Petition seeks military burial for Parkland JROTC cadet who died saving fellow students

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 2:33 PM

Petition Seeks Military Burial For Parkland JROTC Cadet

Peter Wang died proudly wearing his gray JROTC uniform, holding open doors so several of his classmates could escape the gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. 

Though those classmates made it, Peter did not. And now, a White House petition has been established seeking full military honors at the burial of the 15-year-old freshman who was among 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day school shooting.

As of Monday morning, the petition had reached just over 23,000 signatures. A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House. 

The petition states that Peter was last seen, in uniform, holding doors open so that other students, teachers and staff members could escape.

“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition states. “Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

Friends of the teen said they want people to know how selfless he was, according to WPLG News 10 in Pembroke Park

“I want people to know that he died a hero; that he died saving many people,” friend and classmate Aiden Ortiz told the news station

His selflessness extended into his everyday actions, classmate Rachel Kuperman said. She recalled the last time she saw Peter, the day before he was slain. 

“I forgot my lunch that day, and he went to the vending machine with me and he bought me Sprite and candy and snacks,” Rachel said. “He put others before himself.”

Fox News reported that it would take government intervention for Peter to receive a military funeral, since JROTC does not provide basic training and thus does not count as military service. JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is a federal program for middle and high school students that focuses on citizenship, service to the community and country and personal achievement.  

Peter was not the only JROTC cadet credited with springing into action that day. Colton Haab, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, heard gunshots and ushered several dozen people into the JROTC room.

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There, he and other cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of the students huddled together.

“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”

Peter’s cousin, Aaron Chen, described him to the Miami Herald as brave, while Peter’s best friend, Gabriel Ammirata, said he was “funny, nice and a great friend.”

“He’s been my best friend since third grade,” Gabriel told the Herald

Gabriel planned to celebrate Chinese New Year with Peter the day after the shooting at the Chinese restaurant Peter’s family owns, the Herald reported. Instead, he and members of Peter’s family started the new day frantically searching for information on Peter’s whereabouts. 

The teen’s parents speak Mandarin and very little English. 

Jesse Pan, a neighbor of Peter’s, has been sharing information about him and his funeral arrangements on social media. Peter’s family has a funeral planned for Tuesday at Kraeer Funeral Home, in Coral Springs.

An obituary on the funeral home’s website reiterates Peter’s ultimate sacrifice in the face of danger.

“He loved being in the JROTC and planned on attending (the) United States Military Academy at West Point,” the obituary read

Peter loved the Houston Rockets, hip-hop music, playing basketball and spending time with friends. He also aspired to become a world-renowned chef. 

He is survived by his parents and two younger brothers.

GoFundMe page created to help his family with expenses exceeded its $15,000 goal in just three days. 

Originally, proceeds (were) going to the help with misc. expenses, but the family has decided that they want to donate the money to Stoneman Douglas for their ROTC program,” the page creator, Chino Leong, wrote. “They want to ensure that future generations of kids are taught the same values that the program has instilled in Peter.”

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Girl, bored with sister’s soccer game, makes 65-million-year-old fossil find

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:01 AM

Girl Discovers 65-Million-Year-Old Fossil During Sister's Soccer Game

An Oregon girl decided digging in the dirt was more her speed than watching her big sister’s JV soccer game. And that decision turned into a major discovery.

Naomi Vaughan found something that she called her “Moana rock” after it reminded her of the Heart of Te Fiti from the hit Disney film, last year, CNN reported.

The “Moana rock” turned out to be something that dated back at least 65 million years.

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It was actually an ancient fossil called an ammonite. Ammonites are extinct marine invertebrates, CNN reported.

Paleontologists told Oregon Live that they’re not normally found in Bend, but have been discovered more than 80 miles away.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

One paleontologist believes it came from an area further away, a town of Suplee, 112 miles east of Bend, Oregon Live reported. He believes that either there was a family connection between the two towns or that the fossil came from a school collection. 

And while well-preserved ammonite fossils can fetch big bucks -- up to thousands of dollars, Vaughan’s sample may be worth about $10 or $20.

Vaughan plans on keeping her find, Oregon Live reported.

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‘Gun! Gun! Gun!’ Body cam, aerial video shows police kill unarmed black man 

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 2:14 PM

Footage from an officer's body camera shows Sacramento police officers as they watch for signs of movement from Stephon Clark, who was shot by officers in the backyard of his grandparents' home Sunday, March 18, 2018. Clark, 23, died after two officers fired at him a total of 20 times. The father of two young boys was unarmed, carrying nothing but a cellphone.
Sacramento Police Department
Footage from an officer's body camera shows Sacramento police officers as they watch for signs of movement from Stephon Clark, who was shot by officers in the backyard of his grandparents' home Sunday, March 18, 2018. Clark, 23, died after two officers fired at him a total of 20 times. The father of two young boys was unarmed, carrying nothing but a cellphone.(Sacramento Police Department)

Sacramento police officials have released the harrowing audio and video, including footage from two officers’ body cameras, in the shooting death of an unarmed black man killed by police Sunday night

Stephon Alonzo Clark, 23, was shot multiple times in the backyard of his grandparents’ house, where he lived with several siblings. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn previously said the two unnamed officers involved in the shooting, who are on administrative leave while the case remains under investigation, fired on Clark 20 times. 

The footage was made public after it was shared with Clark’s family, per department policy.

The body camera footage shows that the officers opened fire upon Clark seconds after encountering him on his patio. It also shows that, while the two officers involved ordered Clark to show them his hands, neither identified themselves as police officers. 

Clark’s aunt, Saquoia Durham, told The Sacramento Bee that her nephew did not stand a chance.

“As soon as they did the command, they started shooting,” Durham told the newspaper. “They said, ‘Put your hands up, gun’ and then they just let loose on my nephew. They didn’t give him a chance to put his hands up or anything, and then when they shot him down, they knew they messed up.”

Family members and local activists also wondered why one of the videos shows, about six minutes after the shooting, an officer saying, “Hey, mute.” Officers are then seen muting the microphones on their body cameras for the rest of the recording released to the public. 

A police spokesman told the Bee there are a number of reasons officers may choose to mute their microphones, but did not go into detail.

The officers who shot at Clark said they believed he was armed, but all that was found with his body was a cellphone. The killing has sparked protests and demands from Clark’s family and friends, as well as Sacramento officials, for answers about why an unarmed man was killed outside his own home. 

The Bee reported that the Rev. Al Sharpton has been in touch with Clark’s family and plans to travel to Sacramento to help ensure that Clark has a proper burial. The family has established a GoFundMe page to help fund his funeral arrangements, which include being buried next to a brother also cut down by gun violence, the Bee reported.

>> Related: 20 bullets fired: Police kill unarmed black man holding cellphone in own backyard

Clark’s grandparents and other family members were inside the house as the shooting took place. His grandfather called 911 after hearing the gunshots, and his grandmother, Sequita Thompson, said she only learned the dead man was her grandson when she looked out the window after hours of police questioning on what she heard that night. 

“I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming,” Thompson told the Bee

Sequita Thompson, of Sacramento, Calif., recounts the horror of looking out of her window to see her grandson, 23-year-old Stephon Clark, lying dead in her backyard after he was shot by police officers. Clark lived in the home with his grandparents and several siblings.((Renee C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee via AP))

The shooting and the events surrounding it are laid out in the audio and video released Wednesday night, beginning with a 911 call from a resident in Clark’s neighborhood. The caller tells a dispatcher that there is a man going through the neighborhood and breaking vehicle windows, including those on the caller’s truck. 

“What did he use to break the windows?” the dispatcher asks.

“I have no idea,” the man responds. “I heard the noise and I came outside and he was standing right there on the side of my truck, and I grabbed my ball bat … (unintelligible) … I didn’t hit him, or nothing like that.”

The caller tells the dispatcher that the man is now in another yard, trying to get over a fence, but that he is trapped because of a neighbor’s dogs. 

The dispatcher asks for a description of the man, and the caller tells her he could not determine the man’s race because of the dark hoodie he was wearing. The suspect was wearing pants that appeared to have white stripes or dots on them, he says. 

During silent periods in the call, at least one dog can be heard barking in the background. The dispatcher continues to get the scant details of the vandal’s appearance: he’s tall, at more than 6 feet, and thin. 

The dispatcher tells the caller that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office is sending a helicopter to search for the man and keep an eye on him until city police officers arrive. The weekend was a busy one because of St. Patrick’s Day, she says. 

The caller, a mechanic, tells the dispatcher that he keeps his tools in his truck, so the sound of his windows being broken alarmed him. 

“He’s lucky to be alive, if I would have gotten a hold of him,” the caller says, laughing. 

At that point in the 911 call, the officers who would shoot and kill Clark were about a block and a half away, according to the dispatcher. 

Audio from the dispatch office gives a glance into the same time frame from the viewpoint of law enforcement officers. The dispatcher relays a description of the accused vandal, and a male voice from the helicopter overhead mentions two large dogs as the only heat sources he can see on the infrared camera. 

A few minutes later, the deputy in the helicopter comes back on, telling the responding officers below he sees a man looking in the window of a home. 

“Two yards to the south of you, I’ve got a guy in a backyard looking into their window,” the deputy says. “He’s picking up a -- looks like a toolbar, or some sort of thing. He might be trying to break the window. Stand by.”

A moment later, the deputy says, “Okay, he’s breaking the window! Running south! Running to the south!”

The footage from the circling helicopter does not show Clark smashing the window, but picks up immediately afterward. The deputy is relaying his movements as Clark, seen only as a white figure in the camera’s infrared vision, jumps onto what appears to be a shed and vaults over the fence into his grandparents’ yard. 

At that point, he stops running and walks up to a vehicle between the fence and his grandparents’ home, briefly looking inside. 

As the helicopter continues to circle, the two police officers on the ground can be seen on the road in front of Clark’s grandparents’ home. One of the officers spots Clark and begins to run toward him, gun drawn. 

His partner follows and, as both officers run in his direction, Clark goes around the corner into the backyard of the house. Both officers follow, with one running into the open for a second before grabbing his partner and taking cover at the corner of the house. 

The officers huddle there and, as the helicopter’s camera gets a full view of the backyard, shots can be seen fired from the officers’ guns. 

Clark falls to the ground on his grandparents’ patio as the bullets ricochet off the pavement around him. He appears to try crawling away before becoming still. 

“Shots fired! Shots fired!” the deputy in the helicopter says. 

“Copy, shots fired,” the dispatcher responds. 

One of the officers on the ground, sounding out of breath, tells the dispatcher that the man is down, with no movement. He requests that backup officers arrive from a specific direction and asks that fire medics be en route. 

The officers have been criticized for waiting five minutes, until backup arrived, before rendering aid to Clark. Fire medics pronounced him dead at the scene. 

At one point, the dispatcher asks the officers if they also need medics. 

“Negative,” an officer responds. “Neither one of us are hit, we’re okay. Suspect’s down.”

The footage from the officers’ body cameras prior to the gunfire starts out quiet, as they make their way through the neighborhood, searching for the man suspected of vandalizing people’s vehicles. In the videos, the officers are seen asking a neighbor’s permission to search her backyard for the man. 

As they search, the dogs heard in the original 911 call are much closer. The officers clear a shed before heading back onto the street. 

A few moments later, the officers begin running toward the area where the deputy in the helicopter spotted Clark looking into the vehicle window next to his grandparents’ house. 

“Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Stop!” one officer screams at Clark when he spots him. He runs after Clark, who is heading around the corner toward the patio.

As the officer rounds the corner, he again screams, “Show me your hands!” and, “Gun!” before pushing his partner back.

As both officers huddle at the corner, the same officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!” 

They then both open fire.

See the body camera footage from both officers, beginning when they first spot Clark, below. Warning: The images and language may be disturbing for some readers.

Footage from the second officer’s body camera shows his hands holding his service weapon around the corner of the house as he and his partner unleash a barrage of bullets. It is not clear from the location of his body camera, which would be attached to his chest, if the second officer could see who he was shooting at. 

The second officer’s body camera captured the fiery blasts from his partner’s gun as the gunshots rang out. 

“Five seven, shots fired,” the first officer breathlessly tells the dispatcher. “Subject down.”

Over the next few minutes, the officers continue ordering Clark to show them his hands, with no response.

The second officer says that Clark was “still pointing” when he saw him prior to the shooting. They both spend a few moments quietly trying to catch their breath, during which time the officers determine that neither of them was shot.

The officers agree to do a “tactical reload,” a maneuver in which law enforcement officers reload recently-fired weapons with fresh, full magazines to ensure they don’t run out of ammunition. The second officer estimated that he fired his weapon about five times, though his body camera footage shows more.

Hahn has previously said that each officer fired 10 times. 

The second officer’s body camera footage shows that additional police officers began to show up about that time, with one officer asking if the suspect had a gun. 

“We haven’t secured it,” the second officer said. “We’re not moving in until we have more (backup).”

The first officer is also heard saying, “(Clark’s) still down, he’s not moving. We can’t see the gun.”

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The officers tell their colleagues that Clark walked toward them with his hands out in front of him and that he held something that looked like a gun. 

As the officers speak, their flashlights highlight Clark’s body, lying face-down on the patio. They continue to search from a distance for a gun.

They also continue to try to get a response from Clark. 

“Hey, can you hear us?” one officer yells. 

“We need to know if you’re okay,” a female officer says. “We need to get you medics, but we can’t go over there to get you help unless we know you don’t have your weapon.”

They continue trying to speak to the motionless Clark as sirens are heard in the background. 

“Sir, can you move?” the female officer asks. “Can you hear us?”

At least one officer keeps a gun trained on Clark the entire time and, for a few moments, the second of the first two officers on the scene suggests firing a non-lethal weapon at his body to ensure he isn’t faking unconsciousness, the footage shows. It does not appear that the officers did so.

A few minutes later, the footage shows the officers finally approaching Clark’s body. 

“Hey, if one of you guys want to go hands, cover him … oh, (expletive),” the second officer says as they get to Clark.

The body camera shows the edge of something flat and light-colored peeking out from underneath his body. As they handcuff his limp hands behind his back and turn him over to start CPR, their flashlights show what the item is.

It is the iPhone Clark was carrying.

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Attorney representing Trump in Russia probe resigns

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 1:15 PM

In this April 29, 20111, file photo, attorney John Dowd walks in New York.
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
In this April 29, 20111, file photo, attorney John Dowd walks in New York.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The top lawyer representing President Donald Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election resigned Thursday, according to multiple reports.

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Attorney John Dowd’s resignation came days after he called for an end to Mueller’s investigation, claiming it was “manufactured” by former FBI Director James Comey and based on an infamous -- and mostly unverified -- dossier that was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“I love the president and wish him well,” Dowd wrote Thursday in an email to The Washington Post.

>> More on Robert Mueller's investigation

The newspaper reported that Dowd’s departure was “a largely mutual decision” based on Trump’s recent belief that Dowd couldn’t handle Mueller’s investigation and the attorney’s frustration with the president’s recent additions to his legal team. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow earlier this week brought one of his friends, veteran Washington attorney Joseph diGenova, onto the team, according to The New York Times.

It was not immediately clear who would take over as lead of the president’s legal team. 

>> Related: Trump slams Mueller, McCabe in Sunday tweets

“John Dowd is a friend and has been a valuable member of our legal team,” Sekulow said Thursday in a statement to the Times. “We will continue our ongoing representation of the president and our cooperation with the office of special counsel.”

CNN reported that Dowd’s exit could hint that Trump’s legal team plans to become more aggressive in defending the president.

>> Related: Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Dowd, who took over Trump’s legal team last summer, has advised the president to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation and refrain from publicly attacking the special counsel, the Times reported. Still, Trump has targeted Mueller for criticism in recent days, repeating his claims that the probe is little more than a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Last month, Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in the election. Three of Trump's associates -- former national security adviser Michael Flynn, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and campaign aide George Papadopoulos -- have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has pleaded not guilty to a variety of money laundering and other criminal charges.

13 Russian Nationals And 3 Russian Companies Indicted In Mueller Probe
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus dies at 94

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 4:42 PM

Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus poses with a toy truck in this undated photo.
Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus poses with a toy truck in this undated photo.(Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Charles Lazarus, who founded what would become Toys R Us in 1948, has died, company officials confirmed Thursday. He was 94.

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The news came just days after officials with the toy store chain announced it would be closing its U.S. stores.

“There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” Toys R Us officials wrote Thursday in a tweet. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”

Michael Goldstein, a friend of Lazarus’ who formerly served as chairman of Toys R Us, told Bloomberg News that Lazarus died Thursday in Manhattan.

"He was the father of the toy business," Goldstein told CNN Money. "He knew the toys and loved the toys and loved the kids who would shop in the stores. His face lit up when he watched kids playing with toys."

>> Related: Toys R Us closings: What happens to 31,000 employees, your gift cards?

In a 1986 article, The Atlantic magazine credited Lazarus as “the person most responsible for loosening Santa’s grip” on the toy industry, expanding sales from a holiday-only to a year-round business.

Lazarus served as a cryptographer during World War II and took over his family’s bicycle shop in Washington D.C. after he returned to the U.S. in 1923, according to The Atlantic. He started to sell baby furniture, The Atlantic reported, but he noticed that he rarely got return customers because of the sturdiness of his stock.

>> Related: Amazon looking to buy abandoned Toys R Us storefronts

"Toys are a great kind of thing to sell, because they don't last that long," he told the magazine in 1986.

Lazarus served as head of Toys R Us through the company’s sale in 1966 to Interstate Department Stores Inc., and through Interstate’s bankruptcy in 1974, according to Bloomberg.

Toys R Us dominated the toy store business in the 1980s and early '90s, when it was one of the first of the category killers -- big stores that are so totally devoted to one thing and have such impressive selection that they drive smaller competitors out of business. Lazarus, who remained at the helm until 1994, stacked the merchandise high to give shoppers the feeling it had an infinite number of toys.

>> Related: Toys R Us closing sales: What you need to know when liquidation begins

He stepped down as chairman of the company in 1998, Bloomberg reported.

Officials with Toys R Us announced last week that the company planned to close or sell its 735 stores nationwide, including its Babies R Us stores. The superstore chain could no longer bear the weight of its heavy debt load and relentless trends that hurt its business, namely competition from the likes of Amazon, discounters like Walmart, and mobile games.

Toys "R" Us - Fast Facts
The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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