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FBI investigation finds no evidence of attack in death of border patrol officer

Donald Trump described it as a murder but the FBI investigation of Rogelio Martinez’s death suggests that the incident was an accident

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “FBI investigation finds no evidence of attack in death of border patrol officer” was written by Tom Dart in Houston, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th February 2018 18.49 UTC

An extensive FBI investigation into the death of a border patrol agent that President Donald Trump described as a murder has found no evidence that the man was attacked.

Rogelio Martinez died from injuries sustained in November last year while responding to reports of a late-night incident near Interstate 10 in remote west Texas, about 30 miles from the border with Mexico.

Trump tweeted the next day that Martinez was “killed”, adding “we will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”.

The president later added that Martinez’s partner, who was injured and hospitalised but survived, had been “brutally beaten”.

Two senior Texas Republicans – Governor Greg Abbott, and Senator Ted Cruz – also weighed in with statements describing the 36-year-old’s death as a murder.

But the FBI has found no sign of an attack, adding credibility to suggestions that the incident was an accident.

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017,” the bureau’s El Paso office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The FBI is offering a reward for information and said that 37 of its field offices were involved in the “top priority” investigation, which included 26 searches in Texas and New Mexico and turned up two “persons of interest” who were found not to be involved, while “several individuals” were arrested on suspicion of an unrelated immigration offence.

The release provided a detail that was not previously made public: when talking to a dispatcher by phone, the second agent “made a statement to the effect of, ‘We ran into a culvert,’ ‘I ran into a culvert,’ or ‘I think I ran into a culvert’.”

The agent later told investigators he had no memory of what occurred because he suffered head injuries.

The FBI statement follows an inconclusive autopsy report released by the El Paso county medical examiner’s office on Tuesday which said the death was caused by blunt force trauma from an undetermined cause.

Border patrol union representatives have consistently maintained that Martinez was deliberately killed, perhaps after being struck with rocks.

“Just because there’s no evidence of a scuffle doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an assault,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News. “The only thing in my mind that makes sense is that they were attacked from behind.”

However, the local sheriff, Oscar Carrillo, told the Dallas Morning News last year that “from the beginning we were radioed to assist in the incident as an injury, not an assault.” Carrillo raised the possibility that the agents might have tumbled roughly 9ft into the culvert from the edge of the often windswept freeway, given the darkness and the risk of being sideswiped by a truck.

Trump has repeatedly seized on fatal incidents to advance the narrative that more border security and tougher immigration restrictions and enforcement are required to keep Americans safe.

He tweeted that the death of the NFL player Edwin Jackson last weekend in a suspected drunk-driving accident involving a previously deported undocumented immigrant from Guatemala was “disgraceful” and “just one of many such preventable tragedies”.

In response, the local prosecutor, a Democrat, said that attempts to politicise the crash were “ghoulish and inappropriate”.

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Terrorism

Accused Domestic Terrorist Lt. Christopher Hasson Indicted On Charges, Plotted To Kill Top Democrats, Media Figures

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A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested Wednesday in Maryland and accused of plotting to kill top Democrats and members of the media was denied bail by a judge.

Lt. Christopher Hasson was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day after a federal prosecutor told the court that drug and gun charges brought against Hasson were “just the tip of the iceberg,” while characterizing the lieutenant as a “domestic terrorist,” according to The Associated Press.

The case was first uncovered by Seamus Hughes, a former Senate counterterrorism advisor who now works with the George Washington University Program on Extremism, which provides “analysis and policy solutions on radicalization, terrorism and extremism.” You can learn more about the GWUPoE and Hughes’ work here. Hughes, the program’s deputy director, has revealed details on several cases involving American extremism and terrorism, often finding the information in federal court documents before the media. Federal authoroties did not release a press release or statement on the case prior to Hughes’ tweets on February 20 about the arrest.

Day reportedly told prosecutors at the bail hearing Thursday that he would revisit his decision in 134 days if federal prosecutors do not bring more serious charges against Hasson by the deadline.

Prosecutors argued Thursday that Hasson “identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland” in emails to a neo-Nazi leader, according to the AP. Hasson’s public defender insisted that his gun collection represented a “modest, at best” gun collection.

christopher hasson list

The public defender also argued that Hasson’s use of a government work computer to research terrorists such as Anders Breivik and compile a spreadsheet of Democrats including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not amount to threats or intent to harm anyone.

Others on the spreadsheet included CNN’s Chris Cuomo and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Hasson had also searched for revealing phrases on his computer, according to prosecutors, such as “do senators have [Secret Service] protection.”

“It is not a crime to think negative thoughts about people,” Julie Stelzig told the court, according to the AP.

Federal prosecutors said in court documents that Christopher Hasson was inspired in building his list by the writings of Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who wrote in his manifesto about the traitors he was targeting. According to prosecutors, the list is “consistent with the directions in the Breivik manifesto,” which divided targets into categories A, B or C:

This classification system is used to identify various individual cultural Marxist/multiculturalist traitors. The intention of the system is to easier identify priority targets and will also serve as the foundation for the future ‘Nuremberg trials’ once the European cultural conservatives reassert political and military control of any given country. Any category A, B or C traitor is an individual who has deliberately used his or her influence in a way which makes him or her indirectly or directly guilty of the charges specified in this document: 1-8. Many of these individuals will attempt to claim ‘ignorance’ of the crimes they are accused of

According to Breivik’s system, category A was the “most influential and high profile traitors,” including political leaders, media leaders and cultural leaders.

Hasson had searched for “most liberal senators,” “do senators have [secret service] protection,” and searched for Scarborough after seeing a headline in which the MSNBC host claimed Trump to be “the worst ever” president. He also looked up where the host’s show, “Morning Joe,” is filmed, along with his home, prosecutors said.

Previously an aircraft mechanic for the Marines, Hasson was arrested Wednesday with 15 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition at his Silver Spring apartment.

“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” prosecutors said Wednesday upon his arrest. “He must be detained pending trial.” [The Hill / Heavy]

Read the detention memeorandum released earlier Thursday, after Hasson’s court hearing.

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Teachers' Strike

Oakland Teachers Go On Strike Over Classroom Conditions, Pay, and Other Issues

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Teachers in Oakland, California, went on strike Thursday, part of a national wave of discontent by educators over classroom conditions, pay and other issues. Recent walkouts have taken place in West Virginia, Los Angeles and Denver.

The city’s 3,000 teachers want a 12-percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are the among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses.

Kindergarten teacher Kaki Blackburn, 30, was among dozens picketing outside Manzanita Community School with signs saying “On strike For a Living Wage.”

Blackburn, who has 29 kids in her class, said her main concerns were class size and wages. She said her salary makes it impossible to afford an apartment on her own.

“There’s no way I’d be able to live here without a roommate,” she said. “This is not what I went to Brown University to get a master’s for.”

The union leader said the educators were forced to strike because administrators did not listen to their demands for two years.

“For two years we have been negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District to make our students a priority over outside consultants and central office administrators,” said Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown.

The district initially offered a 5 percent raise covering 2017 to 2020, saying it is squeezed by rising costs and a budget crisis.

In negotiations Wednesday aimed at averting a strike, the district increased its proposal to a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus. The offer went higher than the recommendation of an independent fact-finding report that suggested a compromise 6 percent retroactive raise.

But union officials rejected the offer.

Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said school administrators hope to get a counter proposal from the union when negotiations resume Friday.

“We haven’t heard any proposal since last May so we’re hoping they have something for us when we meet tomorrow,” Sasaki said.

Teachers have been working without a contract since 2017 and have said their salaries have not kept up with the cost of living.

A starting salary in the district is $46,500 a year and the average salary is $63,000, according to the union. In neighboring Berkeley, a starting teacher makes $51,000 a year and the average salary is $75,000, the union said.

The walkout affects 36,000 students at 86 schools.

The district said schools would remain open, staffed by non-union employees and substitute teachers. However, parents should not expect teaching as usual, it said.

Manzanita Principal Eyana Spencer said 14 of the school’s 450 students turned up for school Thursday and were placed in one classroom to play games.

Nearly 600 teachers left their jobs at Oakland public schools last year, according to the union, which has said the district cannot retain teachers or attract experienced new teachers.

The union has also called for the district to scrap plans to close as many as 24 schools that serve primarily African-American and Latino students. The union fears further students will be lost to charter schools that drain more than $57 million a year from the district.

Recent strikes across the nation have built on a wave of teacher activism that began last spring. Unions for West Virginia teachers, who staged a nine-day walkout last year, ended another two-day strike Wednesday. Last week, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages.

Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6-percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.

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News

Trump Administration Wants California To Pay Back Billions For Bullet Train

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Trump administration plans to cancel $929 million in U.S. money for California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion it’s already spent.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement Tuesday came after threats from President Donald Trump to make California pay back the money awarded to build the train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays.

The Trump administration argues California hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete work by a 2022 deadline.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and California rail officials didn’t immediately comment.

Last week, Newsom said the rail project “as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” He wants to refocus on building a line in central California.

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