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Prolific Bank Robber Dubbed the ‘Too Tall Bandit’ Strikes After Taking 2-year Break: FBI

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Standing at about 6-feet 8-inches, the infamous ‘Too Tall Bandit’ has robbed yet another North Carolina bank.

What We Know:

  • According to Yahoo News, the prolific bandit has eluded police for over 11 years. He recently re-ignited his crime spree in November after what the FBI believed to be a two-year hiatus. The robber is suspected to be responsible for holding up 16 banks and one pharmacy, disguising himself in Halloween-style masks.
  • The prolific bank robber has frequented South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As his nickname suggests, the suspect is approximately a towering 6-feet 8-inches and about 250 pounds. He is also believed to have a limp that impacts his right leg. The FBI suspects the bandit to be a white male in his 40s.
  • His most recent stint was last Friday, where he robbed the United Community Bank in Etowah, North Carolina. Recently, the FBI released security camera footage of the armed bandit in hopes that someone will come forward and recognize the robber. He is considered to be armed and dangerous. Back in 2018, the FBI offered a heavy $15,000 reward for any information on the bandit, but to no avail.

  • Previously, the robber’s last known hold-up was back at SunTrust Bank in Franklin, Tennessee on Jan. 4, 2019. ABC News states that officials believe he robbed the same bank in 2012.

Spokesperson, Shelley Lynch, for the FBI in Charlotte, North Carolina, told ABC News on Wednesday: We’re just hoping someone can give us that tip we need to identify him before someone gets hurt. It is definitely a concern.”

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Crime

U.S. Soldier Arrested in Plot to Blow Up 9/11 NYC Memorial

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A U.S. Army soldier was arrested in Georgia on charges that he plotted to blow up the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. (Inset: FB via United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Alejandra Villa-Pool/Getty Image)

A U.S. Army soldier was detained Tuesday in Georgia on terrorism charges after he talked online about plans to blow up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and other monuments and assault U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, officials said.

What We Know:

  • Cole James Bridges from Stow, Ohio, was in custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization, the Islamic State group, and attempted murder of a military member, stated Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for Manhattan federal prosecutors.
  • The 20-year-old soldier, also identified as Cole Gonzales, was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, when he believed he was chatting with the Islamic State online about the terrorism plots, Biase mentioned.
  • According to a criminal objection in Manhattan federal court, Bridges entered the U.S. Army in September 2019 and was appointed a cavalry scout in Fort Stewart. Unknown to Bridges, an FBI employee was in on the chat. Biase said Bridges gave detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and information about attacking the memorial and other New York City targets.
  • “As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East,” William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office stated in a press release.

“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” he continued.

  • According to court papers, he communicated his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to help the Islamic State group. The criminal complaint stated he then gave training and guidance to professed Islamic State fighters who were plotting attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, including the 9/11 Memorial.
  • Bridges also outlined specific military tactics to help the terrorist group’s fighters kill U.S. troops, including the best way to strengthen an encampment to resist an attack by U.S. Special Forces and how to wire specific buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops, the complaint said.

He was programmed to make a first appearance in federal court in Georgia on Thursday. It was not instantly clear who would represent him.

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Texas Man Who Stormed Capitol Accused of Threat To Shoot Children If They Turned Him In

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A man part of the January 6th attack at the U.S. Capitol has been arrested and accused of threatening to shoot children if turned in. 

What We Know:

  • Guy Reffitt was apart of the U.S. Capitol storming. He was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority. In an NBC News report, Reffitt traveled from Dallas to Washington with a pistol in hand to “protect his country.” 
  • According to police statements, Reffitt wore a black helmet and a tactical vest to the Capitol. His son reported he wore a GoPro camera on his helmet as well. Video footage of Reffitt saw him appearing to flush his eyes out with water.
  • Refit allegedly threatened his family. He told his daughter he would “put a bullet through” her cellphone if she revealed him on social media. His wife told authorities that Refit threatened his children not to turn him in, saying, “you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot.” 
  • Reffitt was a member of the far-right 3 Percenters militia group. His wife added that he often expressed extreme statements. She did not believe he would ever go through with his words. 
  • After his arrest Saturday, Refit told police he went to the capital but never went inside. Records do not show whether he has an attorney. 

Reffitt is among many others arrested after the riot at the Capitol. Over 300 cases have been opened in relation to the riot. 

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Trans Man Killed Amid Puerto Rico’s ‘Wave of Homophobic and Transphobic’ Violence

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Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín.via Facebook

Authorities from Puerto Rico are investigating the death of a transgender man found with multiple gunshot wounds on Jan. 9.

What We Know:

  • WAPA, a local news station, stated a motorist was driving on a dark section of highway in Trujillo Alto, a town about 15 miles southeast of San Juan when she hit something. As she stepped out of her vehicle, she recognized it was a dead body and informed the police, who identified the victim as Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín.
  • Police originally misgendered Damián, who had posted his current home as Juncos on Facebook, less than 15 miles from Trujillo Alto. Homicide director Lt. José Padín, with the criminal investigation unit in nearby Carolina, stated to the San Juan Daily Star, Damián “had no identifications nor were there family members who were able to identify him beforehand.”
  • According to the Daily Star, his mother and stepfather were ultimately able to identify his body but used his birth name. “His mom told me that he would always prefer for others to call him Samuel, Sam, or Sammy when he was out in the streets,” Padín mentioned.
  • The founder of the LGBTQ advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Pedro Julio Serrano, stated police aren’t doing sufficient enough to deal with “the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that haunts us like never before.”

“They are violating us, they are hunting us and they are killing us while Wanda Vázquez and her government turn a blind eye,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, in a statement.

  • Puerto Rico’s hate crime law incorporates both sexual orientation and gender identity, but, according to Metro Weekly, local prosecutors rarely apply them. There are not enough investigations being done in the crimes, and it truly does not seem a priority. Sadly, Damián is not the only victim of such heinous crimes.
  • Two trans women  Layla Peláez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez, 32, were found inside a burned-out car in Humacao last spring. Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31, was beaten and hanged in a men’s prison in Bayamon. In February, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, also known as Alexa, was shot to death in Toa Alta. Yampi Mendez Arocho and  Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas were also killed.
  • The Transgender Law Center mourned Damian’s murder in a tweet Wednesday, expressing, “We are horrified at what you experienced in your last moments. Trans men deserve dignity and the chance to thrive.”

  • In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, Damián posted on Facebook about his excitement for the “new year to come.”

“[I’m] grateful for all the experiences that taught me how strong we really are,” he wrote. “To life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is to come forth.”

No motive or suspects have been found. Damián is the seventh known transgender individual murdered by the violence in Puerto Rico since last February.

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