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Rayshard Brooks Update: Death Ruled a Homicide

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Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police in Atlanta on Friday night outside of a Wendy’s after police responded to a call about him being asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane. On Sunday night his death was ruled a homicide.

What We Know:

  • According to a press release on Sunday night, the Fulton County Medical Examiners Office ruled Brooks’ death as a homicide concluding that Brooks suffered from two gunshot wounds of his back that created organ injuries and blood loss.
  • Within hours of the shooting, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned from her position, officer Garrett Rolfe who fired the shots at Brooks was fired, and the accompanying officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
  • The encounter was recorded on the officers’ bodycams and surveillance cameras which depicted a seemingly friendly encounter at first as Brooks cooperated with a sobriety test. Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN, “I watched the interaction with Mr. Brooks and it broke my heart. This was not confrontational. This was a guy that you were rooting for”.
  • When the officer went to arrest Brooks, he struggled with both officers at the scene before breaking free and running across the parking lot with what appears to be a police Taser in his hand. Surveillance footage shows Brooks running away, potentially pointing the Taser at the pursuing officers, before one of them fires his gun and Brooks falls.
  • Reactions to the shooting centered around the belief that this incident did not call for lethal force as Brooks did not possess a deadly weapon. Representative James Clyburn appeared on a CNN program over the weekend to condemn the actions taken by the officers involved, saying, “they’d already patted him down, he had no weapon on him — where did they think he was going to go?” Later adding, “so he’s running away — my goodness, you’ve got his car, you can easily find him. But no, you fire bullets into his back.” Bottoms agreed with this sentiment on Saturday saying, “I do not believe this was a justified use of deadly force”.
  • Brooks’ death reignited protests across the city after days of worldwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd. Clyburn told CNN, “this did not call for lethal force, and I don’t know what’s in the culture that would make this guy do that. It’s got to be the culture, it’s got to be the system” which aligns with calls from protestors demanding the defunding of the police system in America.
  • In the aftermath of the shooting, demonstrators in Atlanta took to the streets and called for the officers in Brooks’ case to be criminally charged. The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks died was set on fire.

  • On Sunday, police offered a $10,000 reward for information on the Wendy’s arson, publishing photos of what appeared to be a masked white woman thought to be in connection with the fire.

Released by the Atlanta Police Department as the potential arson suspect.

  • Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced on Sunday afternoon that he is considering murder charges for Rolfe, the officer involved, saying he could face charges of either murder or felony murder. Howard later told CNN, “Brooks did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable”. Prosecutors would decide by midweek whether to bring charges.
  • Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Brooks’ killing shows the need for severe restrictions in the use of deadly force, calling for an investigation and accountability, later saying “sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death”.

Our thoughts go out to the loved ones of Rayshard Brooks. We will continue to update this story as it develops.

 

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Prosecutors Say R. Kelly Abused 17-Year-Old Boy

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Prosecutors say that former R&B singer R.Kelly abused a 17-year-old boy in 2006 after meeting him at a Chicago McDonald’s.

What We Know:

  • Lawyers claim that the singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, initially offered to help the boy with his music career and invited him to his studio. After Kelly questioned the boy on what he would do to make it in the industry, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with the minor.
  • The young boy also introduced his 16 or 17-year-old male friend to Kelly; the singer eventually began a relationship with this other boy. Prosecutors allege that Kelly filmed the two minors engaging in sexual acts with others, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, including an under-aged female.
  • In addition, when Kelly faced child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the first boy told him he knew one of the jurors. Kelly proceeded to ask the boy to contact the juror and vouch that Kelly was a “good guy.” However, the prosecutors’ filings do not specify if the youth did so.
  • Attorneys want judges to consider hearing this evidence during Kelly’s upcoming August trial. They believe this information will show that Kelly’s actions “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern.”
  • The Grammy Award winner has faced scrutiny for his sexual behavior for a while. Currently, he faces charges for recruiting women and girls for sex and pornography and exercising control over them. These include child sexual exploitation, making indecent images of minors, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. According to lawyers, Kelly managed a “criminal enterprise” alongside managers, bodyguards, and other employees. These charges involve six different victims. In addition to the aforementioned sufferers, prosecutors want jurors to hear the stories of more than one dozen others who experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of Kelly.

Because of the accusations, Kelly has been in jail for two years while awaiting his day in court.

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Gender Reveal Party Couple Face Jail Time over Deadly California Wildfire

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A California couple whose gender reveal party allegedly started a deadly wildfire faces involuntary manslaughter charges and a lengthy stint in jail.

What We Know:

  • Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez set off a smoke bomb during their gender reveal party back in September 2020 in Yucaipa, California. The “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” supposedly sparked the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County. Survallience footage showed the family light the smoke bomb at the edge of the El Dorado Ranch Park and was seen trying to put flames out. The wildfire burned over 22,000 acres, destroyed multiple homes and properties, and lasted more than two months.
  • While trying to put out the fire, firefighter Charles Morton was killed, and many others were injured. Morton, 39, had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, 14 of them with the US Forest Service. US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen stated that Morton was a “well-respected leader” and was always there for his crew.
  • Refugio and Angela have been charged with 30 crimes: three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, 22 misdemeanor counts, and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. On Tuesday, the couple pleaded not guilty.
  • During a news conference, Jason Anderson, San Bernardino County District Attorney, said that a grand jury heard 34 witnesses and saw 434 exhibits. He mentioned that the fire affected the community tremendously and that at least six different agencies “were involved in containing, extinguishing, and investigating” the wildfire.

“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” said Anderson

  • Gender reveal parties are where couples find out the gender of their baby. They could cut into a cake and see if the inside is blue for a boy or pink for a girl, pop a big balloon to see the color of the confetti, or even do a song that reveals the gender at the end. Over the years, gender reveals have gotten more elaborate and dangerous.
  • In February, a father-to-be died after the gender reveal device he was building exploded on him, and in 2017 a gender reveal party sparked a wildfire in Arizona, burning close to 47,000 acres. The expected father in that incident pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to five years of probation, and had to pay nearly $8.2 million in fines.

Refugio and Angela were released on their own recognizance and are set to return to court on September 15th. If found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in jail.

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First Felony Sentence for January Insurrection Handed to Florida Man

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A Florida man was the first to be convicted of a felony in relation to the riots at the US Capitol on January 6th.

What We Know:

  • Paul Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty to a single count of obstructing an official proceeding last month. The crane operator, along with others, breached the US Capitol at the alledged request of former President Donald Trump. The former Commander in Chief held a rally where he said dangerous rhetoric about the election being rigged. He told his supporters to go to the Capitol, where they were counting electoral votes, and urge senators to overturn the presidential election results.
  • Hodgkins was seen walking onto the Senate floor holding a red “Trump 2020” flag and wearing a Trump shirt. He went to Washington initially for the rally that was held near the White House. He stated that he had no idea that day would end with him storming the capitol and that he was caught up in “the passion of the day.”
  • The US Justice Department considered the events of Jan. 6th as “acts of domestic terrorism.” They encouraged the judge to treat Hodgkins on the same level as those who are deemed domestic terrorists. Since Hodgkins took a plea deal, the government agency asked District Judge Randolph Moss to sentence him to 1.5 years in prison. Prosecutor Mona Sedky claimed that giving Hodgkins harsh sentencing would stop future people who planned on recreating the events of that day.
  • In court on Monday, Hodgkins spoke for about 10 minutes on how “remorseful” he was and that he “regretted” his actions on that day. He believes that the riots caused great harm to the “country that he loves,” and he takes full responsibility for his part in it.
  • Although Moss considered Hodgkins’ actions “utterly unacceptable,” he didn’t believe him a threat and stated how he didn’t have any previous criminal history. Moss sentenced Hodgkins to eight months in prison, two years on probation, and ordered him to pay $2,000 in damage fees.

“Hodgkins did some very bad things that day and caused some real damage to this country, but I don’t consider him to be a threat or see him as an evil person. This is a very bad episode in his life and a very bad episode in this country … some sentences will be far higher, and some will be far lower. This is what I believe is a fair sentence,” said Moss.

  • Over 530 people have been charged since Jan. 6th, with the help of social media and surveillance cameras. Of that number, “165 accused of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers,” and over 50 charged with “using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.” According to CNN,  20 people have already pled guilty and are awaiting their sentencing, while two charged with misdemeanors have already been sentenced: one to six months and one to three years probation.

Many charged rioters are pushing the idea of going to trial as they believe they did nothing wrong. Hodgkins walked out of court happy with the results and will be allowed to self-surrender once he is informed of where he will carry out his 8-month sentence.

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