Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Calm replaces chaos in troubled Missouri town

FERGUSON, Mo. — Federal and state officials unveiled a sweeping response Thursday to violent clashes between police and protesters over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, with Missouri taking over security operations from local police and authorities agreeing to accept Justice Department help in handling protests.

Speaking from Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where he is on vacation, President Barack Obama called for national unity following the police shooting Saturday of Michael Brown, 18. "Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson," Obama said. "Let's remember that we're all part of one American family."

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. then announced a series of steps his department is taking, including a meeting held Thursday with civic leaders to calm tensions and an escalating civil rights investigation in which federal investigators have already interviewed witnesses to the shooting.

In unusually blunt remarks, Holder said he was "deeply concerned" about "the deployment of military equipment and vehicles" on Ferguson's streets and that Missouri officials have accepted federal assistance "to conduct crowd control and maintain public safety without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force."

Even as dozens of protesters continued their campaign near the shooting scene for a fifth day Thursday, state officials followed the federal lead. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the Missouri Highway Patrol would take over security operations in Ferguson, led by Capt. Ronald Johnson, an African-American man who grew up in the area. "We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we're in this together," Johnson said.

As a result, the heavy riot armor, the SWAT trucks with sniper posts and the gas masks were gone from the streets of Ferguson Thursday night, and Johnson marched with the crowd, eliciting cheers from the protesters. Johnson vowed to not blockade the streets, to set up a media staging center and to ensure that residents' rights to assemble and protest were not infringed upon.

"I'm not afraid to be in this crowd," Johnson declared to reporters.

Obama's remarks were the most visible step in a rapid coalescence among political and community leaders to tamp down the violence, as images of riot police, tear gas and government intervention provoked a national debate about race and justice that recalled civil rights battles of a half-century ago.

In a sudden burst of interest fueled by photos and video of heavily armed police that swirled on social media, politicians from both sides of the aisle rushed on Thursday — five days after the shooting — to condemn the tactics of the nearly all-white police force in the predominantly African-American town.

The reactions were remarkably similar across the political spectrum. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for example, called for authorities to "demilitarize this situation," while Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a likely Republican presidential candidate, condemned "the militarization of our law enforcement" in a Time magazine essay.

But on the ground in Ferguson, the support from politicians at all levels was met with skepticism, and it was unclear how much effect it would have.

Eddie Hasan, a St. Louis resident who helped organize a forum Thursday night at a local Baptist church for young people to voice their concerns, called on elected officials to play a greater role in calming tensions. "This forum, this chance for the youth to speak out absolutely should have happened sooner," he said. "Hopefully it helps us get some resolution to the issue."

Underlying the dispute was the continuing lack of clarity about just what happened Saturday night in Ferguson.

According to a friend who says he witnessed the incident, Brown was walking down a Ferguson street when a police officer in a car ordered him to get on the sidewalk. Brown had his hands in the air to show he was unarmed when the officer shot him multiple times, the friend said.

The police version is that Brown attacked the officer in his car and tried to grab his gun. Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson said during a news conference on Wednesday that the officer was struck in the face during the encounter. The side of the officer's face was "swollen," Jackson said, and he was treated at an area hospital.

The Justice Department's civil rights division, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis and the local FBI field office, are investigating the shooting to determine if anyone's civil rights were violated. The federal inquiry is running parallel to the state investigation.

Holder, who met with Obama on Thursday to discuss the case, said: "Our review will take time to conduct, but it will be thorough and fair."

Another key source of frustration for residents is that police, after initially promising to identify the officer involved in the shooting, have backtracked because of what they say are threats to his safety.

The lack of specifics about the shooting has many protesters vowing to continue their campaign. Dozens of people did so on Thursday near the shooting scene and outside the police station.

Many residents said that they do not care if elected officials ever show up. "I don't want to see any governors, or any mayors, or even any more cameras," said Derrick Beavers, 32, a protester who said he knew Brown personally. "I want justice."

   
Comments
Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

North CarolinaBooty and books on boardDead men tell no tales, but there’s new evidence that somebody aboard the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship harbored books among the booty. In an unusual find, researchers have discovered shreds of paper bearing legib...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Consumer agency to spend rainy day funds

NEW YORK — The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund. In a letter to the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

A Tampa man convicted of DUI manslaughter for drunkenly running down a tourist and released on bail while his case winds through the appeals process was arrested Tuesday.Brock Troutman, 34, violated the conditions of his release from jail by consumin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

TAMPA — The bearded man with shackled hands sat weeping as he listened to witness after witness — his mother, aunt and sister among them — recount his childhood of poverty, abuse, and depression.Kyle Moran leaned forward occasionally, stretching to w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

PORT RICHEY — Loretta Santini was one of a small group of customers boarding a Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle Thursday afternoon as the company sailed for the first day since another of its shuttle boats burned to the water Sunday, killing one woman....
Updated: 4 hours ago

The Reading File: Excerpts from interesting articles

Exploring the gray areasIn the Atlantic, James Hamblin writes that "the story of Aziz Ansari and ‘Grace’ is playing out as a sort of Rorschach test." Read "This Is Not A Sex Panic" in full at http://theatln.tc/2mOvCKf. Here’s an excerpt.To target onl...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Leaders can’t job-out responsibility for bad substitute teachers

Joe Henderson: Leaders can’t job-out responsibility for bad substitute teachers

Sometimes, people in authority need a reality check before they can recognize a problem that should have been obvious. In this case, it took a meticulously reported story last Sunday by education writer Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times to alert ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-thru for Taco Bell

DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-thru for Taco Bell

SPRING HILL — A 38-year-old Tampa man was arrested Wednesday on a charge of driving under the influence involving drugs or alcohol after deputies said he mistook a Bank of America drive-thru for a Taco Bell.The branch manager of the Mariner Boulevard...
Updated: 5 hours ago