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Tacoma PD Uses 'Stingray' Cellphone Tracker Frequently

Tacoma, Wash., police have for years been quietly using controversial surveillance equipment that can collect records of all cellphone calls, text messages and data transfers within a half-mile radius, reports Al Jazeera America. The Stingray surveillance system, deployed by Tacoma police since 2009, is reportedly capable of indiscriminate data collection, which worries civil rights advocates.

The ACLU said it has identified at least 43 police departments in 18 states that use Stingray equipment. The group says police use of such the devices may violate the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures. A Tacoma police official said officers use Stingray only with permission from a judge to locate suspects "in felony-level crimes...such as homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and narcotics trafficking.”  The department said the device has been used nearly 200 times since June. The Tacoma City Council approved buying an updated Stingray in March 2013 on the grounds that it would be used to find improvised explosive devices, although it has never been used for that purpose.

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CT Chief Joins Protesters; Police Union Unhappy

Hartford police Chief James C. Rovella has been condemned by the local police union after he joined marchers who were protesting the Taser shooting of a city teen, reports the Hartford Courant. Rovella "sent the wrong message to the rank and file," said union President Richard Holton. About 75 protesters marched to police headquarters Wednesday night, seeking to get police to drop charges against Luis Anglero Jr., 18, who was shot with a Taser by Detective Shawn Ware as police were attempting to disperse a crowd on Aug. 19.

Rovella, Hartford's police chief for two years, and other officers joined the protesters during the march, and he addressed the group at police headquarters. Responding by email to Holton's criticisms, Rovella said, "I walked among the protesters today for the purpose of exchanging ideas and points of view...I am trying to diffuse any continued animosity towards police." He said he was "neutral" pending the outcome of an internal investigation of the Taser shooting, which was captured on video.

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Lawsuit: GA Man Died After 14 Police Taser Shocks

Two former police officers in the Atlanta suburb of East Point violated policy when they used their Tasers more than a dozen times to shock a handcuffed 24-year-old man, who died in a creek, according to a lawsuit filed by his survivors. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. was not resisting during the encounter with police on April 11, according to both police reports and the lawsuit. Towns, who weighed 281 pounds, was sitting on the ground catching his breath after he had been chased by officers for nearly a mile.

He asked officers if he could rest before going with them. According to the suit and logs from the Tasers, Towns died after the devices were used against him 14 times over the following 29 minutes by Corporal Howard Weems and Sgt. Marcus Eberhart. East Point police Chief Woodrow Blue fired Weems, and Eberhart resigned. Blue also abruptly resigned two weeks ago. Authorities are said to be considering criminal charges. The civil lawsuit does not ask for specific monetary damages.

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Questions Remain After Autopsy in Botched OK Execution

Records released Thursday provided few answers as to why and how Oklahoma’s execution of inmate Clayton Lockett went awry, says the Tulsa World. A Texas medical examiner’s autopsy of Lockett’s body after his botched execution found the inmate died “as the result of judicial execution by lethal injection.” The autopsy does not appear to support earlier official statements that Lockett’s vein collapsed or that he died from a heart attack.

The results suggest Lockett died slowly because the lethal drugs were injected into soft tissue, not a vein. Witnesses at the April 29 execution described him as mumbling and writhing on the gurney after he had been declared unconscious by a combination of drugs Oklahoma had never used before. Details of the drugs were not revealed. The autopsy cites evidence on Lockett’s body that the execution team had difficulty starting his IV, taking about 45 minutes. It notes at least 14 needle marks and incisions showing multiple attempts to start an IV in his elbows, groin, neck, jugular and foot.

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Man Charged After Orlando Police Kill Bystander

An Orlando man shot by police outside a downtown bar last week has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a bystander who was killed by police gunfire, reports the city's Sentinel. Kody Roach, 23, was shot and wounded by police outside the bar on Aug. 19 by officers responding to a 911 call of a "gun-wielding maniac." Roach survived, but bystander Maria Fernanda Godinez, 22, apparently struck by a shot from Officer Eduardo Sanguino's gun, was killed.

An arrest affidavit states, "As a result of Roach's actions, an individual was killed therefore probable cause exists to further charge Roach with first-degree felony murder." Sanguino and a fellow officer, Jeff Angel, were reponding to 911 reports that Roach had opened fire at the club. They found Roach at the bar's locked door. He reportedly pointing his right hand at the officers. Sanguino fired nine shots, striking Roach at least five times. As he fell, Roach dropped a .40 caliber Ruger handgun, which proved to be unloaded.

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CA Lawmakers Approve Campus Sex Assault Bill

Californian lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to require universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on U.S. campuses, says Reuters. The legislation went to Gov. Jerry Brown, who must give final approval.

 The measure, passed unanimously by the state senate, has been called the "yes-means-yes" bill. It defines sexual consent between people as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." The bill states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity. If signed by Brown, the bill would mark the first time a U.S. state has mandated that such language to be a central tenet of school sexual assault policies. Opponents of the bill say it is politically over-reaching and could push universities into uncharted legal waters.

 

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$224M AL Prison Health Care Pact Draws Scrutiny

Wexford Health Sources complained that the bidding process for Alabama's $224 million inmate health care contract was biased toward its competitor Corizon, which was awarded the contract as the sole vendor that submitted a bid, reports AL.com. A Wexford executive made the complaint in a letter to Alabama's top prison health care official in August 2012 to explain why his firm did not compete for the work. Three months later, a state attorney called Wexford's claims "misunderstandings," and a week after that Gov. Robert Bentley executed Corizon's contract to provide health care to the state's 25,000 inmates for three years.

Earlier this summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state in federal court, alleging inadequate healthcare in Alabama prisons. Corizon has tapped the powerful lobbying firm Maynard Cooper & Gale to fight the lawsuit on behalf of Alabama. State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he will meet next week with the head of Alabama's prison system to get answers about the Corizon contract.

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Homegrown MN Terrorists Meet Same End Abroad

Two high school buddies from the Minneapolis suburb of New Hope have been killed while fighting for terrorist groups in the Middle East, reports the Associated Press. It wasn't immediately clear how Douglas McAuthur McCain and Troy Kastigar were drawn into radicalism after their initial conversion to the Muslim faith or whether they might have influenced one another along the way. But the two best friends went down similar paths and met the same end.

They attended high school in New Hope at the same time in the late 1990s. A classmate described them as "goofy," "funny guys" and "just nice." U.S. officials confirmed that McCain, 33, was killed recently in Syria while fighting with the Islamic State group ISIS. Officials said Kastigar was killed in Somalia in September 2009 while fighting with the terror group al-Shabab. U.S. officials were looking into reports that a second American fighting with ISIS had been killed in Syria.

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