Mass Shooting

Mass Shooting

Community Thrown Into Turmoil After Mass Shooting at Jewish Synagogue

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On Saturday October 27th, the Tree of Life Synagogue was thrust into a nightmare when Robert Gregory Bowers entered the building and opened fire. He carried an AR-15, as well as three handguns. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 11 people and six others were wounded. The Anti-Defamation League described the incident as the worst attack against Jews in the history of the United States.

Police tracked Bowers down after and were forced into a shootout. Bowers received multiple gunshot wounds, but none were fatal. During the shootout, four officers were wounded. Bowers was heard saying, while receiving treatment for his wounds, that “Jews were committing genocide to his people and he wanted them all dead.”

As a result of the shooting, Bowers is being charged with 11 criminal homicide counts and multiple counts of ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Federal charges are being brought as well for hate crimes, weapon offenses and more. While the crime scene may take a full week to investigate and process, according to FBI Special Agent Robert Jones, Bowers is expected to appear in federal court on Monday the 29th.

Jones also said that it appears Bowers had no accomplices and that his home had been searched. No information about that search has been released at this time. At a news conference, Jones said, “This was a large, complex crime scene and much work remains to be done. We don’t know why he picked this synagogue.”

The Tree of Life Synagogue is located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, just outside of Pittsburgh. It is the center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

After the shooting, President Trump put out a Presidential Order for all federal locations to fly flags at half-staff out of respect for the victims. The President’s declaration was explicit:

“I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, October 31, 2018.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

At another news conference, Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney, said the shooting was “an unspeakable and hateful crime.” He also reiterated that Bowers had made statements about his dislike for Jewish people and the depth of his hatred for all of them.

Shooting in Kentucky Grocery Store May Be Racially Motivated

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A shooting in a Jeffersontown, Kentucky grocery store, which left two people dead, is now under investigation as a potential hate crime. Federal authorities need to determine whether or not federal law has been violated in regard to the victims’ civil rights. Russell Coleman, a U.S. Attorney in Louisville, is concerned these crimes may have been racially motivated.

The shooter, 51-year-old Gregory Bush, and his actions, are under investigation by local authorities and the FBI. He is charged with multiple crimes, including murder, for the shootings at the Jeffersontown Kroger.

According to investigators, before Bush entered the store, he had attempted to gain entry to the Jeffersontown First Baptist Church. The church has a predominately black congregation. Security cameras at the church show Bush attempting to enter approximately 15 minutes before proceeding to the Kroger, according to Chief of Police Sam Rogers.

The arresting officers reported that Bush entered the grocery store. Once inside, Bush opened fire on a shopper, shooting him in the back of the head, then repeatedly shooting him once he had fallen to the floor. Bush then put the gun away and left the story. While in the parking lot, he opened fire again, killing a woman in the parking lot. She, as well, was shot multiple times from short range.

Bush was then confronted by a man in the parking lot who had a concealed weapon. Bush opened fire again, placing everyone in the Kroger lot in danger. Neither Bush, nor the Samaritan were injured in the exchange. Witness video showed Bush trying to flee the parking lot with an on-foot officer giving chase. In moments, multiple officers arrived and converged on Bush, stopping him and making the arrest.

The Samaritan from the parking lot, Ed Harrell, told Louisville’s Courier Journal that he was in the lot waiting for his wife. He heard the shots fired and retrieved his revolver. He watched, crouched by his vehicle, and saw Bush walk by with his gun lowered. Harrell then asked Bush what was happening and Bush said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Chief Rogers said that this remark prompted investigators to look more deeply into the motivation behind the shootings. According to investigations, Bush was married to an African-American woman, who had previously sought restraining orders against him due to violent incidents, including Bush casting racial disparagements on her.

Bush has a previous criminal history that includes threats to his ex-wife, assaulting a deputy sheriff while in a family court proceeding, and assaulting his own parents in 2009. He was ordered to seek treatment for mental health issues, and was also prohibited from owning any firearms for a period of two years. During a 2009 domestic violence case against Bush, his ex-wife says he was diagnosed with paranoia in 2003, but had ceased using medication.

The victims in the shooting were 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and 67-year-old Vicki Lee Jones. No causal links have been made between the victims and Bush or with the grocery store. Bush is currently being held with a $5 million bond and charged with ten felony wanton endangerment charges and two murder charges.

2-year-old, father dead in murder-suicide

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A father suspected of abducting his 2-year-old son and fleeing Long Island for Virginia have been found dead in a murder-suicide following a bitter custody fight. During the ordeal, authorities refused to issue an Amber Alert and waited over six hours to inform the public and solicit their help.

The bodies, identified by Rockbridge County sheriff’s deputies, match the identities of John and Jovani Ligurgo. They were found in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that had been set alight behind a residence. Suffolk County police have not confirmed the identity or either Jovani or his father John.

Ligurgo, 43, took Jovani and fled Long Island Tuesday after starting a fire in the bedroom of his condo, according to police. Maria Busone, Jovani’s mother, alerted police when Ligurgo did not show up to return Jovani to her home as required by a court-ordered visitation order. Four hours later, Ligurgo’s Jeep was seen crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

The pair were discovered in Raphine, central Virginia, around 8:45 a.m. local time Wednesday. Firefighters were alerted to a burning vehicle, and sheriff’s deputies ran the license plate through a recognition database, which was matched to an advisory sent to local law enforcement. Ligurgo did not have any apparently connections in Raphine or the area in general. “It’s like a nightmare. It’s heartbreaking.

This poor baby hasn’t even gotten a chance to live.” said Jovani’s aunt, Jackie Pulizzi, to press at the scene. She described how Jovani was just starting to talk, and what kind of cartoons he liked. “PJ Masks” and “Wallykazam” were his favorites, when he wasn’t playing with his cousins or his 26-year-old half-brother, who cried when the bodies were discovered.

Pulizzi, Busone’s sister, said Busone was in the process of petitioning for full custody of Jovani. She wanted Ligurgo to be drug tested and undergo a psychological exam as conditions of his visitation. A hearing was scheduled only a day after Ligurgo killed Jovani and himself. Busone filed the petition when deciding to end the “toxic” relationship between her and Ligurgo after three years.

Ligurgo was recently fired from his job for smoking marijuana at work, and was described as selfish, abusive, and controlling towards Busone. Her family feared for their safety. “He was not interested in working anything out,” Pulizzi said. “His thought process was, ‘If I can’t have him, nobody can.’ No man of rational thinking does that.”

Suffolk County police requested that state authorities issue an Amber Alert after Jovani’s abduction, but a state police spokesperson said information provided at the time failed to meet the criteria for an alert. Amber Alerts are only issued if a child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, and Ligurgo’s clean record and lack of documented history of violence failed to meet that threshold. Jovani’s family said Ligurgo’s unstable behavior should have been reason enough.

Instead, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department issued an advisory including descriptions of Jovani, Ligurgo, and the Jeep to a national alert system. Police began investigating the case as a missing person’s inquiry after they had connected Jovani’s disappearance to the fire, and waited a day later to inform the public. “We were gathering the facts of the case, we were reaching out to our law enforcement partners and then the determination was made to reach out to the media,” Hart said.

“The totality of the circumstances indicated this could be serious,” Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante told the press. “He could have turned up in a hotel room and drove back today, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

17 Students Killed in Mass Shooting at Florida High School

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17 students were killed at a Florida high school where the shooter used to attend. The gunman, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder, officials said Thursday. Cruz attempted to escape by blending in with a crowd of escaping students but was arrested in nearby Coral Springs. Fourteen students, including five with life-threatening injuries, were injured in the shooting.

Recently expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS for disciplinary issues, Cruz was re-enrolled at another school in Broward County, according to Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie. The morning of the attack, Cruz hailed an Uber to the Douglas campus with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle in tow, along with multiple ammunition magazines. Broward County Sherriff Scott Israel said it was not yet clear if Cruz possessed other weapons during the attack, nor is there evidence that Cruz collaborated with other potential suspects in the shooting.

Investigators are reviewing social media posts made by Cruz, which Sherriff Israel described as “very disturbing”. The FBI was made aware of a YouTube user named “Nikolas Cruz”, who posted a comment claiming “I’m going to be a professional school shooter”. Despite receiving this information six months before the shooting, the FBI did not act on the tip. The suspect was treated as a district hospital for “labored breathing” but quickly released.

Former classmates of Cruz described him as a loner, who was “off” socially. Brandon Minoff, who took two classes with Cruz his sophomore year, said he “wasn’t surprised” when Cruz was charged. “I got paired with him for a project, and he started talking to me about his life — how he was held back twice, expelled from two private schools.” Sebastian Toala, said he “never really got close to [Cruz], because I always had a feeling there was something wrong.”

“You come to the conclusion this is just absolutely pure evil,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, his hands clutched over his chest. Gov. Scott, who is rated highly by the National Rifle Association, did not answer the press’ questions over how Cruz obtained a semi-automatic rifle. “There is a time to continue to have these conversations about how, through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding, to keep people safe, and we’ll continue to do that,” the governor said.

President Donald Trump also tweeted “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

Shooting leaves four dead at Pennsylvania car wash

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A shooting in Melcroft, Pennsylvania left four people dead and one injured on January 28th. The gunman, Timothy O’Brien Smith, 28th, is on life support after sustaining a gunshot would to the head. It is unknown if the wound was self-inflicted at this time. Local news channels have reported that the shooting was linked to a violent domestic dispute involving Smith. The four victims were killed after being shot with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a 9mm handgun. Smith was also in possession of a .308 caliber rifle and was wearing body armor at the time of the shooting.

The four victims have been identified as Chelsie Lou Cline, 25; Seth Cline, 21; William Scott Porterfield, 27; and Courtney Sue Snyder, 23. Another woman whose name is being withheld survived the shooting by hiding in a nearby truck, and only sustained minor injuries from broken glass. The woman is cooperating with the investigation into the shooting.

Fayette County district attorney Richard Bower said that Smith “[is] not expected to survive” the wounds sustained during the shooting. Bower said that no motive has been established from facts gathered during the investigation, but a relative of a woman killed in the shooting told reporters from WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh that Smith was a former partner of one of the victims. Allegedly, Smith was upset from one of the victims breaking up with him.

A second local television station, WPXI, reported that the gunman had been romantically involved with one of the victims. The identity of Smith’s former partner is unknown at this time. Officials at the scene said two victims were discovered inside a pickup truck, and two others were found in the same parking lot as the truck. Three vehicles – including the pickup truck two of the victims were found in – were towed from the scene for further analysis.

This shooting was the 21st and deadliest high-casualty shooting to date, as tracked by the Gun Violence Archive. Public mass shootings in the United States frequently involve past domestic violence issues. Devin Patrick Kelley, the shooter who killed 26 people at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church, had a criminal record of domestic abuse. A similar shooting in Plano, Texas that claimed the lives of seven people, also listed domestic violence as a motivation for the shooting.

A 2017 report by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, found that over 50% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 involved family or romantic partner violence. However, an analysis by the New York Times of 358 mass shootings in 2015 concluded that only one in ten high-casualty shootings related to domestic violence.

Church Shooting Outside San Antonio Claims 26 Lives

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On November 5, 2017, a 26-year-old man later identified as Devin Patrick Kelley entered a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, a Texas town just outside of San Antonio, and killed at least 26 people in the attack. The shooting began shortly after the Sunday morning service opened at 11 AM. Victims were of very varied backgrounds, from kindergarteners to the elderly. In addition to the 26 dead, the wounded also totaled in the 20s. Kelley died after being chased away from the area by armed locals.

 

According to police, it is believed Kelley was first spotted at a gas station across the street; he then proceeded to drive across towards the church. From there, he exited the car and began shooting from outside the church, but he quickly entered the church from the right side and continued firing bullets. He was wearing a ballistic vest and used a military styled rifle of the Ruger brand to carry out the attack in the rural location. He also carried multiple rounds of ammunition for the attack. Once Kelley exited, a neighbor fired at Kelley, although Kelley was able to enter his vehicle and flee. From there, several others began giving chase into the adjacent Guadalupe County, where Kelley crashed and passed away.

 

The FBI and the Texas Rangers are currently working in a joint investigation to determine what motives Kelley would have for the attack. Kelley was a former Air Force officer who lived in the Texas town of New Braunfels, where he grew up. He served the armed forces in New Mexico, but was court martialed in 2012 after being charged with assaulting his wife and child. The Air Force eventually discharged him in 2014 on the grounds of inappropriate conduct.

 

The first reaction from U.S. President Donald Trump, who was in the middle of his tour of Asia, came during a press conference in Japan, wherein he called the shooting a “mental health situation”, calling Kelley a “very deranged individual”. Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed his condolences and publicly asked for “God’s comfort, for God’s guidance and for God’s healing for all those who are suffering.”

 

The timing is eerie, as this Sutherland Springs shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the infamous Fort Hood shooting, where 13 people were killed at a Texan military base. Some have also drawn comparisons between this shooting and that perpetrated by Dylann Roof in a Charleston, South Carolina Episcopal church, although that was later determined to be fueled by white supremacist ideology, whereas the church targeted by Kelley has a Caucasian majority in its membership.

President Trump Visits Victims of Las Vegas Mass Shooting, Expresses Emotional Support

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U.S. President Donald Trump made a trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 4th to meet with victims of the mass shooting that took place at a country music festival three days prior. Trump also met with first responders, doctors and nurses who helped to take in the casualties during the visit. In a public address, Trump expressed his inspirational feedback: “We cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror. In the depths of horror, we will always find hope in the men and women who risk their lives for ours.”

 

His visit’s first stop was at the University Medical Center, where he also made sure to inform reporters that he had invited some of the victims to visit the White House at a later date. “And believe me, I’ll be there for them,” he added while pointing this out. From there, he visited the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, where he had a conversation with Sheriff Joseph Lombardo before making his scripted public address. During his talks with the police department, he praised their response time, calling himself “a big fan” and calling the department an example of professionalism that they should be proud of.

 

While Trump was publicly effusive in the general sense towards the efforts of those who have helped the community recover, the bigger headlines came when Trump refused to respond to questions about the national gun control issue, which has become a hot button issue in the wake of several mass shootings making the news domestically and abroad. Specifically, to one reporter who asked if the United States has a “gun violence problem”, Trump simply responded, “We’re not going to talk about that today. We won’t talk about that.”

 

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., a bill was introduced to put a ban on the equipment that 64-year-old Stephen Paddock used to fire more quickly. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders followed a similar line of deflection to President Trump, saying that this was not the time for a “political debate” and that a rise in the push for stricter gun control was “premature”. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, whose constituency includes the site of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School attack in 2012, responded, “If not now, when?”

 

Paddock was revealed as the man on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino who killed 58 and injured hundreds attending the adjacent music festival. At the time of Trump’s visit, Las Vegas law enforcement had not come to a definitive conclusion on what Paddock’s motives were for the attack. During Trump’s stay at the hospital, the President was overheard calling Paddock “a very sick man” and “a very demented person.”

Joseph Meek Pleads Guilty

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Joseph Meek may not be a household name like Dylann Roof, however, he was found culpable for lying to police about Dylann Roof and the actions he was going to take. Meek’s information could have saved lives, however, he failed to report any of Roof’s actions.  He then subsequently lied to the F.BI.  Roof is accused of killing 9 and injuring one in a shooting spree at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Connecticut Superior Court Denies Gun Manufacturers Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit by Sandy Hook Victims

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Mass shootings are beyond out of control in the United States.  There have been over 1000 mass shootings in the United States since 2013.  The age spectrum of the victim’s have ranged from small children to adults.  It seems that no one is immune from gun violence.  This has left family members, friends, and most Americans asking for common sense gun control.  It seems these pleas for stricter gun laws have gone unheard, however, as gun advocates have strengthened their stance on their 2nd Amendment right to own and use firearms.

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Attack

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In November, 2015, Robert Lewis Dear, Jr., opened fire at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, Planned Parenthood clinic.  Dear killed 3 people, including one police officer and injured 9 others.  This attacked happened not long after tapes surfaced showing that Planned Parenthood was selling fetus parts.  It was later found that they allegations were false.