Residents of a small central California city are asking for a response from officials after the local police department has been attributed with fatally shooting two suspects in a span of just 11 days this month.
The Tuesday afternoon shooting death of man alleged to have attempted to burglarize a Salinas, CA home and then expose himself to the person inside marks the second time this month — and third time this year — that officers there have come under fire for what some are calling excessive force.
A local newspaper, the Monterey Herald, reported on Wednesday that Salinas residents were responding angrily to the previous day’s incident in light of video footage published online showing local law enforcement officials firing the fatal shots at the man from point-blank range. The victim was not immediately identified by police.
According to the Herald, cops were alerted of an attempted break-in on Tuesday afternoon after a female caller told 911 that a man was not just trying to enter her home, but was trying to kill her dog and had exposed himself.
When police arrived and found the man on an adjacent street carrying a pair of gardening shears, the incident quickly escalated. The Herald quoted Salinas police Cmdr. Vince Maiorana as saying that the man was initially unresponsive when police tried to approach him about the alleged attempted break-in, then began to act strangely.
“Officers end up talking to this individual, trying to find out what he’s doing and what the situation was based upon the original 911 call,” Maiorana said. “This individual started to wave the gardening shears at the officers. We tried to deploy a Taser; the Taser did not work and as the officers tried to detain this individual, this individual pulled the gardening shears and actually attacked the officers with the gardening shears.
“In response, the officers, fearing for their personal safety, shot this individual and he is now deceased.”
Cell phone video footage obtained by the paper shows that two officers with guns drawn and only a few feet away from the man fired four or five shots in broad daylight on Tuesday in a commercial part of Salinas, a town of roughly 154,000.
“There’s some split-second decisions that have to be made by the officer,” Maiorana told the Herald. “When the officer commanded this individual to drop the shears and to get down on the ground, this individual actually attacked the officer with the gardening shears.”
According to the paper, though, witnesses — including the 19-year-old college student who captured the video footage of the shooting — disagree. The source of the Herald clip, Yoanna Prieto, said the man appeared to be backing away from police the entire time she was filming.
The Salinas Police Department is likely to have a harder time than ever justifying Tuesday’s shooting, though, in the wake of an all-too similar incident that unfolded a week-and-a-half earlier.
On May 9, two Salinas cops fatally shot 26-year-old lettuce farmer Osman Hernandez outside of a grocery store only one mile away from the scene of this week’s tragedy after he reportedly was chasing shoppers with a knife. Reports have since suggested Hernandez was drinking heavily at a nearby bar for two hours before the incident.
According to the man’s family, at least one of the shots fired by law enforcement after the police arrived hit Hernandez in the head while he was lying on the ground.
“They killed Osman like a dog as he lay on the ground. Why are we to trust them investigating themselves? Why does it take so many bullets to the head to subdue a man who is already lying on the ground? Osman’s life had value. We want the truth,” a spokesperson for the man’s family told reporters earlier this month.
KSBW added that the one eyewitness told the network that Hernandez was on the ground and stunned from the Taser when police fired no fewer than four shots. .
Christopher Dolan, a noted civil right attorney, told KSBW that the killing of his client “appears to be an excessive use of force resulting in a senseless killing.”
“This is what is commonly referred to as a homicide,” Dolan said. “The police state that they killed Mr. Hernandez for having a knife, not for actually threatening them with harm. Mr. Hernandez didn’t even have a weapon in his hand when he was gunned down.The police, given the ultimate power by us, the citizens, owe each of us a duty to use only the minimum amount of force necessary. Officers are trained how to disarm a suspect and it’s not by shooting them in the head over and over! This family deserves real answers so we will have private investigators speak with the witnesses, have Osman’s body transferred to a private pathologist for analysis of the bullet trajectories, gunshot residue, and we will retain nationally renowned use of force experts to analyze the officers’ conduct. It’s in times like these when the police have killed someone that we need to be most vigilant as to protect ourselves from those entrusted to protect us.”
Law enforcement up and down the West Coast have come under attack in recent years for a string of office-involved shootings and other acts of violence believed by some to demonstrate a trend towards using unnecessary force, but the comparably calm city of Salinas has endured three fatal police shootings alone so far in 2014.
“I understand there’s a lot of emotions and a lot of legitimate concerns,” Police Chief Kelly McMillin said during a City Council meeting on Tuesday with regards to that afternoon’s shooting. “We’re working hard to gather the facts, and when we have the facts, we will present them.”
In late March, a man was shot to death by Salinas police officers after the cops responded to a report of a suspicious person who reportedly brandished a handgun when approached by law enforcement.
The TSA has issued a solicitation requesting 24 million rounds of .357 SIG “duty ammunition” over a five year period, prompting fresh questions as to whether the federal agency is planning to arm its workers.
“Estimated quantity is approximately 4,800,000 rounds of .357 Sig duty ammunition per year, totaling 24,000,000 over the life of the contract,” states the solicitation, posted on FedBizOpps, which adds that the ammo is for use at “DHS component locations nationwide.”
The ammo purchase is likely to spark new questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to arm TSA agents, an idea that has been pushed by the TSA’s union, the American Federation of Government Employees, but has received scant support elsewhere.
Although Federal Air Marshals acting under the jurisdiction of the TSA are currently armed, other indications, such as the hiring of shooting ranges near airports, suggest the federal government could be preparing to arm some TSA workers. There are only 4,000 Federal Air Marshals currently operating in the United States, a figure that doesn’t appear to match with the 4.8 million rounds a year the TSA is set to purchase under this solicitation alone.
The solicitation is filed under the auspices of the TSA and not another DHS agency such as Customs and Border Patrol.
“Outside of certain governmental organizations like the Federal Air Marshals, and the Secret Service, .357 Sig ammo is not a vastly popular round. It is basically a .40 caliber case necked down to accept a 9mm bullet. Who knows what it means, other than that a relatively small number of federal agents are expecting to do a whole hell of a lot of shooting, or they are expecting the ammo market to dry up for an extend period time,” notes one blog.
An even more disturbing scenario would see armed DHS agents patrolling the streets of major cities like Chicago, as Jesse Jackson called for last year.
Fears that large ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security may be linked to preparations for domestic unrest have raged over the past two years, although a recent Government Accountability Office investigation downplayed the issue as nothing out of the ordinary.
Another noteworthy aspect to the story is that the Department of Homeland Security has stopped referring to such ammunition as “hollow point,” and is now referring to it as “duty” ammunition.
One of the DHS’ explanations as to why it has been making ammo purchases in bulk quantities is in order to save money. However, previous solicitations for training ammunition requested “hollow point” rounds, which are not suitable for training and are more expensive than full metal jacket rounds.
More recently the DHS issued a solicitation for over 141,00 rounds of sniper ammunition, bullets known commercially as “Zombie Max,” a reference to their high power.
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Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the Edward Snowden revelations, has come good on his promise that fresh information on the NSA’s mass spying would be forthcoming. Today he reveals that the US government agency routinely intercepts computer hardware such as routers, switches and servers, and fits it with cutting edge surveillance equipment, before sending it back on its way.
In an article for The Guardian, Greenwald notes that the NSA tampers with the hardware, then repackages it with “factory sealing” before sending it off to unsuspecting companies who have no idea it has been intercepted.
Greenwald notes that the practice constitutes “an extreme form of gross hypocrisy,” given that it has been warning companies around the world not to buy Chinese hardware because it may be set up with surveillance technology.
The revelation again comes from documents leaked to Greenwald by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Specifically, a June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department states that US made hardware is “received” by the NSA before it is shipped overseas.
“The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal, and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some ‘SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!)’”.
“In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure. This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.” the NSA document reads.
“Chinese routers and servers represent not only economic competition but also surveillance competition.” Greenwald writes.
In a follow up interview with NPR, Greenwald stated that while intercepting equipment known to be on its way to terrorists may be acceptable to some, “a system has been built without our knowledge that has incredible dangers embedded within and very few controls.”
Greenwald notes that the NSA essentially believes it has the right to monitor all communications on the planet. He cites an NSA plan to tap into conversations originating from airplanes, for no particular reason.
“It’s just simply the fact that they do not think anybody should be able to communicate anywhere on the Earth without they being able to invade it,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald added that he believes the issue today is more pressing than previous NSA revelations in 2005 because it concerns domination of the internet and global communications in general.
With former NSA head Michael Hayden also making statements such as “We kill people based on metadata”, this sentiment will only be accepted more readily, both by critics of the spy agency and everyday Americans alike.
A York County mom wants her son’s school district to pay her back. Dria Rhoades says the West Shore School District has denied her severely ill son’s doctor’s notes and now she could face jail time.
Rhoades says, “I paid about $1000, I still have at least $500 or $600 sitting in fines, I can’t afford to pay, I’m going to jail for.”
The West Shore School District denied Rhoades for her son’s absence from Red Land High School. She says her son, Trevor Webster, is very sick.
“He’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette’s, epilepsy and cluster migraines,” says Rhoades.
Rhoades doesn’t know how she’ll pay for the truancy fines because of her conditions.
She says has, “Systemic lupus, kidney failure and other health issues and I’m on chemo and diagnosed as terminally ill and we live on a tight budget, single mom trying to support 3 children.”
A spokesperson for the district says under school policy, students must not miss 3 or more consecutive days of absence or 10 days throughout the school year. In such cases, a student must have a doctor’s note turned in within 3 days of their absence.
Rhoades says, “They have copies of everything. He’s on an IEP plan with the school and they were made well aware of his medical conditions and they still play games.”
For over a year, the school district’s been sending letters to the family for failing to follow policy. The local district issued fines. And Rhoades has been issued 4 warrants. Failure to pay by the end of the week could place Rhoades under arrest.
She says, “I would like to see them return all the money that I had to pay out to them, and I have until Friday to pay the fines, I can’t do that…it’s not right.”
The district’s spokesperson says he can not comment specifically on Trevor’s case.