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NC Civil Rights Leaders Asking for DOJ Investigation into the Shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

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Civil rights activists and religious leaders met with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday to request that the Department of Justice investigate the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Andrew Brown Jr.

What We Know:

  • On April 21st, Pasquotank County sheriff deputies went to Brown’s home to serve him an arrest warrant. Brown, a father of seven, attempted to drive away and was shot multiple times by the deputies. A month later, Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble stated that the police officers’ use of deadly force was justified, stating, “Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified because Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.”
  • Along with Cooper, State Attorney General Josh Stein and members of the legislative Black Caucus were in attendance at the meeting. Keith Rivers, Pasquotank County’s NAACP chapter president, stated that the meeting was “outstanding, uplifting, rejuvenated, and re-energized.”
  • Cooper believes further investigation by federal officials is needed and that “special prosecutors” should handle police shootings. He also supports state laws that make it easier for the public to obtain access to body camera footage of law enforcement-involved shootings.
  • On Thursday, the group of activists traveled to Washington, DC, to met and hand-delivered a letter to the DOJ requesting them to conduct a pattern-or-practice civil rights investigation into Brown’s death. According to CNN, the meeting did take place and went “exceedingly well.”
  • Rivers issued a statement saying, “[we’ve] attempted every action to get transparency at the local level, without any cooperation. Today’s meeting in Washington will make sure the voices of the people of Pasquotank County are heard. Our community has lived for decades with a long-standing history of racial discrimination from law enforcement and government officials that must be addressed by independent intervention. Our community cannot rest without impartial justice, accountability and transformative change.”
  • The three deputies who shot their weapons, Deputy Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan, and Deputy Aaron Lewellyn, were all placed on administrative leave. At the same time, the State Bureau of Investigation looked into the shooting. The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Friday that Meads and Morgan were reinstated on June 1st and 2nd, while Lewellyn has decided to resign at the end of the month. Womble has informed the public that the returning deputies will not face charges, but they will be “disciplined and retrained.”

No further information on if the DOJ will open a pattern-or-practice investigation. In April, the FBI announced they are separately conducting a federal civil investigation into Brown’s death.

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Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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