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Tennessee church suspect may have sought Charleston revenge

Published: Friday, September 29, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
Updated: Friday, September 29, 2017 @ 12:40 PM


            This undated photo provided by Metro Nashville Police Department shows Emanuel Kidega Samson. A gunman entered a church in Tennessee on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, and opened deadly fire an official said. Authorities identified the attacker as Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1996 and was a legal U.S. resident. (Metro Nashville Police Department via AP)
This undated photo provided by Metro Nashville Police Department shows Emanuel Kidega Samson. A gunman entered a church in Tennessee on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, and opened deadly fire an official said. Authorities identified the attacker as Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1996 and was a legal U.S. resident. (Metro Nashville Police Department via AP)

A note found in the car of a man charged with spraying deadly gunfire at a Tennessee church made reference to revenge for a white supremacist's massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, two years earlier, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

The note could offer a glimpse into Emanuel Kidega Samson's mindset at the time of Sunday's shooting and a possible motive for the rampage, which left a woman dead and six other people wounded. The Associated Press has not viewed the note, but it was summarized in an investigative report circulating among law enforcement. Two officials read parts of the note to the AP.

The report said that "in sum and in no way verbatim," the note referenced revenge or retaliation for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black worshippers at the South Carolina church in 2015 and has since been sentenced to death. It wasn't clear what precisely Samson is alleged to have written about the Roof shooting, or whether his note contained other important details that might also speak to a motivation or state of mind.

The law enforcement officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation. Metro Nashville Police declined to comment, saying it had not released the information.

Samson has been charged with murder, and the FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Nashville quickly opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting. His public defender did not immediately return calls for comment. And spokespeople for the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office and District Attorney General Glenn Funk declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Police have said Samson, masked and wearing a tactical vest, fatally shot a woman who was walking to her vehicle and then entered the rear of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ and shot six other people, walking silently down the aisles with a .40-caliber handgun. The case immediately called to mind the killings at Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. But unlike that church, which is mostly black, Burnette Chapel in the Nashville neighborhood of Antioch has a diverse congregation with people of various ethnicities, a detail noted in the report. And church members told investigators that Samson had attended services a year or two ago.

All of the victims in Nashville were white, but it is not clear whether Samson specifically targeted them based on their race.

Samson, who is black, came to the United States from Sudan as a child in 1996 and is a U.S. citizen. His past was recently troubled.

Police records say he had expressed suicidal thoughts in June, struggled to hold a job and had a volatile relationship with a woman that twice involved police this year. Officers in Murfreesboro, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of the church, responded to a call from Samson's father, who had reported that his son had texted him June 27 to say: "Your phone is off, I have a gun to my head, have a nice f------ life."

Hours before the shooting, he made bizarre Facebook posts, including one that read: "Everything you've ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B."

Metro Nashville Police say investigators recovered four guns after the shooting that were bought legally from in-state retailers: the 40-caliber handgun allegedly used in the shooting; a military-style AR-15 rifle found in a case in Samson's vehicle; and a 9 mm handgun recovered from the church. Police say a relative gave the guns to Samson for safe keeping.

Police say Samson bought a .22-caliber pistol found in his SUV.

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Daredevil squirrel makes Olympic dash onto ski slope, snowboarder misses it by inches

Published: Sunday, February 25, 2018 @ 9:41 AM

Daniela Ulbing of Austria barely missed slicing a squirrel in half during a heat for the Ladies' Parallel Giant Slalom Elimination Run on day fifteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 24, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Daniela Ulbing of Austria barely missed slicing a squirrel in half during a heat for the Ladies' Parallel Giant Slalom Elimination Run on day fifteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 24, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A squirrel became an unwitting Olympic participant on Saturday when the furry rodent dashed onto the parallel giant slalom snowboarding course and barely missed being run over or sliced in half by Austrian snowboarder Daniela Ulbing.

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Unfortunately for Ulbing, she wasn’t quite as lucky as the squirrel. Though she won the heat that was almost thwarted by the squirrel, she fell in the next round to Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic.

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But, Ulbing can’t be too disappointed with her loss to Ledecka. The Czech snowboarder is a regular winter games sensation. At only 22 years old, she made history at the 2018 games by becoming the first female athlete to win gold medals in different sports — she won the gold in alpine skiing last week.

After a fun and freezing few weeks, the winter games are finally preparing to wrap up. At the moment, the Norwegians are at the top of the pack with 13 gold medals and 38 total. They’re followed by Canada and Germany. The Americans are in fourth place with nine gold medals and 23 total.

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And, while the sports and squirrels were fun, this year’s games also had a lot of diplomacy going on in the stands and around the venue. Vice President Mike Pence kicked off the games with his visit to South Korea where he sat only feet away from the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. President Trump’s daughter and special adviser, Ivanka Trump, is in South Korea now for the closing ceremony.  

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Florida school shooting survivor's mother says her family has received death threats

Published: Sunday, February 25, 2018 @ 9:45 AM

WATCH: Survivors Recount Florida High School Shooting

The mother of Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg is speaking out after her family received death threats because her son and another survivor were accused of being crisis actors.

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Hogg and fellow students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have made frequent media appearances to call for action on gun control after police say Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen others in a Valentine’s Day massacre.

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The students have since become the center of a false conspiracy theory claiming that they are actually actors who are coached before television appearances.

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Rebecca Boldrick, Hogg’s mother, told The Washington Post that her family has received death threats since the conspiracy theories started surfacing, saying, “I’m under so much stress.”

“I’m angry and exhausted,” she added. “Angry, exhausted and extremely proud.”

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The student has said he's not a “crisis actor” but rather someone who witnessed a tragedy.

“It’s annoying. I hate it. But it’s part of American democracy,” Hogg said in an interview with the Post. “Am I an actor? No. Am I a witness? Yes.”

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Man accused of beating wife, an online exhibitionist, to death with absinthe bottle

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 7:01 PM

Man Accused of Beating Wife to Death with Absinthe Bottle

An Alabama man charged with killing his wife, whose slaying last month unveiled her double life as an online exhibitionist, is accused of beating her to death with a bottle of absinthe, court records show.

The partially-clothed body of Kathleen Dawn “Kat” West, 42, of Calera, was discovered lying in the road in front of her home just after 5 a.m. on Jan. 18, Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said in a Thursday news conference. She lived there with her husband, William Jeffrey West, and their 12-year-old daughter. 

Jeff West, 44, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder. According to Shelby County Jail records, he was being held Friday in lieu of $500,000 bond. 

The couple’s daughter was not home when her mother was killed.

Lemley said Thursday that Jeff West was the department’s chief suspect from the beginning of the investigation, though Kat West’s “online professional activities” warranted investigators’ attention. 

He declined to specify what evidence pointed them toward her husband. 

“Let me say this. We are still restricted, very restricted, on what information that can be given out,” Lemley said. “The case is still under investigation, even though we have made an arrest. But, the case has to go to trial as well.”

The West murder case has shone a national spotlight on small-town Calera, due mainly to the more salacious details of Kat West’s life. Though she described herself on social media as a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother, she operated a subscription-only adult website where she went by the name “Kitty Kat West.” The public page boasted a suggestive photo and promised users that, for a monthly $15.99 subscription fee, they could get more risqué material beyond the paywall. 

Her Twitter account, also listed under her stage name, directs viewers to the paid adult website, as well. Kat West’s bio on the adult site, which was still live as of Friday, described the site, in part, as “hundreds of pics of ALL me, having some naughty fun.”

In the days immediately following the slaying, Kat West’s mother, Nancy Martin, wrote on Facebook that it seemed “impossible for the extreme sadness and grief we feel (over) the loss of our beautiful daughter, Kat, to ever diminish.” She described her daughter as a “cherished wife to Jeff” and a loving mother to their own young daughter. 

A fundraiser in Kat West’s name was established, but quickly ended as the case became more public. 

On Jan. 24, Martin changed her profile picture to one of her daughter and son-in-law. It remained there as of Friday afternoon. 

See Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley’s news conference, recorded by WBRC in Birmingham, below. 

Lemley said that investigators interviewed many witnesses in the case, as well as collecting a lot of evidence that needed to be processed. Four detectives were assigned to the case, two of them full-time. 

“Evidence takes time to process,” the police chief said. “And we have to wait on that evidence to come in so we can connect all the dots.”

Detectives were awaiting analysis on a final piece of evidence from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That final report was issued on Tuesday and, after a thorough review by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, a warrant was issued for Jeff West’s arrest, the chief said. 

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“We know exactly what happened, for the most part, on this case.” Lemley said. “I mean, we can’t tell you verbatim what was being said one way or the other, but we know what happened that night. We do have evidence to support that.”

The chief credited neighboring Shelby County law enforcement agencies, state agencies and the FBI with assisting in the investigation. 

Lemley again declined to go into detail about the evidence, but Jeff West’s arrest warrant, obtained by AL.com, indicates that Kat West was killed with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe. An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma to the head. 

The court documents state that, when a 19-year-old neighbor left for work Jan. 18, she found Kat West face-down on the ground in nothing but a sports bra, her body half in the roadway and half in the yard of the home across the street. A cellphone was found nearby, along with a green liquor bottle. 

Lucid Absinthe is sold in green bottles. 

TV news magazine Inside Edition on Jan. 25 aired surveillance footage from R&R Wine and Liquor, in Calera, that shows Kat West, just about eight hours before she was killed, walk into the liquor store with a man who appears to be her husband. In the video, the couple looks happy and playful.

“They came in (and) it looked like they were on their date night,” store clerk Stacey Oglesby told Inside Edition.

The couple bought two things that night: Lucid Absinthe and Jameson Irish Whiskey, Oglesby said. 

Lemley said it was not completely clear what could have happened between the couple’s visit to the liquor store, when they appeared happy, and when Kat West was bludgeoned to death. 

“It’s a domestic. Unfortunately, domestics turn bad pretty quickly,” Lemley said. “Anything can trigger it.” 

Jeff West, a military veteran, works as an unsworn police officer at Birmingham Southern College, AL.com reported. Officials at the school said they are in the process of terminating his employment. 

As of Thursday, Jeff West had not admitted involvement in the crime, Lemley said. 

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House releases Democrats’ rebuttal to GOP memo on alleged government surveillance abuses

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:23 PM

 House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations .
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
 House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations .(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The House Intelligence Committee Saturday released the Democrats’ rebuttal to the Republican memo alleging the FBI and Department of Justice engaged in questionable tactics in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia. 

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Schiff Memo by National Content Desk on Scribd

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The 10-page memo, released two weeks after President Donald Trump blocked it and after wrangling between Democrats and DOJ officials, was authored by ranking Intelligence Committee Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in response to one by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and disputes allegations that illegal tactics were used to get warrants to surveil a former Trump campaign aide.

“The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC. Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests,” Schiff said in a statement Saturday after the release of the memo.

Trump tweeted a response to Schiff’s document release Saturday, calling the Democrats’ memo “a total political and legal bust.” He also repeated his claims that special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is a “witch hunt.”

The president released the Nunes memo last month, which contained information purporting to show that the FBI and DOJ did not provide complete information when requesting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to watch one-time Trump campaign member and foreign policy advisor Carter Page.

>> Related: Trump sends Democrats’ Nunes rebuttal memo back to House committee

The release of both memos came over the objections of investigators in the intelligence communities.

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