BEYOND THE COUNTY: Black man shot dead in California just after police arrive; Shooter goes on rampage at South Carolina school; Probe says missile launcher from Russia downed Malaysian jet
Black man shot dead just after police arrived
EL CAJON, Calif. — Police in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon shot and killed a black man a minute after arriving near a strip mall to investigate a report of a mentally unstable person walking in and out of traffic, an official said Wednesday.
El Cajon Police Department spokesman Lt. Rob Ransweiler said two officers arrived at the scene at about 2:10 p.m. Tuesday. Ransweiler says the shooting happened at 2:11 p.m.
He said police received the report about the mentally unstable person at 12:57 p.m. but did not immediately respond because they had other calls for service.
Police have said the man refused to comply with instructions to remove a hand from his pants pocket, paced back and forth, then rapidly drew an object from the pocket, placed both hands together and extended them in a “shooting stance.” The officers simultaneously fired a handgun and an electric stun gun.
The victim was identified as Alfred Olango, a refugee from Uganda, as dozens of demonstrators protesting his killing gathered outside the police station in El Cajon, holding signs that read “No Killer Cops!” and chanting “no justice, no peace,” and “black lives matter.”
Agnes Hassan, originally from Sudan, described Olango as an educated man with mental problems. She said she spent time in a refugee camp with Olango and that both of them suffered getting to the United States.
The man died after one El Cajon officer fired an electronic stun gun and another officer simultaneously fired his firearm several times, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters at a news conference late Tuesday night. Davis did not describe the object, but he acknowledged it was not a weapon.
Christopher Rice-Wilson, associate director of the civil rights group Alliance San Diego, questioned why one of the officers felt non-lethal force was appropriate while the other did not. Both officers have been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, per department policy.
Rice-Wilson was among those who identified Olango on Wednesday. Police Lt. Rob Ransweiler said he could not confirm the victim’s name but said he was in his 30s and believed to be from Uganda.
Some protesters said Tuesday night that Olango was shot while his hands were raised in the air. Police disputed that and produced a frame from a cellphone video taken by a witness that appeared to show the man in the “shooting stance” as two officers approached with weapons drawn at a strip mall.
Candles and flowers were left Wednesday at the shooting scene, near bloodstains on the pavement.
Brown vetoes bill for high-speed rail details, oversight
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown won’t give state lawmakers greater oversight of California’s $64 billion high-speed rail project.
The nonpartisan state legislative analyst recommended the larger role in March, following a surprise shift in the initial direction in the railway.
The Democratic governor announced Wednesday he vetoed AB2847 by Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno.
It would have required rail officials to explain to lawmakers and the public significant changes to their plans including the funding sources and the size, schedule and cost of each segment.
Patterson and others critical of the rail plan say the board that oversees the project has regularly omitted cost estimates.
Public support for the project has waned since voters approved selling nearly $10 billion in bonds for it in 2008, but Brown remains a staunch supporter.
Authorities: School shooter killed father before rampage
TOWNVILLE, S.C. — A teenager killed his father at their home Wednesday before going to a nearby elementary school and opening fire with a handgun, wounding two students and a teacher, authorities said.
The teen was apprehended within minutes of the school shooting in this rural town about 110 miles northeast of Atlanta. One of the students was shot in the leg and the other in the foot, Capt. Garland Major with the Anderson County sheriff’s office said. Both students were male. The female teacher was hit in the shoulder.
A hospital official says the teacher and on of the male children have both been released.
Before the shooting at Townville Elementary about 1:45 p.m., the teen gunned down his 47-year-old father, Jeffrey Osborne, at their home about 2 miles from the school, authorities said.
“We are heartbroken about this senseless act of violence,” said Joanne Avery, superintendent of Anderson County School District 4. She canceled classes for the rest of the week.
Authorities did not release a motive for the shooting. They said they weren’t sure if the students and teacher were targeted.
Asked about the teen’s relationship to the students, Major said “I know they all go to school together.” He later said the teen was being homeschooled and didn’t clarify his earlier remark.
Authorities said they believe there was only one shooter and that all other students at Townville Elementary were safe. The students were bused to a nearby church and reunited with their parents. They hugged and kissed.
The school has about 300 students in its pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade classrooms. It is in a very rural part of the state and surrounded by working farms.
“This is the country,” Brandi Pierce, the mother of a sixth-grader, told The Associated Press as she began to cry. “You don’t have this in the country. It just don’t exist out here.”
Jamie Meredith, a student’s mother, said some of the children went into a bathroom during the shooting.
“I don’t know how they knew to go in the bathroom, but I know her teacher was shaken up. I know all the kids were scared. There was a bunch of kids crying. She didn’t talk for about 5 minutes when I got her,” she told WYFF.
Television images showed officers swarming the school after the report of an active shooter. Some were on top of the roof while others were walking around the building. Students were driven away on buses accompanied by police officers.
Gov. Nikki Haley released a statement shortly after the shooting.
“As we work together with law enforcement to make sure they have the support they need to investigate what happened in Townville, Michael and I ask that everyone across South Carolina join us in praying for the entire Townville Elementary School family and those touched by today’s tragedy.”
Congress rebukes Obama, overrides veto of 9/11 legislation
WASHINGTON — In a resounding rebuke, Democrats joined with Republicans Wednesday to hand Barack Obama the first veto override of his presidency, voting overwhelmingly to allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for its alleged backing of the attackers.
Both the House and Senate voted decisively to reverse Obama’s decision to scuttle the legislation. Democrats in both chambers abandoned the president in large numbers despite warnings from Obama and top national security officials that flaws in the bill could put U.S. interests, troops, and intelligence personnel at risk.
The Senate vote was 97-1, with only Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., backing the president. The House vote a few hours later was 348-77, with 123 Democrats rebuffing the president and voting to override. Obama said during a CNN interview that overriding his veto was a mistake that may set a “dangerous precedent.”
Lawmakers said their priority wasn’t Saudi Arabia, but the 9/11 victims and their families who continue to demand justice 15 years after attackers killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Washington, D.C., area, and Pennsylvania. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis.
“Overriding a presidential veto is something we don’t take lightly, but it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a chief sponsor of the bill.
Speaking at a forum in Washington, CIA Director John Brennan said he was concerned about how Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, would interpret the bill. He said the Saudis provide significant amounts of information to the U.S. to help foil extremist plots.
“It would be an absolute shame if this legislation, in any way, influenced the Saudi willingness to continue to be among our best counterterrorism partners,” Brennan said.
On CNN, Obama said that a few lawmakers who backed the bill weren’t aware of its potential impact. He didn’t name them. “And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard,” he said. “It was, you know, basically a political vote.”
But Republicans and Democrats said the White House had been slow to respond to the bill and miscalculated lawmakers’ intent to act on the legislation along with the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks. When Obama and senior national security officials such as Defense Secretary Ash Carter finally weighed in, it was too late.
The Senate passed the bill by voice vote in May. The Obama White House then made the mistake of thinking the bill would stall in the Republican-controlled House. In August, 9/11 families pressured Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., while he was on a campaign swing in New York.
On Sept. 9, two days before the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the House passed the bill by voice vote with little debate.
Despite reversing Obama’s decision, a bipartisan group of 28 senators led by Bob Corker, R-Tenn., suggested that defects in the bill could open a legal Pandora’s box, triggering lawsuits from people in other countries seeking redress for injuries or deaths caused by military actions in which the U.S. may have had a role.
Senate passes stopgap spending bill, $1.1B to fight Zika
WASHINGTON — Averting an election-year crisis, the Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus. The House was poised to act on the measure before day’s end.
The sweeping 72-26 vote came after top congressional leaders broke through a stalemate over aid to help Flint, Michigan, address its water crisis. Democratic advocates for Flint are now satisfied with Republican assurances that money for Flint will be finalized after the election.
The hybrid spending measure is the last major item on Capitol Hill’s pre-election agenda and caps months of wrangling over money to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The spending bill also includes $500 million for rebuilding assistance to flood-ravaged Louisiana and other states.
Determined to return home and campaign, the House was speeding to approve the spending bill Wednesday night and send it to Obama for his signature. Congress won’t return to Washington until the week after Election Day.
The House easily passed a water development projects bill after ratifying, by a 284-141 vote, a compromise $170 million Flint aid package. The move to add the Flint package to the water projects bill, negotiated by top leaders in both parties, was the key to lifting the Democratic blockade on the must-pass spending bill.
The deal averts a potential federal shutdown and comes just three days before the midnight deadline. It defuses a lengthy, frustrating battle over Zika spending. Democrats claimed a partial victory on Flint while the GOP-dominated Louisiana delegation won a down-payment on Obama’s $2.6 billion request for their state.
The politicking and power plays enormously complicated what should have been a routine measure to avoid an election-eve government shutdown.
The temporary government-wide spending bill stalled in the Senate Tuesday over Democrats’ demands that the measure include $220 million in Senate-passed funding to help Flint and other cities deal with lead-tainted water. Democrats said they were not willing to accept a promise that Flint funding would come after the election, but they won stronger assurances from top GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and agreed to address the city’s crisis in the separate water development bill.
The Flint issue arose as the final stumbling block after McConnell added the flood aid for Louisiana to the spending bill.
Democrats argued it’s unfair that the water crisis in Flint has gone on for more than a year with no assistance, while Louisiana and other states are getting $500 million for floods that occurred just last month. Democrats played a strong hand in the negotiations and had leverage because Republicans controlling the House and Senate were eager to avoid a politically harmful shutdown some six weeks before the election.
The spending bill also includes full-year funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Probe says missile launcher from Russia downed Malaysian jet
NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands — An international criminal probe concluded that a missile which destroyed a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014 and killed all 298 people aboard was fired from rebel-controlled territory by a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia and hastily returned there.
The report, released Wednesday, was “solid proof” of a Russian role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Ukraine’s president said. But Moscow immediately denounced the findings of the Dutch-led inquiry as “biased and politically motivated.”
Investigators have identified 100 people they want to speak to who are believed to have been involved in transporting the Buk missile launcher or its use, chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said at a news conference.
The Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was blown out of the sky on July 17, 2014, in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops. Ukraine immediately blamed the rebels, although they and the Kremlin have consistently denied any involvement.
The Joint Investigation Team, led by prosecutors and police from the Netherlands, made its preliminary findings public after interviewing more than 200 witnesses, listening to 150,000 intercepted phone calls, examining half a million photos and video recordings, consulting radar and satellite images, and sifting through dozens of containers filled with wreckage from the jet.
“It may be concluded MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 missile launched by a Buk brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation, and that after launch was subsequently returned to the Russian Federation,” said Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Dutch National Police Central Crime Investigation Department.
The surface-to-air weapon that destroyed the jetliner at 33,000 feet was fired from farmland in the rebel-held area of Pervomaiskiy, the investigation found. Witnesses there reported an explosion and a whistling sound, and a patch of field was set on fire.
The conclusions of the investigative unit, which included police and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium, Australia and Malaysia, were consistent with earlier reporting by The Associated Press, which established soon after the jet’s destruction that a tracked Buk M-1 launcher with four surface-to-air missiles had been seen July 17 in the rebel-controlled town of Snizhne near Pervomaiskiy.
Families of the victims, about two-thirds of whom were Dutch, were told of investigators’ findings at a closed-door meeting earlier Wednesday.
Hans de Borst, whose 17-year-old daughter, Elsemiek, was aboard Flight 17, called it a “big relief” to learn that investigators believes the evidence painstakingly assembled over two years will stand up in court if suspects can be identified and brought to justice.
Last fall, a Dutch Safety Board investigation concluded the jetliner was brought down by a Buk, but those findings were not intended to be used in a criminal trial.
“The next question, of course, is who was responsible for this,” Westerbeke said. Pressed by journalists, the prosecutor declined to give more information about the 100 people believed to be involved, including whether any are Russian nationals.
“Who gave the orders?” Westerbeke asked. “Did the crew take its own decisions or were they operating on instructions from above?”
He appealed to “insider witnesses” to come forward, saying they could receive immunity or reduced sentences.
The prosecutor said he was “fully confident” the investigation would lead to a trial. But he said it was too early to decide which court could hear it.
“We won’t make that choice until we know who has to be tried,” Westerbeke said. At this point in the investigation, “we’re not making any statement about involvement of the Russian Federation as a country or of people from the Russian Federation,” he said.
Malaysia had proposed setting up an international court to try those responsible for the plane’s destruction, but Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution in favor of a tribunal.
Russian officials were quick to reject the JIT’s conclusions.
“The findings of the Dutch prosecutor’s office confirmed that the investigation was biased and politically motivated,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “To this day, the investigation continues to ignore the overwhelming evidence from the Russian side, despite the fact that Russia is in fact the only one who sends accurate information and discloses all of the new data.”
The U.S. State Department said the findings were “another step toward bringing to justice those responsible for this outrageous attack.”
After 170 years, remains of US troops return from Mexico
DOVER, Del. — Remains thought to be those of U.S. troops who died in the Mexican-American War have been flown to a military mortuary in Delaware in an effort to determine whether they belonged to militia members of a Tennessee regiment known as “The Bloody First.”
An Army twin-engine turbotrop bearing two aluminum cases topped by American flags arrived Wednesday afternoon at Dover Air Force Base, home to the nation’s largest military mortuary. White-gloved members of the 3rd Infantry “Old Guard” unit, which stands vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery near the nation’s capital, solemnly transferred the cases to a vehicle bound for the mortuary.
The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System will work with a team of scientists to analyze the remains, discovered in 2011, in the hopes of gleaning more information. The scientists will use DNA testing, elemental analysis, forensic dentistry and other methods in examining the commingled bones, which officials say appear to be those of at least 11, and possibly 13, individuals.
“We don’t know how much we can get, but we have a number of experts who can try a number of different things,” said Hugh Berryman, a forensic anthropologist and director of the Forensic Institute for Research and Education at Middle Tennessee State University.
Berryman, who is leading a team of more than 20 scientists and historians that will work with the Army, acknowledged that the odds of actually identifying the remains are “very remote.”
“But if it can be done, it’s spectacular, and we’re going to see if we can do that,” he said.
Troops from several states, including Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, fought in the Battle of Monterrey in 1846. Berryman said the skeletal remains were found in an area of the Mexican battlefield where a large number of Tennesseans had died.
“We’re hopeful that they’re going to be found to be Tennessee men, and then we’re going to bring them home to Tennessee as Volunteers,” said U.S. Rep. Diane Black, part a Tennessee contingent that traveled to Dover to witness the repatriation of the remains.
The Battle of Monterrey, a U.S. victory in which more than 160 Americans were killed or reported missing, was part of a larger conflict waged from 1846 to 1848 that marked America’s first extended conflict in another country. The war significantly altered geographical boundaries, with the U.S. adding about 1 million square miles of territory that today include the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The conflict also proved to be a training ground for a host of West Point graduates who later fought on both sides during the Civil War.
Berryman suggested that skeletal analysis could help scientists determine what was in the water the men drank as they grew up, which could help narrow the possible locales where they had lived.
Army Col. Louis Finelli, chief medical examiner and director of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, said analyzing the remains will take at least a couple of months. He expects that the effort will be able to determine the number of individual remains but said it’s difficult to say whether it will result in identifying particular individuals.
“We can do everything in our power to generate unique sequences for DNA, but without references and accurate family genealogies, we may not be able to put a name to it,” he said. “Like fingerprints, like dental exams, we have to have a reference to compare, otherwise we just have sequences and numbers.”
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