Houston gunman was wearing Nazi paraphernalia, sources say


The gunman who carried out Monday morning's shooting that wounded nine people was wearing what appeared to be Nazi paraphernalia, two law enforcement sources told Channel 2 Investigates' Robert Arnold.

The shooting was reported just after 6 a.m. near a shopping center on the northwest corner of Weslayan and Bissonnet streets.

Read more at click2houston.com.

Multiple deaths reported at shooting in Munich shopping mall


Gunmen went on a shooting rampage in a shopping mall in the southern German city of Munich on Friday, killing and wounding many people, police said.

It was the third major act of violence against civilian targets to take place in Western Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

Munich police said they suspected it was a terrorist attack.

Authorities were evacuating people from the Olympia mall but many others were hiding inside. Munich's main railway station was also being evacuated.

A Munich police spokeswoman said multiple people were killed or wounded. No suspects had been arrested yet, she said.

“We believe we are dealing with a shooting rampage,” the spokeswoman said.

Bavarian broadcaster BR said six people were dead and many wounded in the shopping mall.

NTV television had reported the Bavarian Interior Ministry as saying three people were dead, but the ministry said later it would not confirm this.

More than one gunman was believed to be involved, the police spokeswoman said.

“We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 p.m., the shooting apparently began at a McDonald's in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them,” she said.

Police special forces had arrived at the scene, NTV said.

Munich police said on Facebook that witnesses reported three different people with weapons. Shooting was also reported on Hanauer Street and Ries Streetet, near the mall.

The police told people to stay in their homes or take cover in buildings. Authorities were evacuating people from the Olympia mall. But many others were hiding inside, an employee told Reuters by telephone.

“Many shots were fired, I can't say how many but it's been a lot,” the employee, who declined to be identified, said from the mall.

“All the people from outside came streaming into the store and I only saw one person on the ground who was so severely injured that he definitely didn't survive,”

“We have no further information, we're just staying in the back in the storage rooms. No police have approached us yet.”

Munich transport authorities said they had halted several bus, train and tram lines.

The shopping center is next to the Munich Olympic stadium, where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.

IS SUPPORTERS CELEBRATE

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Islamic State celebrated the rampage on social media.

“Thank God, may God bring prosperity to our Islamic State men,” read one tweet.

“The Islamic state is expanding in Europe,” read another.

Friday's attack took place a week after a 17-year-old asylum-seeker wounded passengers on a German train in an axe rampage. Bavarian police shot dead the teenager after he wounded four people from Hong Kong on the train and injured a local resident while fleeing.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Bild newspaper's Friday edition before the mall attack that there was “no reason to panic but it's clear that Germany remains a possible target”.

The incidents in Germany follow an attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day in which a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds, killing 84. Islamic State also claimed responsibility for that attack.

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. Breivik is a hero for far-right extremists in Europe and America.

The Munich assault was also reminiscent of Islamist militant attacks in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 and on a hotel in Mumbai, India, in November 2008.

Israeli man shot in West Bank while in car with wife, 6 kids


An Israeli man was injured when his car was hit by multiple gun shots in the West Bank on Saturday evening.

Eitan Finkel, 30, of the southern Israeli city of Netivot, was driving with his wife and six children when his vehicle was hit near the Tekoa settlement, the Israel Defense Forces told the Israeli media. Finkel continued driving to the Efrat settlement, where he was taken by ambulance to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Speaking from the hospital, Finkel told the Hamodia newspaper that he was surprised when a gunman “standing right across from us” did not shoot.

 

“It was a tremendous miracle. Only after we turned did he open fire on our car,” he said. “I managed to come out alive, and my wife screamed, ‘Drive, drive, hit the gas.’

“I asked my wife right away how the children are. I kept driving for another 10 minutes, until I saw an army jeep and stopped. During the whole drive I didn’t feel my leg, or that my shoe was filled with blood. My wife jumped out of the car and called the soldiers over, and from there I was evacuated to the hospital.”

The family had been heading home after visiting the settlement of Metzad, The Times of Israel reported.

On Sunday, two West Bank Palestinian villages remained under a military closure as Israeli troops searched for the shooters.

Israeli man killed, wife badly hurt in shooting attack on family car


An Israeli man was killed and his wife was severely wounded in a shooting attack near a West Bank settlement.

The attack Friday near Beit Hagai was against a family traveling in their car on Route 60, Army Radio reported. Two of the family’s children were wounded: A 15-year-old boy, Pedayah, who sustained moderate wounds and his 13-year-old sister, Tehilah, who was lightly wounded. The man killed was identified as Michi Mark, a man in his 40s from the West Bank settlement of Otniel, situated eight miles southwest of Hebron. His wife, Havah, was wounded in her head and is not conscious, Army Radio reported.

A car with Palestinian license plates overtook the family car on the road when individuals inside the overtaking car opened fire from automatic weapons on the family car. Israel Defense Forces troops, who are searching the area in a massive manhunt for the shooters, discovered 19 bullet casings at the scene of the attack. A picture of the car after the attack showed it overturned on the road, its front badly damaged. The couple had nine children.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered that the amount of money being transferred by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families be deducted from tax revenue collected by Israel, which it then transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian woman whom they said had tried to stab them in Hebron. In a separate incident, a Palestinian man died from inhaling tear gas at a riot near Ramallah.

The woman, identified on Ynet as Sara Hajaj, 27, on Friday tried to carry out a stabbing attack near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said. Border Police shot her after she had tried to stab an officer at a checkpoint with a knife, Israeli police said.

Palestinian media did not immediately identify the man who reportedly died of tear gas inhalation on Friday.

Hajaj was a native of the village of Bani Naim in the Hebron area, Ma’an news reported. On Thursday, a teenage boy from the same village, 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah, stabbed and murdered a 13-year-old girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in Kiryat Arba — a Jewish settlement near Hebron. He was killed by security services in Ariel’s house, where he stabbed her to death in her bedroom. The Israel Defense Forces imposed a curfew on the village.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to strengthen Kiryat Arba, a major friction point between Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank, following the murder. On Friday, his office said in a statement, Netanyahu spoke with the parents and other family members and said: “We strengthen this place. Apart from the fighting, we will make it stronger. I will sit with the Defense Minister and we will decide how to strengthen the community.”

To see Ariel’s room, “to see the blood stains next to her bed and the books and clothes of a small child, this is shocking,” Netanyahu added during his visit to the settlement Friday. “It reminds us again who we are facing. They want to uproot what has been planted and we will deepen the roots. They will not make us leave here. I was impressed by this splendid family. Their spirit will not break and neither will ours. We will deepen the roots.”

In a second attack on Thursday, an armed Israeli civilian shot dead a Palestinian man in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya after he allegedly carried out a stabbing attack, leaving two Israelis wounded.

Israeli police Friday detained a 30-year-old resident of Jaffa on suspicions that the man assisted a now slain Palestinian to carry out a stabbing attack in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on Thursday, according to Israel’s police spokesperson.

An attack on my Israeli neighborhood, 6,000 miles away


Had the attack happened two weeks ago, I would have jumped out of my chair, thrown my laptop and camera in my bag, grabbed two pens and run across the street — straight to the scene of the shooting.

It was a drill that became second nature to me during four years of reporting in Israel. I was at the scenes of bus bombings and rocket attacks. I took taxi after taxi to the hospital to interview victims.

“What happened?” I would ask, along with a gaggle of reporters all scribbling into their phones and notepads. “What do you remember? Can you describe how you felt?”

When the attacks took place in my adopted hometown of Tel Aviv, like Wednesday’s shooting that left four people dead and five injured, the news was personal too. Friends texted each other and posted on Facebook that they were OK. Social media feeds clogged with anger, sadness and relief.

Two weeks ago, I lived a two-minute walk from the scene of Wednesday’s attack. Sarona, a chic pedestrian mall filled with shops, restaurants and play areas, was where my wife and I took weekend walks with our newborn son in his stroller. It was where I met colleagues for a mid-afternoon coffee. Occasionally, it was where we splurged on a nice dinner, as many Israelis were doing when the shooting began Wednesday.

Reporting on terror attacks in Tel Aviv was never gratifying and rarely original. My colleagues and I all inevitably wrote the same stories and quoted the same people. Three times in four years, I wrote news features about terrorism shattering Tel Aviv’s purported bubble of calm.

But producing those articles, as boilerplate as they sometimes felt, also gave me a way to process the tragedy. Getting all the facts straight as they emerged, recording all the quotes, writing it all out, allowed me to create some distance from the attacks so close to home.

Now, having moved to New York to cover the Jewish beat here, I find myself thousands of miles removed from a shooting that, so recently, would have been almost at my doorstep. I feel a sense of relief, knowing that my family and I are shielded by an ocean from the violence that used to be part of my job and our lives.

But as my Facebook feed fills again with reassurances and despair, all I can do is nervously sit and watch — my laptop in front of me and my notepad by my side.

BREAKING: UCLA campus remains on lockdown after shooting; Two killed


This story is developing

LAPD confirms two dead in UCLA shooting. It is unknown if the two male victims were students, faculty or visitors.

The shooting was first reported at Boelter Hall.

The event is being considered an active shooter situation while police search for the suspect. The FBI and ATF are both responding.

The Daily Bruin's twitter feed  says the shooter has been described as a white male, roughly 6 feet tall wearing a black jacket and black pants. 

According to the LAPD Dispatch scanner, a student has reported possibly seeing the suspect walk by a UCLA residence hall wearing a flak jacket. 

There are also uncomfirmed reports that there was a separate shooting in the Mathematical Sciences building. 

The entire campus remains on lockdown. 

UCLA transportation and LAPD are asking people to avoid the area. All buses are being routed away from campus.

LAPD is on city-wide tactical alert while shooter remains at large.

Four Israeli soldiers injured in two West Bank attacks


Four Israeli soldiers were injured in two car-ramming and shooting attacks in the West Bank.

Two Palestinians drove into a group of Israeli soldiers early Monday morning at a traffic junction in front of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, then exited the car and opened fire, injuring one soldier, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Soldiers at the scene shot and killed the assailants, the IDF said. The shooters had a pistol and a rifle in their possession.

A few minutes later, a second car driven by a Palestinian driver rammed into the soldiers at the same junction, wounding one, according to the IDF. Soldiers killed the driver as he attempted to exit his vehicle. He was found to be carrying two knives, the IDF said.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attacks.

Two of the assailants were from Hebron and one was from a nearby Palestinian village, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Columbine shooters had tense moment over Passover seder, mother recalls


Columbine school shooter Dylan Klebold revealed he was Jewish when he mentioned dreading a family Passover seder — creating a tense moment with his fellow shooter, his mother said.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had openly admired Adolf Hitler. They opened fire on students and teachers at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, on the Nazi leader’s birthday in 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 23 people before taking their own lives.

Dylan’s mother, Sue Klebold, confirmed to radio host Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” Tuesday that she is Jewish, and her now ex-husband, Dylan Klebold’s father, is Lutheran, and said her son had not wanted to attend the family’s Passover seder, which took place weeks before the shooting.

She recalled seeing a video after the shooting in which Dylan Klebold mentioned the upcoming seder, leading to a tense moment with Harris, who she thinks was previously unaware Klebold had Jewish family.

“What was surprising and shocking about that component of the tapes was that it was obvious to Eric that he didn’t know that Dylan had Jewish family members – that it was a surprise to Eric. And I remember Dylan sort of backpedaling and saying, ‘Well, she’s not really Jewish. She’s really just sort of an eighth Jewish, or maybe a fourth Jewish,’” Sue Klebold said.

“And Eric stared at him in the tapes. And there is a moment in observing those where you really wonder what Eric is going to do, if he is going to extend sort of a condemnation to Dylan or to me. And it’s very quiet for a moment. And you can see that Dylan is visibly shaken by having to reveal this.”

The exchange was recorded on the “basement tapes,” in which the shooters express their wide-ranging hatreds – including of Jews – and lay out their violent plans. The tapes were destroyed by a local sheriff; something Klebold advocated for.

Ultimately, Klebold said, Harris chose not to hold Dylan’s Jewish heritage against him.

“But then Eric says you know, ‘That’s a bummer,’ or you know, ‘I’m sorry man,’ or something that’s expressing his sympathy for having to deal with this,” she said.

Klebold is promoting “A Mother’s Reckoning,” an account of how she has dealt with her son’s murder-suicide. (All of the author revenues from the book, minus expenses, will be donated to research and charitable foundations focusing on mental health issues).

Dylan Klebold relented and attended the seder, where he read the Four Questions.

Five dead, suspect held in Canada school shooting


Five people were killed in a school shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan on Friday and a suspect is in custody, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. 

Two people are in critical condition after the shooting in La Loche, which is about 600 km (375 miles) north of the city of Saskatoon.

“Obviously this is every parent's worst nightmare,” Trudeau said. 

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada, which has stricter gun laws than the United States. In the country's worst school shooting, 14 college students were killed at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. 

Extra doctors and nurses have been sent to treat patients in Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority's 16-bed hospital, said spokesman Dale West.

Teddy Clark, chief of the Clearwater River Dene Nation, said that his daughter told him about the shooting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

“I know there are some casualties and there are some people that are in critical condition that are being medivaced to the nearest cities, I would imagine Fort McMurray or Saskatoon.”

La Loche Grade 10 student Noel Desjarlais told the CBC that he heard multiple shots fired at the school.

“I ran outside the school,” Desjarlais said. “There was lots of screaming, there was about six, seven shots before I got outside. I believe there was more shots by the time I did get out.”

A cellphone video taken by one resident and broadcast by the CBC showed students walking away from the school through the snow-covered ground and emergency personnel moving in. 

La Loche Community School is a pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 school, which houses about 900 students in two buildings. 

There was an emergency at the building that houses grades 7 to 12, the school district's Facebook page said. Both that building and the elementary school were put on lockdown. 

In 2014, a teacher expressed concern about violence at the La Loche school, citing an incident where a student who had tried to stab her was put back in her classroom after serving his sentence, and another attacked her at her home.

“That student got 10 months,” Janice Wilson told the CBC of the student who tried to stab her in class. “And when he was released he was returned to the school and was put in my classroom.”

One father loves Israel, the other hates it. Guess which one is Arab?


I was struck by the contrasting reactions of the fathers of two accused terrorists, both Israelis. One son shot up a Tel Aviv pub, murdering two and wounding seven, while the other firebombed a house killing an infant boy and his parents and severely injuring his 4-year-old brother. Both sons have records for hate crimes.

One father quickly alerted police when he suspected his son's involvement, and publicly expressed deep regrets over the incident, offering condolences to the victims and their families.  He declared his “loyalty” and “love” for Israel.

The other father insisted his son was innocent and that his confession was tortured out of him.  He denounced the State of Israel and declared his hatred for it.  He called the country's president “the fuhrer.”

The father who called on his son to surrender is an Israeli Arab who has been a volunteer with the Israeli police for more than 30 years. 

The other father, who called Israel the “most anti-Semitic country in the world,” is the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Karmel Zur.     

The Arab suspect in the shooting on Dizengoff Street, Nishat Milhem, 31, is still at large as of this writing. Early Tuesday, his father, who has called on his son to surrender, and five other relatives and family friends were arrested as possible accessories, but some reports suggest they were being used as bait to get Nishat to turn himself in. 

The Jew, Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, was indicted last week for the July 31 fatal firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma while they slept. 

A third father sought to take political advantage of the tragedies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, noting that his sons were about the same age as the pub shooting victims, tried to spread the blame over all Israeli Arabs and exploit the tragedy for political gain.  

Six months earlier he condemned the Duma arson as “Jewish terrorism” but dismissed the killers as “extreme and marginal, and [they] certainly don't represent religious Zionism.” 

But on Dizengoff Street this weekend the Israeli leader played his customary race card with a verbal assault on Israel's Arab citizens. 

He blamed the killings on “wild incitement of radical Islam,” and lectured one fifth of the nation's population about its responsibilities as citizens. He demanded all Arab Knesset members, “without exception…condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally.” There was no such demand of Jewish MK's after the Duma murders.

Netanyahu cemented his position as Israel's inciter-in-chief with his wholesale indictment of Israel's Arabs and dismissal of Jewish terrorists as an almost irrelevant fringe group.

In terror attacks when he was out of power, Netanyahu was quick to blame the sitting prime minister for lax security. But now that Bibi's in charge, it's always someone else's fault.

Netanyahu has that Trumpian penchant for taking credit for what works and blaming others for what goes wrong.  

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said the PM smeared all Israeli Arabs because of his own inability to provide security.  

With gunman still at large, Tel Aviv streets go quiet


Until Friday, this city had been largely untouched by the recent wave of near-daily attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians.

Several incidents had struck Tel Aviv — a soldier was stabbed with a screwdriver outside Israel Defense Forces headquarters in October and, the following month, two Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack at an office building. But its residents had largely been spared the stabbing and car-ramming attacks centered in Jerusalem in the West Bank.

On Friday, however, the so-called Tel Aviv bubble was definitively punctured when a gunman opened fire on Dizengoff Street, one of the busiest arteries in the city and a popular hangout for both locals and tourists. The shooting spree began at the crowded Simta Bar, where young Israelis were gathered for a birthday party, then continued at a restaurant next door before ending at the bustling Sidewalk Cafe.

The suspected gunman, a 31-year-old Arab-Israeli citizen named Nashat Milhem, killed two people — Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 30 — and wounded seven others before fleeing the scene. On Sunday, Israeli media reported that police now believe Milhem was also responsible for the murder of Amin Shaaban, an Arab-Israeli taxi driver whose body was discovered an hour after the Dizengoff shooting.

Since the shooting, Tel Aviv has been cloaked in a gloomy silence. Milhem’s escape has triggered an unprecedented manhunt, with thousands of security personnel combing the city looking for him. On Friday night, normally packed cafes and bars were eerily empty. The usual lines outside popular nightclubs were missing. Police patrols were on nearly every street, and many residents stayed home with their doors locked, fearful of the gunman on the loose.

When schools reopened Sunday, many parents chose to keep their kids at home, despite an increase in security across the city.

“Something definitely changed in the Tel Aviv bubble,” said Arik Rudnitszky of Tel Aviv University’s Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation. “Maybe now we’re in the reality that Jerusalem has lived in since October.”

Maya Dratwa was having lunch at the Sidewalk Cafe with her husband and two young children when the shooter began firing on patrons there. With her 3-year-old son in his stroller and her 5-year-old daughter in her arms, Dratwa crouched under the table as chaos erupted.

“Everyone was screaming, and everything fell on top of us — our food, our tea,” Dratwa recalled Sunday, saying she was still in shock.

Saturday was her 31st birthday, but instead of celebrating as planned, she stayed home with her family.

“I was too afraid,” Dratwa said. “I never expected this would happen here.”

While Israel has faced constant terror attacks since October, nearly everything about the Dizengoff shooting was unique. The seemingly random targeting of bar patrons hearkened back to earlier waves of terrorism that aimed to inflict mass casualties on buses and other places of public gathering. Mira Marcus, the Tel Aviv municipality spokeswoman, said there has never been a manhunt for a terrorist in Tel Aviv.

The fact that Milhem escaped, rather than embracing martyrdom as many terrorists do, was a surprise to security experts, who note that terrorists often seek to inflict as much damage as possible until they are stopped by force. Police believe that after Milhem fled on foot, he hailed a cab to northern Tel Aviv driven by Shaaban. He is then believed to have driven the taxi to Namir Road, a major thoroughfare in the area, and left it near a bus stop.

Milhem’s sophistication also sets him apart. In security footage released hours after the attack, he was seen entering a health food store and using a plastic bag to pick up some nuts. He placed the nuts back but kept the bag, apparently to protect his hand from leaving fingerprints on his gun.

A former Shin Bet official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was possible the attacker was inspired by ISIS.

“There are a few dozen Arab citizens of Israel who’ve joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and there are dozens of others who support these ideas,” the official told JTA. “These ideas cross borders. We see it in Europe and can see it anywhere, and there’s no doubt we’ll see it in Israel, too.”

Israeli media reported that the gun was stolen from his father, a volunteer with the Israeli police, who identified Milhem as the gunman after seeing the health food store footage on television. Over the weekend, security officials seized the family’s computers, arrested the suspect’s brother on suspicion of aiding and abetting, and have maintained a heavy presence in Arara, the northern Israeli Arab village where Milhem lived.

According to news reports, Milhem was arrested in 2007 for stabbing a soldier with a screwdriver and served five years in jail. His cousin was killed in an Israeli police raid in 2006. Several family members told Israeli news outlets that he exhibited signs of mental illness.

Elan Carr on the San Bernardino shooting


Like all Americans, Dahlia and I are outraged and heartbroken over yesterday’s murders in San Bernardino. Our prayers are with the many families affected by this heinous attack.  We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends who lost their loved ones, and we pray for a speedy and complete recovery for those who were injured. We also salute the brave police officers and sheriff’s deputies who displayed exemplary professionalism in bringing the crisis to a conclusion. 

 A government’s most important job is to keep people safe. This was a planned, premeditated attack on county employees in a county facility. All Americans understand how vulnerable we are in the face of dramatically increasing threats from crime and terrorism. I call upon the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to make public safety their absolute top priority.

ADL: Searching for motives in the San Bernardino shooting


The motive for yesterday’s shoot­ing in San Bernardino, CA remains unknown. In the spec­u­la­tion for causes, though, sev­eral details stand out.

That one of the alleged shoot­ers, Syed Rizwan Farooq, appar­ently tar­geted his pro­fes­sional col­leagues, might indi­cate an instance of work­place vio­lence, as does the rel­a­tively non­de­script, apo­lit­i­cal and pri­vate nature of the loca­tion tar­geted. How­ever, the degree of prepa­ra­tion that went into the shoot­ing appears more in line with polit­i­cally or ide­o­log­i­cally moti­vated vio­lence. More­over, inci­dents of work­place shoot­ings rarely ever involve mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors but there were appar­ently two shoot­ers in San Bernardino.

Future evi­dence will be nec­es­sary to under­stand whether or not extrem­ism, or extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda may have played any role in the San Bernardino shoot­ings; at this time, it is entirely pos­si­ble that there is no link at all, although inves­ti­ga­tors are indi­cat­ing that Farooq had links to sus­pected extrem­ists abroad.

A com­bi­na­tion of work­place vio­lence and extremist-inspired vio­lence has played out in the U.S. in the past.

In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen, who had a prior crim­i­nal record that included vio­lent inci­dents, went home and then returned to the food pro­cess­ing plant with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a second.

Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly the vio­lence asso­ci­ated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ideology.

His online activ­ity sug­gested that his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing, rather than another form of vio­lence, and spoke to a sec­ondary effect of vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda. His activ­ity did not appear to be polit­i­cally moti­vated and he was not respond­ing to ter­ror­ist calls for vio­lence, but he was nonethe­less influ­enced by vio­lent extrem­ist con­tent that he found online.

A sim­i­lar case indi­cat­ing sec­ondary effects of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda took place in New Jer­sey in August 2014. The accused per­pe­tra­tor in that case, Ali Muhammed Brown, had a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als in Cal­i­for­nia in June. In August, he was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­der was revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East.

Pres­i­dent Obama has sug­gested that there may be a com­bi­na­tion of motives in yesterday’s shoot­ing although, again, more evi­dence needs to be found to uncover the per­pe­tra­tors’ actual rationales.

But the Nolen case teaches that vio­lence and ratio­nale are not singularly-faceted issues, and that vio­lent pro­pa­ganda online has the poten­tial to influ­ence peo­ple who may not them­selves be extremists.

Cartoon: San Bernardinohmygod


A prayer of healing from tragedy


Our hearts are breaking, God,
As our nation buries the innocent and the brave.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God, to grieving parents,
To siblings, family and friends in this time of shock and mourning.
Shield them from despair.
Send healing to the schoolchildren who are lost and frightened
Whose eyes witnessed unfathomable horrors.
Ease their pain, God,
Let their fears give way to hope.
Let their cries give way once more to laughter.

Bless us, God,
Work through us.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can rise up from this tragedy
With a renewed faith in the goodness of our society.
Shield us from indifference
And from our tendency to forget.
Open our hearts, open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us to act.
Remind us that we must commit ourselves to prevent further bloodshed
With all our hearts and souls.
Teach us perseverance and dedication.
Let us rise up as one in a time of soul-searching and repair
So that all children can go to school in peace, God,
Let them be safe.

God of the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.
Amen.


Rabbi Naomi Levy is the founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva: The Jewish Spiritual Outreach Center. Her books include Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration.

Beyond prayer, we must take action on gun violence


We are in anguish in the aftermath of another mass shooting – this one in our own backyard. To our community members who live, work or have family in San Bernardino, we stand with you in sorrow, grieving for the souls of the victims and praying for healing for those wounded.

At the same time, we are aware of the gross insufficiency of the now ubiquitous expressions of grief, calls for prayer and sterile condemnations. Prayer devoid of moral action is idolatry. Our failure, as a society, to take action to address the scourge of gun violence is a desecration of all that we hold holy. 

Many of us have been in this fight for decades – mobilizing, rallying, protesting, lobbying. Now, some are despairing. Today we have to make a choice: will we continue to fight the insanity that has gripped this nation – will we get smarter, stronger, better resourced – or will we turn our lives and our country over to a deadly distortion of our Constitution and its promise of freedom? 

Our community will fight. Our weapons are love and justice. Our fuel is the belief that all human beings are created in God’s image and deserve to live with dignity, in peace. Our fellow soldiers – our partners – are good people of all faiths and no faith who see that the toxic combination of hatred and easy access to weapons of war endangers all of us and threatens the very foundation of this nation. Make no mistake: we will win. The only question is how many more innocents will die before that day comes.

While the facts of yesterday’s massacre are still coming to light, it appears that the shooters were Muslim-American. It is incumbent upon us that we resist the rising tide of small minded bigotry that characterizes all Muslims by the behavior of the few, just as we resist when others do the same to us, as Jews.

Let us stand together. That is the only way we will effect change. Visit www.everytown.org to take immediate national action on gun violence prevention, and stay tuned to IKAR for local coalitional organizing. If you are able to take a leadership role, please let us know asap.

L’shalom –

Rabbi Sharon Brous


Rabbi Sharon Brous is the the founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community in Los Angeles.

Police: Up to 14 people dead, up to 14 wounded, 1-3 suspects in San Bernardino shooting


This story is developing.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. PST: UP TO 14 PEOPLE DIED IN SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING – POLICE AT NEWS CONFERENCE

UPDATE 1:42 p.m. PST: INLAND REGIONAL CENTER'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LAVINIA JOHNSON, SAYS SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING WAS AT CONFERENCE CENTER HER GROUP RENTED OUT FOR A COUNTY PERSONNEL HOLIDAY PARTY, POSSIBLY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

UPDATE 1:34 p.m. PST:

Police searched on Wednesday for up to three suspects in the shooting of as many as 20 people, some of them fatally, at a social services agency for the developmentally disabled in the Southern California city of San Bernardino, authorities said.

San Bernardino Police Lieutenant Richard Lawhead told a local NBC television network affiliate there were multiple fatalities, and a reporter for that channel said he saw the bodies of three victims following the shooting rampage.

MSNBC also reported that law enforcement authorities had confirmed the three deaths.

The San Bernardino Fire Department said in a Twitter post that it was responding to reports of 20 victims. San Bernardino is some 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.

A police spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the suspects were heavily armed and possibly wearing body armor, and CBS reported that a bomb squad was on the scene, trying to defuse what was believed to be an explosive device.

President Barack Obama was briefed and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Twitter, “I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now.”

Agents for the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were dispatched to the scene to assist local law enforcement in the investigation, representatives for the two agencies said.

The shooting took place at the Inland Regional Center, one of 21 facilities set up by the state and run under contract by non-profit organizations to serve people with developmental disabilities, said Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services.

Television images on CNN showed people being evacuated from the building, their arms raised, as triage stations were set up outside. Police and SWAT teams were seen surrounding the building.

HOSPITAL READIES FOR PATIENTS

Loma Linda University Medical Center, on a recorded hotline, said it had received four adult patients and was expecting three more.

The regional centers like the one attacked in San Bernardino administer, authorize and pay for assistance to people with disabilities such as autism and mental retardation.

On an average day, doctors at the regional centers would be evaluating toddlers whose parents have concerns and case workers would be meeting with developmentally disabled adults. Lungren said that the San Bernardino facility is one of the state's largest and busiest.

The shooting in California comes less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. In October, a gunman killed nine people at a college in Oregon and in June a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.

The Inland Regional Center has been the focus of recent complaints that its clients were not receiving all services requested or that some services were cut back without proper notice, said attorney Terri Keville of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.

In a settlement last year, the agency agreed to implement new procedures to make sure clients were properly informed of their rights and received the services to which they were entitled. 

Obama calls for bipartisan effort to address shootings


President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for a bipartisan effort “at every level of government” to address mass shootings, such as the one that injured as many as 20 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

“We don't yet know what the motives of the shooters are, but what we do know is there are steps we can take to make Americans safer and that we should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal,” he told CBS News.

“We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn't happen with the same frequency in other countries,” he said.

Three suspects sought in deadly San Bernardino, California shooting


A manhunt was under way for up to three suspects who shot as many as 20 people, some of them fatally, at a holiday party at a social services agency in the Southern California city of San Bernardino, authorities said.

San Bernardino Police Lieutenant Richard Lawhead told a local NBC television network affiliate there were multiple fatalities, and a reporter for that channel said he saw the bodies of three victims following the shooting rampage.

MSNBC also reported that law enforcement authorities had confirmed the three deaths.

The San Bernardino Fire Department said in a Twitter post that it was responding to reports of 20 victims. San Bernardino is some 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.

A police spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the suspects were heavily armed and possibly wearing body armor, and CBS reported that a bomb squad was on the scene, trying to defuse what was believed to be an explosive device.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack and reiterated calls for stronger gun laws. “…We should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these (shootings) rare as opposed to normal.”

Agents for the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were dispatched to the scene to assist local law enforcement in the investigation, representatives for the two agencies said.

The shooting took place at the Inland Regional Center, one of 21 facilities set up by the state and run under contract by non-profit organizations to serve people with developmental disabilities, said Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services.

Lavina Johnson, executive director of the facility, told CNN that one to three suspects opened fire inside a conference center where a holiday party was being held for county health department personnel.

The conference building sits adjacent to the two larger three-story buildings that house most of the agency's offices, Johnson said. Asked whether that meant that the Inland Regional Center staff and clients were safe, she said she understood they were being evacuated.

Television images on CNN showed people being evacuated from the building, their arms raised, as triage stations were set up outside. Police and SWAT teams were seen surrounding the building.

HOSPITAL READIES FOR PATIENTS

Loma Linda University Medical Center, on a recorded hotline, said it had received four adult patients and was expecting three more.

The regional centers like the one attacked in San Bernardino administer, authorize and pay for assistance to people with disabilities such as autism and mental retardation.

On an average day, doctors at the regional centers would be evaluating toddlers whose parents have concerns and case workers would be meeting with developmentally disabled adults. Lungren said that the San Bernardino facility is one of the state's largest and busiest.

The shooting in California comes less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. In October, a gunman killed nine people at a college in Oregon and in June a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.

The Inland Regional Center has been the focus of recent complaints that its clients were not receiving all services requested or that some services were cut back without proper notice, said attorney Terri Keville of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.

In a settlement last year, the agency agreed to implement new procedures to make sure clients were properly informed of their rights and received the services to which they were entitled.

Shooting rampage in California leaves 14 dead, 17 wounded


Gunmen opened fire on a holiday party on Wednesday at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, then fled the scene, triggering an intense manhunt and a shootout with police, authorities said.

One suspect was struck by gunfire and one officer was injured in a confrontation hours after the mass shooting, San Bernardino police spokeswoman Sergeant Vicki Cervantes told reporters, adding that a second suspect might still be “outstanding.”

She did not know the condition of the struck suspect but said the officer's injuries were not considered to be life-threatening.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said in a televised news briefing earlier that as many as three suspects were believed to have made their getaway in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle. A vehicle matching that description turned up at the shootout with police several hours later, Cervantes. 

The police chief said 14 people were killed and 14 others wounded in the initial shooting spree, which unfolded at 11 a.m. on the campus of the Inland Regional Center, an agency that serves the developmentally disabled.

Cervantes later revised the toll of wounded to 17, not including the suspect and police officer who were shot later.

The shooting rampage in San Bernardino, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles, marked the deadliest U.S. gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, in which 27 people, including the gunman, were killed.

As the suspects fled, authorities ordered a security “lockdown” of all local schools, as well as city and county buildings, and area hospitals were placed on alert, Burguan said. Police searched door to door in the Redlands neighborhood a few miles from the site of the attack.

Burguan said he knew of no possible motive behind the attack.

“We have no information at this point that this is terrorist-related, in the traditional sense that people may be thinking,” he added. “Obviously, at minimum, we have a domestic-type terrorist-type situation that occurred here.”

He said the suspects were armed with rifles.

The Los Angeles Times, citing information from a senior federal official who was monitoring the case, reported that investigators believe one of the shooters left the party after getting into an argument and returned with one or two armed companions.

The Inland Regional Center is one of 21 facilities set up by the state and run under contract by non-profit organizations to serve people with developmental disabilities, said Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services. 

Lavinia Johnson, executive director of the facility, told CNN the suspects opened fire inside a conference building in the complex where a holiday party was being held for county health department personnel.

The conference building sits adjacent to the two larger three-story buildings that house most of the agency's offices at the complex, Johnson said. Asked whether that meant that the Inland Regional Center staff and clients were safe, she said she understood they were being evacuated.

STRING OF SHOOTINGS

So far in 2015, there have been more than 350 shootings in which four or more people were wounded, according to the crowd-sourced website shootingtracker.com, which keeps a running tally of U.S. gun violence.

The shooting in California comes less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In October, a gunman killed nine people at a college in Oregon, and in June, a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina. 

Gun control advocates, including Democratic President Barack Obama, say easy access to firearms is a major factor in the shooting epidemic, while the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun advocates say the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the right to bear arms.

At least 140 killed in Paris attacks


BREAKING: BFM TV SAYS ABOUT 100 DEAD IN BATACLAN PARIS CONCERT HALL

Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at locations around Paris on Friday, killing dozens of people in what a shaken President Francois Hollande described as an unprecedented terrorist attack.

Police sources said at least 40 people were killed and 60 wounded in up to five attacks in the Paris region. French media reported higher unofficial death tolls.

The apparently coordinated gun and bomb assault came as the country, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks ahead of a global climate conference due to open later this month.

Hollande, who was attending an international soccer match with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when several explosions took place outside the national stadium, declared a state of emergency in the Paris region and announced the closure of France's borders to stop perpetrators escaping.

“This is a horror,” the visibly shaken president said in a midnight television address to the nation before chairing an emergency cabinet meeting.

All emergency services were mobilized, police leave was canceled and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties.

Hollande said police were launching an assault at one of the attack sites as he spoke. A Reuters witness heard five explosions outside the Batalla music hall, where up to 60 people were being held hostage.

A second Reuters reporter later said police had completed an operation at the building. BMG TV said two gunmen had been killed.

Earlier, witnesses said an elite anti-terror unit had taken up positions outside the popular concert venue, which was attacked by two or three gunmen, who were reported to have shouted slogans condemning France's role in Syria.

“We know where these attacks come from,” Hollande said, without naming any individual group. “There are indeed good reasons to be afraid.”

HIGH ALERT

France has been on high alert ever since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in Paris in January, killing 18 people.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a global chorus of solidarity with France and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “despicable attacks” and demanded the release of the hostages.

Julien Pierce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the concert hall when the shooting began. In an eyewitness report posted on the station's website, Pierce said several very young individuals, who were not wearing masks, entered the hall while the concert was under way armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and started “blindly shooting at the crowd”.

“There were bodies everywhere,” he said.

French media reported five more or less simultaneous attacks in mid-evening in central Paris and outside the Stade de France stadium in the suburb of Saint-Denis, north of the city center.

There was no immediate verifiable claim of responsibility but supporters of the Islamic State militant group which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria said in Twitter messages that the group carried them out.

“The State of the caliphate hit the house of the cross,” one tweet said.

Three explosions were heard near the Stade de France, where the France-Germany friendly soccer match was being played. A witness said one of the detonations blew people into the air outside a McDonald's restaurant outside the stadium.

The match continued until the end but panic broke out in the crowd as rumors of the attack spread, and spectators were held in the stadium and assembled spontaneously on the pitch.

TF1 television said up to 35 people were dead near the soccer stadium, including two suspected suicide bombers.

Police helicopters circled the stadium as Hollande was rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.

In central Paris, shooting erupted in mid-evening outside a Cambodian restaurant in the capital's 10th district. There were unconfirmed reports of other shootings in Rue de Charonne in the 11th district and at the central Les Halles shopping and cinema complex.

“There are lots of people here. I don’t know what’s happening, a sobbing witness who gave her name only as Anna told BFM TV outside the Batalla hall. “It’s horrible. There’s a body over there. It’s horrible.”

The attacks came within days of attacks claimed by Islamic State militants on a Shi'ite Muslim district of southern Beirut in Lebanon, and a Russian tourist aircraft which crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Earlier on Friday, the United States and Britain said they had launched an attack in the Syrian town of Raqqa on a British Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John” but it was not certain whether he had been killed.

VIDEO: Explosion heard during soccer match.

Ben Carson, a skilled brain surgeon


Soldier and Eritrean migrant killed, 11 people wounded in Beersheba attack


An Israeli soldier and Eritrean migrant were killed and at least 11 people were wounded in a shooting and stabbing terror attack at the Central Bus Station in Beersheba.

Police said the Palestinian assailant stabbed a soldier and grabbed his M-16 rifle, then opened fire on the bus station.

Migrant Haftom Zarhum, 29, was also shot by police and died hours later at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Video images show him lying in a pool of his own blood being kicked by bystanders who thought he was an assailant. Eleven others were wounded in the terror attack.

It is not known how the attacker entered the bus station in the southern Israeli city with weapons, since security guards are posted at all entrances.

Four of the wounded are police officers, according to police, and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Bus and train service to the area was suspended.

Palestinian protesters rioted Sunday evening in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Tulkarem, throwing rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli soldiers and security officers.

One killed, one wounded in shooting near Texas Southern University


One person was fatally shot on Friday and another person was wounded in a shooting an apartment complex adjacent to the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston, and a suspect has been taken into custody, police said.

The school, with about 9,700 students, was placed on lockdown after the shooting and all classes were canceled on Friday. Authorities have not yet identified the suspect or the victims.

The incident came several hours after an 18-year-old student opened fire with a handgun on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff early on Friday, killing one person and wounding three, in the latest in a series of U.S. school shootings.

Texas Southern said there was a separate shooting incident at an apartment complex near campus on Thursday night.

Two Israelis shot dead in West Bank terror attack


An Israeli couple was shot dead while driving through the West Bank late on Thursday and Israeli forces were searching the area for the suspected Palestinian attackers, authorities said.

The couple's four children, aged between four-months and nine-years old, were also in the car but were unharmed when the gunman opened fire near the Jewish settlement of Itamar, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

“Palestinian terrorists opened fire on an Israeli family car, killing both parents. Luckily, their four kids, now orphans, were unharmed,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas praised the attack as a “heroic operation carried out by resistance fighters in the West Bank”.

Tensions have been high in the West Bank, land Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war that Palestinians want for a future state, during a period coinciding with the onset of major Jewish and Muslim holidays.

Israeli police and Palestinians have also clashed regularly at a holy site in Jerusalem, raising international concern.

Obama: gun laws must be changed, gun owners must speak up


President Barack Obama on Thursday angrily called for stricter U.S. gun laws after the latest mass murder in Oregon and took aim at the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby for blocking reform.

Appearing in the White House briefing room with a grim expression and an angry tone, Obama said it was not enough to offer prayers after major shootings continued to occur regularly throughout the country.

“As I said just a few months ago, and I said just a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama told reporters after the latest shooting at a community college in which 13 people were killed and some 20 people were wounded.

“It's not enough,” he said.

Nodding to the arguments that such shootings are often committed by the mentally ill, Obama said it was clear that anyone who commits such crimes had a “sickness in their minds.”

“But we are not the only country on Earth who has people with mental illnesses who want to do harm to other people,” he said. “We are the only advanced country on Earth who sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”

Obama spoke mainly without notes, angrily anticipating the arguments that gun advocates would brandish in the wake of the shooting. He said he knew his opponents would criticize him for politicizing a tragedy.

“This is something we should politicize,” he said, calling on Americans of all political stripes to hold their elected leaders accountable for acting on the issue.

Obama called on gun owners who use weapons for hunting, sport and protection to question whether the gun lobby represented their views. He did not mention the National Rifle Association by name, but his comments were clearly directed at that organization, which has broad political influence in Washington.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made a concerted push for broad gun control reforms after the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school shooting of young children that shocked the country. They were unsuccessful.

Obama said he would continue to bring up the need for reform every time such a shooting took place, but the White House has made clear that it was unlikely to attempt another broad push on gun control through the Republican-led U.S. Congress.

Two seconds: An exploration of racial (in)justice and privilege in the United States


On Friday July 10, at 7:22 a.m., Steve Julian, the host of KPCC’s Morning Edition reported the following, “About 20 minutes ago a Color Guard in South Carolina lowered the Confederate flag at the state capitol, stretched it out, rolled it up, tied a string around it. That flag no longer flies.”

☻☻☻

In the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from Orange County, California, to Nixa, a small town in Southwest Missouri.  I started at Nixa High School two months later.  A few new realities hit me too slowly.  In reviewing these facts twenty years later, it seems as if they would have been immediately obvious.  But, as a 15 year-old, I remember them striking me in the chest as sharp realizations.  I confronted them first in US History class:

· This is not California.  I am living in a new state with a different capitol and a different history. 

· Missouri was divided during the Civil War.

· Nixa was in the South.

· There is a Civil War battleground a few miles from my house.

· I have classmates wearing Confederate flag t-shirts.  I have classmates who display Confederate flags on the back windows of their pickups.

It had never dawned on me before that moment to think that much about the Civil War, our nation’s history of slavery, or Civil Rights.  My family had moved to the South and I hadn’t even realized it. 

The battle of Wilson’s Creek took place on August 10, 1861.  The battlefield lies 9 miles northwest of my family home.  According to the Civil War Trust, “This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north….  Wilson’s Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.”[1]

I was living 9 miles from a battleground that decided the fate of the new state in which I was living, making my new hometown a part of the south.  And I had no idea.

This is the definition of white privilege.  I moved to an essentially all white school in the middle of nowhere and I never once thought about my safety.

☻☻☻

I was living in Israel on September 11, 2001 and was out of the country for the first months of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Living in Israel at this time meant living smack in the middle of the Second Intifada. We listened to bombs exploding as we fell asleep at night.  When I finally returned home to the US in May and I approached the passport counter, I remember feeling very American.  And, I surprised myself when, looking into the eyes a uniformed Border Control agent, what I felt was incredibly safe. Throughout my life, when I have looked at law enforcement officers, I have felt safe.

☻☻☻

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was pulled over on July 10, 2015, for failing to signal a lane change.  And then the situation “escalated.”  The truth is: “escalated” is a euphemism for what happened next.  Let’s be clear here, at this point, the encounter between Sandra Bland and State Trooper Brian Encinia should have been over. Bland had been issued her traffic citation and she should have been free to go.  Instead, Encinia asked Sandra if she was ok.  She told him she was irritated.  She said she was changing lanes to get out of his way and now she was getting a ticket and she was irritated.  Actually, what she said was, “I am a little irritated.”[2]

Encinia then asked Bland to put out her cigarette.  She said, “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?”  He said, “Well, you can step on out now.” 

You can step on out now. 

And then the officer who pulled Sandra over proceeded to threaten her with a stun gun, “I will light you up,” he said.  “I am going to drag you out of there.”

And then he pulled her from her vehicle.  He handcuffed her.  She said he pushed her to the ground.  She was charged with assaulting a public servant. Bland was arrested and taken to jail.  In released video footage from the jail, we see her emerging from the bathroom after changing out of the long dress she was wearing into an orange jumpsuit.  As she sits down on a bench, next to the folded mattress and blanket she had just been issued, we see her wiping her eyes. 

I wonder: At what point did her outrage mix with blood chilling fear?

Three days later, she was found dead, strangled in her cell with a trashcan liner around her neck.  Her death is being investigated as a murder.

Why?  How?  How in the world is this possible?  In the United States.  In 2015.  How?  How is a woman threatened with a stun gun, pulled out of her car, handcuffed, and arrested?  For failing to signal a lane change. 

☻☻☻

On November 22, 2014, a man in Cleveland, Ohio, made a call to 911.  The caller reported seeing a person, he thought it was a juvenile, holding a gun, he thought it was fake.

Video images released after the fact show a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, playing with an airsoft gun.[3]  When I saw the video, that is just what I saw.  A boy playing with a toy gun.  He reminded me of my nephew.  What happened next is horrifically unimaginable.  Except it was very real.  Cleveland Police officer Tim Loehmann and his partner arrived on the scene. 

One one thousand.  Two one thousand.  Bang. 

Two seconds.

That is how long from when Loehmann arrived on the scene to when he shot Tamir Rice dead.

Two seconds.

He was a 12-year-old boy.

When I first saw the video, I was sure it was a time-lapse reel.  I was sure the footage had been accelerated.  In fact, I tried googling the unaltered original.  But, no.  What I was seeing was unedited, real.  A police officer pulling up to a scene, jumping out of his car, and shooting a child dead. 

Minutes later, Tamir’s 14 year-old sister came running up.  She saw her brother lying dead.  She rushed to him.  Police tackled her to the ground and put her in handcuffs.[4]  I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma she experienced at the hands of law enforcement that day.  14 years old.  12 years old.  These children were b’nai mitzvah age.

☻☻☻

When I first saw the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest I started to cry.  What if that were me?  I was breathless, shaking, imagining the fear she must have felt, face slammed into the ground.  I’m sure I would have been angry and defiant and outraged.  And so incredibly scared. 

But, of course, this would never happen to me.  Not in a million years.

This is my white privilege.  I am free to drive my car.  And, if I do something wrong, I may or may not be pulled over for a traffic stop.  And, if I were to get frustrated at a stop, I can easily imagine it being excused.  And, I would drive away.

☻☻☻

In a conversation about white privilege, a colleague once challenged me with the following:  Privilege means believing that you can work the system.  Any system. That you can talk your way out of things, that you can negotiate, that you can change an outcome. And you can do all this with a feeling of confidence.  And safety.

☻☻☻

A recent poll shows that 55% of Californians and 85% of African-Americans in California believe that “blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system.”[5]  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[6]

☻☻☻

This summer I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me.  The book is composed as a letter, from Coates to his sixteen-year-old son.  He writes the book in response to his son’s feelings of despair when he learns that the police officers responsible for Michael Brown’s death and for subsequently leaving his body to roast for four hours in the summer heat on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, would go free.[7]

Coates describes the moment like this:

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free.  The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished.  It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished.  But you were young and still believed.  You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying.  I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.  I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay.[8]

Coates reveals a heartbreaking truth.  He goes on to explain:

What I know is that when they loosed the killer of Michael Brown, you said, “I’ve got to go.”  And that cut me because, for all our differing worlds, at your age my feeling was exactly the same.  And I recall that even then I had not yet begun to imagine the perils that tangle us.  You still believe the injustice was Michael Brown.  You have not yet grappled with your own myths and narratives and discovered the plunder everywhere around us.[9]

Each time a police officer engages us, death, injury, maiming is possible.  It is not enough to say that this is true of anyone or more true of criminals.[10]

☻☻☻

In reading Coates’ letter to his son, so full of a father’s raw feelings of fear and love and loss and anger, I couldn’t help but think of my own ten-month-old daughter.

Dear Sela,

You were born eight days before Tamir Rice was shot dead.  You came into this world filled with promise and future.  In your first seconds of life, I held you to my chest and you looked into my eyes, and I thought, “I know you.”  And know you, I did.  My heart burst with a love I could not have imagined possible and such feelings of hope.

In the weeks after you were born, a family friend, who is African American, told the following story to your mom:  Her 10 year-old son was playing in the backyard and he jumped the fence to get his ball back when it flew over into the neighbor’s yard.  When she saw her son, walking along the back of the house, head framed by his hoodie, she went ice cold with fear.  She sat him down.  “You cannot jump fences,” she said.  You never know who could see you and what they could think.  Maybe your white friends can jump a fence to get a ball.  But you cannot.  Ever.  He looked at her.  Afraid, confused, amused.  What could possibly happen to him for jumping a fence?

My dear sweet, little girl this is what I want for you:  To grow up in a country where every child is allowed to be a child.  To make foolish mistakes and live to learn from them.  To play with a toy.  To jump a neighbor’s fence.  To fetch a lost ball.  To walk down the street holding candy and soda.  To wear a sweatshirt.  To feel safe.

☻☻☻

What Coates is trying to get through to his son is that the shooting of Michael Brown was not an isolated event.  Nor was Sandra Bland being pulled over, nor her arrest.  Tamir Rice’s murder was not a fluke of the system.[11]

TIOH’s Social Action Vice President, Heidi Segal, who has had an extensive law career working within the criminal justice system, worked hard to impress Coates’ point upon me. She explained:

Discretion is a necessary feature of our criminal justice system, and when exercised properly it can even promote a fairer and more just result, as opposed to a system that has mandatory sentencing.  I think that the problem with our system is that there are so many points where discretion is exercised, and it generally goes unchecked and with no transparency. This is where racial and other biases come into play.  “And that is where the impact can be both immediate and tragic – like Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, and also more subtle, long-ranging. 

What Heidi is describing is systemic and institutionalized racism. 

☻☻☻

One month ago, on August 19, I arrived at Ebenezer Baptist West Church in Athens, Georgia, along with 25 others marchers.  That day, I took 32,000 steps for justice, walking 15 of the 860 miles that separate Selma, Alabama, from Washington, D.C.  I joined a contingency of almost 200 Reform Rabbis who helped make the journey, carrying a sefer torah, a Torah scroll the entire length of the march.  The Journey for Justice was focused on issues of education, economic inequality, youth, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.[12]

Throughout the day, I marched with the President and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.  After the walk, I had the chance to share dinner with Mr. Brooks, and he shared the following story with our table:  One night, I was driving home from work and a police car pulled me over.  I stopped and immediately rolled down my windows, turned on the light in my car, put my wallet – driver’s license and insurance card up – on the dashboard, and put my hands on the wheel, as I always do when I am pulled over.  The officer came up to my window and asked, “Why did you pull over?”  I answered him:  “I pulled over because you pulled me over.”  Then he asked me, “What are you doing out here?”  I answered:  “I’m driving home.  I’ve worked a long day and I’m exhausted.  I’m just trying to drive home.”  The officer looked back at me, “I’ve worked a long day too.  And, I’m just trying to drive home too.” 

And that is when Mr. Brooks realized:  The officer had not pulled him over.  He was so conditioned to a police car following him to detain him, that he had pulled himself over.

☻☻☻

There is a problem with racial profiling in this country.  In this state.  And, what I have learned is that people of color have millions and millions of stories that sound a lot like Mr. Brooks’.  Heidi Segal continued her explanation:

It all starts with an officer’s discretion in pulling over or stopping an individual, the decision whether to search that person, the decision whether or not to arrest them, the decision to charge, the decision of what the charges should be – infraction, misdemeanor, felony, the decision to ask for bail, the decision to set bail, the decision to take the case to trial or offer a plea bargain, and what the sentence should be. And even later, what happens to them when they get incarcerated, when they will be released, and the conditions set on them.  It goes on and on. The point is that once you are in that system, you are at the mercy of these unchecked discretionary decisions.

It all starts with an officer’s discretion.  Listen to that statistic that I shared with you a few minutes ago, once again:  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[13]

And so, even if we, as individuals, hold firmly to a belief that we, individually, have transcended racism as we understand it, we are still responsible.  We have to make real and deep changes to transcend the privilege that is automatically extended to many of us, and join together in dismantling the systemic and institutionalized racism that permeates too many areas of the social and legal fibers of our country.

How do we begin to change a shockingly broken criminal justice system?  We stop the encounter before it starts. 

In the state of California, Reform Jews from over a hundred congregations, in connection with Reform CA, are working to pass AB 953, a piece of legislation that will respond to the problem of racial and identity profiling, as well as call on law enforcement to have more transparency. 

This legislation will make it illegal for law enforcement officers to profile someone not only based on race, but also based on gender identity, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation. 

This legislation will require peace officers to be transparent about the date, time, and location of a stop.  The reason for the stop.  The result of the stop (even if it resulted in no action).  Finally, officers will be asked to report what they perceived the race or ethnicity, gender, and approximate age of the person to be.

I discussed this notion of transparency with a sheriff’s deputy.  He explained to me that public perception of law enforcement in our state is skewed.  He explained that this sort of profiling is not occurring.  AB 953 will build trust between the community and law enforcement.  We will be able to see real data regarding those points of discretion Heidi taught us about.  From the very first moment.  And, if there is a problem of profiling, this bill gives our state the ability to respond to it.  It calls for the formation of a non-partisan Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, which will review and respond to these issues.

This bill has already passed the Senate and is heading back to the State Assembly.  Now all we need is for Governor Brown to sign it into law.  But, our governor is wavering.  He needs to know that this law matters to us.  One of the action steps I want to invite you to take today is to fill out a pledge card, pledging your support to learn more about this bill, and, hopefully, to take the concrete action of making a phone call or sending an email to our Governor, asking him to sign this bill into law. 

The other invitation I have for you is to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book and join me and an activist I met on the Journey for Justice, Keshia Thomas, in a conversation about Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, criminal justice, and the goals for the Journey for Justice in October.  Keshia and I are still settling on the exact date because, after 45 days and 860 miles of marching, Keisha Thomas is taking her last steps into Washington DC as we speak.  And so, even though we began planning as she marched down rural roads of Virginia, we still are working on setting an exact date.  If you don’t know Keshia Thomas’ story, remember her name and google her later or ask me about her during the luncheon.  She is not a speaker you will want to miss.

☻☻☻

Here is what I have left to say, a message I have, in fact, been delivering all along:

In his sermon on Rosh HaShanah, the thirteenth century rabbi Ramban questions why Torah calls Nissan (the Hebrew month in the spring during which we celebrate Passover) the first month and it calls Tishrei (the month we began yesterday) the seventh month.  Ramban explains that Nissan is indeed, the first month of the year, when you look at the world through the prism of the Jews.  The exodus from Egypt, which happened in Nissan, marks our people’s real beginning.  It is the beginning of our story. 

Rosh HaShanah, on the other hand, is the beginning of the world’s story.  It celebrates the birth of humanity, the totality of existence, the world.  Throughout time, Jews have marked this new year, the universal day one, as the first day of our New Year.  Our own story of redemption has a part in the mix, but it is not at the forefront.

Our tradition has always been clear:  On Rosh HaShanah, our responsibility is to see our own existence in a global context.  This is the time we are meant to look outward in order to look inward.  This is the time to see:  The world’s story is our story.  Our neighbor’s narrative is our narrative.  Our brother’s plight is our plight.  Our sister’s struggle is our struggle.

And so, today I mourn the loss of twenty-eight-year-old Sandra Brown, who was excited to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University, and Tamir Rice, a sixth grader at Marion-Seltzer Elementary School.  I highlight the story of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the tears of his son Samori.  I tell my own story and I hope, make space for you to imagine yours.

On this, the day in which Jewish tradition invites us to look at ourselves and the world around us and recommit ourselves to the tikkun, the repair, of them both 

On this, the day on which we celebrate another 364 opportunities to wake committed to healing…

On this day, I declare:  Let 5776 be a year of tzedek, a year of justice.  Let 5776 be the year we take collective action.  Let 5776 be the year that everything begins to change.

Shanah Tovah, may this be a good year for all of us.


[1]http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/wilsonscreek.html?referrer=https://www.google.com

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/22/what-cops-are-saying-about-the-sandra-bland-video/

[3] http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-tamir-rice-investigation-documents-20150613-story.html

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/us/in-tamir-rice-shooting-in-cleveland-many-errors-by-police-then-a-fatal-one.html

[5] http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0951-1000/ab_953_cfa_20150511_173248_asm_comm.html

[6] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/us/michael-brown-a-bodys-timeline-4-hours-on-a-ferguson-street.html?_r=0

[8] Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 11.

[9] Coates 21.

[10] Coates, 131.

[11] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/officer-who-killed-tamir-rice-found-unfit-previous-police-job

[12] http://www.naacp.org/ajfj

[13] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

Suspect in Virginia TV shooting had history of workplace issues


The suspected gunman in the shooting deaths of two television journalists in Virginia on Wednesday was a veteran anchorman with a history of workplace grievances who had previously sued a Florida station alleging discrimination because he was black.

While authorities said they had not determined a motive, perceived racism appeared to be a factor in the shootings, according to recent postings the suspect is believed to have made on social media and a fax that ABC News said the suspect sent.

Vester Flanagan, 41, who went on the air under the name Bryce Williams, was a former employee of WDBJ7 in Virginia, where both of the slain journalists worked. The journalists, who were both white, were killed during a live television broadcast earlier this morning.

Posts on a Twitter feed by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams, Flanagan's on-air name, accused one of the victims of “racist comments,” and noted that a complaint had been filed with a government agency that enforces discrimination claims.

In a 23-page fax ABC News said was sent two hours after the shooting, he cited as his tipping point the racially motivated shooting that killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this summer.

Saying he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, Flanagan described himself as “a human powder keg,” the network said.

Flanagan aired similar grievances in a 2000 lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court against a Florida station, WTWC-TV in Tallahassee. In that suit, he said a producer had called him a “monkey,” and he accused a supervisor of calling black people lazy for not taking advantage of college scholarship opportunities.

The Florida case was settled and dismissed the next year, court records show.

One of his former Florida colleagues remembered Flanagan as “quirky,” but said he never displayed behavior suggesting he would be capable of such a violent crime.

“He had his idiosyncrasies, a little quirky sometimes,” said Michael Walker, the weekend producer at the Tallahassee station when Flanagan was working as a weekend anchor. “It probably wasn't any different than any other on-air personality.”

Walker, who is also black, noted that he had not experienced discrimination at the station.

Flanagan, who accused the station of terminating his contract because he had filed a report of racism with a state agency, said in the lawsuit he suffered emotional distress and financial losses as a result of his treatment at the station.

The NBC affiliate, which stopped broadcasting newscasts in late 2000, said at the time of the lawsuit that his contract was not renewed due to “corporate belt-tightening,” according to an article in the Tallahassee Democrat at that time.

Representatives from the station could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flanagan's 20-year career in journalism included stints at local news stations in San Francisco; Savannah, Georgia; and Midland, Texas, according to his LinkedIn profile. It said he also worked briefly outside of journalism as a customer service representative.

He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio and television, the school confirmed.

According to a Facebook page believed to belong to the suspect, he was originally from Oakland, California, but most recently living in Roanoke, Virginia, where WDBJ7 broadcasts.

There, he gained a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with because of his anger, station manager Jeff Marks said during a live broadcast.

“Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said, adding that he had to be escorted out of the building by police after he was terminated from the station in 2013.

“He did not take that well,” he added.

Colorado movie gunman Holmes to be formally sentenced to life


Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes will be sentenced to life with no chance of parole at a three-day hearing that begins on Monday following his conviction last month for murdering 12 people and wounding 70 in his rampage.

While the murder convictions carry mandatory life sentences with no parole, Colorado law requires that Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour formally impose the penalties. Samour must also decide the punishment for the other charges Holmes was convicted of.

A jury found Holmes guilty of 165 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosive charges stemming from the July 20, 2012, mass shooting inside a Denver-area multiplex during a midnight screening of a Batman movie.

The 27-year-old onetime neuroscience graduate student had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors had sought the death penalty.

The nine-woman, three-man jury could not unanimously agree to condemn Holmes to death during the trial's penalty phase. Under Colorado law, he must automatically serve 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

About 100 people are set to give victim impact statements at this week's hearing, the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office said in a statement. The victims cannot address Holmes directly.

After the testimony from victims, lead prosecutor George Brauchler will present his sentencing argument, the statement said.

Defense lawyers can present mitigation evidence on the attempted murder convictions, but it is unclear if they will do so. It is also unknown whether Holmes will make a statement before he is sentenced. He declined to speak in his own defense throughout the earlier proceedings.

The California native could ultimately be sentenced to a maximum of 3,318 years in prison, in addition to the mandatory life sentences, prosecutors said.

France train gunman identified as Islamist militant


Fingerprint evidence shows that the gunman overpowered by passengers on a train in France is a Morrocan known to European authorities as a suspected Islamist militant, according to a source familiar with the case.

Two people were wounded in the struggle to subdue the Kalashnikov-toting attacker aboard the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday. Three young Americans, one of whom suffered knife wounds, were among the passengers who stopped the gunman.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters the gunman appeared to be a 26-year-old Moroccan who had been “identified by the Spanish authorities to French intelligence services in February 2014 because of his connections to the radical Islamist movement.”

Cazeneuve did not give a name, but the source named him as Ayoub el Khazzani and said he was believed to have flown from Berlin to Istanbul on May 10 this year. Turkey is a preferred flight destination for would-be jihadists heading for Syria.

According to a Spanish counter-terrorism source, Spanish authorities had a suspect they identified as Khazzani under surveillance before he left Spain for France in 2014, traveled to Syria, and then came back to France.

In Spain, he lived in Madrid between 2007 and 2010 before moving to the southern port of Algeciras. He was arrested in Spain at least once for a drug-related offence, the Spanish counter-terrorism source said.

Cazeneuve said he had also lived in Belgium and that inquiries “should establish precisely the activities and travels of this terrorist”.

French newspaper Le Voix du Nord said the suspect may have had connections to a group involved in a suspected Islamist shooting in Belgium in January. The Belgian government confirmed an inquiry was under way but would not comment further.

French authorities have been on high alert since January, when 17 people were killed in shootings by Islamist militants in and around Paris.

KALASHNIKOV, PISTOL, AND BOX CUTTER 

The train attacker was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and an automatic pistol, both with accompanying ammunition clips. He also had a box cutter knife. Cazeneuve said the struggle started when a Frenchman on his way to the toilet tried to stop the man entering a carriage.

The wounded American, Spencer Stone, an airman from the U.S. air base in Lajes, Azores, was treated on Saturday at a specialist hospital for hand injuries in the northern French city of Lille.

Among the other passengers who helped stop the attacker were Stone's friends: National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and another American, student Anthony Sadler. Skarlatos had returned last month from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and the three were on holiday together in Europe.

Cazeneuve said the other wounded person was of Franco-American nationality and hit by a bullet while seated. Hospital authorities said the person had a chest wound and was in a serious but stable condition.

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade was also slightly hurt, and had stitches in his hand.

“We were stuck in the wrong place with the right people,” Anglade was quoted as saying on BFMTV. “It's miraculous.”

President Barack Obama hailed the passengers as heroes: “It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy,” he said in a statement.

President Francois Hollande is due to thank them in person on Monday.

The gunman was transferred on Saturday to the Paris region from Arras in northern Francewhere the incident took place. Cazeneuve said under the terms of his arrest the man can be held for four days without being charged.

The shooting took place on a Thalys high-speed train. The Franco-Belgian state transport group runs international trains linking France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

All four countries are part of the Schengen area through which people travel without the need for passports and security check-ins. Experts have long said the trains are a potential target for attacks.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in January there were more than 3,000 potentially dangerous Islamists under surveillance in France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim community.

Most of the attacks and foiled attacks this year in France have been carried out by people who were on that list, but government officials say the surveillance cannot be constant.

“When there's nothing to justify an arrest, there comes a time when you move on to other individuals,” said Sébastien Pietrasanta, a Socialist lawmaker who drafted France's latest anti-terror legislation.

“Given the number of individual linked to radical Islamism its becomes complicated,” he told Reuters.

“We take 100 percent precautions but that does not mean 0 percent risk.”