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California Wildfire That Killed Two Was Started to Cover Up Murder, Officials Say

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A wildfire that took place in 2020 was intentionally set to cover up a murder.

What We Know:

  • The Markley Fire was set near a dam in Solano County. Solano County sheriff’s office and Vacaville police reported that the burned body of a Priscilla Castro was later found in that area. Two other individuals were also found dead in their homes from the fire. Sheriff Tom Ferrara said that Douglas Mai and Leon Bone were also victims in the fire at a news conference.
  • A Victor Serriteno was arrested by Vacaville police back in September and charged with murder in Castro’s death. According to the city’s District Attorney, prosecutors will file to add two more murder and arson charges. The Markley Fire started on August 18th, and Castro’s body was found one month later in a rural area. Investigators believe Castro went to meet Serentino in Vacaville on August 16th and was never heard from again afterward.
  • Authorities believe Serriteno deliberately started the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime. The investigation lasted about eight months before a conclusion had been reached. Online court records show a public defender is representing Serriteno. The Markley Fire combined with a larger fire called the Hennessy Fire.
  • The larger fire was known as part of the “LNU Lightning Complex” fires. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has considered this one of the largest wildfires in California history. The fires were a result of two days of lightning strikes. The LNU Complex destroyed almost 1,500 structures and has claimed six lives.

The LNU complex was fully contained by early October, and Cal Fire said the 2020 fire season would be counted as one of the most severe in the history of the United States.

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Crime

7 People Dead In Colorado Birthday Party Shooting

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According to authorities, a lone gunman opened fire at a birthday party on Sunday, killing six before killing himself.

What We Know:

  • Shortly after midnight, the shooting took place in a mobile home park on the east side of Colorado Springs. Officers responded to a call at 12:18 a.m. and arrived at the trailer to find six adults dead, according to NPR. Another man with serious injuries was found who later died at the hospital.
  • In what Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers called “a senseless act of violence,” the shooter entered the mobile home and opened fire. Family friends and children were gathered inside the trailer, but no children were hurt in the shooting. Police say the suspected shooter was the boyfriend of one of the female guests at the party.
  • Gladis Bustos, who lives near where the shooting happened, described the night as quiet before the commotion happened. Bustos said the incident was “a bad, traumatic experience for everyone.” Another neighbor, Denise Knoll, was left speechless by the events. “There’s not really any words, you know? Why people do things like this, I just don’t get it,” said Knoll to NBC.
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called the Mother’s Day shooting “devastating,” offering his condolences to the victims’ families. Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski said in a statement a shooting of this kind is something you hope never happens in your community and that the police department would do everything in its power to investigate what happened.
  • The tragic incident in Colorado Springs is the first mass shooting in the state since March. During that incident, ten people were killed when a gunman walked into a grocery store and opened fire. The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School remains one of the most notable mass shootings in the state and nation’s history.

The identities of those killed in the shooting have not yet been released, and the investigation is ongoing. Colorado Springs is the second-largest city in the state after Denver.

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Crime

FBI Opens Civil Rights Investigation into Andrew Brown Jr. Shooting

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The FBI confirmed Tuesday that it would investigate the killing of Andrew Brown Jr.

What We Know:

  • Brown is a black man from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, who was shot dead by police during an arrest last week. The investigation was announced just one day after attorneys for Brown’s family were allowed to watch 20 seconds of body cam footage. The 42-year-old was shot in the back of the head while he had hands-on his steering wheel. Brown’s autopsy revealed that he was shot five times in all, including four times in his right arm.
  • Sheriff’s deputies shot Brown in an attempt to serve a drug-related search and arrest warrants. Seven of the deputies involved have since been placed on paid leave. A statement by the FBI claims that investigators will work closely with the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina to determine if federal laws were violated.
  • The spokesperson declined to go into further details as the investigation is ongoing. Brown was killed just one day after a jury found Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd.  Attorney’s for Brown’s family are condemning his murder and also asking for more footage to be released. A request has been made to a judge that they permit the release of said video.
  • Brown’s family claims the police appeared to lack justification for using deadly force based on what they were allowed to see. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten has asked for patience while investigations continue. It isn’t clear how long the FBI’s investigation into Brown’s death will continue. The investigation will mainly look into whether federal laws were broken during the arrest.

“Pattern-or-practice” investigations probe whether police departments routinely violate civil rights laws.

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Experts Believe a Contagion Effect could be Tied to Recent Mass Shootings

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Within the last few months, America has witnessed over 140 mass shootings. Now, experts are suggesting the uptick in gun violence is related to a contagious effect.

What We Know:

  • As more pandemic restrictions are lifted nationwide, mass shootings are back on the rise. With back-to-back shootings over the weekend, professionals are holding to a theory that suggests that widely publicized incidents increase the chances of mass shootings to follow.
  • Jillian Peterson, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and co-founder of The Violence Project, a nonprofit research center, explained the process stating, “We do know that those types of mass shootings are contagious, that they tend to spread through things like the media and social media. Those people who are maybe vulnerable see themselves in other perpetrators who do this, people who already have kind of their own history of trauma, who are maybe feeling suicidal, who are in crisis, who have access to weapons, they see one make national headlines, and there is this copycat effect.”
  • Peterson’s research has found that mass shooters often suffer from trauma, a need for validation, access to weapons, and reaching a crisis point are common risk factors for mass shooters. Shooters have become notorious for their violent crimes, with the media blasting their names and faces on cable news and across social media for days. A 2015 study found that such coverage heightens the probability of similar incidents for an average of 13 days after the event.
  • Like Peterson, clinical and forensic psychologist Joel Dvoskin stated that separating mass shooting prevention from suicide prevention is a mistake. “If you think about it, whenever somebody decides to kill a bunch of people, they’re deciding to end their life as they know it,” Dvoskin said. “Nobody goes back to their job. Nobody goes back to their family. Either they kill themselves, or they make sure that the police kill them, or they go away for the rest of their life to either prison or a hospital.”
  • Others warn there are too many other factors at play outside of the contagious effect. Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of medicine for Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, hesitated to put too much emphasis on individual motives. “I just think that there needs to be much more common ground and common cause in terms of that research, policy, intervention, alliance,” he added.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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