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According to police report, Longview Police Officers were investigating suspicious activity at 559 Mobberly Avenue, Tuesday at 3:42 am when the least unexpected happened. Police officers were standing in front of This Our Store when an African American young man came around the corner and produced what looked like a handgun from the waist band of his trousers. One police officer fired his weapon several times striking victim who was taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center. He had non-life threatening injuries. Later, the victim was identified as 17 year-old Joshua Kennon Thomas. Furthermore, Police determined Thomas’ weapon was an Umarex SA9 CO2 powered pistol which closely resembles a semi-automatic handgun.The Longview Police Department (LPD) says transparency is tops in their books. Hence, it is typical for LPD to ask Texas Rangers to conduct investigations when Longview Police Officers are involved in a shooting as in this case. The Texas Rangers on completion of the investigation will send their findings to the Gregg County District’s Office to be reviewed and presented to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, Longview Police Department Internal Affairs is also conducting its own investigation to make sure officers adhered to LPD policies and procedures. While the investigation is going on, the three officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.
That is not all.
Roy Smith, the brother of the man who owns This Our Store is concerned about Joshua Thomas. “Why would a young man be out at that time,” he asked? “Should he not be in bed and why did no-one notice he was not home.” What’s more, “Everyone should be at home and not on the street after midnight,” he said.
According to Smith, Joshua has been hanging around This Our Store, a 24-hour convenient store. The employees have been feeding him from time to time. By the same token, Smith has his own analysis of what transpired between Joshua and the police. He believes sometimes people want to commit suicide. For that reason, they put themselves in harm’s way. In this case, Smith called it cop-suicide-Joshua wanted the police to shoot and kill him because he is tired of living. In addition, Smith was perturbed because Joshua’s mother was rather interested in suing the police than going to Good Shepherd and finding out the condition of her son. “I am not saying that police do not shoot people in other places, Smith stated. “But what I am saying which no-one should forget, police protect more people than they hurt. They work to protect innocent citizens.”
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Mayor Jay Dean has just two months left in his term in office, but he is not coasting to the finish line. So far this year six murders have taken place in Longview, and the mayor is taking aim on this tragic situation. Dean held a press conference to reveal his strategy to curb the creeping violence that is leaving locals hurt and bereaved. He made it clear the police department is doing everything in its power to bring the perpetrators to justice.
After just seven homicides in all of 2013, and eight in 2014 there have already been six killings in the first ten weeks of 2015, excluding the teenager incidence of January 22 at the hands of police. After recounting the major drug bust of recent history, Dean pointed out what is wrong and what needs to be done now.
“You catch them, they go to state prison, and they are back,” he said. “We have to find them and keep them off the streets.”
He also pointed out suspected reasons for the surge of violent crime.
“It is drugs, mental illness and crimes of passion,” he said. “Sometimes someone gets on the scene and gets robbed.”
He also pointed out this situation is not confined to Longview.
“Longview is not alone in the drug issue,” he said. “We have to do a stronger job to educate our citizens.”
He illustrated the strong drug connection by pointing out that other than the Blue Ridge murder/suicide the rest of the killings have that common connection–specifically a drug deal gone bad.
“Drugs are the reason for these killings,” he said.
Like all of Longview, Dean is not only saddened, but frustrated.
“We have to find ways to put them in the federal level where they are not coming out,” he said. “With the state they get in and come out. They move from neighborhood to neighborhood.”
He also lauded some already accomplished positive steps on this war on crime, crediting Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and Sheriff Maxey Cerliano for how they have rid the city of synthetic drugs.
“It is a constant battle that we have to fight, but it is [also] one we have to win,” Dean said.
He has introduced a three-prong plan for this crusade:
FIRST, hiring more police officersin order to increase law enforcement’s presence in high-crime neighborhoods.
SECONDLY, allow Longview residents and community leaders to become involved through community crime control initiatives such as PAR officers and crime watch groups.
“Without the support of the community it is hard to find these people,” Dean said. “When we withhold information and we know the person who committed the murder, it does not help the police or anyone.”
He emphasized that no amount of information is insignificant.
“No lead is a bad lead,” he said. “The little thing that you see or hear, come and talk to us about it. Do not wait till they get shot.”
Dean also believes in the power of prayer. He called attention to earlier prayer walks and the improvements they made on violent situations.
NAACP President Brandon Johnson also participated in past prayer walks.
He was impressed by the improvements wrought then by prayer.
The neighborhoods where the prayer walks took place saw a 60% drop in crime. The Mayor said, “ It is a cop out to blame the police for this unfortunate situation.”
Part of this new plan is an effort to make it easier for citizens to communicate confidentially with the police and their PAR officer. Dean encourages locals to use twitter and face book to pass on information. He also revealed that Partner in Prevention has slated a volunteer neighborhood outreach for April 11 at the Broughton Center. There is more…
Helping curb crime is becoming a lucrative public service. The city will be doubling the rewards Crime Stoppers offers for information on the past two years’ unsolved homicides.
“Money talks, and the other stuff walks,” said Dean.
THIRDLY, a “police tool box” to assist officers and city officials in the anti-crime offensive. Dean revealed there will be increased efforts in specific areas where crime is especially prevalent. As part of the Comprehensive Plan Longview will seek new property maintenance codes and other such ordinances to address issues that contribute to criminal activities.
Slum lords will be forced essentially to clean up properties that have become drug dens. This will include rental properties. Furthermore, the city plans to improve on the property maintenance code to enable them combat blight that breeds drug dens. This is part of the famed Comprehensive Plan. In addition, coordinate with the state attorney general’s office to use the Texas Nuisance Abatement Statute, which provides for prosecution of such property owners. The current six-time strike is seen as too lax. The new statute would make it a three strike deal as well as seek new legislation to strengthen public nuisance laws.
“All this is about public safety,” said Dean. “They have to bring their structures up to par.”
Yet the first cousin, Archila Richardson, of DaCoreyan Blankenship, and his mother Sheila Blankenship are not sure drugs are the only cause of the crime problem as the mayor asserts. DaCoreyan was the most recent victim in the string of murders. He was shot five times.
“He was an all-round LOBO Student who played all sports,” said Archila. DaCoreyan was an intelligent 21-yearold who left a two-year-old son. Archila did not appreciate the media reporting that the shooting was gang-related.
“They got it all wrong. It was not gang related,” she said. “It was nasty for the news media to say it was gang-related.”
Archila points out that many people are afraid to go to the police with needed information. She was herself once shot in the back for being a Good Samaritan. There were witnesses, but none came forward. She listed several other local murders that were not drug-related:
“All of these people–no one knows who killed them,” said Richardson. “We have to be more proactive [and] check the information even if it is coming from an unsavory character.”
Councilwoman Kasha Williams’ District 3 is not at all happy with the violence surging through the city, especially since most of the murders occurred in her district. But, she is determined to fight and overcome this problem. She sees a lack of trust between the public and the police as a major problem. She says the number of killings indicates a situation that cannot be tolerated.
“This cannot be a one-time event [referring to the Mayor’s plans] we have to stay the course,” she said.
She also bemoans how the Longview Drug Task Force has been disbanded.
“We used to have the Longview Drug Task Force,” she said. “It provided educational opportunities for the police and citizens.”
She also thanked Richardson and Blankenship for publicly sharing their tragic information. It made an impact.
“We are going to make our community better,” she promised these two ladies and everyone else present.
Mayor Dean went further on the matter of unity and cooperation between the authorities and the public.
“We will do a better job to create that trust,” he said.
Despite the murders, Dean believes in Longview and its people. “Longview is a great community,” he said. “These are my people, they are God’s children.”
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The toll of the victims of the epidemic – centered in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone – is rising. The World Health Organization now reports more than 7,400 confirmed or likely cases, and 3,431 deaths. On Sept. 23, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that without a more robust response, as many as 1.4 million cases could erupt in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 20.
The virus is deadly, but not particularly infectious. It spreads only from direct contact from the bodily fluids – sweat, blood, vomit – of someone infected after the fever and other symptoms have occurred. Unfortunately, the incubation period – the time after someone is infected but before symptoms appear – lasts a week and sometimes as long as three weeks. People can travel long distances unaware that they are carrying the disease. This poses a challenge for health officials who must make the public aware so that they are cautious, without spreading panic. It also means that the entire world has a stake in countering this lethal epidemic.
The disease can be stopped. An American victim, undiagnosed, carried the disease into crowded Lagos, Nigeria. More people live in Lagos than in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. A vigorous response – investigating all in contact with the patient, monitoring them, and isolating those who showed symptoms — cleared the virus with only eight deaths. Nigeria had the public health and governmental capacity to respond. But in West Africa, civil wars and chronic poverty have disrupted already meager local health systems. Doctors are scarce; health workers had no experience with the disease.
As Nigeria shows, we need mobilization, not panic, particularly with the chilling news that a Liberian, Thomas E. Duncan, tested positive for the disease in Dallas, the first case diagnosed in this country.
Duncan, now in critical condition, traveled to the U.S. without being aware that he was infected. However, he did come into direct contact with a woman while in Liberia, and he failed to report the truth on an airport health questionnaire. When he contracted a fever, he went to the hospital but was sent him home without proper testing. When his symptoms grew worse, he was taken back to the hospital and isolated.
Public health authorities have mobilized, identifying and monitoring all those who might have had contact with him. CDC officials fanned out in the hospital and in his neighborhood to investigate. Happily, as pediatrician Matt Karwowski reported to the Washington Post, “there was no resistance from anyone whatsoever … At every single door, people welcomed us in … They were also fearful, but not of us.” The CDC teams have been working 18 hours a day.
This epidemic is a human disaster. It will devastate not only its victims, but also millions more as economies freeze up, schools close, tourism dries up, and fear spreads. In this country, some will use the epidemic to fan racial divides or to posture on immigration. President Obama is already criticized for providing military assistance to build hospital units and transport necessary equipment and medicine in Liberia. Some treat Duncan more as a criminal than a patient, due to his failing to report the truth. His family reports that even those who have been cleared are now shunned in their community.
In Jesus’ time, lepers were treated as unclean, sowing fear and hatred. On one of his last nights, Jesus stayed at the home of Simon the Leper. He showed that we should be fighting the disease, not the person. That is a lesson we should remember in the days ahead of us.
By Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
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OCR’s investigation revealed that black students had been disproportionately subjected to discipline at every stage in the district’s discipline process. In addition, the district implemented its discipline policies and procedures such that black students received harsher discipline than white students for similar offenses.
“I commend Tupelo Public School District for making this commitment to ensuring equity in the administration of school discipline, and I am so pleased that the nearly 8,000 students in one of Mississippi’s largest school districts can now expect safe and fundamentally fair treatment in their schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “We look forward to working with the district to implement this agreement.”
OCR’s investigation found that in the two school years that it examined (2010-11 and 2011-12), black students made up nearly half of the student enrollment at the three schools with the highest numbers of disciplinary sanctions. Yet, black students received 81 percent and 78 percent of the disciplinary referrals in those two years, respectively, and 77 percent of the in-school suspensions in both school years.
Administrators at all levels had broad discretion to identify misconduct as a violation of the discipline policies and punish it with exclusionary discipline, including out-of-school suspensions, referrals to the district alternative school and expulsion. Black students received 80 percent or more of these exclusionary discipline sanctions and assignments to the local juvenile detention center.
Students could be suspended out of school for 10 days for highly subjective offenses such as “improper behavior at school” and “other misbehavior.” The district’s current discipline policies have increased the disciplinary sanctions for middle and high school students. These policies require reporting to the police and mandatory referrals for first-time offenses to the highly restrictive alternative school for a minimum of 45 days for fighting, 90 days for drinking or possessing alcohol and 180 days for possessing or being under the influence of drugs. And, while the district seldom expels students, it reported to OCR in the 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection that its only expulsions were of black students. The district also reported that it did not suspend or expel preschool students.
Through the agreement, which the district signed prior to the completion of OCR’s investigation, the district commits to take specific actions to ensure that it implements fair and equitable discipline policies and practices that lead to less frequent exclusionary discipline and increased educational opportunities for all students. Specifically, the district has agreed to take a number of corrective measures. Such as:
OCR will closely monitor implementation of the agreement. A copy of the resolution letter is posted here. And, a copy of the agreement can be found here.
The Tupelo district is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school system located in the northeastern corner of Mississippi. It enrolls approximately 7,500 students in 13 schools.
OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about OCR is available here.
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“We must do everything we can to put an end to these abuses. They are ruining the lives of thousands of patriotic women who wanted only to serve their country but fell prey to men who abused positions of power.’
Recent allegations of sexual assault by members of our armed forces have refocused national attention on a problem that is sadly familiar.The U.S. military is known for its strong integrity, rigorous standards and commitment to excellence, yet the disturbing prevalence of sexual abuse is victimizing thousands of women and damaging the military’s image.
It is anathema to American values and, in a word, infuriating.
The statistics are appalling. According to the Department of Defense nearly one in four women in the military reports having experienced unwanted sexual contact since joining. In 2012, there were over 3,000 reports of sexual assault involving service members, but with thousands of cases going unreported, the Pentagon believes this is only a fraction of the true number.
With Texas being home to 15 major military installations and well over 100,000 service members, our state has a massive stake in fixing this problem.
To their credit, military leaders have taken steps to address this crisis. Yet, the current programs designed to promote awareness, increase prevention and offer assistance to victims have proven inadequate. The problem persists, and it calls for our full attention and swift action.
The Constitution provides for civilian control of the military, and thus Congress is using its oversight powers to solve this problem. In response to the scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, I placed a temporary hold on the nomination of the current Air Force Chief of Staff until I received a personal commitment from him to fully and aggressively address the issue. I also co-sponsored legislation, passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, designed to crack down on offenders, protect victims and prevent future abuses from occurring. Among the policy prescriptions in this legislation are a prohibition on allowing felony sex offenders to join the military and mandatory discharges of service members convicted of sexual assault while serving in the military.
Despite these steps, it is clear that more needs to be done. Building on these efforts, I have joined a bipartisan group of senators in co-sponsoring the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013. This bill would plug gaps in current policy, enhance the Pentagon’s power to combat sexual assault and provide victims with greater assistance.
We need to understand the forces at work in the military that lead to sexual abuse, and we need to get out in front of this problem. This bill is designed to make that happen.
Any sexual abuse is an abhorrent violation of the fundamental dignity of a human being. Yet such transgressions by those in uniform are set apart by the stark contrast between the depravity of their actions and the high standards that the American people demand and admire in their military. We must do everything we can to put an end to these abuses. They are ruining the lives of thousands of patriotic women who wanted only to serve their country but fell prey to men who abused positions of power.
To quote the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, “We’re losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem.” We must not lose that confidence, and I would add that we need those women to help us solve this problem. Both the moral rectitude and military strength of our country depend on it.
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.
By U.S. Senator John Cornyn
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These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents — sometimes even as infants — and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class — only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.
That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here for five years, and you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship. And I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away.
Now, both parties wrote this legislation. And a year and a half ago, Democrats passed the DREAM Act in the House, but Republicans walked away from it. It got 55 votes in the Senate, but Republicans blocked it. The bill hasn’t really changed. The need hasn’t changed. It’s still the right thing to do. The only thing that has changed, apparently, was the politics.
As I said in my speech on the economy yesterday, it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans — they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country — to expel these young people who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents — or because of the inaction of politicians.
In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we’ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places. So we prioritized border security, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history — today, there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years. We focused and used discretion about whom to prosecute, focusing on criminals who endanger our communities rather than students who are earning their education. And today, deportation of criminals is up 80 percent. We’ve improved on that discretion carefully and thoughtfully. Well, today, we’re improving it again.
Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
Now, let’s be clear — this is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is —
THE PRESIDENT: — the right thing to do.
Q — foreigners over American workers.
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, sir. It’s not time for questions, sir.
Q No, you have to take questions.
THE PRESIDENT: Not while I’m speaking.
Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act. There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments. And we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our 21st century economic and security needs — reform that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty about the workers that they’ll have. Reform that gives our science and technology sectors certainty that the young people who come here to earn their PhDs won’t be forced to leave and start new businesses in other countries. Reform that continues to improve our border security, and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
Just six years ago, the unlikely trio of John McCain, Ted Kennedy and President Bush came together to champion this kind of reform. And I was proud to join 23 Republicans in voting for it. So there’s no reason that we can’t come together and get this done.
And as long as I’m President, I will not give up on this issue, not only because it’s the right thing to do for our economy — and CEOs agree with me — not just because it’s the right thing to do for our security, but because it’s the right thing to do, period. And I believe that, eventually, enough Republicans in Congress will come around to that view as well.
And I believe that it’s the right thing to do because I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America, even though I knew some of them must have lived under the fear of deportation. I know some have come forward, at great risks to themselves and their futures, in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values. And I’ve seen the stories of Americans in schools and churches and communities across the country who stood up for them and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear –because we are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.
And the answer to your question, sir — and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question — is this is the right thing to do for the American people —
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t ask for an argument. I’m answering your question.
Q I’d like to —
THE PRESIDENT: It is the right thing to do —
THE PRESIDENT: — for the American people. And here’s why —
Q — unemployment —
THE PRESIDENT: Here’s the reason: because these young people are going to make extraordinary contributions, and are already making contributions to our society.
I’ve got a young person who is serving in our military, protecting us and our freedom. The notion that in some ways we would treat them as expendable makes no sense. If there is a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs for other folks who are looking for work, that’s the right thing to do. Giving certainty to our farmers and our ranchers; making sure that in addition to border security, we’re creating a comprehensive framework for legal immigration — these are all the right things to do.
We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws, and that’s going to continue. And my hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort.
All right. Thank you very much.
Q What about American workers who are unemployed while you import foreigners?
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For the past decade, DREAMers have been marching in the streets and advocating in the halls of Congress and the White House to seek relief. The tears and sweat of so many youth is finally paying off. Immigrant organizers are literally in tears. For them, it’s a signal that the dark cloud of deportation is no longer looming over them, making their dreams and plans seem no longer potential victim to chance and the Joe Arpaio’s of the world.
President Obama’s action now places pressure on Rubio’s bill; It challenges Republicans to come more aggressively to the immigration negotiation table and come up with a permanent legislative fix. This also gives Latinos a good reason to vote: their friends and cousins who’ve been working hard and going to school will be able to stay in the country, as long as Romney doesn’t get in and get rid of the executive order.
“The President has given us a reason to believe in him” said Caeser Vargas, managing partner at DRM Capitol Group . “We will ensure that people go out to vote to keep this executive order alive.” For many undocumented youth who can directly reach Latino communities on the ground, this executive order is also a marching order. Undocumented immigrants have put together a network to push for the DREAM Act, and are now celebrating Obama’s political courage. Now, we anxiously await to see if the President and Napolitano of DHS follow through with Obama’s action.