Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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Question and Frisk Search
NYCLU head calls stop-and-frisk initiative 'a Trojan horse for a marijuana arrest program'
The New York Civil Liberties Union said that the NYPD tricks men into taking the drug out of a pocket because if it’s in plain view, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. But the NYCLU also said that of the more than 530,000 stops last year, only 11% resulted in arrests and of that, only 16% were charged with pot possession.
By Rocco Parascandola — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Marijuana possession was the top offense among those arrested after police stopped and questioned them last year, the New York Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.
Of 532,911 stops last year, 89% did not result in an arrest or summons. But of those who were arrested, 5,307, or 16%, were charged with pot possession, the NYCLU analysis found.
Too often, the group said, police trick men into taking the drug out of a pocket because if it’s in plain view, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Donna Lieberman, the NYCLU’s executive director, said the numbers suggested that the stop-and-frisk initiative is “a Trojan horse for a marijuana arrest program.” But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called that a “silly analogy.”
Lieberman also blasted the mayor’s contention that stopping people helps reduce violent crime, noting that even as stops dropped 22% last year compared with 2011, the murder rate plunged.
“We believe that New York’s Finest are indeed capable of protecting our communities and protecting fundamental rights,” she said.
The NYPD has staunchly defended stop-and-frisk as a way to get guns off the street and has denied allegations it targets men of color.
NYCLU Finds 2012 Stop-And-Frisks Led To More Marijuana Arrests Than Gun Arrests
By Unnamed Author(s) — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 6:17 p.m. ‘NY 1 News’ / New York
A new study by the New York City Liberties Union says the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic to get guns off the street is all smoke and mirrors, and in 2012 it mainly resulted in marijuana arrests. NY1's Criminal Justice reporter Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Last year, 532,911 people were stopped by NYPD officers as a part of the stop-and-frisk program. The New York Civil Liberties Union says the largest amount of arrests were for marijuana possession.
"This is a program about putting fear into and interrupting the lives of young men of color and it is about going after marijuana. It is not about going after guns, because it just doesn't work that way," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.
The NYCLU analyzed the police numbers and says 5,300 people were arrested for having marijuana on them.
In contrast, the NYCLU says out of the 532,911 people stopped, 729 guns were recovered. That is less than 1 percent of all the stops resulting in someone found with a gun.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said getting the guns of the street is important and more stops could help save more lives. The NYCLU's notion that stop-and-frisk is about marijuana is wrong.
"I think it is a silly analogy to make," Kelly said on Wednesday.
"The NYCLU's message to the NYPD is, 'What, are you smoking?'" Lieberman countered.
Although the group broke down the numbers from 2012, dozens of ways, it was also really concerned about statistics that show young black men being wrongfully stopped 91 percent of the time.
"There were 133,000 stops of young black men between the ages of 14 and 24. There are only 158,000 young black men in the entire city between those two those ages," said Christopher Dunn of the NYCLU. "Over 90 percent of those stops resulted in the person walking away. They were innocent people."
NYPD officials say young black men are the ones doing most of the shootings and also the ones getting shoot.
Surprisingly, the NYCLU praised the NYPD as being the finest when it comes to fighting crime, but just not that great when it comes to stop-and-frisk.
Stop-and-Frisk Critic Eyes Tactic
Marijuana Possession Is Most Common Charge After Stop-and-Frisk Encounters
By TAMER EL-GHOBASHY — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
The majority of arrests made as a result of stop-and-frisk encounters in 2012 were for marijuana possession, according to a recent analysis of police department data.
The analysis, conducted by the New York Civil Liberties Union, shows that 5,307 people were arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, accounting for 16.4% of the 32,315 arrests following 532,911 stop-and-frisk encounters conducted by New York Police Department officers last year.
Critics of the polarizing NYPD program say the new data show that the police tactic is fueling New York City's marijuana arrest rate and that the arrests are ensnaring people, particularly minorities, in the criminal justice system on minor charges.
City officials have defended the tactic as a necessary tool for fighting crime, particularly in getting illegal guns off the street, and rejected claims that it was being used to catch people with small amounts of marijuana.
On Wednesday, NYCLU officials said the NYPD data showed 729 guns were recovered in 2012 after the stops, and argued that a sharp increase in stop-and-frisks since 2003 has had little effect on the rate at which guns are found on suspects.
"Despite the police department's repeated claim that stop-and-frisk is a valuable program because it targets guns, the facts show that it is really much more a marijuana arrest program," said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU, during a press conference.
At an unrelated news conference, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the notion that stop-and-frisk was being conducted as a marijuana arrest program is "a silly analogy to make."
Misdemeanor arrests for marijuana possession have been at issue in New York City since 50,668 such arrests were made in 2011. In response to the soaring numbers, Mr. Kelly ordered officers to issue only summons for those possessing less than 25 grams in public view.
Like a similar study conducted last year, data drawn from the NYPD's internal stop-and-frisk files showed that black and Latino men accounted for nearly 87% of those stopped in 2012, while whites accounted for about 10%.
About 89% of stops resulted in no summons issued or arrest being made. In 56% of the encounters, people were frisked after being stopped.
Stops fell in 2012 from a record 685,724 in 2011, but the data show the number of stops has a marginal effect on the rate of gun recovery, said Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the NYCLU.
In 2003, when 160,851 stops were conducted, 633 guns were recovered, while the 532,911 stops in 2012 resulted in 729 recovered guns.
"Whatever you might want to say about the stop-and-frisk program, it is not a gun recovery program," Mr. Dunn said. "The numbers are quite clear about that."
Mr. Kelly termed "ludicrous" the NYCLU conclusion that the gun-recovery rate was insignificant.
Paul Browne, the top spokesman for the police department, said the NYCLU was underestimating the importance of the more than 700 guns recovered in 2012.
"Only they would diminish the importance of taking guns off the street," he said.
The NYPD and the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg have faced increasing community and legal challenges to the stop-and-frisk tactic in recent years, as the number of stops steadily increased from 97,296 in 2002.
The NYCLU released its analysis two days after a Manhattan federal court judge, Shira Scheindlin, heard closing arguments capping the first trial challenging the legality of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program.
The judge will now rule if the stop-and-frisk practice is unconstitutional and if any changes need to be made to the program.
— Pervaiz Shallwani and Sean Gardiner contributed to this article.
Stop & Frisk Way Better At Finding Weed Than Guns
By Christopher Robbins — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 1:16 p.m. ‘The Gothamist’ / New York, NY
To hear Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly explain it, stop-and-frisk is a messy but invaluable tool used to keep weapons off the street. But an analysis of stops in 2012 confirms that the tactic is vastly more effective at generating marijuana arrests. The NYCLU [PDF] looked at last year's 532,911 stops and found that while the NYPD recovered 729 guns, more than 5,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. Indeed, marijuana was the top reason to be arrested during a stop in 2012, ahead of trespassing and criminal possession of a weapon.
Surveys have shown that whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks or Hispanics, yet of the 26,225 marijuana-related stops made in 2012, only 8.7% involved whites—61.4% involved blacks or Hispanics.
Another finding in the report seems to lend credence to the issue raised by the judge in the federal stop-and-frisk on Monday: justifying the overwhelming percentage of blacks and Latinos being stopped could lead police to stop people solely for the color of their skin, not any reasonable suspicion.
For instance, blacks or Latinos make up only 7.8% of the residents in the 17th Precinct, which covers Kips Bay, Turtle Bay, and Murray Hill. But 74% of those stopped in that precinct were people of color. In Greenwich Village's 6th Precinct, that number was 83.5%, despite the fact that only 8% of the neighborhood's population has that racial makeup.
It's also important to note that stops decreased by 22% from 2011; marijuana arrests are also on track to fall by 20%; crime has also decreased, but Kelly and Bloomberg's defense of stop-and-frisk has not. "This gives the lie to the NYPD’s repeated claims that more and more stops are needed to save lives,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn said in a statement.
NYPD stop-and-frisk: Bronx, Brooklyn have most stops, analysis finds
By COLLEEN LONG (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 2:28 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK - Black and Hispanic men are more likely to be stopped in the Bronx and Brooklyn than other boroughs, according to an analysis of police street stop data released Wednesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The police made 532,911 stops in 2012, a 22 percent decrease from the year before, when an all-time high of 685,724 stops were made.
Most of the people stopped are black and Hispanic men, and a federal trial that concluded this week accused the police of unfairly targeting minorities. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin will rule on whether changes are needed and will decide the changes. She already has said the policy seems troubling.
The NYCLU analyzed street stop data from 2011 and the findings are similar. The precincts that had the most stops were also among the most crime-ridden. The most stops happened in the 75th Precinct, in East New York; second was the 73rd Precinct, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Precincts in the South Bronx also had a high volume of stops.
The fewest stops were performed in Central Park, Murray Hill and Kips Bay, all in Manhattan.
Of those stopped, 9.7 percent were white, about 55 percent were black and 32 percent were Latino. The population of New York is about 8 million with 33 percent white, 23 percent black and about 29 percent Latino.
Police recovered 796 guns, a number that has remained fairly constant the past decade, while stops have risen dramatically. Chris Dunn, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that proves the tool isn't effective at getting guns off the street because the number of guns recovered should go up with the number of stops.
Donna Lieberman, head of the NYCLU, said she welcomed the decline in stops, but added, "The NYPD last year still subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent people to humiliating, intimidating and unjustified stop and frisk encounters."
The NYPD has said the tactic is a life-saving, crime-fighting tool and police on the street deter criminals from bringing weapons outside.
"Leave it to Donna, after the shooting deaths of D'Aja Robinson and Marc Carson, to diminish the importance of taking 796 guns off the street last year," said Paul Browne, chief NYPD spokesman, referring to a pair of killings Saturday.
Carson was shot as he walked with a companion through Greenwich Village, and police say it was a hate crime because he was gay. Fourteen-year-old D'Aja was felled by a bullet through the window of a city bus in Queens. Police don't believe she was the intended target.
NYPD report: Whites more likely to carry drugs and guns than minorities
NYPD crime data for 2012 shows that whites were far more likely be carrying guns and drugs during searches.
By KRISTEN BUTLER (UPI.com) — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 3:01 p.m. EDT
The New York Office of the Public Advocate on Wednesday released a report based on publicly available NYPD 2012 crime data, which concluded that white people were far more likely to be carrying drugs or guns than minorities, despite making up a small proportion of targets in so-called "stop-and-frisk" searches.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.
Despite the overall reduction in stops, the proportion involving black and Latino New Yorkers has remained unchanged. They continue to constitute 84 percent of all stops, despite comprising only 54 percent of the general population. And the innocence rates remain at the same level as 2011 -- at nearly 89 percent.
A class action lawsuit filed over the controversial search practice claimed NYPD disproportionately targeted young Black and Latino men. Arguments concluded Tuesday, with city attorneys saying that there is no evidence of racial discrimination. Clinton-appointed District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks.
A separate report, also published Wednesday, showed that out of 532,911 stop-and-frisk searches in 2012, only 729 guns were found, but over 5,000 were arrested for private marijuana possession.
Despite being decriminalized city-wide in 1977, possessing marijuana within public view is an arrest-level offense, allegedly leading officers to demand people empty their pockets during searches in order to increase penalties.
Why Michael Bloomberg Is Wrong About Stop-and-Frisk
Evidence suggests improved medical care, not aggressive police searches, has led to New York's reduced murder rate
By Leo Eisenstein and Laura Gottesdiener — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 ‘Rolling Stone Magazine’ / New York, NY
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
The New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk strategy has sparked a heated national debate in the last two years, with attention-grabbing statistics on both sides. Critics point to data showing that the aggressive search tactic is used in hugely disproportionate numbers on innocent black and Latino New Yorkers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have dismissed these concerns, claiming that stop-and-frisk has dramatically reduced the city's murder rate.
"Nobody should ask Ray Kelly to apologize – he's not going to and neither am I – for saving 5,600 lives," Bloomberg said at a press conference last May, after a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit alleging that stop-and-frisk violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches, as well as the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That lawsuit is set to conclude this week; although a decision is not expected for months, the federal judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, offered surprisingly "blunt" criticism of the policy during Monday's closing arguments.
Experts say that Bloomberg's equation of more stop-and-frisk searches with fewer murders is far too simplistic. In fact, according to sociologist Anthony Harris, the reduction in New York City homicides – which hit a record low of 414 murders in 2012, down from a historic high of 2,245 murders in 1990 – doesn't have much to do with stop-and-frisk at all. A more important factor, he says: Doctors, nurses, EMTs and ambulance drivers have been getting better at bringing wounded people back from the brink.
"In interpreting the meaning of homicide, people forget everything they know," says Harris, a professor at UMass-Amherst. "They don't think about the availability of high-quality emergency medical care, or the vast improvements since World War II in such care. They don't think about traffic congestion and ambulance speed, or caliber and number of bullet wounds."
In 2002, Harris wrote a groundbreaking paper called "Murder and Medicine." The study analyzed a seemingly paradoxical trend on a nationwide scale: Between 1960 and 1999, the rate of aggravated assault increased, while the rate of homicide went down. In other words, people were committing more acts of violence, but fewer of those attacks resulted in death. Examining this trend, Harris and his colleagues found that the drop in the national homicide rate was "primarily attributable to developments in trauma care."
The New York Times Magazine included Harris's paper in its "2002 Year in Ideas" section, calling the paper an "intellectual hand grenade." Yet despite the fanfare, policing tactics continued to receive credit as New York's homicide rate kept falling.
More recent studies confirm that in the past decade, advances in trauma care remained a driving force behind falling murder rates. A 2012 Wall Street Journal investigation showed that between 2001 and 2011, nationally, the number of people who had been shot and wounded severely enough to require a hospital stay rose almost 50 percent. Yet over the same period, the national death rate from shootings declined – dropping nearly two full percentage points between 2007 and 2010 alone.
According to Dr. Adil Haider, the co-director of the Howard-Hopkins Surgical Outcomes Research Center, which performed the analysis for the Journal, many of the recent advances in trauma care have come from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. "In 2004, '05 and '06, we learned a lot about improving the type of blood transfusions and the management of traumatic brain injury," says Haider. Significant breakthroughs have also included an increased focus on controlling bleeding and stabilizing patients before operations.
Another factor driving down homicide rates across the U.S. is the proliferation of trauma centers. Today, New York City boasts 16 Level 1 trauma centers, including one devoted to pediatric care. (In comparison, all 9.9 million residents of Los Angeles County have access to only five Level 1 trauma centers, plus several more Level 2 centers.) Research shows that access to a Level 1 trauma center is often the deciding factor between life and death, with patients 20 percent more likely to die if they are transported to a Level 2 facility.
It's no surprise that Bloomberg has turned to the homicide rate in his efforts to defend stop-and-frisk. It's one of the most emotional statistics available. But the fact remains that stop-and-frisk has in no demonstrable way contributed to the city's reduced homicide rate.
Before becoming police commissioner, Ray Kelly famously quipped that, with all the factors that affect the crime rate, trying to claim responsibility for its decline is "like trying to take credit for an eclipse." Today, it's worth asking: What's the proper analogy for a mayor trying to credit aggressive stop-and-frisk policing for the city's reduction in murders when so much evidence suggests that better medicine deserves our praise instead?
Operation Lucky Bag
NYPD Accused of Enticing Bogus Crime
By IULIA FILIP — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 ‘The Courthouse News Service’ / Pasadena, CA
BROOKLYN (CN) - Fresh off a trial for racial profiling, the NYPD faces another class action accusing it of giving people "an unfair enticement to commit crime" by leaving valuables in public places and arresting people who pick them up.
Lead plaintiff Spiridon Argyros sued New York City, Police Officer Daniel Fody, and other unidentified members of the NYPD, in Federal Court.
He claims the NYPD, through its "Operation Lucky Bag," treats good Samaritans as criminals, giving people "an unfair enticement to commit crime," arresting them without proof they had any intent to steal.
"This is a civil rights class action that challenges the constitutionality of a widespread and ongoing New York City Police Department ('NYPD') operation known as 'Operation Lucky Bag,' which entraps its victims, presumes their guilt and results in their unlawful arrest and detention," the complaint states.
"Operation Lucky Bag is a policy and practice of the NYPD in which police officers intentionally place a bag that contains a valuable item such as a wallet or laptop in a public place, and lay in wait, often out of sight, until someone picks up the bag and/or removes or attempts to remove the valuable. The police then arrest the person, presuming s/he intends to retain the valuable, rather than to return the property to the rightful owner or turn it in to the proper authority. Though the policy and practice is purportedly intended to catch thieves and deter crime, it is overbroad and treats honest individuals acting as good Samaritans as criminals."
Argyros says he was arrested on May 29, 2012, in Queens, for picking up a bag the police had left on a sidewalk as bait.
He claims he took the wallet that was sticking out from the bag's side pocket and put it in a plastic bag, and intended to find its owner, but undercover police gave him no chance to explain and arrested him without probable cause.
Four or five NYPD officers, including defendant Fody of the 109th Precinct, handcuffed Argyros, took him to the station, and detained him for about four hours, he says in the complaint.
A judge dismissed the petit larceny charges against Argyros in August 2012, he says in the complaint.
Argyros seeks to represent everyone who was arrested and jailed under "Operation Lucky Bag" after May 16, 2010. He estimates the class may be in the hundreds.
"Operation Lucky Bag is a policy and practice of the NYPD of leaving an unattended bag that contains a valuable item - such as a wallet, cash, cell phone, or credit card - in a public place, and arresting persons who pick up the bag and/or remove or attempt to remove the valuable," the complaint states.
"Operation Lucky Bag is overly broad and results in the arrest and detention of persons who intend to return the property to the rightful owner. In operation, the program presumes, without basis, that anyone who picks up the bag and/or removes or attempts to remove its contents intends to steal the valuable item, rather than return it.
"Upon information and belief, the public locations where the NYPD has left the bags with valuables pursuant to Operation Lucky Bag include subway platforms, department stores, sidewalks, and Central Park.
"According to The New York Times, in 2007 an earlier version of the program was 'effectively shut down by prosecutors and judges' who were concerned that the program was ensnaring good Samaritans in addition to those who intended to commit a crime or misdemeanor.
"Upon information and belief, the policy and practice resulted in 34 arrests within Central Park alone between March and June 2011. Also, upon information and belief, under a prior iteration of the program, there were at least 220 arrests between February 2006 and November 2007."
Argyros claims the program violates state law and the New York City Administrative Code, which give people 10 days to return items worth more than $10 to the rightful owner or turn them in to a police station.
He claims courts dismissed previous cases, finding the program was inconsistent with state and local laws, and constituted "an unfair enticement to commit crime."
What's more, NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of legal matters S. Andrew Schaffer admitted in a January 2012 memorandum that the operation was illegal and did not establish intent to commit a crime, according to the complaint.
"A review of existing law shows that this method of conducting Lucky Bag operations is not sufficient to establish that the perpetrator actually had the intent to commit a larceny," Schaffer wrote in the memorandum, according to the complaint.
The complaint adds: "Accordingly, the Deputy Commissioner's memorandum proposed certain changes to the program. For example, the memorandum recommended that the NYPD members arrest people after they observe them 'remove the valuable portion of the property, such as the cash or credit cards in a wallet, and discard the rest of it.' It also recommended that the NYPD 'have a person in civilian clothes approach the person who picks up the property and state that they lost the property. They would then ask the perpetrator if they have seen it.' It recommends the NYPD can arrest the perpetrator if she or he denies having seen the property."
Argyros claims the city and its police department failed to train and supervise employees, showing "deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom NYPD personnel came into contact."
He claims NYPD officers arrested him months after the deputy commissioner issued the memorandum.
And, he says that as a diner manager who often finds items that customers leave behind, he is in danger of being arrested again if the program continues.
Argyros seeks class certification, an injunction, and compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations, negligent hiring, training and supervision, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault and battery.
His lead counsel is Norman Siegel with Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans.
Yakov Dubin, a tourist from Atlanta, sued the city for $1 million last year, after being arrested in Central Park in 2011 for picking up an abandoned purse with $27.
The New York City Police Department did not return a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the city Law Department released a statement, "We are awaiting formal service of the complaint."
Similar police programs in Albuquerque and other cities also have been challenged in lawsuits.
Homi Trial in the Execution of 75 Precinct Hero Peter Figoski
Jury set to weigh case of Nelson Morales, alleged mastermind of robbery that led to NYPD Officer Figoski's death
Morales, 29, is accused of planning and leading five gangsters to the basement of his uncle's home to rob a drug dealer. Officer Peter Figoski was the responding officer.
By Oren Yaniv — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
A Brooklyn jury is set to begin deliberating the fate of the alleged mastermind of a botched robbery that ended in the death of Officer Peter Figoski.
Nelson Morales, 29, is accused of leading the five-man crew to the basement of his uncle’s house to rob a drug dealer who lived there in December 2011. One of the thugs, Lamont Pride, shot the veteran cop dead as he tried to flee.
Morales is on trial for burglary and felony murder, even though he didn’t pull the trigger.
“Would Peter Figoski still be alive if it wasn’t for this man? Who was it that set it in motion?” said prosecutor Kenneth Taub, pointing at the defense table during closing arguments Wednesday and urging the jury to find Morales guilty.
“It’s not just the legally correct verdict — it’s the right verdict,” he said.
The defense contended Pride forced Morales to participate in the crime at gunpoint, but Taub attacked that claim as impossible to believe.
NYC Mayoral Race and the NYPD
Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner, Could Make Late Entry Into Mayoral Race? That's the Chatter
By Graham Rayman — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The Villiage Voice’ / New York, NY
Could Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly be considering a dramatic late entry into the mayoral race? With 19 days to go before the campaign finance certification deadline, the chatter that the 71-year-old commissioner will run to replace Mayor Bloomberg reached a renewed crescendo yesterday, insiders tell the Voice.
Insiders tells us that though Kelly has yet to form a campaign apparatus, he has been in serious talks with wealthy backers about helping him raise money for a potential run. Kelly has flirted with a run in the past, He came very close to running in 2008, before Mayor Bloomberg secured himself a third term.
Though the field is already crowded with at least seven Democratic candidates and three Republican candidates, Kelly is said to believe that his message and his record of running the largest police agency in the country and keeping crime down while addressing terror concerns is more resonant with voters than what the other candidates have been saying.
Whether that's true or not will be seen, but it's clear that no clear frontrunner has emerged as of yet, and the messages of those in the race have been muddied by sheer numbers. Even the early leader Christine Quinn has fallen into the pack, dogged by the council nonprofit scandal and lingering anger over her support for Bloomberg's third term.
A signal of the candidates' desperation to be noticed came with Quinn disclosing her past troubles with alcohol and bulimia, which got mixed reviews, and Bill de Blasio's wife, a former lesbian, talking candidly about their relationship.
As all candidates must, Kelly would have to register with the Campaign Finance Board, and then file a request for public matching funds by June 10 to even have the chance to run.
If he runs, Kelly would face sharp criticism over the NYPD's stop and frisk campaign, which has been the subject of a high profile federal trial for the past eight weeks. And there have been allegations of downgrading of crime stats that he has yet to fully deal with.
But those two items would be overshadowed by the 35 percent overall reduction in crime in his tenure, historic lows in murder, his oft-stated record of foiled terror attacks, and the fact he is the longest serving police commissioner in NYPD history.
Kelly also has a built-in media platform and a high-profile name, giving him an advantage the other candidates don't have.
A clear signal of a run will be if Kelly speaks at the Christian Cultural Center, the powerhouse Brooklyn church run by the politically influential pastor A.R. Bernard, one insider said. As police commissioner, Kelly has always been careful to gather support from black churches.
We reached out to Kelly's spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, late last evening, and did not receive a response.
Weiner sides with Quinn and de Blasio on an NYPD surveillance
By Azi Paybarah — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 5:03 p.m. ‘Capital New York’ / New York, NY
Newly declared mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner said he has seen no evidence that the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism surveillance program focusing on Muslim groups has done anything illegal or unconstitutional.
Two of Weiner's Democratic rivals, Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio, have taken the same position. City Comptroller John Liu has said the program amounts to racial profiling and is illegal.
The NYPD program has been the subject of a lengthy investigative series by the Associated Press, for which it won a Pulitzer Prize in April. The AP articles described how police officials tracked Muslims attending various houses of worship, businesses and student association meetings.
The NYPD has said the series is inaccurate because it suggests the activities were illegal. (The A.P. series never said the tactics was illegal. It was the New York Times editorial page that called it "constitutionally suspect.")
"Well the way it's been described in the Associated Press is different than it's been described by the police department," said Weiner, whose wife Huma Abedin is Muslim, in an interview this afternoon. "And I don't have any kind of inside information to litigate who is right, who is wrong."
But, he added, "From what I've seen, I'm not prepared to say the police department is not doing anything that is not constitutional or proper."
He also said, "I can say that I have no problem with the NYPD trying to keep an eye on suspicious activity and trying to follow suspicious people and potential, people who would potentially harm citizens. I don't have any problem with them surveilling them and trying to find out where they are and where they're going to be."
Weiner said the police and the residents they serve need to maintain a good working relationship in order for the department's anti-terrorism efforts to be successful.
"The single greatest asset the police department and intelligence officers have is the cooperation of a citizenry that has their eyes open that is trying to help the police department," Weiner told me. "We're a city of 8.1 million people. We have about 34,000 cops. You need the 8.1 million feeling comfortable that they can help the 34,000. And if you reach a place that people are looking over their shoulder because they think they're being spied on, that's ultimately not going to reduce crime. That's going to have the opposite effect."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio have also expressed support for the NYPD's surveillance program, saying they too found no evidence of wrongdoing. City Comptroller John Liu said the program was illegal because it was motivated by race and ethnicity, rather than suspected criminal behavior.
The Community Safety Act
Safety for criminals
By PETER F. VALLONE JR. — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
Imagine a world in which criminals control our streets, police officers can’t act for fear of being sanctioned by judges, murders skyrocket back to the levels of the early 1990s and schools and libraries are closed because so much of the city’s money is going for lawsuits against the NYPD.
No, it’s not a trailer for the latest bad Tom Cruise movie — it’s the reality New York will face if the City Council passes Introduction 800 of the Community Safety Act.
The better name for it is The Criminal Safety Act — and I believe it’s the most dangerous piece of legislation ever proposed in our city.
I have no problem with parts of it — like the expansion of the categories of protected status, altering the anti-racial-profiling law that I co-wrote with the late Council Member Phil Reed, a civil-rights activist.
But the anti-profiling aspect is being used as a smokescreen to obscure the real change the bill would make — blowing a massive hole in New York City’s budget, ending police work as we know it and placing the NYPD under the control of the judiciary.
The bill would allow any individual who is subject to an action by a police officer that results in a “disparate impact” to file a civil lawsuit against the city, the NYPD or the police officer.
In other words, any male (because men are the subject of police action far more often than women) would have an immediate right to sue in state court if the NYPD takes any action against him (not just stop, question and frisk).
Disparate impact is one of the most harmful theories in the law today, because it asserts that bias is present even though there’s absolutely no evidence of it — e.g., it assumes that unfair bias is the explanation whenever police stop or arrest more “members of a class.”
So the Criminal Safety Act would let literally hundreds of thousands of people sue the city. The costs just to defend against the lawsuits — before allowing for damages, attorneys’ fees, court costs and fees for expert witnesses — would be hundreds of millions of dollars.
But the higher cost would be the lives of countless New Yorkers.
That’s because the bill is written to empower judges to impose ridiculous sanctions against the NYPD — such as issuing orders of protection for gangs against the police department, or telling cops where and when they can patrol. In short, it effectively takes control of the NYPD away from Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
It also practically forces individual cops not to do their jobs — since each could personally be sued under the insane “disparate impact” theory. Multiple officers have already told me that, if this becomes law, they “won’t get out of the car” to avoid being subjected to the whims of judges.
Thanks to the tremendous work of Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD, New York City is the safest big city in America, with murders at the lowest level in recorded history. The Criminal Safety Act would undo all the efforts to improve public safety in the city over the last two decades, prevent the NYPD from doing its job and give New York back over to violent offenders.
So if law-abiding citizens don’t want to end up living in the city depicted in “Escape from New York,” they need to make sure their elected officials vote against Intro. 800. Otherwise, not even Kurt Russell will keep us safe.
Peter F. Vallone (D-Queens) chairs the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
108 Precinct Homi / Alleged Sloppy Police Work
Questions About Police Response to Killing of a Gay Man in October
By J. DAVID GOODMAN — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The call came over 911 at 2:16 a.m. on a cool October morning: a quick and brutal assault by two men that left a third twitching on the pavement.
Minutes later, several police patrol cars arrived along with an ambulance, their lights harshly illuminating a usually quiet corner of Queens. The man, who carried no identification and could not communicate, was rushed to a nearby hospital with head trauma.
Then the police left the scene, after making a quick and incorrect assessment that no crime had been committed.
Roughly 12 hours later, after the man’s husband filed a missing-person report, detectives identified the patient with severe brain injuries as Louis Rispoli, a 62-year-old gay rights activist and mainstay of the close-knit community in Sunnyside, Queens.
But it was not until about 5 p.m. the next day — 39 hours after the attack — that the police established a crime scene near the corner of 43rd Avenue and 42nd Street. Detectives canvassed for what witnesses they could still find. Mr. Rispoli died four days later.
In this neighborhood of low crime and park benches filled with conversation, the killing of Mr. Rispoli last year raised troubling questions of how the police responded in the first minutes after the Oct. 20 attack.
Seven months later, those questions remain largely unanswered and the killing, unsolved.
“What happened that night?” said Jimmy Van Bramer, a friend of Mr. Rispoli’s and the local City Council member. “Why didn’t the evidence collection unit show up?”
While motive in the killing was not known, the beating death of Mr. Rispoli — an openly gay man walking on the street — found disturbing new resonance after the deadly shooting last week of a gay man in the West Village and a citywide increase in hate crimes against gay people this year.
The deadly attack on Mr. Rispoli set off two separate and still continuing Police Department investigations: one by detectives into the crime, and a second by the Internal Affairs Bureau into why officers initially determined no crime had taken place.
According to a person familiar with the investigation, that determination was made by the responding supervisor on the midnight shift who told patrol officers that the man, Mr. Rispoli, had been the victim not of an assault, but of a drunken fall. It was not clear, the person said, what led the supervisor to that conclusion, or how the victim’s wounds appeared to officers.
A police summary of the crime days later said that officers had found Mr. Rispoli unconscious; more recently, the police said he had been awake and vomiting, but unable to communicate.
A witness, who called 911 and remained at the scene, said officers there never questioned him. “They didn’t talk to nobody that night,” said the witness, a 55-year-old Sunnyside resident who requested anonymity because the killers remained at large.
About two hours before the attack, Mr. Rispoli left the apartment on 51st Street that he shared with his husband, Danyal Lawson, for one of his routine, late-night meanderings. He did not bring a wallet or his cellphone, though he may have had some pocket cash, Mr. Lawson said.
“Lou used to go out walking all the time, until two or three in the morning,” he said. “It’s just something he did from a young age to get some peace from his crazy Italian family.”
Mr. Rispoli — known by friends as the Lion for his 6-foot-2-inch frame and shaggy mop of brown hair — would strike up conversations as he wandered, never along a set route. “He was a New Yorker,” Mr. Lawson said. “He never felt unsafe.”
Whom he encountered on his walk that night remains a mystery. But shortly after 2 a.m., the witness saw Mr. Rispoli exiting a white two-door sports car with three men. As one of the men stood watch from the corner of 42nd Street, Mr. Rispoli walked between the other two along 43rd Avenue, according to the witness, who called 911.
The man on his left suddenly struck Mr. Rispoli with his fist. “I just saw one swing, one punch, nobody was pushing nobody,” said the witness, who had been standing with several others outside a corner bodega a half-block away.
Mr. Rispoli crumpled to the ground by the ornate entrance to a large apartment building at 41-00 43rd Avenue. “He was shaking,” the witness said. The men fled quickly back to the car, which he said had two mufflers, and sped off. “It made a lot of noise — worse than a motorcycle,” he said.
The police arrived minutes later to the call of an assault in progress. With Mr. Rispoli unable to communicate, a standard alternative, according to Edward Mamet, a retired captain in the New York Police Department, would have been for the responding officers to seek information from the 911 dispatcher.
“If it went out on the radio as an assault and you can’t get the story out of the victim, you can call the dispatcher and get what details they have,” Mr. Mamet said. “That’s very common.”
It was not clear if those steps were taken. Soon after, the ambulance and the police departed.
The Police Department denied a Freedom of Information request, filed on Mr. Lawson’s behalf, for transcripts of the 911 calls, radio dispatches and other police records related to the attack. An appeal, filed late last month, was denied in a department letter dated May 20 because the information relates to a continuing investigation and because “disclosure thereof could endanger the life or safety of a person.”
Mr. Van Bramer, who wrote to the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, demanding that the information request be granted, called for a full review of the police response.
“To see if there were mistakes, errors in judgment or something else that maybe, just maybe, contributed to the fact that we have a stalled investigation into a murder,” he said.
A department spokeswoman, citing the investigation by Internal Affairs, did not respond to detailed questions on the delayed investigation, but provided a short statement.
“The officers responded to the location and determined that the aided was in need of medical attention,” said the spokeswoman, Inspector Kim Y. Royster, referring to Mr. Rispoli. “They immediately requested E.M.S. who removed the male to Elmhurst Hospital. It wasn’t until Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 that detectives were informed that the male was a victim of an assault.”
The effect of delay on the investigation was not known. The police in late January released sketches of two men with close-cropped hair, one in his 20s and the other in his 30s, who were said to be suspects in the killing, but have yet to identify any suspects. The police have not been investigating the killing as a hate crime.
Posters with the sketches hung last week on lamps near the site of the killing. On one, the faces had been scratched out.
Mr. Lawson said the killing would not prompt him to move from the Queens neighborhood where he and Mr. Rispoli lived together for decades after meeting in 1980 on the subway stairs at West Fourth Street. The couple married in 2011.
“Things were looking good for us,” Mr. Lawson said. Mr. Rispoli had recently taken an administrative job at the West Village music school where Mr. Lawson teaches.
“It’s only now that I’m even able to feel angry about it,” he said of the police actions. “I’m not into suing or anything — just find these guys.”
FDNY underreports emergency response times: firefighters union
In data analyzed by the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, 911 call response times were about a minute longer than numbers reported by the city. It also said that the time between the placing and answering of a call were not included in the tallies.
By Joe Kemp AND Ginger Adams Otis — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
The city is playing with fire as 911 call centers go dangerously understaffed and the FDNY underreports its emergency response times, union officials claimed Wednesday.
The FDNY is fudging its emergency response times by as much as a minute by not including how long it takes a caller to get through the understaffed 911 system, said firefighter union head Steve Cassidy.
“They’re not counting the time a 911 caller spends with the 911 operator. The time is significant — over a minute,” said Cassidy, citing FDNY response time data from the last two weeks analyzed by his union.
“When the (FDNY) says response times are four minutes for structural fires, the reality is they’re five minutes, if not longer. When they talk about medical emergencies that are 5 1/2 minutes, the reality is they’re closer to seven,” Cassidy said.
He blasted the department for not releasing info to the public that tracks emergency response calls from the moment a 911 call is answered by an operator. Historically, the stats are based on when a fire truck or ambulance is dispatched on a call.
FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said his agency was “transparent” about its tracking.
“Soon, (the department will) be able to report total ‘end-to-end’ response time data ... from the time a caller’s phone ‘rings’ into the 911 system until the first FDNY unit arrives,” he said in a statement.
But Cassidy said the Fire Department already collects that data and those times were included in the figures it provided to the union.
The FDNY has conceded it needs to hire 300 medically trained operators to handle its call volume. NYPD 911 operators — who are the first to answer all emergency calls — face similar understaffing.
Both agencies have resorted to mandatory overtime to fill scheduling gaps.
“We need the public’s help, call the commissioner, call the mayor, call the City Council, because this is dangerous for us, and it’s dangerous for you,” said Alma Roper, a 20-year 911 dispatcher who said workers are getting burned out.
City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said 911 call volume is up 20% from 2009, but staffing is down 10%.
“I’ve seen the time sheets. These people are working 18-hour shifts, for days at a time,” said Vallone, adding that overtime has doubled.
“It’s a dangerous game to play, and the true cost to public safety immeasurable,” he said.
Pro-gun groups file lawsuit over Conn. gun law passed after Newtown school shootings
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013; 8:28 p.m. EDT
HARTFORD, Conn. — A group of Connecticut organizations that support gun rights, pistol permit holders and gun sellers has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials, arguing the state’s new gun control law violates their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs are seeking a federal court injunction to stop the law from being enforced.
Wednesday’s suit comes more than a month after Malloy signed into law a gun control package considered one of the toughest in the country. The package was in response to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook school shootings in which 20 children and six staffers died.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen’s office said the legislation is lawful and the office is prepared to vigorously defend the law against any court challenge.
Disputes over crime maps highlight challenge of outsourcing public data
By Adam Hochberg — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 ‘Poynter.Org’ / St. Petersburg, FL
Colin Drane is an unlikely warrior in the fight for open government.
An inventor and TV infomercial producer, Drane spent much of his career marketing products like the Trunkanizer for organizing car trunks, a toy called Bendaroos, and Invisi-lift self-adhesive breast enhancement pads.
Six years ago, Drane started a different kind of business – a company called ReportSee, which operates the website SpotCrime.com. The site obtains publicly available crime records from police agencies and graphically displays them on colorful maps.
Drane says the site attracts a million views a month from people curious about the burglaries, shootings, and other bedlam in their towns. The site makes money through advertising and from partnerships with television stations and other media organizations.
“Its primary appeal is folks involved in neighborhood watches and people who want to know what’s going on their communities,” Drane said in a phone interview. He said the information on SpotCrime, which typically is culled from police department logs and incident reports, can make communities safer.
“If an unusual van is in the neighborhood, and everybody knows there’s been a rash of burglaries, maybe somebody takes time to call the police, where maybe in the past it would have been brushed off,” he said.
More than 300 law-enforcement agencies around the country cooperate with Drane and provide him electronic access to their crime reports. But he’s had conflicts with dozens of other agencies, which either deny him access entirely or provide information that’s dated or incomplete.
Often, he finds that agencies already have struck deals with one of his larger competitors. The owners of sites such as CrimeReports.com, CrimeMapping.com, and RAIDS online compile and publish similar maps.
“Police departments contract with a vendor and give them preferential access to very important public data,” Drane said. “If you’ve got agencies controlling the information through a vendor, that’s not full transparency, and it limits accountability.”
Public data: profitable and contentious
Drane’s situation isn’t unique. As private companies have discovered there’s profit to be made from some kinds of government records, public agencies increasingly are outsourcing parts of their recordkeeping. That’s led to disputes over whether private firms can receive exclusive or preferential access to public data, copyright it, or withhold it from business competitors and other parties who request it.
“Conflicts are becoming more common,” said Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit California group that advocates for open government. “The demand for data and the perceived value in data has been rising exponentially, and that’s raising thorny legal-access questions.”
California, Connecticut and Wisconsin are among the states that have seen lawsuits over GIS data — the mapping technology local governments use to track property records. Scheer’s group successfully sued to access Santa Clara County’s GIS database, which the county claimed was a copyrighted “trade secret.” In the Wisconsin case, courts ruled that municipalities’ land records are in the public domain and forced a private contractor to release records to its competitors.
Drane has been sued, too. In 2010, the owner of CrimeReports.com – a company called Public Engines — discovered SpotCrime was robotically “scraping” CrimeReports.com for police data. Though Drane claimed he was entitled to scrape his competitors’ sites because the original police reports are public records, he agreed to stop the practice as part of a legal settlement. (Nieman Lab summarized the issues raised by the lawsuit in this 2011 analysis.)
Indeed, Drane is at the center of much of the tension in the crime-mapping industry, not surprising for an unconventional and sometimes brash entrepreneur who describes himself as a “disrupter.” SpotCrime is a relatively low-budget operation that Drane said he started because “moving data seemed a lot easier than moving Trunkanizers.”
In many ways, his business couldn’t be more different than that of his competitors, such as Public Engines, the Omega Group — owner of CrimeMapping.com, and Bair Analytics — owner of the RAIDS online site. Those companies are larger firms that develop and market technology for law-enforcement agencies. They sell software that not only powers public crime mapping websites but also provides an array of tools the agencies use internally to compile and analyze data. (Think of an electronic equivalent to those big maps with pushpins that used to hang in police stations.)
“People look at our website and see that obviously as a public-facing manifestation of the law-enforcement data,” Public Engines CEO William Kilmer said in a phone interview. “But our primary mission is really to help law-enforcement agencies unlock the power of their own data for their own analysis.”
Those computerized crime mapping systems have become important tools for law-enforcement agencies over the past two decades. For a relatively small investment, the software allows police to identify crime patterns and “hot spots” in their communities and make decisions about staffing and resources.
Kilmer said his company is aware it’s dealing with records that belong to the public. While Public Engines doesn’t allow competitors to scrape its website, he said there’s nothing in its contracts that prohibits police agencies from releasing crime data to anybody else who requests it.
That point was echoed by the Omega Group, which provides software and mapping tools for more than 600 law-enforcement agencies.
“The agency has the right to give whatever data they want to give,” said Omega spokeswoman Gabriela Coverdale.
Police agencies try to control information
Still, some police departments appear to treat their contracts with Public Engines or Omega as exclusive or at least preferential.
When Drane’s company requested access to Las Vegas police records under the Nevada public-records law, he said the police department’s public information office wrote him in an email that “we have no need to join with more of these kinds of services such as yours than we already have in place.” Las Vegas contracts with Omega and its crime reports are posted online via CrimeMapping.com.
Likewise, the Omaha, Neb., police department contracts with Omega and won’t release electronic records to Drane.
“The reason we signed a contract with CrimeMapping.com is so we have control over the information released,” Lt. Darci Tierney told me in an email. “There is no legal obligation for our department to provide additional information beyond access to records that we provide to the general public upon request in hard copy format for a nominal fee.“
But that policy — which allows CrimeMapping.com to access police records electronically, but restricts other requestors to “hard copy format” — likely violates Nebraska’s open-records law, according to several legal scholars.
“Since some company is getting these records in electronic form, you can also get them in electronic form,” said Nebraska Press Association attorney Shawn Renner. It doesn’t matter that one company has a contractual relationship with the city, that SpotCrime is small and not well-known, or that Drane’s motive in requesting the records is to profit from them.
“The records are open to all for any purpose,” said Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. “We define journalism quite broadly, so an online outfit that’s in the business of taking data and presenting it in an informative way is engaging in a journalistic activity.”
Caramanica worries that if police agencies are allowed to withhold crime data from for-profit websites that compete with their preferred vendor, they may start denying information to mainstream media organizations (most of which, of course, also are in business to make money), bloggers, advocacy groups, or individuals.
It’s not a big jump. Part of the reason police departments contract with the crime mapping services in the first place is to ease the workload on their often overburdened staffs. Public Engines boasts on its website that CrimeReports.com helps “free up time for employees who used to try and answer [citizen] questions by phone.”
“Some of it is just administrative ease,” said University of Missouri Journalism Prof. Charles Davis, co-author of two books on public records. “They can kind of wash their hands of the whole issue, and say ‘if you want that stuff, it’s on the website.’ ”
Likewise, some agencies may see their relationship with a crime mapping vendor as a way to bypass the traditional media.
Public Engines’ website highlights the experience of the Boca Raton, Fla., police department, which stopped sending press releases to local media. The site says that when police agencies partner with CrimeReports.com,“[t]he power to interpret crime data has now moved out of the hands of the traditional media gatekeepers and into the hands of citizens themselves.”
Computerized data, ‘manila envelope’ laws
In and of itself, direct public access to information isn’t a bad thing. Police reporting in the mainstream media can be simplistic or sensationalistic and lack context about the actual risk of crime in various communities. An accurate online crime map can offer information that’s more complete, more local, and easier to access than a newspaper police blotter or the murder-and-mayhem stories that are nightly staples of many TV newscasts.
But in order for online crime mapping to live up to its promise, police agencies need to see it as a way to broaden access to information, not narrow it. The raw data generated from modern crime analysis tools — such as those marketed by Public Engines or the Omega Group — should be considered public information and made available to the public, the media, and even those companies’ competitors. That will allow such data to be disseminated more widely and analyzed in more ways.
And because police generally include in crime mapping databases only a portion of what they know about each particular incident — for instance, names of victims or suspects are usually deleted — the standard long-form police reports and daily crime logs must remain easily available, too.
Davis expects more disputes and litigation as governments increasingly entrust public data to private companies, especially in states where public-records laws fail to clarify contractors’ obligation to share information. He said only a handful of state laws even contemplate the possibility that public recordkeeping may be outsourced.
“These are laws written in the age of manila envelopes and the typewriter,” Davis said. “This is one of a dozen different issues where technology has raced in front of the law.”
Chicago, Illinois / Garry McCarthy
Chicago Shootings Cost $2.5 Billion As Murders Top New York’s
By Tim Jones and John McCormick — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘Bloomberg News’ / New York, NY
When Gregory Glinsey was fatally shot while buying ice for his mother’s 80th birthday party, the emotional toll on his family was incalculable. The immediate price to the public was $800 for his autopsy.
His slaying and 505 others in Chicago last year scarred it with a rising homicide rate as most cities saw declines. Another 2,000 non-fatal shootings in Chicago added costs measured in shuttered businesses, lost wages, disability checks and depopulation. In Glinsey’s case, the price of his random killing mounted before his mother knew her 54-year-old son wouldn’t return from a convenience store in the South Shore neighborhood.
More than three dozen police swarmed the scene of the Feb. 19, 2012, shooting, which also killed a 19-year-old and injured five other teenagers. After $1,000 ambulance rides to hospitals for each survivor, the combined trauma-care bill would, on average, top $250,000. Gunfire outside Budget Food & Liquors cost its owner a tenant and $1,000 in monthly rent: A tax preparer next door bolted after a bullet from another shooting ripped past a secretary’s head.
“Violence hurts the economy, and sooner or later it permeates everything,” said Teyonda Wertz, head of South Shore’s chamber of commerce. “Unless we change our crime situation, it’ll kill us.”
All told, shootings cost Chicago $2.5 billion a year, or about $2,500 per household, according to Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Many of those costs are intangibles, Ludwig said, like keeping people from going outside or letting their children walk to school. Reducing even a fraction of the carnage, though, would free up more money than the city expects to save each year from the closing of 49 elementary schools approved yesterday by the school board.
Nationwide, the crime lab estimates, gun violence costs $100 billion, roughly the salaries of 2 million police officers.
Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city, last year recorded a homicide rate more than three times New York City’s and double that of Los Angeles. It also had about 900 more non-fatal shootings than New York despite having a third as many residents. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is co-founder of Bloomberg LP, parent company of Bloomberg News.
In a nation beset by handgun deaths and injuries, Chicago is a big city that bleeds more than almost any other.
The bloodshed last year prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat who is President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, to reverse a money-saving decision that let police ranks drop to the lowest in at least five years.
Citywide through May 12, homicides were down 39 percent and shootings 28 percent. To help accomplish that, though, the police in just three months burned through almost two-thirds of the entire year’s overtime-pay budget, which the department said is $38 million.
“It’s a shell game,” said Pat Camden, a spokesman for Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police. “We are shifting things back and forth trying to appease the aldermen and the public.”
In South Shore, the price of such violence can be gauged in its grim decline, from a vibrant redoubt among neighborhoods that have long been synonymous with urban mayhem to one on the verge of joining their ranks.
The community of 50,000 people on the South Side of the city of 2.7 million is the childhood home of first lady Michelle Obama, who grew up on the second floor of a bungalow on Euclid Avenue. There she befriended the children of the city’s black elite, including civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Sr. It’s where software pioneer Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corp. (ORCL), was raised and where health-care consultant Dr. Eric Whitaker, one of the Obamas’ closest friends, lives.
The neighborhood is racially homogenous, 95 percent African-American after most white residents fled integration decades ago. Yet South Shore is economically divided, with homes selling for anywhere from $10,000 to more than $1 million.
Amid the violence, it’s losing its human and commercial lifeblood. While Chicago’s population fell 6.9 percent from 2000 to 2010, the neighborhood’s sank 19.2 percent, according to the city and Census Bureau.
The number of businesses dropped by a third from 2005 through 2012 in the postal zone that covers the neighborhood, according to Chicago licensing data compiled by Bloomberg. During that period, the citywide total grew by 1.3 percent. The merchants who remain find it tougher to compete.
“In higher-crime neighborhoods it’s more costly to run a business, both in terms of attracting customers and workers,” said Robert Greenbaum, a professor at Ohio State University who has studied the subject. The loss of nighttime business hours robs the U.S. gross national product of as much as $7.4 billion a year, according to research by Ludwig and Philip Cook, authors of “Gun Violence: The Real Costs.”
Some studies suggest it contributes directly to people leaving cities. University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the book “Freakonomics,” found that each homicide leads to the departure of 70 people.
South Shore is providing ample motivation to flee. Last year, 19 homicides occurred within its three square miles. Residents dubbed one particularly violent stretch Terror Town, where Glinsey was hit in the chest after a burst of gunfire from a car that pulled in front of the convenience store. The 19-year-old who was killed was shot in the back while running inside.
On April 30, hours before police officials announced another drop in homicides, the temperature hit 86 degrees for the first time in almost eight months. South Shore erupted: Three people were shot and one killed in six hours.
“There is no safe time of day to go out anymore,” said Arthur Lyles, an assistant pastor of Christ Bible Church of Chicago, which sits in the middle of Terror Town. Lyles has a grandson and nephew wounded by gunfire. “You can be shot at 10 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon or 9 at night.
The tab for taxpayers and society starts running as soon as a bullet strikes someone, from detectives on the street and trauma surgeons at the city’s public hospital to months of rehab for victims and years of court proceedings for the accused.
The first to arrive at the Budget Food & Liquors crime scene that February evening was the “paper car,” police slang for the unit charged with completing a preliminary report.
Detectives and evidence technicians soon converged on the corner of 79th Street and Essex Avenue. Lower-priority calls were pushed aside. Suspicion of gang involvement brought more, including patrolmen to discourage retaliation. With Glinsey dead on the sidewalk, a homicide team consisting of a sergeant and a handful of investigators were dispatched, said Joseph Salemme, commander of detectives for the South Side.
The initial response cost as much as $6,000 in salary alone for the roughly five hours that officers spent gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
Then there were the incidentals: The medical examiner’s office paid $4.58 for the body bag, including the plastic sheets and tape used to seal Glinsey’s remains for the trip to the morgue.
No one’s been charged in the slaying of the unemployed former steelworker who lived with his mother. If suspects are arrested, police must charge or release them within 48 hours, so officers often put in night and weekend duty to meet the deadline.
“Every murder incurs overtime,” Salemme said, with extreme cases consuming 1,000 to 1,500 hours of “premium pay.”
It can take years to develop tips from reluctant witnesses, and that doesn’t come cheap -- detective pay ranges from $63,642 to $96,444.
Buffeted by the worst recession since the Great Depression, the city has tried to make its force leaner. Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, started the trend in 2008 by not filling vacant police positions.
Emanuel continued the reductions after taking office in May 2011. Last year’s homicide spike came after the number of rank-and-file officers dropped to 12,236 in 2011 from 13,749 in 2006, according to pension-fund records.
There weren’t enough cadets to replace those retiring, and Emanuel in October pushed for hiring more than 450 cops as part of his $8.3 billion spending plan for 2013. Last week, the police academy graduated 105, its largest class since 2005.
“I’ve been saying for two years we have the number of officers we need,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “Today Chicago has more officers per capita than any of the five major police departments in the country.”
He attributed this year’s gains to giving district commanders more authority and accountability as well as “a return to community policing, a comprehensive gang violence reduction initiative, [and] a more holistic approach to narcotics enforcement.”
The reduction in violence so far this year hasn’t yet registered with the public. A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll taken April 30 to May 6 showed the proportion of city voters who disapprove of Emanuel’s handling of crime had risen to 47 percent, up from 34 percent a year earlier.
On top of the cost of policing comes the cost of care. The teenagers injured alongside Glinsey were taken to three private South Side hospitals. The workhorse for treating the city’s gunshot victims, though, is Cook County hospital, the hulking public facility on the West Side that inspired the TV series “ER.”
On a recent Saturday night, five of eight occupied intensive-care beds in the unit had shooting victims. One man had 10 bullet holes, including one through his jaw that would require a feeding tube for at least six weeks and nursing-home care. Another had a spinal-cord wound that would leave him a quadriplegic and a “significant burden on the taxpayer,” said Dr. Andrew Dennis, 43, a trauma surgeon.
This wasn’t an extraordinary night. Last year, the hospital treated 846 shooting victims at a total cost of about $44 million, with trauma care averaging $52,000 per case, according to the county. Seventy percent of the victims treated at what’s formally called John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital have no insurance, so their bills are part of the annual $500 million taxpayer tab for the county health system.
During the heat of the summer, Dennis said, he’s seen as many as 20 gunshot victims in one 24-hour shift. Several times a month, he’ll see repeat customers. Often, doctors leave the bullets inside because taking them out surgically is more risky.
“Most people who leave, leave with their bullets in them forever,” said Dennis, who exhibits a police officer’s toughness. In fact, he’s a medical director for the Cook County Sheriff’s office and carries a gun when not at the hospital.
For the 98 percent of gunshot victims who depart alive, their next stop is often the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Gunshot wounds represent about one in 20 of the institute’s patients, said Dr. Elliot Roth, its medical director. More of its gunshot victims have multiple wounds than those from a decade ago, the result of increasing use of semi-automatic weapons. That can mean exponentially greater neurological damage that is more expensive to treat, Roth said.
Care can cost $100,000 or more -- covered by taxpayers if the patient is indigent -- with the average about $35,000 and inpatient stays lasting about six weeks. Once a victim goes home, making it wheelchair accessible often costs tens of thousands of dollars.
As victims recover, the cost of prosecuting attackers mounts. Police earn overtime for court appearances outside normal shifts, much of it wasted because it’s not uncommon for murder trials to be delayed as many as 20 times. Six to eight officers and detectives may testify.
Other costs are less tangible: lost wages and squandered hopes.
Kelley Boyd, who has lived in South Shore for the past decade, became a harbinger for the neighborhood when he was shot at age 16 while walking down a street several miles away. Costs associated with his wounds have been accumulating for two decades.
He spends days in a wheelchair in his three-room apartment, watching TV and collecting his $700 monthly disability check and $100 in food stamps.
He points with an index finger to a spot left of his nose where a bullet entered, leaving him partially paralyzed on his right side. He struggles for vocal clarity, occasionally snapping the fingers of his left hand in search of words.
As a teenager, Boyd planned to become an accountant. That’s roughly $600,000 in lost wages for South Shore, assuming a starting salary for a tax preparer of about $40,000.
“I’m not through,” he says, showing a flash of anger. “I’m too smart to be doing this. It’s not what I want for myself.”
Beyond Boyd’s broken venetian blinds, hundreds of people were attacked on South Shore’s streets in recent years. The 420 shootings in 2011 and 2012 in the police district that includes most of the neighborhood represented a two-year increase of 20 percent, four times as large as the city as a whole, police data show. So far this year, shootings in the district are down 55 percent from the same period in 2012 and 15 percent from 2011.
The socioeconomic opposite of Terror Town, where Glinsey was killed, is a 12-block section of South Shore called Jackson Park Highlands. It’s distinctive for its architecture, affluence and isolation.
The Highlands’ well-educated professionals represent a vital component of the neighborhood’s future that the violence threatens to drive away.
“If you’re making $100,000 or $200,000, you’re not going to want to continue to step over bodies,” said Henry English, president and chief executive officer of the Black United Fund of Illinois, a South Shore-based community development group, who has seen gunshot victims lying dead outside his office and on his block at home.
The commercial heart of the neighborhood sits less than three blocks from the Highlands home of James Norris, yet he said he feels he has to “be on guard” when he’s on 71st Street. “I would usually prefer to avoid the area,” he said.
Violence has prompted the South Shore chamber of commerce to discourage businesses from staying open at night and to seek fines -- and even shutter -- stores that tolerate loitering. Merchants struggle with people selling individual cigarettes called “loosies” and illegal drugs.
Two months after Glinsey was fatally shot outside Budget Food & Liquors, the tax preparer next door fled. The Jackson Hewitt branch moved eight blocks north to 71st Street, near a shopping center anchored by franchise drug, electronics, grocery and sandwich outlets.
That wasn’t far enough. On the evening of April 30, three men were shot near the stores. The next morning, a 27-year-old man was killed about three blocks away.
Wertz, the executive director of the South Shore Chamber Inc., has a different challenge than her peers in most suburbs or more stable city neighborhoods.
The South Shore commercial strips she touts are defined mostly by beauty salons, wig shops, liquor stores, check cashing operations and tax preparation outlets. Wertz’s wish list: auto parts, shoes, a pancake house, a Marshalls and a T.J. Maxx.
Wertz, whose organization employs its own crime consultant, is pushing the city to open a police substation on 71st Street, a year and half after Emanuel closed three district stations to help plug a $636 million deficit left by Daley.
“We need to get rid of the impression that there’s always going to be a gun fight,” Wertz said.
Death, it turns out, is death on business.
Sandy Neal, a fashion designer, would like to open a vintage clothing store in his native South Shore.
“I don’t see a lot of foot traffic,” said Neal, 48. “You don’t see people going out to stroll and stop to have coffee.”
Or get supplies for their mother’s birthday party. More than a year after her son’s killing, Bertha Glinsey can’t quite fathom just how far her neighborhood has fallen.
“To think that you could go to the store and not come back alive,” she said, grimacing as she sat at her dining room table. “You can’t do what normal people do.”
Just down Saginaw Street from the two-story brick home where she and her husband reared seven children, a welcome sign still boasts: “A Great Place to Raise a Family.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
CeaseFire hasn't yet reduced Central City violence, but officials remain confident program will work
By Ramon Antonio Vargas — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New Orleans Times-Picayune’ / New Orleans, LA
(Edited for brevity and generic law enforcement pertinence)
A little more than a year after the CeaseFire program was announced in early April 2012, the staff tasked with short-circuiting street violence through personal intervention had identified 40 conflicts that could result, or had already ended up, in bloodshed in an area of New Orleans' Central City neighborhood.
"Interrupters" employed by CeaseFire met with victims of violence and their friends and relatives at their homes, on the streets and even in hospitals and spent hours trying to persuade them from seeking revenge. When the threat of retaliation seemed to be defused, outreach workers took over the case and tried to find jobs, education opportunities or even rehab for the people involved.
Despite the CeaseFire staff's efforts, the number of killings and shootings in Central City has not been reduced. The number, in fact, has increased.
But neither the staff nor the City of New Orleans, which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to CeaseFire, is ready to declare the program a failure. Officials say CeaseFire has prevented retaliatory violence in numerous instances, and it has had a positive effect on people's lives.
"If you think about where Central City was, the hard and deep work that it'll take to get it to a better place is something that we are actively engaged in with our conflict mediation and our case management," said Johnetta Pressley, who oversees CeaseFire's efforts, which are focused on a section bounded by South Claiborne Avenue, Washington Avenue, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Thalia Street. "We're having an impact, and that impact is going to take some more time."
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes CeaseFire's target area, said she is confident it will aid New Orleans in its fight to reduce violence.
"I understand from being a community organizer that it takes time ... to change attitudes and behaviors," said Cantrell, former president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association. "It doesn't happen overnight."
Developed by Dr. Gary Slutkin, the concept behind CeaseFire is to treat violence as a disease and anticipate where it could spread. Researchers at Northwestern University found that shootings, attempted shootings and gang-related homicides declined in some Chicago neighborhoods where the program was in place.
In New Orleans, CeaseFire has 12 staffers, including four violence interrupters and four outreach workers. Local City Hall and CeaseFire representatives have met and consulted with Slutkin and his team at Cure Violence in Chicago, which has provided training, feedback and some funding to the program here.
To finance its New Orleans efforts in 2013, CeaseFire has received $295,000 from Wisner Donation funding; $245,260 from a Bloomberg Innovation Delivery Team grant; and $81,525 from Baptist Community Ministries, said Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who unveiled the program as a facet of his "NOLA for Life" murder reduction strategy. CeaseFire - operated by the city in partnership with the Urban League of Greater New Orleans -- is also in the process of expanding violence interruption and outreach work at Interim LSU Public Hospital's emergency room with $225,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and $50,000 from the Bloomberg grant.
But, the investment hasn't immediately short-circuited violence. Numbers examined by the Times-Picayune show there were five murders in the CeaseFire boundaries and 10 murders in or near Central City from April 2011 to April 2012. A year later, there were 13 murders in the CeaseFire boundaries and 24 murders in or near Central City, home to five of the 39 street gangs authorities say exist in New Orleans.
Simultaneously, from the beginning of April 2011 to the start of April 2012, there were 63 reported shootings in NOPD's 6th District, which includes Central City. In that same time frame in 2012-13, there were 82 reported shootings.
The city didn't begin tracking CeaseFire-related violence statistics until Sept. 1, 2012, the first month in which the program was fully staffed, Berni said. Nonetheless, the city concedes, there were fewer homicides and shootings in the CeaseFire boundaries between September 2011 and the beginning of April 2012 (five and eight, respectively) than there were between September 2012 and the beginning of this past April (eight killings and 15 shootings).
Berni attributed the increased bloodshed in Central City since CeaseFire was launched to the culture of violence in New Orleans, home to the nation's highest murder rate.
"The violence in this city ... is what's abnormal," Berni said. "Any of our initiatives isn't what's causing the jump in murders. (They're) part of the larger plan we're trying to do to reduce violence."
CeaseFire has yielded positive, meaningful outcomes, officials contend. Of the 40 or so conflicts violence interrupters have tried to mediate, 23 diminished enough that CeaseFire was focusing on getting the people involved in those conflicts in contact with outreach workers.
Conflicts can defuse when someone involved leaves town, according to CeaseFire. Beefs are also considered defused when participants who volunteer to meet with CeaseFire claim a conflict is over, though the program's outreach workers and interrupters say they try to verify that on the streets for themselves.
CeaseFire will eventually make more substantial gains because it has "credible messengers," Pressley said. Among them are outreach workers Calvin Pepp and Carmen Demourelle. Pepp was arrested in 1992 for the murder of a 19-year-old man and the attempted murders of four other people, though charges against him were ultimately refused.
City: Suing Seattle police unions should pick up city’s court costs
By LEVI PULKKINEN — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The Seattle Post Intelligencer’ / Seattle, WA
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office has agreed to let a police unions’ lawsuit filed against the city drop – so long as the unions pick up the tab.
Following on a request by two police unions to dismiss a lawsuit they brought related to proposed reforms, the city has asked that a federal judge order the Seattle Police Officers Guild and Seattle Police Management Association to pay thousands of dollars in attorneys' costs before dismissing the lawsuit.
The unions sued the city earlier in the year, claiming a police reform agreement struck with the Justice Department ran counter to police labor contracts.
That agreement followed a scathing report in which Justice Department investigators found the Seattle Police Department failed to curtail excessive force by its officers. To appease the Justice Department, city leaders agreed to a host of reforms and appointed an independent monitor to oversee the effort.
Guild leadership was hostile to the Justice Department effort throughout and sued after the city agreed to the reform plan.
At issue in the lawsuit were several portions of the reform that the unions contended would see the city violate agreements made with officers through contract negotiations. Guild President Sgt. Rich O’Neill said previously that the lawsuit’s aim was to force the city to meet the obligations taken on through the labor contract.
On April 30, the unions asked that a U.S. District Court judge dismiss the case they’d brought. According to press reports, the guild – which represents patrol officers, detectives and sergeants – and the city reached a tentative agreement on a new contract the same day.
In an odd aside, the city had been pursuing a court order to see Mark McCarty – former legal adviser and human resources director to Seattle police – removed as an attorney for the Seattle Police Management Association, the union representing commissioned police leadership.
Attorneys for the city claimed McCarty’s change of sides violated state bargaining law and presented a clear conflict of interest, in part because of McCarty’s knowledge of confidential materials.
According to court papers, McCarty worked for Seattle police for 11 years before leaving in 2012. He represented the Police Management Association in the recent lawsuit.
A week before the unions asked to drop the case, the city had asked that McCarty be removed from the lawsuit. Court records show McCarty disputed the city’s reading of the law and suggested he could ethically represent the police unions. The issue remains outstanding, pending a decision on whether the case can be dismissed.
In a motion filed earlier this week, the City Attorney’s Office agreed the lawsuit should be dismissed but asked that the unions be required to pay the city’s legal expenses in the matter.
Arguing that forcing the city to pay for the now-abandoned lawsuit would be unfair, the City Attorney’s Office has asked that it be reimbursed for 44 hours of work done by two assistant city attorneys. A dollar figure was not provided in the court papers.
The unions have not yet responded to the request. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez is expected to rule on it in coming weeks.
Immigration Enforcement / Illegal Aliens
Immigration cases make up 40% of federal prosecutions, study says
Many immigrants are being tried for crossing the border after being deported. Human Rights Watch says prison doesn't deter those desperate to rejoin relatives.
By Cindy Chang — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 ‘The Los Angeles Times’ / Los Angeles, CA
Immigration-related offenses are now the leading type of federal prosecution, constituting more than 40% of cases compared with 22% for drug crimes, according to federal crime data.
Many immigrants are now prosecuted because they try to cross the border again after being deported, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Often, they are so desperate to get back to their families in the United States that prison time is not a deterrent, the report said. In the past, people with no prior criminal record would have been deported without being prosecuted.
According to the report, "Turning Migrants Into Criminals," immigration prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry increased to more than 85,000 in 2013 from about 12,500 in 2002.
Until about a decade ago, most people prosecuted for immigration violations had criminal histories that included violent crimes or firearms offenses. Then federal prosecutors began taking more immigration cases in which the defendant had no prior convictions or a minor criminal record. A misdemeanor conviction for illegal entry is now enough to trigger a felony prosecution if the person is caught trying to enter the country a second time.
Illegal entry is a misdemeanor punishable by as much as six months in prison. Illegal reentry has a maximum sentence of two years, but prior criminal convictions can raise the limit to as many as 20 years. The number of federal prisoners serving time for immigration violations has grown to 22,526 in March 2013 from slightly more than 10,000 in 1999.
Prosecution rates vary greatly across border regions. In Southern California, only 7% of prosecutions are immigration-related. In the South Texas district, more than half of prosecutions are for immigration violations. In New Mexico, more than 70% of federal prosecutions are for illegal entry or reentry.
Citing another study, Human Rights Watch researchers put the cost of incarcerating immigration violators at $1 billion in 2011. The costs include not only housing them in prisons but also money spent on prosecutors, public defenders and courts.
"I think what's really interesting is we're living in a time where state governments and state prison systems are saying, 'How can we reduce the number of nonviolent offenders? It doesn't make sense to lock people up that are not dangerous,'" said Grace Meng, the report's author. "In the immigration context, we're rushing blindly in the opposite direction."
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.
Human Rights Watch researchers spoke to people convicted of immigration crimes, including Rosa Emma Manriquez, who grew up in Texas and thought she was a U.S. citizen until she traveled to Mexico and was apprehended on her way home. After being deported to Mexico, Manriquez tried to rejoin her six adult children and numerous grandchildren in the U.S. and was caught again, this time serving four months in federal prison, according to the report. She now lives in Mexico, separated from her family.
Another woman, identified as Alicia S., has two young daughters living in the U.S. She has been caught several times trying to cross the border after being deported to Mexico. The last time, she served 13 days in prison. She says she may try to rejoin her daughters, who are now in foster care, yet again.
The report recommends that immigration violators be criminally prosecuted only when they have recent convictions for serious, violent felonies. Prosecutors should not take cases in which the immigrant has close family ties in the U.S. or fears persecution abroad, the report said.
Meng is concerned that the immigration overhaul being debated in Congress may contain harsh enforcement measures for illegal border crossers.
"It's really disappointing to me," Meng said, "that in the debate over the current immigration bill, they're calling for more of the same, more prosecutions, more penalties, without thinking about what it's costing this country in both human and financial terms."
NY terror tips for Boston PD
By KIRSTAN CONLEY — Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A month after the Boston Marathon bombings, dozens of Massachusetts cops were at New York Police Headquarters yesterday to learn about the NYPD’s anti-terrorism operations.
The three-day seminar will include a look at the NYPD’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, a $150 million center that monitors and analyzes 911 calls and abandoned packages using 4,000 surveillance cameras south of 59th Street.
Deadly End to F.B.I. Queries on Tsarnaev and a Triple Killing
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. — Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
One lingering mystery in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings is whether the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, played a role in the unsolved murders of three men, one of them his best friend, in a Boston suburb in 2011.
That question deepened early Wednesday when a man in Orlando, Fla., who was being interviewed by at least one F.B.I. agent and other investigators, implicated himself and Mr. Tsarnaev in those murders, and then was fatally shot after he apparently tried to assault the agent, two senior law enforcement officials said.
The man, Ibragim Todashev, had been speaking for two hours in his apartment to officials from the Massachusetts State Police and the F.B.I. about Mr. Tsarnaev and the Sept. 11, 2011, murders in Waltham, Mass., when he suddenly grabbed an object and tried to attack the agent, one official said.
“He exploded and leapt at him,” said the official, who said the F.B.I. agent sustained minor injuries that required stitches.
A second law enforcement official said the shooting occurred after Mr. Todashev had admitted his role in the killings and had also implicated Mr. Tsarnaev. The official said he had begun writing out a statement when he asked to take a break.
“They got him to confess to the homicides, and they say, ‘Let’s write it down,’ and he starts writing it down. He goes to get a cigarette or something and then he goes off the deep end,” the second official said. “I don’t know what triggered him, and he goes after the agent.”
The official said Mr. Todashev had something in his hand, “a knife or a pipe or something.”
It was not certain who, or how many officers, had fired on Mr. Todashev. Nor was it clear why, with at least three law enforcement officials in the room, deadly force was used on someone without a firearm in his hands. Asked, one law enforcement official said: “If somebody jumps on you and you have a gun, and you don’t do something, the gun will quickly come into play.”
Mr. Todashev’s alleged oral admission and his subsequent death marked a bizarre twist in investigators’ attempts to determine whether Mr. Tsarnaev participated in the gruesome killings in Waltham on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The throats of his close friend, Brendan Mess, and two other men were slashed and marijuana was spread over their bodies.
The second official described what in effect appears to be a drug robbery.
“So Tamerlan says they have dope, they rip them off. Tamerlan says, ‘They can identify me, so let’s kill them.’ And they kill them,” the official said.
If Mr. Tsarnaev was involved, then the murders may shed light on the crucial question of what may have turned him violent and unstable, and whether that was before he traveled to his homeland in the North Caucasus region of Russia last year.
The recent focus on Mr. Tsarnaev’s possible involvement in the Waltham murders has also raised questions about whether authorities in Massachusetts missed an opportunity to thwart the marathon bombings by not adequately pursuing Mr. Tsarnaev as a murder suspect.
There was no indication on Wednesday why Mr. Todashev — who, like the Tsarnaevs, was an ethnic Chechen — would have implicated himself and Mr. Tsarnaev in the murders. Investigators, who are seeking to determine how Mr. Tsarnaev made money, have been looking into whether Mr. Todashev and Mr. Tsarnaev were drug dealers, one of the law enforcement officials said.
Mr. Todashev had not signed a written statement about the Waltham murders before he was fatally shot. “He had only said it orally but had not signed anything,” said the first official. “But that was where it appeared to be heading.”
The shooting occurred in a sprawling condominium complex in Orlando, less than a mile from an entrance to Universal Studios, where many of the residents work. On Wednesday, several streets in the complex were blocked off by federal and local law enforcement officials.
The law enforcement official said that the authorities had spoken to Mr. Todashev at least twice since the April 15 bombings in Boston, which killed three people and injured more than 200.
Mr. Todashev and Mr. Tsarnaev saw each other regularly in Boston before Mr. Todashev moved to Florida about two years ago, though they were not particularly close, Mr. Tsarnaev’s mother said in an interview in Russia.
“Tamerlan said he was a good guy, he said he was a boxer or some other kind of athlete,” Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said by telephone from Dagestan. She said she had broken down when she heard the news on Wednesday.
“Now another boy has left this life,” she said. “Why are they killing these children without any trial or investigation?”
The triple murder stunned the community of Waltham, 10 miles west of Boston. The police were called to Mr. Mess’s home on the afternoon of Sept. 12, 2011, after witnesses said a woman had rushed out screaming about dead bodies covered in marijuana, and blood everywhere.
Mr. Mess was strong and would have been difficult to subdue, and Mr. Tsarnaev was one of the most accomplished amateur boxers in Boston, a heavyweight. Some in nearby Cambridge who knew Mr. Mess and the Tsarnaevs also grew suspicious of Mr. Tsarnaev when he did not show up for Mr. Mess’s funeral, despite being a close friend.