Archive for March, 2009

19 die in bloody siege at Pakistan police academy

March 30, 2009

By BABAR DOGAR, Associated Press Writer

LAHORE, Pakistan – A group of gunmen, some in police uniforms, attacked a police academy Monday and held it for hours, seizing hostages, throwing grenades and killing at least 11 people before being overpowered by Pakistani commandos.

Six militants were arrested and eight died in the eight-hour battle to retake the compound on the outskirts of this city in eastern Pakistan, said Rao Iftikhar, a top government official in Punjab province.

As the siege ended, black-clad Pakistani commandos fired their guns in the air in celebration at the top of the building, shouting “God is Great!” and “Long live Punjab police!”

Officials said more than 90 officers were wounded and that some of the attackers wore police uniforms.

The highly coordinated attack underscored the threat that militancy poses to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country and prompted Pakistan’s top civilian security official to say that militant groups were “destabilizing the country.”

The attack on the Manawan Police Training School began as dozens of the officers carried out morning drills. About 700 trainees were inside at the time.

“We were attacked with bombs. Thick smoke surrounded us. We all ran in panic in different directions,” said Mohammad Asif, a wounded officer taken to a hospital. He described the attackers as bearded and young.

Another officer, Ahsan Younus, told The Associated Press that some of the attackers wore police uniforms and took some of the police hostage.

TV footage showed several frightened police officers jumping over the wall of the academy to flee. Some crouched behind the wall of the compound, their rifles pointed toward the parade ground where police said the attack took place. Farther back, masses of security forces and civilians monitored the tense standoff, taking shelter behind security and rescue vehicles.

The forces had surrounded the compound, exchanging fire in televised scenes reminiscent of the militant siege in the Indian city of Mumbai in November and the attack on Sri Lanka‘s cricketers earlier this month in Lahore.

Armored vehicles entered the compound while helicopters hovered overhead. At times, explosions rocked the scene.

At one point, security forces cornered several militants on the top floor of a building on the compound, where the gunmen held about 35 hostages, Iftikhar said.

“The eight hours were like eight centuries,” said Mohammad Salman, 23, one of the hostages. “It was like I died several times. I had made up my mind that it was all over.”

Police captured one of the suspected gunmen six hours after the initial assault, dragging the scruffy, bearded man to a field outside the academy and kicking him.

Iftikhar confirmed that six militants were arrested. Of the eight dead, two blew themselves up, he said. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said eight police were killed, while Punjab police spokesman Athar Khan said three civilians were also among the dead.

On the roof of the building where hostages were kept, an AP photographer saw body parts, blood and spent ammunition strewn about, and several police officers — apparently hostages — came out with their hands above their heads in fear.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility, but Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik suggested it could have been Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Punjab-based al-Qaida-linked terrorist group that has been implicated in several other attacks in the country.

Pakistan has endured scores of suicide bombings and other attacks in recent years, and it faces tremendous U.S. pressure to eradicate al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents on its soil. Most of the violence occurs along the country’s northwest border with Afghanistan, but attacks have occurred in all the major cities.

Monday’s attack occurred close to the Indian border.

The attacks pose a major test for the weak, year-old civilian administration of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been gripped with political turmoil in recent weeks. The Obama administration has warned Pakistan that militancy threatens the nation’s very existence, while U.S. officials complain the country’s spy agencies still keep ties with some of the insurgent groups.

Malik said Pakistan’s integrity was “in danger at this time” and suggested that a foreign country was interfering in the country’s domestic affairs, a possible reference to longtime foe India.

“Some rival country, or some hostile (intelligence) agency is definitely out to destabilize our democratic forces,” he told reporters in Lahore.

Earlier, he told state-run TV that Pakistan’s police were not equipped to fight the wave of terrorism.

“In our country, at our different borders, arms are coming in, stinger missiles are coming in, rocket launchers are coming in, heavy equipment is coming — it should be stopped,” Malik said. “Whoever the anti-state elements are, they are destabilizing the country.”

India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters his country was “deeply saddened and shocked by the events in Lahore.”

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband released a statement condemning the attack.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a warning advising Americans to avoid travel between Lahore and the Indian border and prohibiting its employees from doing the same.

Lahore, a vibrant metropolis considered by many to be Pakistan’s cultural capital, has become an increasingly alluring target for militants. The cricket ambush in early March sparked a battle that left six police officers and a driver dead and wounded several players.

Those gunmen escaped unscathed and have not been publicly identified.

The brazen assault used commando-style tactics reminiscent of measures used by the militants who laid siege to several parts of Mumbai last year for three days. The Sri Lankan attack also had similar features — including heavily armed, backpack-toting gunmen — but it was much quicker. Observers have since speculated that those attackers might have hoped to grab hostages as well.

India has blamed the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai assault, and Pakistan has taken several of the outfit’s alleged leaders into custody. Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is largely based in eastern Punjab province, has denied involvement in both attacks.

Several militant groups operate well beyond Pakistan’s northwest. Some of them, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, have their roots in the Kashmir dispute with India, and Pakistani spy agencies are believed to have established them.

Pakistan’s stability is of paramount concern to the U.S., which is fighting a growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan more than seven years after the American-led invasion ousted the militant regime from power there. Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are believed to hide out in Pakistan’s northwest while planning attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In unveiling a new strategy for Afghanistan last week, President Barack Obama pledged more aid to Pakistan but warned it not to expect a “blank check” without any accountability. Obama pledged increased assistance to Pakistani security forces, specifically equipment for the military.

___

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad, Sebastian Abbot, Nahal Toosi and Munir Ahmad in Islamabad and K.M. Chaudhry in Lahore contributed to this report.

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New Security Cameras To Give Pittsburgh Police Extra Eyes

March 28, 2009

 

From WTAE TV in Pittsburgh

$4 Million Worth Of Cameras To Be Installed

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh is going high-tech to fight crime with the aid of $4 million worth of surveillance cameras.

 “These cameras will include video intelligence, license plate recognition technology, gunshot detection technology,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The installation of the cameras was made possible through Department of Homeland Security grants.

 The cameras, which will be installed in the weeks and months ahead, can scan 360 degrees, see blocks away and records during the day and night.

 “When these cameras roll out, we will see a reduction in crime and officers will have a very valuable tool,” said Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper.

 As many as 80 cameras will be installed in city neighborhoods, with the Mexican War Streets the first to get them.

 Patrol cars will also be equipped with wireless video feeds.

 “Also allows for very high resolution video and excellent zoom capabilities, as well as mobility,” said Mark Jules of Avrio Group, which will install the cameras.

 Officers checking the video for evidence will also be networking with private security system cameras throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Man Who Murdered 4 Oakland Officers “Planned to do Better”

March 27, 2009

The Oakland Tribune of March 23, 2009 quotes the family of Lovelle Mixon, 26, the man who shot & killed 4 Oakland Police Officers as saying he “planned to do better and wanted to meet the requirements mandated by his 2nd time on parole”.

 Mixon’s widow, 25 year old Amara Langston, said “he was trying to make himself a better person” and that “he realized his mistakes and that what he was doing was wrong”.

 It was Mixon’s second time on parole since he was first sentenced to serve 6 years in prison in October of 2002 for assault with a firearm in San Francisco.

 Mixon was released after serving 5 years, but after just 2 months he was listed as a person of interest in the shooting death of 42 year old Ramon Stevens, murdered on the corner of 86th & East 14th St.

 While Oakland Police Detective Lou Cruz said there were no witnesses tying Mixon to the murder, the victim’s sister, Felicia Stevens, whose nephew is Mixon’s cousin, says she knows Mixon killed her brother because there was a witness to the shooting, but the witness was afraid to talk to the police. Stevens also said that she has been told that her brother owed Mixon a $30.00 drug debt and believes his murder was related to the debt.

 Police couldn’t charge Mixon with Stevens murder, but they did charge him with 5 parole violations including possession of drug paraphenalia, identity theft, forgery, attempted grand theft, and receiving stolen property.

 For those charges Mixon was sent back to prison for 9 months on February 26, 2008 and released on parole for the 2nd time in November 2008.

 It was during this time on parole that Mixon, according to his family, wanted to turn his life around. But, his grandmother said his parole officer “stood him up”, he couldn’t find a job, and he became depressed to the point that he was willing to go back to prison just to be assigned to a different parole officer when he was released.

 And so, just 3 months after being paroled for the 2nd time Mixon skipped a scheduled meeting with his parole officer which resulted in a “no bail warrant” being issued for his arrest.

 However, if Mixon’s desire was to be sent back to prison to be assigned to a new parole officer upon release, why did he open fire on the two Oakland Motorcycle Officers when they pulled him over on March 21, 2009? Why did he not simply put his hands up and surrender? He had to know that a warrant had been issued for his arrest because, according to his grandmother, he intentionally skipped meeting with his parole officer specifically so he would be sent back to prison; and he obviously was illegally in possession of a firearm. 

 We will someday know why Mixon murdered those 2 motorcycle officers and why he barricaded himself in the apartment of his sister then murdered 2 additional officers when they attempted to apprehend him, but until then we can only pray for the families of the fallen officers and somehow for Mixon’s family as well.

Vigil held to show support for suspected Oakland cop killer

March 27, 2009

By Associated Press
Thursday, March 26, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. – As the city prepares for a massive public funeral for four police officers slain in the line of duty, dozens took to the streets in a show of support for the man authorities say was their killer.

Organized by International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, the march Wednesday evening took participants near a police substation within sight of the two locations where Lovelle Mixon allegedly shot the veteran officers before being slain himself.

Loved ones and supporters walked through the streets chanting, “OPD you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” There were no officers patrolling the march route.

“I don’t condone what he did, but it’s bringing to light the frustrations between the community and the police,” said Uhuru Movement member Kihad Deen. “This gives people a chance to speak their minds.”

Mixon’s cousin, Dolores Darnell, 26, addressed the small crowd, calling him “a true hero, a soldier.”

“This is the real Lovelle,” she said, holding a picture of a smiling Mixon with his wife. “We do apologize for what he did to the officers’ families. But he’s not a monster.”

Authorities say a day before the shooting the 26-year-old fugitive parolee was linked by DNA to the February rape of a 12-year-old girl who was dragged off the street at gunpoint.

The event took place a day after a city-sponsored gathering drew about 1,000 people to the crime scene to honor the slain officers: Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40; John Hege, 41; Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43; and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35.

Police said Hege and Dunakin were gunned down Saturday when the two motorcycle officers pulled over Mixon. In a manhunt that followed, Romans and Sakai died when the city’s SWAT team stormed an apartment where Mixon was hiding. Mixon also died in the gunfire.

Speaking at the event honoring the officers Tuesday night, Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan said the department was being sustained by an outpouring of public sympathy that included flowers, food, donations for the officers’ families and more than 3,000 e-mails, cards and calls.

“It speaks volumes for us. To see so many people here today, in the very same community we lost four officers, means so much to us,” Jordan said, noting that the condolences have far exceeded any hints of criticism. “We’re going to get through this, with the support of our families and with the support of you, the community.”

Meanwhile, the state inspector general said Wednesday that Mixon was properly monitored by corrections officials after he was released from prison in November. Mixon was wanted on a parole violation when the shootings happened, although it is not yet known whether that was the reason Hege and Dunakin pulled him over on Saturday afternoon.

Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said Wednesday that the rank-and-file is trying to cope with the tragedy while preparing for a public funeral Friday that is expected to fill the arena where the Golden State Warriors play.

“Everyone is devastated,” Arotzarena said. “Everyone is trying to seek answers to it all, including, ’Why did this happen?’

“Our reaction is no different than anyone else.”

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 133 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2008, a 27 percent decrease from year before and the lowest annual total since 1960

Dozens March for Oakland “Cop Killer”

March 27, 2009

From the San Francisco Chronicle

by Charles Burress

(03-25) 20:36 PDT Oakland — About 60 people marched and rallied in Oakland on Wednesday to condemn the police and honor Lovelle Mixon, who was killed by Oakland police after he fatally shot four officers Saturday.

“OPD you can’t hide – we charge you with genocide,” chanted the demonstrators as they marched along MacArthur Boulevard, near the intersection with 74th Avenue where Mixon, 26, a fugitive parolee, gunned down two motorcycle officers who had pulled him over in a traffic stop. He killed two more officers who tried to capture him where he was hiding in his sister’s apartment nearby.

The protest was organized by the Oakland branch of the Uhuru Movement, whose flyers for the march declared, “Stop Police Terror.” Many marchers wore T-shirts featuring Mixon’s photo, including a woman identified by march organizers as Mixon’s mother. The woman declined to comment and gave her name only as Athena.

Lolo Darnell, one of Mixon’s cousins at the demonstration, said, “He needs sympathy too. If he’s a criminal, everybody’s a criminal.”

Asked about police allegations that Mixon was suspected in several rapes, including that of a 12-year-old girl, marcher Mandingo Hayes said, “He wasn’t a rapist. I don’t believe that.”

Bystanders had mixed reactions. Nicole Brown said that she can’t condone murder but that police don’t respect residents of the area. Daria Belt said she had no sympathy for the protesters but sympathized for Mixon’s family.

Images

A march by protesters up MacArthur Boulevard honors Lovel...Athena (no last name given), Mixon's mother, marched with...

U.S. Giving Away $ Billions in Law Enforcement Aid to Central & South America

March 26, 2009

 While U.S. cities, towns, & counties are struggling to maintain law enforcement services, delaying hiring additional needed officers, and putting off purchasing much needed equipment and vehicles, the federal government is giving away billions of dollars in aid to law enforcement agencies in Central & South America.

 Through “The Merida Initiative” signed into law by former President George W. Bush on June 30, 2008 the U.S. Dept. of State is signing “letters of agreement”, that will eventually disburse $1.4 billion U.S. taxpayer funds, with several foreign countries. Countries that have received the aid include Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

 On December 3, 2008 the U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued a press release from Ambassador Antonio O. Garza that announced he signed a letter of agreement with the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations that in addition to providing millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to be used by Mexican law enforcement agencies, will provide at least 8 BlackHawk helicopters to the Mexican military.

 In relation to the BlackHawk helicopters that were promised to Mexico, Congress members Nita Lowery, Democrat, and Republicans Kay Granger & Jerry Lewis complained that the Pentagon has delayed the delivery of the helicopters.

 In testimony before the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations & Related Programs of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations on March 10, 2009, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said that because of the aid Mexican police agencies are receiving from the U.S. through the Merida Initiative criminal organizations in Mexico are now brazenly targeting police, military, and other security service personnel with graphic displays of violence such as public executions & beheadings.

 Additional Congressional testimony was given by David Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics & Law Enforcement, who said that Mexican authorities have estimated that more than 6,200 people were killed in drug related violence including 522 civilian law enforcement officers & military personnel in 2008.

 Johnson also testified that U.S. federal law enforcement authorities estimate that Mexican based criminal organizations are present in at least 230 U.S. cities.

 On February 5, 2009 the State Dept. announced that the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, Stephen McFarland, signed a letter of agreement with the Guatemalan Ministry of Governmental Affairs to provide $3,650,000 in fiscal year 2008, the first year of the Merida Initiative, and obligates the U.S. to provide an additional $550,000 to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

 As for 2008, Guatemalan law enforcement officers  will participate in 5 projects that will be fully funded by U.S. taxpayers: the Central American Fingerprint Initiative ($400,000), the Central American Vetted & Sensitive Investigative Units ($500,000), the Transnational Anti-gang Initiative ($1,225,000), Improved Policing & Police Equipment programs ($975,000), Improved Prison Management programs ($550,000).

 On February 10, 2009 the State Dept. announced that a letter of agreement was signed with the Belizean Ministry of National Security to provide $150,000 to be used for the Central American Fingerprint Exchange; $608,000 for improved policing & police equipment; and $250,000 for improved prison management.

 On March 13, 2009 the State Dept. signed a letter of agreement with the Panamanian Ministry of the Presidency that will provide an initial payment of $2,011,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2008 that will be used by Panamanian law enforcement agencies in the following areas: participation in the Central American Fingerprint Exchange program ($300,000), the Central American Vetted & Sensitive Investigation Units ($1,000,000), Improved Policing & Police Equipment ($613,000), Improved Prison Management ($100,000).

 In addition, a second letter of agreement will be signed with Panama that will provide U.S. funds for the targeting of “at risk youth” & anti-gang programs, community policing & “demand reduction”.

 For more information on the Merida Initiative visit the State Department’s web-site and search for “Merida Initiative”.

Killeen, Texas Officer Kills Fort Hood Soldier

March 24, 2009

From the Associated Press March 22, 2009

 An officer with the Killeen, TX Police Dept. shot & killed a U.S. soldier from Fort Hood that was driving a SUV that was dragging the officer.

 Killeen Police Spokeswoman Carrol Smith said the officer, who was not named, was trying to detain a man in connection with a disturbance call early Saturday morning when the man attempted to escape the officer by jumping into the SUV through an open window.

 Witnesses said the man was hanging out the window of the vehicle when the officer attempted to pull him out by grabbing his waist when the driver of the vehicle, the soldier, started the car, dragging the officer along side.

 Investigators said that the officer was able to free one of his arms and shot the driver killing him.

 According to the report, several arrests were made, but specific information about the charges or those arrested was not listed.

Matthews, NC Officer Honored by Rotary Club

March 24, 2009

 Matthews Police Sergeant David Ruby was honored by the Matthews-Mint Hill Rotary Club as their “Officer of the Year”.

 Ruby was given the honor mostly for his creating the department’s Driving Awareness for Teen Education (D.A.T.E.) program. Ruby also participates in many community service events.

 The goal of the program is to educate teen drivers about cell phone use, passenger seatbelt laws, driver distractions, and how alcohol, drugs, and lack of sleep affect driving.

 Details of the D.A.T.E. program can be obtained at www.matthewsnc.com

Oakland cop shot by parolee taken off life support

March 24, 2009

By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer

Undated mugshot of suspect Lovelle Mixon, who was involved in the shooting of 5 police officers resulting in 4 of their deaths, in Oakland, California Reuters – Undated mugshot of suspect Lovelle Mixon, who was involved in the shooting of 5 police officers resulting …

SAN FRANCISCO – An Oakland police officer shot by a man wanted on a parole violation was taken off life support after vital organs were removed for transplantation, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The officer’s death brings to five, counting the gunman, the number of people killed in Saturday’s confrontation.

Officer John Hege was taken off life support Monday night and his heart, liver and kidneys were removed, said Andrea Breaux of Alameda County Medical Center.

The 41-year-old officer had been declared brain dead on Sunday but the hospital kept him on life support so his organs could be donated, in keeping with his wishes.

Four patients received the organs, she said.

Police said Hege and his partner, Sgt. Mark Dunakin, were gunned down when the two motorcycle officers pulled over parolee Lovelle Mixon on Saturday.

In the manhunt that followed, two more officers died when the city’s SWAT team stormed an apartment where Mixon was hiding. The two officers who were killed at the apartment were Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. Mixon also was killed.

“This is the biggest tragedy ever to hit our department,” Oakland police Sgt. Mark Schmid said Monday. “We’re just numb and walking around like zombies. We feel each other’s pain but we don’t know how to explain it.”

Flowers piled up outside Oakland police headquarters. A vigil was planned for Tuesday evening at the corner near where the two motorcycle officers stopped Mixon.

The incident has prompted California’s attorney general to call for better monitoring of parole violators.

DNA found at the scene of a February rape was a probable match to Mixon, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said Monday night.

Investigators got that information Friday, the day before the routine traffic stop ended in gunfire.

California prison records show that authorities had issued a warrant for Mixon’s arrest after he missed a mandatory meeting with his parole officer on Feb. 19.

His family said Mixon, 26, had served six years in state prison for assault with a firearm during an armed robbery in San Francisco. More recently, he served several months in prison last year for a parole violation.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown said he will examine how Mixon was monitored following his release from prison in November. Mixon also was a suspect in a December 2007 murder but was never charged because of lack of evidence, officials said.

“Mixon was certainly a character that needed more supervision,” said Brown, the former mayor of Oakland. “In Oakland, the highway patrol has an office there, sheriff and police. And all those agencies should have a list of the more dangerous, threatening parolees so they can keep a watch on them.”

Mixon was one of 164 Oakland parolees in mid-March who had outstanding arrest warrants for parole violations, state prison records show.

The city of 400,000 residents had more than 1,900 total parolees at the time, including nearly 300 who had been returned to custody or whose parole was about to be revoked.

During traffic stops, police often check vehicle records to find whether the driver has outstanding warrants. But police have not disclosed how Saturday’s shooting unfolded.

Mixon’s family members said he was upset that he was unable to find work, felt his parole officer was not helping him and feared he would be arrested for a parole violation.

State prison officials said Mixon’s parole officer was responsible for 70 parolees. A caseload of that size is nearly unmanageable, but not unusual, said Lance Corcoran, spokesman for California’s prison guard union, which includes parole officers.

“There is no control,” Corcoran said. “It’s simply supervision, and supervision at distance.”

___

Associated Press writers Josh Dubow, Lisa Leff and Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco and Terry Collins in Oakland contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS that harvesting of organs completed late Monday not early Tuesday, reflecting change from hospital)

Judge: Man Who Gave Pittsburgh Cop ‘Finger’ Didn’t Break Law

March 24, 2009

Federal Lawsuit Claims Flip-Off Gesture Is Protected Speech

PITTSBURGH — A federal judge said a man who flipped his middle finger at a Pittsburgh police officer shouldn’t have been cited for disorderly conduct.

 

David Hackbart, of Pittsburgh, said he made the gesture at another driver while trying to back into a parking space on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill in April 2006.

 

When he heard someone else yelling at him, Hackbart gave the finger again — not realizing that the second person was a police officer.

“While flipping somebody off or using profane language may not be pleasant, it is constitutionally protected speech, especially when it’s uttered towards a public official,” said Vic Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union, when he sued on Hackbart’s behalf in September.

 

U.S. District Judge David Cercone filed a 19-page decision Monday, agreeing that the gesture was protected under free speech.

 

Still to be determined at an upcoming trial is whether city police were improperly trained. The ACLU claims city police have filed 188 citations for similar offenses in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

 

 

“The police need to understand that they’re not Miss Manners, they can’t be enforcing nice language, and that it’s inappropriate for them to use the criminal laws to punish somebody because they may use profane language,” Walczak said in September.