Friday, November 10, 2017

Florida executes man for pair of killings dating to 1991

STARKE, Fla. — A man convicted of killing two people in 1991 on Wednesday became the third inmate executed in Florida since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty after a hiatus.
Fifty-three-year-old Patrick Hannon received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, the office of the governor said.
Hannon was strapped to a gurney as witnesses watched on the other side of a glass window. While he expressed regret over the killings, he said it was two accomplices that killed the victims, Robert Carter and Brandon Snider. Carter was fatally shot and Snider had his throat slashed.
"I hope the execution gives the Carter family some peace. I wish I could have done more to save Robert. I didn't kill anybody, but I was there," he said.
As he spoke, one of the victim's female family members cursed.
"Robby was a good man and a good friend, and I let him down when he needed me most," Hannon continued. "As far as Brandon Snider, I think that everybody knows what he did to get this ball rolling. I'm sorry things worked out like this the way it did."
The same woman, who authorities declined to identify later, cursed again in a whisper.
Then as the execution began at 8:38 p.m., the woman made eye contact with Hannon and raised her hand as if to wave "bye, bye."
Hannon's body moved during the execution procedure. His lips twitched, his chest heaved and his arms, legs and body appeared to convulse a bit. Then, 12 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead.
Florida resumed executions in August after making changes to its death penalty sentencing law. The law now requires a unanimous jury vote for a death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court had previously found that Florida's old sentencing law, which did not require unanimity, to be unconstitutional. However, the new sentencing law did not affect Hannon's case because the state's high court ruled that those decided before 2002 were not eligible for relief.
Hannon was convicted in 1991 of two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Snider and Carter.
It was in January 1991 when Hannon and two other men went to Snider's apartment in Tampa.
Hannon's friend, Jim Acker, initially attacked Snider with a knife, according to authorities. Prosecutors said the attacks were motivated by Snider's vandalizing of Acker's sister's apartment. Snider was "eviscerated" by the initial stabbing, according to court documents, and Hannon sliced his throat, nearly cutting off the victim's head.
Carter, who was Snider's roommate, also was home and fled the violence to an upstairs bedroom, where Hannon dragged him out from under a bed and shot him six times, the jury found.
Hannon's jury recommended death unanimously after finding him guilty of both killings.
Hannon's lawyers had earlier requested a halt to the execution plan before the Florida Supreme Court, but that was denied. Hannon had asked for a new sentencing phase, citing recent changes to Florida's death sentencing system. Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, who dissented from the rest of the court, wrote that the jury was not given enough information to make an informed decision in Hannon's sentencing phase.
Without explanation Wednesday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court denied two last-hour requests by Hannon's lawyer sto block the execution.
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Friday, November 3, 2017

New York Terrorist Attack: Truck Driver Kills Eight in Lower Manhattan

Eight people were killed and about a dozen more were injured Tuesday when a motorist in a rented pickup truck deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan and mowed down several people before crashing into a school bus. Officials said it was a terrorist attack — the deadliest in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. 
The man hopped out of the truck and shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," before firing a BB or pellet gun, four senior law enforcement sources told NBC News. A police officer on patrol in the area returned fire, hitting the suspect in the abdomen and ending the Halloween horror less than a mile from the World Trade Center.
Law enforcement sources said the man left a note in the truck claiming that he committed the attack for the Islamic State terrorist group, although it was not known whether he was imitating other IS-inspired road attacks in Europe or was under the group's control. 
"This was an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a briefing. "We know this action was intended to test our spirit." 
The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, who entered the United States in 2010, law enforcement officials said.
While police rushed the wounded suspect to Bellevue Hospital, six of the victims — all men — were pronounced dead at the scene, and two more died later, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said. 
"Today, there was a loss of innocent life in lower Manhattan," O'Neill said. "This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude." 
O'Neill would not comment on whether the suspect lived in New York City or was a "radicalized American." Multiple law enforcement sources told NBC News that the suspect rented his truck from a Passaic, N.J., Home Depot and that his minivan was still parked there Tuesday evening.
Records revealed that Saipov had lived for a time in Paterson, New Jersey. The weapons investigators recovered turned out to be a pellet gun and a paintball gun. 
NYPD Officer Ryan Nash apprehended Saipov, according to a tweet from Councilman Joe Borelli
"I want to commend the response of our NYPD officer that was on post near the location who stopped the carnage moments after it began," O'Neill said. 
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the attack appeared to be the work of a "lone wolf." 
"There's no evidence to suggest a wider plot," he said.
Argentina's foreign affairs minister said five of the victims were Argentine, and the group had been celebrating the 30th anniversary of a school graduation. The official identified them in a statement as Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruch. Belgium's foreign affairs ministry said one of the victims was a national of that country. A woman from Germany was injured in the attack, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said. 
Kobiljon Matkarov, a friend of the suspect who said he met Saipov five years ago, when they both lived in Florida, told NBC News that "he is no terrorist." 
"He was a very happy guy," said Matkarov, who added that Saipov was married with kids and worked as a truck driver. "He liked the U.S." 
The attack began unfolding at 3:05 p.m. when the southbound truck veered onto a bike path on West Street near Houston Street. 
"He entered the bike path at Houston Street and exited the bike path when he collided with the bus at Chambers Street," O'Neill said.
Two adults and two children were in the bus, the commissioner said. 
"You could see cyclists and pedestrians badly injured," said MSNBC correspondent and producer Louis Burgdorf, who was outside a building where Canal Street meets the West Side Highway, which is north of Chambers and the highway. 
A witness, Tawhid Kabir Xisan, 20, said he saw a man running in the street carrying what appeared to be two guns near Chambers Street.
"He was just running around in the middle of the street," said Xisan, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College nearby. "I heard five to six gunshots, and then when the gunshots were happening, I didn't see what happened on the road because I was scared." 
When he looked up again, Xisan said, "I saw the guy that had the two guns on the ground. Three or four officers were holding him down." 
Initially, the incident was reported as a shooting near Chambers Street and the West Side Highway, which is near Public School 89.
Another witness told NBC New York that after smashing into the school bus a man got out of the truck "and started shooting up the place." 
"All the kids were in the courtyard of P.S. 89 and started running," another witness said. He said he went to the struck school bus and saw that one side was caved in, with one girl struck above a wheel well and two other children trapped by a window. 
"It was all blown out," he said. 
In Washington, White House officials said President Donald Trump was receiving "ongoing" briefings about the attack in his hometown. 
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today's terrorist attack in New York City and their families," Trump said in a statement. "My Administration will provide its full support to the New York City Police Department, including through a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We offer our thanks to the first responders who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims of this cowardly attack. " 
As detectives continued to gather evidence and extra police were dispatched to the protect the thousands of revelers at the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, the wrecked pickup sat surrounded by yellow police tape with its hazard lights blinking. 
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Police find body in Orlando man's backyard while arresting him in unrelated homicide

ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando man accused of killing his neighbor may be charged in another homicide after police found a decomposing body buried on his property.
Jimmy Gary Merritt, 37, was arrested Tuesday after Orlando Police said an investigation revealed he cashed a check belonging to a Friday homicide victim and tried unsuccessfully to cash two more, according to an arrest report.
The victim - Benny Hallmark - was found dead of a gunshot wound, lying on a reclining chair in his home in the 3100 block of Lauressa Lane near Catalina Elementary School and Memorial Middle School about 11:15 a.m. Friday, according to the Orlando Police Department.
Hallmark and Merritt were neighbors, living only about 200 feet apart on Lauressa Lane. Police did not say whether the two knew each other.
Responding medics with Orlando Fire Department found the death suspicious, and called police to investigate. On Saturday, the Medical Examiner's Office ruled Hallmark's death a homicide, according to the report.
During the investigation, police said they discovered Merritt had stolen Hallmark's checks and tried to use them. They issued a warrant for Merritt on charges of grand theft, uttering a forged check and fraud, according to the Police Department.
On Tuesday, officers following up on the case spoke to a witness claiming Merritt confessed to killing another person and burying the body in his Lauressa Lane backyard.
Officers went to the home to wait until they could receive a search warrant, according to the Police Department. That's when Merritt came from around the corner and officers arrested him on the outstanding warrant, according to the Police Department.
Once officers received a search warrant, in the backyard they found a "badly decomposed body" wrapped in plastic and blankets buried under a large pile of wood and tools from the garage, according to the Police Department.
The body has not yet been identified and officials have not determined the cause of death, the Police Department said.
Police also found the firearm used in Hallmark's homicide.
Merritt faces a charge of first-degree murder in Hallmark's death, as well as the financial crimes.
Police said further charges are pending regarding the unidentified body. The medical examiner's report must first be completed.
Merritt has a criminal history in Orange County that includes convictions of aggravated battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon by a felon and numerous drug offenses stemming back to 1997.
Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at
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Friday, October 20, 2017

Trucker arrested for California bus crash that killed 13

INDIO, Calif. — The driver of a big-rig charged in a California bus crash that killed 13 people last year has been arrested.
The Riverside County district attorney's office says 51-year-old Bruce Guilford was arrested Thursday in Georgia by a U.S. Marshals Service task force.
He was charged a day earlier with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.
It's unclear whether he has a lawyer.
Guilford's tractor-trailer had stopped for construction work on Interstate 10 in the Palm Springs area last Oct. 23 but prosecutors say he failed to move when the road reopened.
A bus carrying passengers from a desert casino back to Los Angeles rear-ended the truck, killing 13 on board and injuring 29.
Prosecutors say Guilford had fallen asleep after sleeping only seven hours in the 24 hours before the crash.
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Suspect in 4 Ohio slayings arrested while walking along road

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Unarmed, worn out and ready to give up, the suspect in the fatal shootings of three adult relatives and a 7-year-old boy didn't try to flee when officers arrested him Friday as he walked along a road in far southern Ohio, a sheriff said.

Officers were acting on a tip from a resident who spotted 23-year-old
Arron Lawson. Authorities had said he fled into the woods Thursday,
shortly after midnight.

Lawson is an outdoorsman and hunter who liked being in the woods, but "I think
he was just plumb worn out from being out in the elements" during a manhunt that
spanned two cool nights, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeffery Lawless said.

The sheriff wouldn't discuss any potential motive or the chronology of the slayings,
and he declined to disclose what Lawson said to the arresting officers.

Lawson is being held on charges of murder and aggravated murder. It wasn't immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

He was arrested roughly 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of where authorities found three adults dead in a house trailer on Wednesday evening.

A fourth adult who came upon the scene after work and was stabbed fled the home and was flown to a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. That victim is recovering well, Lawless said.

The youngest victim, 7-year-old Devin Holston, initially was the subject of a missing-child alert after the adults were discovered. Authorities spent hours searching for him, only to later find him dead in the same house trailer, his body apparently hidden, Lawless said.

A few relatives of the victims said after the arrest that they had seen no sign or warning of such violence by Lawson, who lived just up the road from the trailer home.

Lawson was being questioned by investigators Friday and could face more charges, the sheriff said.
Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation have been helping Lawrence County with the investigation, BCI spokeswoman Jill Del Greco said.

The initial report about the slayings — violence against multiple people believed to be related — recalled details from a still-unsolved homicide case that rattled rural southern Ohio last year, but the cases didn't appear to be connected, Del Greco said.

The deaths on Wednesday occurred roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of the Piketon area, where eight people from the Rhoden family were found shot to death in four homes in April 2016.
Associated Press writer Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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Friday, October 6, 2017

Las Vegas shooting: What we know

How the attack unfolded:

• At about 10:08 p.m. Sunday, the Route 91 Harvest festival, an outdoor country music concert, was interrupted by the sound of gunfire, witnesses said.
Police said the gunman fired on the crowd of about 22,000 people from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, several hundred feet southwest of the concert grounds.
    • Country music singer Jason Aldean was performing when the gunshots began, according to witnesses' cell phone video.
    • "The gunshots lasted for 10 to 15 minutes. It didn't stop," said witness Rachel de Kerf.
    • Police say Paddock fired for nine to 11 minutes after the first 911 call came in.
    • Paddock set up cameras inside his hotel suite and in the hallway. Police are not aware whether the devices were transmitting.
    Investigation: Authorities identified the shooter as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, a retired and twice-divorced accountant with no known children.
    • Paddock was alive when officers first made contact with him outside suite 32135. After taking gunfire from him, police backed off and waited for SWAT teams to respond. A security guard was shot in the leg.
    • Officers "breached the hotel room" where Paddock was and found him dead, police said. Authorities believe he killed himself.
    • Police said they believe Paddock acted alone. 
    • Police say they have not determined Paddock's motives. As such, they are not calling the shooting terrorism -- an attack on civilians to intimidate or coerce society for political purposes. "We have to establish what his motivation was first," said Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, when asked why the shooting has not been labeled domestic terrorism.
    The FBI says it has determined no connection with an international terrorist group.
    • "We had no knowledge of this individual," Lombardo said of Paddock. "I don't know how it could have been prevented." 
    • Twenty-three weapons were found in the hotel room, including multiple rifles, and some had scopes on them, authorities said.
    • Lombardo says several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a material used to make explosives, were found in Paddock's car.
    • Authorities searched Paddock's home in Mesquite and found at least 19 more firearms, as well as explosives, several thousand rounds of ammunition, and some electronic devices.
    • The shooter had bought multiple firearms, several in California, a law enforcement official told CNN.
    • So far, investigators believe the firearms were purchased legally. The suspicion, based on initial reports, is that at least one of the rifles used was altered in order to function as an automatic weapon, said the official. 
    • The shooter had been at the Mandalay Bay hotel since September 28, authorities said. Hotel employees had been in his room prior to the shooting and did not notice anything amiss, according to Lombardo. 
    • Paddock wired $100,000 to the Philippines, but officials don't know precisely when the transfer happened or whom the recipient was, a law enforcement official said Tuesday. The FBI is working with Filipino authorities to determine details, the official said.

    Paddock's background:

    • Besides being a retired accountant, Paddock was a real estate investor who owned apartments and houses. Investigators were looking at several properties in the Reno area associated with him.
    Paddock graduated from California State University, Northridge in 1977, with a degree in business administration.
    • After living for a time in Melbourne, Florida, Paddockmoved to Nevada in 2016, his brother, Eric Paddock, said.
    • Stephen Paddock lived in Mesquite, Nevada, with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, police said. She was out of the country during the shooting, and is not believed to have been involved, police said.
    • Eric Paddock told CNN about Stephen: "He was my brother and it's like an asteroid fell out of the sky." He said the last time he spoke to his brother was when Stephen texted, asking how their mother was after she lost power when Hurricane Irma hit Florida.
    • Eric Paddock said his brother had never shown violent tendencies, and had no affiliations with any terror or hate group. Paddock says he's still in the dark on why his brother would do this. 
    • Stephen Paddock's father was a convicted bank robber who was on the FBI's most wanted list, from June 10, 1969, until May 5, 1977, the FBI said. Eric Paddock said his father, who was arrested in Oregon in 1978, died a few years ago.


    • At least 58 dead and more than 500 people taken to area hospitals, authorities said.
    • Throngs of blood donors lined up outside Las Vegas blood banks all day Monday. US blood banks currently have enough blood to meet the immediate medical needs of patients being treated in the aftermath of the shooting, according to a blood bank official.
    • This is the deadliest shooting in modern US history. The 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, previously was the deadliest, with 49 killed.
    • Victims include a nurse, a police records technician, a special education teacher, and a school office manager.


    • Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a declaration of Emergency for Clark County, which allows state agencies to supplement local efforts.
    • The Department of Homeland Security said there is no credible threat involving other public venues, but security could increase.
    • President Donald Trump described the shooting as an "act of pure evil" and said he will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with families of the victims.
    • Trump and first lady Melania Trump led a moment of silence for Las Vegas from the White House on Monday.
    • The Orlando Police Department, which investigated the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, tweeted its condolences to those affected by the Las Vegas shooting.
    This article has been updated to reflect a change in the victim death toll.
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    Friday, September 29, 2017

    1 dead, 14 wounded, including 14-year-old girl, in Chicago shootings

    One man was killed and at least 14 people, including a 14-year-old girl, have been injured in shootings across the city between Wednesday and Thursday mornings, Chicago police said.
    A 20-year-old man was shot to death and another man, 18, wounded in the 2300 block of East 102nd Street in the South Deering neighborhood on the Southeast Side about 8:10 p.m., police said in a media notification. The 20-year-old was found in a gangway with gunshot wounds to the abdomen, and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The other man also suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and went in a private vehicle to Advocate Trinity Hospital, where he was in serious condition. A witness told police the 20-year-old was sitting in a car with someone at East 102nd Street and South Ogelsby Avenue and the 18-year-old was was walking toward the car, possibly to get in, when someone fired shots from a silver Chevy Impala traveling east on 102nd.
    The man who was killed was identified as Marques Lewis, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. He was pronounced dead at 8:42 p.m.
    The girl was in the 9300 block of South Jeffery Boulevard in the Pill Hill neighborhood about 7 p.m. when she was shot in the stomach, police said in a media notification. She was near a bus stop when someone inside a red car fired shots, police said. The girl was taken to Comer Children's Hospital, where her condition was stabilized.
    Just before 7:45 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was shot in the 8900 block of South Phillips Avenue in the Calumet Heights neighborhood. He suffered a gunshot wound to the groin and his condition was stabilized at Advocate Trinity Hospital.
    Police were also investigating a rifle attack that left a 23-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his knee. The shooting happened just before 12:50 a.m. in the 9100 block of South Ada Street in the Brainerd neighborhood, police said. The man said he was standing outside when two gunmen opened fire. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition.
    In other shootings:
    -A 23-year-old man was shot multiple times in the stomach and lower body in the Portage Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side just after 12:50 a.m. Thursday, police said. The man got into an argument with someone in the 5700 block of West Irving Park Road, and that person took out a gun and shot the man. He was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition.
    -On the West Side, a 46-year-old woman was shot in the abdomen and wrist in the Humboldt Park neighborhood about 10:50 p.m., police said. The woman was standing outside with her boyfriend in the 1000 block of North Lawndale Avenue when a man got out of a vehicle and shot her, police said. She was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition.
    -Just before 6:50 p.m., a 17-year-old boy and a 50-year-old man were wounded in a shooting in the 4800 block of West Washington Boulevard in the Austin neighborhood, police said. The man suffered a gunshot wound to the left thigh and right leg. The boy was shot in the right hand and suffered a graze wound to the chest. They both were in good condition at Stroger Hospital. The two told police they were walking when they heard shots and realized they had been shot.
    -In the Longwood Manor neighborhood, a 35-year-old man suffered four gunshot wounds to the chest and one to the shoulder in the 1200 block of West 96th Street about 6:30 p.m., police said in a media notification. Friends took him to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park and he was transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, in critical condition. Witnesses were at first uncooperative, but investigators later learned he had been sitting in a passenger seat in a parked car when someone came up on foot and shot him, police said.
    -A 51-year-old man was shot in a robbery in the 9300 block of South Justine Avenue in the Brainerd neighborhood about 6:15 p.m., police said in a media notification. He was walking three people came up to him, announced a robbery and took his wallet, police said. One of the robbers shot the man in the upper left shoulder. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in serious condition, police said.
    -About 5:05 p.m. in the first block of North Lorel Avenue in the Austin neighborhood, a 31-year-old man was outside when a gunman walked up to him and fired shots, police said. He suffered gunshot wounds to the leg and was taken to Stroger Hospital where his condition had stabilized.
    -Just before 1:15 p.m in the 6600 block of South Halsted Street in the Englewood neighborhood, a 28-year-old man was shot and another man was hurt by broken glass, police said. The 28-year-old was wounded in the left thigh and was taken to Stroger Hospital where he was in good condition.
    -A little before 12:30 p.m., two men, ages 22 and 23, were shot in the 5200 block of West Adams Street in the Austin neighborhood. The older man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the leg and the younger man went to Loretto Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the foot. They were both treated and released, said Officer Thomas Sweeney, a police spokesman. The two were sitting on a porch when someone came up and shot them, police said. Police originally had given Adams Street as the attack's address.
    No one was in custody.
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