FBI says it interviewed FedEx mass shooter last year
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop,” the bureau said Friday.
Coroners released the names of the victims late Friday, a little less than 24 hours after the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S. Four of them were members of Indianapolis' Sikh community. The attack was another blow to the Asian American community a month after six people of Asian descent were killed in a mass shooting in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Marion County Coroner's office identified the dead as Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said.
Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.
Raul Castro resigns as Communist chief, ending era in Cuba
HAVANA (AP) — Raul Castro said Friday he is stepping down as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership that began with his brother Fidel and country’s 1959 revolution.
The 89-year-old Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the eighth congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.
He said he was retiring with the sense of having “fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland.”
“Nothing, nothing, nothing is forcing me to make this decision,” said Castro, part of whose speech to the closed Congress was aired on state television. “As long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrup to defend the homeland, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever.”
Castro didn’t say who he would endorse as his successor as first secretary of the Communist Party. But he previously indicated he favors yielding control to 60-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018 and is the standard bearer of a younger generation of loyalists who have been pushing an economic opening without touching Cuba’s one-party system.
What to expect in closings for ex-cop's trial in Floyd death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For three weeks, prosecutors at the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd played and replayed video, supplementing the bystander video that shocked the world with multiple other angles of Floyd’s arrest. And over and over, Derek Chauvin’s attorney argued that the visual evidence is deceptive, and that Floyd was killed by his drug use and a bad heart.
On Monday, attorneys on both sides will seek to drive home their cases in closing arguments that cover much of the same ground, seeking to tie their evidence into neat packages for jurors.
Prosecutors will draw on expert testimony, videos and other evidence to explain how the white officer's actions on May 25, when he pinned the Black man's neck to the pavement with his knee for nearly 9 1/2 minutes, were “a substantial cause” of Floyd's death. And they'll highlight testimony from top Minneapolis police officials and outside use-of-force experts that an “objectively reasonable” officer would not have used that kind of force.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Eric Nelson will try to persuade jurors that elements of testimony he elicited from prosecution witnesses and his own witnesses add up to reasonable doubt over what caused Floyd's death, whether Chauvin is responsible, or whether Floyd deserves a substantial amount of the blame.
“If I was Nelson, I'd do a lot of things, because a lot of things need to be done,” Joe Friedberg, a local defense attorney not involved in the case, said. “He's in desperate trouble here.”
Biden's appeals for action on guns, policing face reality
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the nation struggles with yet another mass shooting and faces a reckoning over the deaths of Black men at the hands of police, President Joe Biden is calling for action. Going beyond that, however, is proving a lot more difficult.
Three months into his presidency, Biden's robust agenda is running up against the realities of his narrow Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and the Senate's limited ability to tackle multiple pieces of large-scale legislation at once. With the White House focusing first on a sweeping coronavirus relief package and now a sprawling infrastructure plan that is likely to dominate the congressional calendar for months, issues like gun control and police reform appear likely to take a back seat.
Biden on Friday insisted that wasn't the case, saying that on the issue of gun control in particular, “I've never not prioritized this.” He spoke a day after a gunman killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, the latest in a rash of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks.
At issue for Biden are many of the central promises he made to Democratic voters — particularly Black voters who helped propel him to the White House — both about his priorities and his ability to maneuver in Washington, where issues like gun control have languished for years. The mass shootings, as well as renewed focus on police killings of Americans of color following incidents in Chicago and a Minneapolis suburb, have increased demands for action
DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of Just LeadershipUSA, a police reform advocacy group, suggested activists are willing to be patient but not for long. She welcomed Biden's recent executive orders on gun control, which took modest steps toward tightening background checks, but said “those actions don't go far enough.”
Chicago police critics call for charges in shooting of boy
CHICAGO (AP) — Newly released video that shows a Chicago police officer fatally shoot a 13-year-old will be key evidence when prosecutors consider a case against the officer and are confronted with both the emotions surrounding the chilling footage and legal precedent that makes it difficult to bring charges against law enforcement.
Video of last month's encounter was released Thursday and provoked an outpouring of grief and outrage. It shows Officer Eric Stillman shooting Adam Toledo less than a second after the boy drops a handgun, turns toward Stillman and begins raising his hands.
Some viewers have called for Stillman to be charged or fired. But for others, the video shows how difficult such decisions might be for prosecutors and police higher-ups, with an officer making a quick decision to shoot after chasing a suspect down a dark alley while responding to a report about gunshots.
Whether Stillman is charged will be up to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which will get the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s report after the independent board completes its investigation.
Several legal experts said Friday that they don’t think Stillman could be charged under criteria established by a landmark 1989 Supreme Court ruling on the use of force by police, though another said prosecutors might see enough evidence to justify an involuntary manslaughter charge and let a jury decide guilt or innocence.
After outcry, WH says Biden will lift refugee cap in May
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing swift blowback from allies and aid groups, the White House on Friday said President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor’s historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements.
In an emergency determination signed by Biden earlier in the day, he stated the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by former President Donald Trump this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.” But if the cap is reached before the end of the current budget year and the emergency refugee situation persists, then a presidential determination may be issued to raise the ceiling.
That set off a deluge of criticism from top allies on Capitol Hill such as the second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, who called that initial limit “unacceptable.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that Biden is expected to increase the refugee cap by May 15, though she didn't say by how much.
Biden has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and Oct. 1, the end of the fiscal year, Psaki said. “Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited,” she said it’s now “unlikely” Biden will be able to boost that number to 62,500, as he had proposed in his plan to Congress two months ago.
Interior head Haaland revokes Trump-era orders on energy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday revoked a series of Trump administration orders that promoted fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and issued a separate directive that prioritizes climate change in agency decisions.
The moves are part of a government-wide effort by the Biden administration to address climate change ahead of a virtual global summit on climate change that President Joe Biden is hosting next week.
“From day one, President Biden was clear that we must take a whole-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, strengthen the economy and address environmental justice,” Haaland said in a statement. The new orders will “make our communities more resilient to climate change and ... help lead the transition to a clean energy economy,'' she added.
The orders revoke Trump-era directives that boosted coal, oil and gas leasing on federal lands and promoted what Trump called “energy dominance” in the United States. Haaland also rescinded a Trump administration order intended to increase oil drilling in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve.
Haaland called the orders by her predecessors, Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, “inconsistent with the department’s commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science.''
State's own expert told grand jury police didn't kill Prude
Prosecutors overseeing a grand jury investigation into the death of Daniel Prude last year in Rochester, New York, undercut the case for criminal charges with testimony from a medical expert who said three police officers who held Prude to the ground until he stopped breathing didn’t do anything wrong.
Dr. Gary Vilke told the grand jury that Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died of a heart attack caused by the medical phenomenon known as excited delirium. He said the officers' actions, which included placing a mesh hood over Prude's head, had no impact on his breathing, according to transcripts made public Friday.
A medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide due to asphyxiation from a physical restraint, with use of the drug PCP as a factor.
Vilke, a University of California, San Diego professor who routinely testifies on behalf of police, said restraining Prude during the encounter in the early hours of March 23, 2020 may have been best for his safety given his condition.
Asked by a grand juror if anything could have been done better, Vilke responded: “I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
AP Interview: Beijing says US 'too negative' toward China
BEIJING (AP) — A top Chinese diplomat said Friday that U.S. policy toward China is “too negative" and that cooperation could be critically important as the Biden administration focuses on combatting COVID-19 and promoting economic recovery.
The U.S. appears to be highlighting confrontation and playing down cooperation, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.
“Such an approach, I must say, is too negative,” he said, adding that it lacks “a forward-looking spirit.”
China could be a partner as Biden tackles the coronavirus and the economy, he said.
“To me it is hard to imagine the two priorities can be resolved without a cooperative and healthy China-U.S. relationship," he said.
Russia to expel 10 US diplomats in response to Biden actions
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Friday responded to a barrage of new U.S. sanctions by saying it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats and take other retaliatory moves in a tense showdown with Washington.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also published a list of eight current or former U.S. officials barred from entering the country, including U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Moscow will move to shut down those U.S. nongovernment organizations that remain in Russia to end what he described as their meddling in Russia’s politics.
The top Russian diplomat said the Kremlin suggested that U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan follow the example of his Russian counterpart and head home for consultations. Russia will also deny the U.S. Embassy the possibility of hiring personnel from Russia and third countries as support staff, limit visits by U.S. diplomats serving short-term stints at the embassy, and tighten requirements for U.S. diplomats' travel in the country.
The others banned from entering Russia are Susan Rice, a former U.N. ambassador and now head of the Domestic Policy Council; John Bolton, who was a national security adviser under former President Donald Trump; James Woolsey, a former CIA director; and Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.