive, a friend of Mr. Lane who
moved out of Chardon in 2010 but kept up with him, said he had raised his grades
recently and was taking extra classes to catch up. He loved school, she said,
and had plans to go to college.
When she heard of the shooting, Ms. Goodlive said, she did not believe it.
”That’s not the T. J. I know,” she said. But his behavior immediately after the
shooting — he was said to have told a passer-by that he had done something
wrong, and then waited for the police to take him away, a detail the police
later confirmed — “is the T.J. I know — a sweet kid who only tells the truth.”
Some clues may lie in Mr. Lane’s early years. As a small child, he was
surrounded by trouble. His parents, Sara Nolan and Thomas Lane, who never
married, had a stormy relationship, with their fights landing them in court on
occasion, according to public records. Eventually they split up and Ms. Nolan
moved to another town and married someone else.
His older brother, Adam Nolan, who was in and out of jail on charges of drug
possession and theft, according to court records, may also have been a
complicating factor. Mr. Lane looked up to his brother, a family friend said,
but was ultimately overshadowed by him and his problems.
Family turmoil “definitely took a toll on T. J.,” said a friend of the Nolan
family, who asked not to be identified because she did not want to be seen as
criticizing the family. “He tried so hard to be normal. He had to see his
brother in and out of rehab and jail. He just sat there and watched. It’s really
hard to be normal around that.”
The boys were raised by their maternal grandparents, Jack and Carole Nolan, in a
one-story white wooden house on a rural road. The elderly couple are described
as caring parents, who had difficulty keeping tabs on their troubled grandson,
Adam, and their daughter, Sara, whom they had adopted.
”I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” said Tim Klepac, a longtime friend of
the Nolans. He said he sometimes saw the grandparents with Mr. Lane and his
younger sister, Sadie Lane, at choral productions at school. “You want to blame
someone and say this was the big problem. But it’s just not there.”
But few knew Mr. Lane’s inner world. The family friend said he had become very
concerned with his weight and his diet, eating only fruit, nuts and vegetables,
going from heavy to rail thin. He had posted on his Facebook page photographs of
his thin, bare torso and face, taken in the woods. In another picture, he was
embracing a large, stuffed teddy bear with a heart that read, “Be Mine.” He
suffered from searing migraines, the friend said, and often missed school
because of them.
Another posting contained a piece of writing — an assignment for a class,
according to Ms. Goodlive — that was interpreted by many as a sign that
something was wrong because it mentioned death. However the family friend saw
something different, a lonely boy who yearned to be accepted but was often
treated as an outcast. “He longed for only one thing, for the world to bow at
his feet,” the posting read.
The family friend, who has spoken with Mr. Lane’s grandmother this week, said
the grandmother described Mr. Lane as remorseful and crying constantly.
The victims’ families, meanwhile, found that solace remained out of reach.
Phyllis Ferguson, the mother of Demetrius Hewlin, one of the three students who
died, described her son as a “computer nerd” and a good athlete who lifted
weights at night.
“You’d hear the weights, click-click, click-click,” she said. “I’m going to miss
that midnight click-clicking.”
Tavernise reported from Chardon, and Jennifer Preston from New York.
Delaquérière contributed research.
Teenager Is Charged in Killing of 3 at a School, NYT, 1.3.2012,
Ohio Shooting Suspect Confesses, Prosecutor Says
The New York Times
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and JENNIFER PRESTON
Ohio — The fatal shooting rampage in a high school in this quiet suburb of
Cleveland remained a puzzle on Tuesday, with prosecutors saying that a student
had confessed to the killings and had told them that he did not know his victims
and chose them at random.
Prosecutors said the student, T. J. Lane, 17, admitted taking a .22-caliber
Ruger semiautomatic pistol to Chardon High School on Monday and firing 10 rounds
at four students at a cafeteria table. He has not been formally charged, but
prosecutors said it was likely that he would be tried in an adult court.
Three of the victims — Russell King Jr., Demetrius Hewlin and Daniel Parmertor —
have died. Two others were wounded. One has been released from the hospital.
“This is not about bullying, this is not about drugs,” said David P. Joyce, the
Geauga County prosecutor. “This was an effect of one lone gunman. He chose his
victims at random.”
Mr. Lane appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday, wincing as the
prosecutors read the accusations against him. Dressed in a crisp khaki-colored
shirt and dark low-slung pants with a thick belt, he sat in a wooden chair with
his back straight, speaking in barely audible tones to the judge, Timothy J.
Grendell, in Geauga County Juvenile Court. His face crumpled briefly into tears
as he was led away, and he appeared to whisper the words “I am so sorry” to two
aunts and his grandfather, Jack Nolan, who is also his legal guardian.
The authorities have until Thursday to charge Mr. Lane.
The day brought more questions than answers to this blue-collar town of 5,000
east of Cleveland. Mr. Lane is a sophomore at Lake Academy, an alternative high
school for at-risk youths, some of whom take a bus from Chardon High School.
Students interviewed at both schools described him as quiet but friendly, and
interested in Nascar and hunting.
CNN reported on Tuesday that Mr. Lane had taken the gun from a family member,
who had bought it legally, but Mr. Joyce said he could not confirm that.
“By all accounts, T. J. is a fairly quiet and a good kid,” said Robert N.
Farinacci, the Lanes’ lawyer, who added that he had not been in trouble before.
David Rafail, 17, of Willoughby, Ohio, a student at a vocational school next to
Lake Academy, said he used to take smoking breaks with Mr. Lane. He called him a
quiet student who “was always alone.”
Jarod Mausolf, 17, a student at Lake Academy, said he had taken American history
with Mr. Lane and called him a good student, though far more quiet than most.
“He never talked at all,” Mr. Mausolf said. “The expression on his face, it was
sad. A sad face. Kind of blank.”
Another student, Damien Stewart, 16, a sophomore at Lake Academy, said he had an
English class with Mr. Lane.
“He was pretty cool,” Mr. Stewart said. “Very quiet. Nobody really talked to
him. Not because we didn’t like him, he just wasn’t a talker. He was very sweet,
very nice, very friendly.”
Mr. Lane’s lawyer said the teenager had no prior trouble with the law. Mr.
Lane’s father, Thomas Lane, was arrested in 2002 on charges of attempted murder,
and a restraining order was imposed forbidding him to contact his former wife,
according to court records. Mr. Lane struck a plea bargain for a lesser charge
and was sentenced to four years in jail. He served nine months of his sentence
and was released in June 2003.
The families of Mr. King and Mr. Hewlin issued statements on Tuesday that
included a note of pride that their sons would be able to help others through
organ donations. “We ask that Russell be remembered for who he was, a strong boy
with a big heart,” the family of Mr. King said.
Mr. Hewlin’s family described him as a “happy young man who loved life and his
family and friends.”
Joseph Bergant II, the superintendent of schools, said Chardon High School would
reopen on Friday. Parents and students were invited to the school on Thursday to
meet with counselors.
“We’re not just any old place, Chardon,” Mr. Bergant said “This is every place.
As you’ve seen in the past, this can happen anywhere.”
Though prosecutors said Mr. Lane had selected victims at random, some students
at the school presented a different account. One of them, Nate Mueller, said Mr.
King had recently started dating Mr. Lane’s ex-girlfriend, according to The
Hundreds of people packed the Church of St. Mary on Tuesday night, with several
thousand more outside, holding candles, singing and remembering those who died
with prayers. Among the speakers was Ohio’s governor, John R. Kasich.
A tape of 911 calls, which was released by the police on Tuesday, paints a
picture of panic that spread through the school as soon as Mr. Lane fired his
first shots around 7:40 a.m. in the cafeteria. A caller told the dispatcher that
he had seen students lying on the ground with blood around them.
“What was his beef with these kids, do we know?” the dispatcher asked. The
caller responded: “I have no idea. It’s a kid that, generally, I try to talk to.
He’s very quiet, and he doesn’t really talk to anyone.”
Prosecutors offered a similar picture. When they entered the school building,
they found three unconscious male students bleeding from the head, and another
one in a hallway bleeding from the neck. A female student, identified by the
local news media as Joy Rickers, was also wounded but was released from the
hospital on Tuesday. The police said that they found Mr. Lane about an hour
later, around 8:40 a.m., on Wooden Road, and that he was detained without
Christine Savides, a junior at Chardon High School, said she knew Mr. Lane in
middle school and described him as a “teen therapist” for his ability to listen
to others’ troubles.
“He was always there for you if you ever needed to talk,” she said, standing
outside Chardon Middle School.
She said that Chardon had hunting enthusiasts and that guns were not that
uncommon, but that no one expected anything like this.
“Here in Chardon, we’re out here in the woods and we’re all gung ho for doing
any fun activity,” she said. “We’re all hunters and we all have fun, and it’s
just unfortunate that something like this would happen here.”
Tavernise reported from Chardon, Ohio, and Jennifer Preston from New York.
contributed reporting from Boston, Alain Delaquérière from New York
Raymond from Willoughby, Ohio.
Ohio Shooting Suspect Confesses, Prosecutor Says, NYT, 28.2.2012,
Third Student Dies After Shooting at High School in
The New York Times
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and JENNIFER PRESTON
Ohio — Two more students have died after a shooting rampage on Monday at a high
school outside of Cleveland that left three other students hospitalized with
serious injuries, the authorities said Tuesday.
One student, Russell King Jr., 17, died early Tuesday morning of gunshot wounds.
Demetrius Hewlin also died on Tuesday. Another student, Daniel Parmertor, 16,
died on Monday.
The students were seated at the same table in the cafeteria at 7:30 a.m. when a
teenage boy at the next table pulled out a .22-caliber gun from a bag and began
firing, witnesses said.
Tim McKenna, chief of police in Chardon, said the suspect in the case would be
in court for a hearing Tuesday afternoon. He said he would not identify the
suspect because he is a juvenile. The police did not offer any information about
a possible motive or about where the suspect obtained a gun.
On Monday night, the family of the suspect, T. J. Lane, 17, of Chardon Township,
made his identity public when their lawyer read a statement on WKYC-TV, a local
television station, extending condolences to the victims and their families. Mr.
Lane was not a student at Chardon High but he did know some of his victims,
Here in Chardon on Tuesday, a lone flag flew at half-staff outside the two-story
yellow brick high school building. Several small bouquets of flowers in plastic
were placed near an entrance to the high school, near a sign that read, “Keep
our students in your thoughts and prayers.”
The school was closed, its parking lot largely empty and its doors locked. A
near-complete silence had settled over the area. Across the street at Maple
Elementary school, grief counselors were on duty.
Joseph Bergant II, the superintendent of schools, said Chardon High School would
reopen on Friday. Parents and students were invited to the school on Thursday to
meet with counselors.
“We’re not just any old place, Chardon,” Mr. Bergant said “This is every place.
As you’ve seen in the past, this can happen anywhere.”
Mr. Lane’s family was not speaking to the media on Tuesday morning. On a wooded
road in Chardon Township, a large wooden house with brown and green trim that
was listed as belonging to Mr. Lane’s grandparents, was dark and silent.
A young man who appeared to be in his 20s got out of his car in the driveway of
the home but did not identify himself; he told a reporter that Mr. Lane’s family
had no information.
“We don’t know any more than the police and the F.B.I.,” the man said, before
getting back in his car and driving away.
Mr. Lane lived with his grandparents. In 2002, his father, Thomas Lane, was
arrested on attempted murder charges and a restraining order was imposed
forbidding him to contact his former wife, according to court records. Mr. Lane
struck a plea bargain with prosecutors to a lesser charge and was sentenced to
four years in jail. He served nine months of his sentence and was released in
The younger Mr. Lane is a sophomore at Lake Academy, an alternative high school
for at-risk students. “By all accounts, T. J. is a fairly quiet and a good kid,”
said Robert N. Farinacci, the Lanes’ lawyer, who said he had not been in trouble
In a statement, Brian Bontempo, superintendent for the Lake Academy Educational
Service Center, said news that a student was a suspect was “devastating for all
us at Lake Academy.”
“We are fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation,” he said, “and trust
that the authorities will be able to sort out the facts surrounding the
Students at Chardon High School said they heard screams around 7:40 a.m. Monday,
the time the authorities said the first 911 calls were made, and described
spreading panic as teachers locked down classrooms and students started sending
text messages to friends and parents.
One teacher was said to have dragged a wounded student into his classroom for
protection. Another teacher, Frank Hall, an assistant football coach, chased the
suspect down a hallway and out the building. He was arrested about 9 without
resistance about a half mile from the school, authorities said.
“I saw two girls running away screaming, and I heard an administrator come on
saying we’re in lockdown,” said Brady Lawrence, 17, a senior who was in his
English class, near the cafeteria, when the shooting began.
The classroom collapsed in confusion, he said in an interview, as students tried
to figure out the gunman’s location. “We just didn’t know where he was,” he
said. “They were saying he was loose, and we were scared.”
The family of Daniel Parmertor, a junior, said he had been interested in
computers. He was in the cafeteria, waiting for a bus for his daily 15-minute
ride to a vocational center. “We are shocked by this senseless tragedy,” the
family said in a statement. “Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright
future ahead of him. The family is torn by this loss.”
In a statement, the family of Demetrius Hewlin said: “We are very saddened by
the loss of our son and others in our Chardon community. Demetrius was a happy
young man who loved life and his family and friends. We will miss him very much
but we are proud that he will be able to help others through organ donation. We
ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Danny Komertz, a student, told The Associated Press that the gunman appeared to
have focused on a group of students. “I looked up and this kid was pointing a
gun about 10 feet away from me to a group of four kids sitting at a table,” he
Mr. Lawrence said students that students in the English class had tried to call
their friends and families but the network was overloaded. Daniel Parmertor was
his neighbor, he said. “I feel so bad for the family,” he said. “They’re good
people. I’m still kind of in shock. I really can’t believe he’s dead right now.”
WTAM-AM, a news radio station in Cleveland, bumped Rush Limbaugh’s program on
Monday, giving the local host Mike Trivisonno seven hours to discuss the
shootings. Mr. Trivisonno said callers were lined up all day, with listeners
weighing in on the roles that bullying, social media, gun laws and parenting
might have played in the shooting.
“It can happen anywhere, and does,” Mr. Trivisonno said on the air in response
to a caller who wondered if a divide between the area’s rural and suburban
populations might have contributed to the shootings. “It can happen anywhere.”
contributed reporting from Boston.
Third Student Dies After Shooting at High School in Ohio, NYT, 28.2.2012,
1 Hurt in Calif. Federal Building Shooting
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Calif. (AP) — An immigration agent shot and injured another agent Thursday and
was then killed by a third colleague in a federal building in Long Beach, the
The shooting occurred at about 5:30 p.m., said FBI Special Agent Steven
There were conflicting early reports about the number of people shot, with local
authorities saying two were dead and one wounded, while ICE said one was dead
and one wounded.
Martinez characterized the incident as a case of workplace violence involving
two federal agents. He says one agent fired several rounds at another agent,
wounding him. At that point, another agent intervened and additional rounds were
fired, resulting in the death of the shooter.
The wounded agent is hospitalized in stable condition, ICE Special Agent in
Charge Claude Arnold.
"At times like this words honestly seem inadequate. When something like this
happens in our offices, it's incomprehensible, Arnold said.
Names of the agents involved were not released pending notification of next of
In addition to ICE, the nine-story federal building also houses the Internal
Revenue Service and the U.S. Probation and Parole Office.
1 Dead, 1 Hurt in Calif. Federal Building Shooting, NYT, 17.2.2012,
Raucous Protest Against a Police Killing
The New York Times
By TIM STELLOH
It was a
dramatic conclusion to a day of protest: Leona Virgo, whose younger brother was
shot to death by a police officer in the bathroom of their family’s home on
Thursday, was hoisted above a sea of supporters outside the 47th Precinct
station house in the Bronx on Monday night.
As the crowd condemned a dozen officers positioned outside the station —
comparing them to members of the Ku Klux Klan, for instance — Ms. Virgo
remembered her brother, Ramarley Graham, for the crowd.
“I never wanted him to go out like this,” said Ms. Virgo, 22, tearing up. “He
was only 18 years old.”
But, she added: “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young black
That theme was echoed throughout the afternoon, as hundreds gathered outside the
family’s home on East 229th Street for what was, at times, a chaotic
condemnation of police violence and the killing of Mr. Graham, who was unarmed.
The authorities are investigating the shooting, which happened after narcotics
officers followed Mr. Graham into the apartment thinking that he was armed, the
police said. An officer confronted Mr. Graham, who was in the bathroom, possibly
trying to flush marijuana down the toilet, the authorities said. Moments later,
the officer fired a shot, killing him.
On Monday, a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside the family’s
home, a second-floor apartment in a three-story building, included more than
half a dozen posters scrawled with anti-Police Department slogans.
“Blood is on your shoulders NYPD Killer!!” one poster read.
Juanita Young, 57, came to support Mr. Graham’s mother. Her son, Malcolm
Ferguson, 23, was shot to death by the police in the South Bronx on March 1,
2000, for reasons still unclear to her. She received $4.4 million in 2007 after
the city settled a wrongful-death suit, she said. “I know this mother’s pain,”
Ms. Young said. “The pain we walk — can’t nothing touch that pain.”
Some feared that their children might be next; others wanted vengeance. “I don’t
want justice,” said Arlene Brooks, 49. “I want revenge.”
Despite that tension, there did not appear to be any violence, and the crowd
occasionally broke into song. About 6 p.m., Mr. Graham’s father, Franclot
Graham, addressed the group, telling supporters to remember to celebrate his
The raucous gathering was then led to the station house by Mr. Graham; his son’s
mother, Constance Malcolm; and his son’s grandmother Patricia Hartley.
Afterward, children riding bicycles down the street could be heard chanting one
of the protest’s mantras: “NYPD-KKK.”
A Raucous Protest Against a Police Killing, NYT, 6.2.2012,
Fatally Shoots Teenager in Bronx
The New York Times
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and AL BAKER
was shot and killed by a police officer in the Bronx on Thursday afternoon after
running into his home as officers pursued him, the authorities said.
Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, said there was
“no evidence that he was armed” when the officer, a member of a narcotics unit,
shot him once in the upper left chest. It was unclear what had prompted the
chase, Mr. Browne said.
The teenager, Ramarley Graham, 18, was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical
During the pursuit, Mr. Graham turned onto East 229th Street and entered his
family’s house, Mr. Browne said, adding that a team of officers followed him
inside. The team was a plainclothes unit, though the group does wear raid
jackets with police insignia on the front and back and shoulder patches on each
arm. The officer had struggled with Mr. Graham near the entrance to a bathroom,
Mr. Browne said, before shooting him. A small amount of marijuana was found in
the toilet, Mr. Browne said.
It was unclear whether the gun, a 9-millimeter semiautomatic, was fired during
the struggle or if the men had been separated when the shooting occurred, Mr.
Browne said. Another officer and a sergeant at the scene were being interviewed
by the police on Thursday night.
The name of the officer who fired was not released, but he had not been involved
in any prior shootings, Mr. Browne said. He is 30 years old, and joined the
force in July 2008, Mr. Browne said.
Shortly before 10 p.m., East 229th Street was still cordoned off near the
shooting scene, as anguished nearby residents tried to reach their homes.
One neighbor, Eulalee Robinson, 60, said she had attended the baby shower for
Mr. Graham’s birth. “He was running, I heard, running into a bathroom,” she
said. “And they shot him. Why?”
Near a local deli on Thursday, Jessica Rodriguez, 34, said Mr. Graham had
offered to pick up coffee for her every morning. “When I bring my kids to
school, he’s getting a peppermint tea,” she said. “He played football in the
backyard with my kids.”
At the deli, a group of boys gathered, blasting a Jamaican song from a small set
of speakers. The lyrics chronicled the death of a young man at the hands of the
police, they said.
The shooting of Mr. Graham was the third time in a week that a member of the
Police Department had killed a suspect. On Jan. 26, an off-duty police
lieutenant shot a 22-year-old carjacking suspect in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. And
on Sunday, an off-duty detective shot a 17-year-old in Bushwick, Brooklyn,
during a mugging, the authorities said.
Officer Fatally Shoots Teenager in Bronx, NYT, 2.2.2012,
For Giffords, House Comeback Is One Too Many
The New York Times
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
— For months, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an
assassination attempt last year, signaled that returning to Congress, something
she desperately longed to do, was in the realm of the possible.
She listened pensively as her friend, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York,
briefed her on the conflict in Libya, and she expressed in clipped phrases her
views on the matter. She cast a vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Her
Congressional aides continued to churn out news releases outlining her positions
and hold community meetings, and she and her husband gave an interview to CBS
News’s “60 Minutes” in which she demonstrated her improving ability to speak.
But Ms. Giffords, a moderate Democrat from Arizona whose remarkable comeback
stirred the nation, decided in recent days that she could not continue her
recovery and still serve as a member of Congress. On Sunday, she announced that
she would step down.
Ms. Giffords’s decision shook up the race for her seat representing Arizona’s
Eighth District. She barely fought off her Republican challenger in 2010 but was
expected to be a shoo-in for re-election if she had decided to run this year.
“She could have definitely done it,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “But I think she made
a realization, if she really wanted to focus on the recovery, she shouldn’t.”
In a moving video released online on Sunday afternoon, Ms. Giffords, in a
halting voice, explained to her constituents: “I don’t remember much from that
horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your
voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more
work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down
But Ms. Giffords hinted at a potential return to elective office. “I will
return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country,” she said.
On Jan. 8, 2011, Ms. Giffords, who is in her third term, was one of 19 people
shot at a meet-and-greet political event outside a grocery store in her hometown
of Tucson. Six people died, including a 9-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green,
and a federal judge, John M. Roll.
The shooting suspect, Jared L. Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout, has been
charged with numerous federal counts, including the attempted assassination of a
member of Congress.
The remainder of Ms. Giffords’s term will be filled by the winner of a special
election, to be held on a date determined by Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican. In
November, the district will be redrawn in a way that further favors Democrats,
which may scare away some Republicans.
Democrats, fearing the loss of the seat, had hoped that Ms. Giffords’s husband,
Capt. Mark E. Kelly, a retired astronaut, would run in her place.
Michael McNulty, the chairman of the Giffords for Congress campaign, said he
talked with Mr. Kelly on Saturday. When asked if he was interested in running,
“he said no, simply no,” Mr. McNulty said.
Ms. Giffords’s decision came after intensive discussions with her political
advisers but ultimately boiled down to a personal choice, those close to her
Democrats in Arizona, who had been waiting to see what Ms. Giffords would
decide, were informed of the congresswoman’s resignation just before she posted
her video statement online on Sunday. Until then, her adviser had said that the
only deadline she faced about her political future was May 30, the deadline for
submitting her nominating petitions for re-election.
“There was definitely no pressure on her,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “I think
everyone in the state wanted Gabby to serve and was letting her decide her
While Ms. Giffords’s ability to understand what people say to her is strong, she
does not have the language skills to express her responses. “She can get across
how she feels and what her views are,” Ms. Gillibrand said, but her ability to
communicate effectively is hindered “because she can’t talk in paragraphs. That
is the development she wants to focus on.”
Under Arizona law, a governor has 72 hours from the day the vacancy is declared
to name the date for a special election; the primary must take place 80 to 90
days from the date of the vacancy, with a general election 50 to 60 days after
Jeff Rogers, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Pima County, which includes
Tucson, said money could play a significant role, especially in the special
election, which tends to draw fewer voters.
“There’s no odds-on favorite, Democrat or Republican,” he said. “But if she
supports anyone, it’s a leg up.”
Several Democrats who hold statewide posts are expected to test the waters,
including Matt Heinz, a doctor and member of the Legislature; Paula Aboud, a
state senator; and Steve Farley, assistant minority leader in the State House
and a friend of Ms. Giffords and Mr. Kelly.
Frank Antenori, a Republican state senator from what is now the southern part of
the district who is planning to run for the seat, seemed thrown by the new
“I’m still trying to sort this out,” said Mr. Antenori, who called a strategy
session of his advisers on Sunday night to discuss the matter.
“I had heard that an announcement was coming, but most people thought that she
wouldn’t run again, not that she’d step down right away,” he said. “I expect a
lot of national attention and a lot of national money in this race.”
Another Republican considering a run for the seat is Dave Sitton, a rugby coach
and sports announcer for the Arizona Wildcats.
Ms. Giffords has a healthy campaign treasury, with just shy of $880,000 on hand
as of the end of September; other potential Democratic candidates will start
with far less in the way of money and organization.
Ms. Giffords’s office said she planned to return to the supermarket parking lot
in Tucson where she was shot for a private event, which will include some of the
people who were at the meet-and-greet last year.
Ms. Giffords, who will officially resign to Congressional officials later this
week, will also attend President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday
night in the House chamber.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama released a statement that read in part: “Gabby Giffords
embodies the very best of what public service should be. She’s universally
admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology — a dedication to
fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment
to the work of perfecting our union.”
John A. Boehner, a Republican who became House speaker only days before the
shooting, said in a statement on Sunday: “I salute Representative Giffords for
her service, and for the courage and perseverance she has shown in the face of
tragedy. She will be missed.”
contributed by Ken Belson and Ford Burkhart from Phoenix,
from New York and Marisa Gerber from Tubac, Ariz.
For Giffords, House Comeback Is One Too Many, NYT, 22.1.2012,
Subdued Remembrance of a Dark Day in Tucson
The New York Times
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
The sun had fallen and a crowd had gathered on a chilly Sunday night on the mall
at the University of Arizona, for the last event of a weekend commemorating the
first anniversary of the mass shooting here one year ago. The vigil began with
the Pledge of the Allegiance.
Led by Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
The crowd responded with gasps and a roar as Ms. Giffords, wearing a vibrant red
scarf, walked unaided slowly to the center of the stage. Most had expected her
to be there — that is why many had come — but few thought she would be able to
play such a central role.
“I pledge of allegiance,” Ms. Giffords began, speaking slowly — almost defiantly
— as the crowd of several thousand, some in tears, joined in. Ms. Giffords
holding her stiff right arm with her left hand, finished with a bright grin at
the crowd. She was led slowly and unsteadily to the side of the stage by Ron
Barber, her chief of staff who was also shot in the attack and led the ceremony
“It gives you goose bumps,” said Michael Wood, 52, a construction worker in the
crowd, his gaze fixed on the congresswoman, who was shot in the head just one
year ago. “It’s good to see her. She looked really good.”
It was a stirring ending to a two-day commemoration that was in many ways
remarkable for how understated it was.
A year ago, after the shooting attack that left 6 people dead and 13 wounded —
including Ms. Giffords — this city gathered in an expression of grief and shock
that lasted for weeks. There was a blur of funerals, a crush of flowers, candles
and well-wishers on the expanse of lawn at the hospital where victims were
taken, and a visit by President Obama that drew thousands.
On this anniversary, there was the candlelight vigil, an interdenominational
prayer service, a ringing of bells at 10:11 a.m., marking the moment of the
attack, and the reading of the names of victims.
There was Ms. Giffords herself, a quiet presence until her appearance Sunday,
visiting places that have become national symbols of the attack (even if they
have little meaning to her, given her inability to remember the events of that
day): the Safeway supermarket where the shootings took place and the intensive
care unit at the University of Arizona Medical Center where people were taken.
But there were also anniversary events more in keeping with the character of
this community, where people have struggled to comprehend how such brutal
violence could unfold in such a serene place. There were yoga, meditation,
designated hugging spots, dancing and steel drum playing. There were campaigns
promoting civility and community — people gathered Saturday at a park to sign a
“Tucsonans Commit to Kindness” contract. At the vigil, the crowd held a lot blue
glow stick — taking care not to light them until Mr. Barber told them it was
time — that cast a slightly mystical air to the whole event.
“You have to understand: This has always been a very civil community, a
community that has always been tied together,” said the mayor, Jonathan
Rothschild. “We are a different place. We are a city of one million people, and
sometimes we acted, to our benefit and detraction, as a community of 50,000
people. For something like this to happen was such a shock.”
“Tucson is a changed community,” he said.
For Tucson, this is a turning point as it searches for a way to mark the tragedy
— to give it meaning beyond the day itself — without the images from the Safeway
parking lot becoming the first thing people think of at the mention of the city.
“We refuse to let this tragic day define us,” Patricia Maisch, one of the women
who wrested the gun from the shooter, said at a service memorializing the
victims at a hall at the University of Arizona.
Sunday’s events included two church services, a memorial service and a
candlelight vigil. Hundreds gathered for an interfaith service at the St.
Augustine Cathedral, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson; a
shofar was sounded by a rabbi, a prayer was read from the Koran, and there was a
welcome from a Lutheran pastor and the vicar general of the Diocese of Tucson.
Nearly every pew of the soaring church — still decorated with Christmas wreaths
— was filled. People sat quietly, some holding back tears, as a bell was rung as
the name of each of the six people who died was called out in the church.
“Because it’s a small community, everybody seemed to know somebody, and we took
it very personally,” Cheryl Lillie, 57, a preschool aide, said at the church
service. The man accused in the shootings, Jared L. Loughner, is in a Missouri
prison undergoing psychiatric treatment intended to make him fit to stand trial;
there was no sign of any occupants at his family’s home in Tucson this weekend.
Ms. Giffords’s recovery has, by any measure, been remarkable given the extent of
the injuries she suffered when she was shot in the head. She and her husband,
Mark Kelly, walked perhaps 100 yards of a trail in Davidson Canyon named for one
victim, a former aide, Gabe Zimmerman. But Ms. Giffords still walks hesitantly
and struggles to communicate, as was evident Sunday night.
And her future remains an open question. She is up for re-election in November.
Democrats in Washington are worried whether they will be able to hold on to the
seat should she step aside. Her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, said Ms. Giffords
had given no indication of what she might do.
“We’re going to have to wait and hear from her,” Ms. Carusone said. “I think
getting through one year is important, and giving her the time she needs is
On Sunday, Ms. Giffords stood at the side of the stage, holding on to the arm of
her husband, Mark Kelly, who seemed to be fighting tears through the night. She
laughed, bounced and appeared bubbly through the night and rose with him at one
point to dance along as Joey Burns, the lead singer of Calexico, probably the
most famous band to come out of Tucson, performed.
She lighted the first of 19 candles to mark the people who were killed and
Ms. Carusone said that this weekend had been intensely poignant for Ms.
Giffords, almost a visit of rediscovery, as she saw the extent to which the
episode had traumatized her community. “It moves her,” she said. “She sees how
tough this is, and was, for a lot of people.”
There seemed little reason to think that this is a commemoration that will not
“I think this will go on for quite a while,” said Robert Wrenn, a professor
emeritus at the University of Arizona, who taught a course on death and
grieving. “I’ve lived here around 50 years. There will be people here who will
never forget this.”
Carolyn Niethammer and Carli Brosseau contributed reporting.
Subdued Remembrance of a Dark Day in Tucson, NYT, 8.1.2012,
the Counter, an Acute Anxiety
The New York Times
By N. R. KLEINFIELD
pharmacists talk of the twitchy arrivals who meander around, peering at the
ceiling. They talk of the “pharmacy shoppers” who call up, give no name, and
wonder if the place has oddly copious quantities of a narcotic painkiller,
usually oxycodone. No, we don’t, they will be told. They suspect the caller is a
robber, casing a target.
For some time now, pharmacists have agitated about the persistent issue of
insurance reimbursement for their prescription drug sales. More recently, that
distraction has been joined by the prospect of a looter with a gun, a
possibility that is warping what it means to work in a drugstore.
“I just want to get out of here alive every day; that’s my new goal,” said
Howard Levine, the owner of Belmont Drugs and Surgical in West Babylon, who has
experienced two armed robberies in the past 14 months. “I’m numb. This has taken
all the fun out of pharmacy.”
Pharmacies throughout the country have been shaken by a rash of bold robberies
by gun-wielding criminals hunting for narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs
and other controlled medications, either to quench their own addictions or to
sell. But nowhere has the face of this epidemic been more frightful than on Long
Island, where a pair of pharmacy robberies 30 miles apart resulted in six
The killings have sharply elevated tensions — some pharmacies now display signs
making it clear that they do not carry oxycodone — and set off a scramble for
better security, since in the past, injuries of any sort had been rare with
these types of crimes.
On June 19, at Haven Drugs in Medford, a pharmacist, a clerk and two customers
were killed by David Laffer as he stole thousands of pain pills. He has pleaded
guilty to the crimes.
On New Year’s Eve, a federal agent was mistakenly killed by a retired police
lieutenant outside Charlie’s Family Pharmacy in Seaford. The agent, who was
picking up his father’s cancer medication, tried to foil a cash-and-pill robbery
attempt by James McGoey. Mr. McGoey, who was also killed, had only recently been
released from prison, where he had served time for prior robbery convictions,
some of them involving pharmacies.
Last April, a pharmacist was killed in Trenton, and in 2009 a pharmacy clerk was
killed in North Highlands, Calif.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there were 688 armed pharmacy
robberies involving controlled substances in the United States in 2010, a 79
percent increase from 2006. In New York State, these crimes jumped to 30 in 2010
from just 4 in 2006. Pharmacists say there were at least a dozen robberies on
Long Island last year.
The crime spree has prompted Long Island pharmacists to strengthen their
security precautions, and to wrestle with fear. Some have gone so far as to
install bulletproof glass partitions or entry systems where customers must be
buzzed in. A few have hired guards, or are considering getting guns.
“I didn’t know when I got my pharmacist’s license I’d put my life on the line
like a cop or a soldier,” said Howard Jacobson, who owns two Long Island
pharmacies, Rockville Centre Pharmacy and West Hempstead Pharmacy, but has not
been robbed. “My own daughter, who works here, said, ‘Dad, I’m scared to come to
work.’ I said, ‘You know, I don’t blame you.’ ”
Just the other day, he said, a retired member of the sheriff’s department
approached him in his West Hempstead store, told him he understood that his
employees were frightened, and asked if he wanted to hire him as a guard. Mr.
Jacobson told the man to leave his information.
He said he had also made it clear to his workers that if a robber came in, “We
don’t need heroes.”
A number of Long Island pharmacies have recently stopped stocking drugs like
OxyContin, a principal target of thieves, and, like Arlo Drug Store in
Massapequa Park, have posted signs announcing that they don’t carry it.
Sav Well Drugs in Massapequa installed cameras after the Medford killings. In
the wake of the robbery at Charlie’s Family Pharmacy, which is only a few
minutes away, three signs on the front door declare that it no longer carries
Senator Charles E. Schumer called on Wednesday for better drugstore security and
promoted longer sentences for pharmacy thefts. In September, a Long Island
Pharmacy Crimes Task Force was established among law enforcement agencies and
pharmacies to share security ideas. A few years ago, Purdue Pharma, maker of
OxyContin, created RxPatrol, a clearinghouse that tracks pharmacy crimes and
offers security tips. Purdue also posts rewards for information that helps in
the capture of drugstore robbers.
Pharmacy holdups are not a new invention. Numerous robberies occurred during the
crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s. “Drugstore Cowboy,” a novel by
James Fogle that was shaped into a 1989 film, told of addicted miscreants who
preyed on pharmacies in the Pacific Northwest decades ago, based on Mr. Fogle’s
own misdeeds. A chronic prison resident, Mr. Fogle was arrested in 2010 for
looting a Seattle pharmacy and pleaded guilty last year.
But robberies had appreciably subsided until recent years. Pharmacists and
others blame proliferating prescription drug abuse and excessive dispersal of
controlled painkillers for setting off this wave.
Pharmacy associations and consultants suggest a checklist of precautions for
stores to take that would aid in investigations. They include simple things like
affixing height decals on the sides of doors so witnesses can better gauge a
robber’s height, and wiping counters and doorknobs multiple times a day to
improve the odds that police officers will get fingerprints.
Precision Pharmacy in Bellmore already has a panic button that sets off a silent
alarm, and nine cameras, but Frank Stella, the owner, is adding more. A customer
told him he ought to put in bulletproof glass. He has counseled his workers to
tell all pharmacy shoppers: “We don’t stock it.”
When Island Care Pharmacy opened in a Plainview strip mall two years ago, the
owners didn’t think robbery was an issue. It is a specialty pharmacy that does
not have walk-in traffic, but instead delivers medications to doctors’ offices,
hospitals and patients’ homes.
Then, in August, the place was robbed of oxycodone by a masked thief who vaulted
over the counter. The owners installed a bullet-resistant barrier at the service
opening. The robber returned in October. When he saw the barrier, he left, then
proceeded to rob a Bethpage pharmacy, the police said. He was later arrested.
John Civitello, one of Island Care’s owners, said the business was moving to
Melville, in part because of the robberies. The new store will have a barrier, a
buzzer on the front door and other safeguards he did not want to list.
Some pharmacies, especially those that have been robbed, have lost employees who
are discomfited by the risks.
Peter Goldstein was held up twice, including once in 2000 at a pharmacy he ran
in Setauket. That robber was James McGoey, the culprit who was shot to death in
“Once it happens, you think about it every day,” Mr. Goldstein said. “You have
those 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning nightmares.”
A few years later, he lost his lease. He is glad that he now works as a pharmacy
manager at New York University Student Health Services, where he is protected by
Even with the crime surge, many Long Island pharmacists are leery of excessive,
visible security like bullet-resistant partitions. They feel these are
off-putting and dampen their relationship with their customers. Security
consultants and the police generally advise against pharmacists’ arming
Joanne Hoffman Beechko, who owns Rx Express Pharmacy in Huntington, has long
taken plenty of security precautions. The day after the Medford shootings,
though, she added a monitor that customers see when they walk in, reminding them
that they are being videotaped.
“We are watching the door much more closely,” she said. “When the little chimes
go off, we all know to look at who’s walking in.”
She will go only so far. She does not feel that the answer is to stop carrying
painkillers, penalizing those who legitimately need them. “We don’t want to go
back to the days when we sawed off legs without anesthesia,” she said.
And she does not want to transform her pharmacy into “a fort.”
“If it gets to the point where I would fear for my life and feel I need
bulletproof glass, then I close my door,” she said. “I don’t live in Iraq. I’d
move to the middle of the country where there was no one but wolves and bears
and take my chances.”
Tim Stelloh contributed reporting.
Behind the Counter, an Acute Anxiety, NYT, 8.1.2012,
Death Offers Grim Reminder
Replicas Can Fool Police
The New York Times
By MANNY FERNANDEZ
BROWNSVILLE, Tex. — In the hallway of a middle school here on Wednesday morning,
administrators tried to calm an agitated student who had randomly assaulted
another student in a classroom. But then the adults noticed it: the student, a
15-year-old eighth grader named Jaime Gonzalez Jr., had a gun tucked into the
waistband of his pants.
The administrators at Cummings Middle School asked Jaime if that was a gun, and
he replied that it was, school district officials said. It was not quite the
truth: the teenager was armed with a high-powered BB gun that resembled a black
Glock semiautomatic handgun and that can be purchased on the Internet for about
$60. But the situation escalated, as school officials announced a lockdown over
the intercom and called 911, and teachers locked their classrooms, shut off the
lights and moved their students away from the doors.
Police officers who responded confronted Jaime in the main hallway next to the
principal’s office. Police officials said the officers repeatedly ordered the
boy to drop the weapon, and they can be heard shouting “Put it down!” and “Put
it on the floor!” several times in the recording of the 911 call released by the
police. Jaime refused to comply, and pointed the weapon at the officers, police
officials said. Two officers fired their weapons, striking the teenager, who was
transported to a hospital with two gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen. He
was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m.
The death has shocked this South Texas border city, but it was only the latest
in a series of shootings involving realistic-looking BB guns and pellet guns. In
recent years, dozens of police officers in Texas, California, Maryland, Florida
and elsewhere have shot children and adults armed with what they believed were
handguns but that were determined later to be BB guns or other types of air
pistols. In addition, the gun replicas have killed or injured thousands of
children around the country in cases in which the victims were accidentally shot
by relatives or friends.
In 2007, a 21-year-old man threatening customers outside a fast food restaurant
in Denton, north of Dallas, was shot and killed by a police officer after he
raised what turned out to be a pellet gun at the officer. In 2009, four San
Antonio officers shot and killed a 29-year-old man after he pulled out a pellet
gun and rushed toward them down a flight of stairs. Earlier that year, a
13-year-old boy near Fort Worth shot his 5-year-old nephew with a BB gun they
had been playing with. In 2010, a 5-year-old girl died after she was
accidentally shot with an air rifle by a 10-year-old relative in the South Texas
town of Freer.
Jaime’s weapon, a Umarex SA177, was a .177-caliber, carbon dioxide-powered gun
that shoots steel BBs and that has a metal slide with a plastic frame. It had no
markings suggesting it was an air pistol. A federal law requires toy firearms
and so-called airsoft guns — low-impact weapons used by the police in training
and by hobbyists in outdoor games — to have an orange tip at the end of the
barrel. But the law does not apply to pellet and BB guns like the one Jaime had.
“When I looked at that gun, there is no doubt that looking at it from a distance
it’s absolutely real,” said Carl A. Montoya, the superintendent of the
Brownsville Independent School District and a reserve constable in the city. “I
think the officers responded, obviously, from their training from that
perspective, that it was a real gun.”
In the aftermath of air gun-related episodes involving children, a few towns and
cities in Texas passed laws prohibiting the public display of pellet and BB guns
or making it illegal for minors to have them. The Texas State Rifle Association
opposed the ordinances, arguing that the laws limited the rights of legal gun
owners and violated state laws prohibiting municipalities from pre-empting state
In October 2002, in the Dallas suburb of Coppell, an officer on patrol spotted a
juvenile with what appeared to be a handgun. The juvenile fled and the officer
pursued him, and as the officer left his vehicle the suspect was still holding
the gun, a Coppell police spokesman said. The officer drew his firearm, and the
juvenile threw the suspected weapon to the ground. It turned out to be an
airsoft pistol that was a replica of a Sig Sauer P228 handgun. The following
year, the nearby city of Plano passed a law making it a misdemeanor to brandish
an air gun or other type of facsimile firearm in a public place.
In 2007, 2008 and 2009, a total of 124 people, including 23 children and
teenagers aged 18 and younger, were killed in Texas from accidents involving BB
guns, pellet guns and other types of firearms that do not use gunpowder,
according to data supplied by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Those figures do not include deaths stemming from police confrontations with
people armed with air pistols. No agency tracks the frequency of those
Nationally, about four children are killed on average each year in episodes
involving BB guns or pellet guns, but that number also does not include deaths
stemming from police shootings, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety
In Brownsville, the officers who fired their weapons have been placed on
administrative leave while a joint investigation is conducted by the Brownsville
police, the school district police and the Texas Rangers. Police officials
declined to comment about how Jaime acquired the air pistol, saying it was part
of the investigation.
“It’s a dangerous game you want to play, if you’re going to carry a gun that
looks authentic,” said Detective Jose J. Trevino, a Brownsville police
spokesman. “What for? You’re just putting yourself in a situation that might end
up going bad.”
Jaime’s motive remains unclear. On the 911 call, a man in the background,
possibly a school administrator or employee, can be heard telling the officers
shortly before the shooting, “He is saying that he’s willing to die, so be
On Friday evening, dozens of teenagers dressed in white T-shirts reading “I ♥
Jaime” filled the pews and lined the walls of Holy Family Catholic Church for
his wake. In between prayers of the rosary, mariachi musicians sang in Spanish
as Jaime’s father, stepmother and mother were embraced by relatives. Jaime lived
near the church and regularly attended on Sundays. On his trips to Mexico to
visit his grandmother he collected pesos, and one day before Christmas he gave
them to the pastor of the church to buy candy for neighborhood children.
“At this moment, it’s hard to make sense of a tragedy like this,” said the
pastor, the Rev. Jorge A. Gomez. “I think that’s what is more upsetting — it
wasn’t a real gun.”
Texas Death Offers Grim Reminder That Gun Replicas Can Fool Police, NYT,
police shoot dead 15-year-old boy carrying air pistol
Jaime Gonzalez killed in school corridor,
with police saying he refused to lower weapon after classroom fight
Wednesday 4 January 2012
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 22.29 EST
on Wednesday 4 January 2012. A version appeared in the Guardian
on Thursday 5 January 2012. It was last modified at 05.17 EST
on Thursday 5 January 2012.
Texas have shot dead a 15-year-old boy carrying an air-powered pellet gun,
saying he had refused to lower the weapon after a classroom fight.
Jaime Gonzalez, an eighth grade student, was in possession of what looked like a
handgun when police went to Cummings middle school in Brownsville, the acting
police chief, Orlando Rodriguez, said.
He said that, before the confrontation with police, Gonzalez had walked into a
classroom and punched another boy in the nose. "He had plenty of opportunities
to lower the weapon … and he didn't want to," Rodriguez added.
Two officers fired three shots, hitting Gonzalez at least twice, he said. The
autopsy results are pending.
His parents demanded to know why officers took lethal action.
"Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" Jaime Gonzalez Sr, his father,
asked outside the family home. "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him
His mother, Noralva Gonzalez, showed off a photo on her phone of a beaming Jaime
in his drum major uniform standing with his band instructors. Then she flipped
through three close-up photos she took of bullet wounds in her son's body
including one in the back of the head.
"What happened was an injustice," she said angrily. "I know that my son wasn't
perfect, but he was a great kid."
Rodriguez said his officers had every right to do what they did to protect
themselves and other students.
Robert Valle, one of the students locked down in classrooms during the
confrontation, said he had heard police run down the corridor and shout "put the
gun down" before several shots were fired.
Texas police shoot dead 15-year-old boy carrying air pistol, G, 4.1.2012,
Believed to Have Killed Park Ranger Is Found Dead
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY and ISOLDE RAFTERY
RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — A man believed to have killed a park ranger here
on New Year’s Day was found dead on Monday, face down in a cold mountain creek
The F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies had spent the previous 24 hours in
an intense search for the man, Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, using snowshoes and
aircraft to scour the steep and snowy terrain of this rugged 368-square-mile
Mr. Barnes’s body was spotted in the creek by aircraft about 10:45 a.m. Monday,
said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was
found wearing a T-shirt, jeans and one sneaker. On his neck was tattooed,
“Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust.” Mr. Troyer said officers had found two guns they
believed had belonged to Mr. Barnes, but that he did not use them on himself.
“He appears to have not been a victim of any kind of violence other than the
weather,” Mr. Troyer said. Temperatures were in the low 30s overnight. About two
feet of snow had fallen recently.
Chuck Young, the park’s chief ranger, said Mr. Barnes was found about a mile or
a mile and a half from Barn Flat, a bend in a park road where officials say he
shot and killed the ranger, Margaret Anderson, 34, after she tried to stop his
Mr. Barnes had failed to stop when park rangers tried to pull him over Sunday
morning. Ms. Anderson, responding to radio calls, used her patrol vehicle to
create a blockade as Mr. Barnes made his way toward the busy Paradise visitor
center and recreational area, where fresh snow had lured people to go sledding
and snowshoeing. The gunman is believed to have stepped out of his vehicle and
shot Ms. Anderson before she could react.
“There’s nothing she could have done,” Mr. Troyer said.
Ms. Anderson had two daughters, ages 3 and 1, and was married to another ranger
at the park. She joined the Park Service as a seasonal ranger at Bryce Canyon
National Park in Utah in 2000. The couple had worked at Mount Rainier since
No one else was injured, though Mr. Barnes is believed to have shot out the
windshield of another ranger who responded.
“They made a conscious decision to make this stop below Paradise, where we were
on one of the busiest winter-day weekends of the year,” said Randy King, the
A tactical team had followed Mr. Barnes’s tracks to canyons where he was
believed to be hiding. An airplane and helicopter also worked to pinpoint him.
Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Seattle, said law enforcement
officials believed Mr. Barnes was also involved in a shooting at a house party
earlier Sunday in the town of Skyway, Wash., in which four people were injured,
Mr. Barnes had served in the Army and been stationed at Joint Base
Lewis-McChord, but did not appear to have been a combat veteran, according to
Steven Dean, the assistant special agent in charge of the Seattle office of the
Park officials and law enforcement agencies had said they found ammunition, body
armor and survivalist gear in Mr. Barnes’s vehicle, raising concerns that he
might elude the authorities and hurt others in the park. But Mr. Dean said Mr.
Barnes “was not a Special Forces-trained solider” and “was found dead on a hill,
Mr. Young said that law enforcement officers escorted more than 80 people from
the visitor center overnight Monday in a convoy, determining that to do so was
safer than having them remain in the park.
“The alternative is they are sitting in a building surrounded by a parking lot,”
Mr. Young said.
Although most of the park had been cleared of visitors, three groups remained in
the backcountry. Rangers hiked out to bring them in.
The last time rangers died at Mount Rainier was in 1995, when two climbing
rangers died during a rescue. Ms. Anderson is the ninth National Park Service
ranger killed in the line of duty since the parks were founded in 1916. A park
ranger was last killed in 2002, at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in
Arizona, in pursuit of a drug cartel hit squad.
Ms. Anderson was among the 1,000 law enforcement rangers at parks across the
country. Law enforcement rangers have patrolled the national parks since 1916.
The rangers are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in
Georgia to carry a handgun.
The park is about 85 miles southeast of Seattle, and almost entirely made up of
federally designated wilderness.
Mr. King, the superintendent, said the park would most likely remain closed on
Tuesday while the investigation continued.
“National parks are places we should continue to go and feel safe,” said Mr.
Dean of the F.B.I. “This is an anomaly. This is something that doesn’t happen.”
Yardley reported from Mount Rainier National Park,
Raftery from Seattle.
Man Believed to Have Killed Park Ranger Is Found Dead, NYT, 2.1.2012,
Drugstore Run Turns Deadly for Federal Agent
The New York Times
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN and TIM STELLOH
morning, James J. Capano stopped in front of the pharmacy where his son, an
off-duty federal agent, had lost his life less than 24 hours earlier.
The son, John Capano, a senior special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Long Island, had gone to pick up cancer
medication for his father and a prescription for himself on Saturday afternoon.
Agent Capano had not been at Charlie’s Family Pharmacy on Merrick Road in
Seaford for very long before a robber entered. In the melee that followed, Agent
Capano was killed.
Now the elder Mr. Capano, whose wife also died recently, said he wished that he
had run the errand, instead of his son. “I should have gone,” said Mr. Capano, a
retired New York police detective who is in his early 80s.
Surveillance footage from the pharmacy shows that along with other customers,
Agent Capano, 51, had initially put his hands above his head, as the robber, who
appeared to be armed with a gun, took cash and hundreds of pills or capsules of
the painkillers oxycodone and Opana, according to a person familiar with the
As the suspect, whom the police identified as James McGoey, 43, began to walk
away, Agent Capano trailed after him down a parallel aisle. Near the door, Agent
Capano shot Mr. McGoey once, striking him in the leg or hip, the person said.
As the two men spilled outside, two more men arrived: an off-duty officer of the
New York Police Department and a recently retired Nassau County police
lieutenant. Both had been in a nearby deli, and one or both were armed,
according to the person and another official, both of whom spoke on the
condition of anonymity because the inquiry was continuing.
More shots were fired in the seconds that followed, and details of precisely
what occurred remained murky a day later.
Yet at one point, Mr. McGoey, who lived in Hampton Bays, N.Y., tried to reach
for a gun on the ground, the first official said. The off-duty city police
officer fired at Mr. McGoey, hitting him two or three times, the official added.
It was not immediately clear how many shots the retired police lieutenant fired,
“There are two or three seconds they haven’t accounted for, when the fatal shots
were fired,” the official said.
But at the end of the shooting, Mr. McGoey was dead and Agent Capano was
mortally wounded. He was pronounced dead at Nassau University Medical Center.
The first official said Nassau County investigators were considering the
possibility that Agent Capano was killed by one of the other officers.
Should investigators conclude that the fatal bullet or bullets were fired by the
off-duty New York City officer or the retired Nassau lieutenant, it would
underscore a peculiar danger that law enforcement officers in Nassau County and
some other New York suburbs face: the ubiquity of other officers — on duty,
off-duty and retired — who often converge at the scenes of emergencies, raising
the possibility that an officer might be mistaken for a criminal.
Just a few minutes’ drive from the pharmacy, a plainclothes Nassau County police
officer, Geoffrey J. Breitkopf, was fatally shot in March by a Metropolitan
Transportation Authority officer, Glenn Gentile. By the time both men had
arrived at the scene, a house in Massapequa Park, the danger was supposed to
have been over: minutes earlier, other officers had fatally shot a young man who
had threatened the police and a civilian with knives.
It is believed that a retired New York police sergeant had yelled “gun” on
seeing Officer Breitkopf’s rifle, moments before Officer Gentile opened fire.
Near the pharmacy where the shooting occurred on Saturday is the deli that,
according to the first official, is believed to be owned by the retired Nassau
police lieutenant. The retiree and the off-duty city officer, who happened to be
in the deli, had rushed to the pharmacy after hearing of a robbery in progress
from customers who had fled the pharmacy, the person said.
“They come out and see these guys struggling,” the second official said of the
chaotic scene that confronted the retiree and off-duty city officer.
Rory O’Connor, an assistant special agent in charge of the Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms New York field division, offered a terse description of the events
leading to Agent Capano’s death.
“John walked into that pharmacy as a customer while off-duty,” Agent O’Connor
said Sunday. “He subsequently engaged in a struggle with the suspect, and John
was shot, as well as the perpetrator.”
“As to who did the shooting, I’m not going to discuss that,” Agent O’Connor
added, explaining that he was deferring to the Nassau County police, who are
leading the investigation.
Spokesmen for the Nassau County Police Department declined to provide further
details of the shooting.
Mr. McGoey was released from prison in August after serving more than 10 years
for a robbery conviction, prison records show. In the 1990s, records show, he
served nine years for robbery.
The elder Mr. Capano said that one detail in the troubling chain of events made
sense to him: that his son had intervened. “He never walked away from anything,”
said Mr. Capano, speaking to reporters outside the pharmacy.
John Capano lived in Massapequa, just a few minutes from the pharmacy. He was
married and had two children: a daughter in high school and a son who is in
college, said Joe Green, a recently retired bureau spokesman.
On Saturday, Agent Capano had planned a trip to a church to drop off used
clothing, a neighbor, Scott Parlatore, said.
Mr. Parlatore said that although Mr. Capano had undergone neck and back
operations and, for a time, had walked with a cane, he was always willing to
clear snow for elderly neighbors.
In recent years, his knowledge of explosives and his expertise in post-blast
investigations had led to assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Agent O’Connor
Representative Peter T. King, who knew Agent Capano and is an old friend of the
elder Mr. Capano, said it was a “tragedy for a person who spent his career in
A.T.F. and had gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to be killed on New Year’s Eve in
his hometown, on the street where his father was virtually mayor.”
“The only part that made sense,” Mr. King continued, “is that John Capano died
the way he lived. He was fearless, and he never hesitated to do what he had to
Routine Drugstore Run Turns Deadly for Federal Agent, NYT, 1.1.2012,
Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia
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