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Guard faces tricky dance in California border mission

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:05 AM
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:04 AM


            FILE - In this June 22, 2016 file photo, Border Patrol agent Eduardo Olmos walks near the secondary fence separating Tijuana, Mexico, background, and San Diego in San Diego. California Gov. Jerry Brown agreed Wednesday, April 11, 2018, to deploy 400 National Guard troops at President Donald Trump's request, but not all will head to the U.S.-Mexico border as Trump wants and none will enforce federal immigration enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
FILE - In this June 22, 2016 file photo, Border Patrol agent Eduardo Olmos walks near the secondary fence separating Tijuana, Mexico, background, and San Diego in San Diego. California Gov. Jerry Brown agreed Wednesday, April 11, 2018, to deploy 400 National Guard troops at President Donald Trump's request, but not all will head to the U.S.-Mexico border as Trump wants and none will enforce federal immigration enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

California Gov. Jerry Brown is crystal clear that his National Guard will help President Trump go after drugs and thugs on the Mexican border, but not immigrants. Drawing that line may be hazy.

Brown's pledge of 400 troops allows the president to boast that governors in all four border states back his mission to send the Guard on its third large-scale deployment since 2006. It helped bring commitments from Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to about 2,400 troops — above the low end of Trump's target of sending 2,000 to 4,000 troops to the border shared by the four states.

The Democratic governor, who cast his decision as a welcome infusion of federal support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers, broke from his Republican counterparts from the three other states by insisting that his troops will have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.

But some experts were skeptical that Brown will be able to force his vision of the mission on California's Guard members participating in Trump's operation.

"I think it'll be very difficult for the California National Guard to be able to walk that fine line because those things in the field are indistinguishable," said Eric Olson, deputy director of the Wilson Center's Latin America program, who specializes in organized crime and security. "It's not like someone crossing the border says, 'I'm carrying drugs.' How can you tell?"

Trump praised Brown on Twitter Thursday, but did not address the governor's conditions for not taking an immigration role for California troops. The president said Brown was "doing the right thing and sending the National Guard to the Border. Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!"

The Border Patrol's mission of preventing people from entering the U.S. illegally has not changed in its 94-year history. But its nearly 20,000 agents also seize hundreds of tons of marijuana every year, along with other drugs. The agency has also emphasized anti-terrorism efforts since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Andrew Selee, president of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said Brown's move is clearly about how it will be seen politically in a state that overwhelmingly opposes Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration. The governor, in his decision to let the California troops participate, gave himself "wiggle room" to withdraw the Guard members if they get involved with immigration, which Trump will definitely want to prevent.

"Everyone has an interest in this working out," Selee said. "The lines will blur a bit but federal and state governments will try to make sure this doesn't blow up. That doesn't work for anyone."

Other border governors have fully embraced Trump's directive. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who will contribute about 1,400 troops, has said troops will "help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal immigration."

Details on the Guard's exact assignments have been trickling out since Trump last week announced his plan to send troops to the border on April 4.

The Arizona National Guard said Wednesday that 112 of its 338 troops will provide air support, like flying helicopters, from a base in the town of Marana, near Tucson. Another 60 are being sent to border town of Nogales for what Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire called ground-based missions, without providing details.

They are not required to carry guns for their duties but can do so if they feel they need to for their own protection, McGuire said.

The Texas National Guard, which already has troops in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo area, scouts for illegal activity by air and land and reports any findings to the Border Patrol.

Abbott said Thursday that he was waiting for instructions from the federal government but that his understanding was that the troops "will in no way be involved in any type of apprehension or confrontation process."

The New Mexico National Guard has not yet publicly defined a precise role for its 250 troops.

Federal law, notably the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, sharply limits military involvement in civilian law enforcement, creating a supporting role for Guard members. The Pentagon said last week that troops won't perform law enforcement functions or interact with people detained by border authorities without its approval.

From 2006 to 2008 under the administration of former President George W. Bush, the Guard went to the Mexico border and fixed vehicles, maintained roads, repaired fences and performed ground surveillance.

Its second southern border mission in 2010 and 2011 ordered by former President Barack Obama involved more aerial surveillance and intelligence work. People involved in both operations say the Guard was the Border Patrol's "eyes and ears."

Brown said Wednesday that the California troops cannot guard anyone in custody for immigration violations, participate in construction of border barriers or have any other supporting role in immigration enforcement. He did not elaborate on the Guard's specific assignments or how troops would be insulated against immigration work.

California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan said Thursday officials "generally do not discuss the specifics of operations, tactics, techniques and procedures and we certainly do not want to tip our hand to the transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers we're targeting."

Jobs for the about 55 California troops already at the border include engineering to repair roads, fences and culverts and working with federal and state law enforcement on anti-terrorism and anti-drug operations, Keegan said.

___

Associated Press writers Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, and Kathleen Ronanye in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

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Waffle House shooting: Man accused of killing 4 in Tennessee arrested

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:09 PM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:09 PM

Police: 4 Dead After Waffle House Shooting by Nude Gunman

Authorities on Monday afternoon arrested a man suspected of stripping at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, early Sunday before opening fire on customers and employees, killing four people.

Nashville police confirmed that authorities arrested suspected shooter Travis Reinking, 29, on Monday afternoon. He was earlier identified as the man suspected of killing Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves, 21. 

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Unfazed while being shot with Taser, unruly passenger forcibly removed from American Airlines flight

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 1:13 PM

Jacob Garcia. (Photo: Miami-Dade Corrections)
Jacob Garcia. (Photo: Miami-Dade Corrections)

Police used a stun gun and forcibly removed an unruly passenger Sunday who started a fight with a couple aboard a plane at Miami International Airport, police said. 

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Jacob Garcia, 28, touched a female passenger without her permission, screamed and insulted her and her boyfriend before attendants on the American Airlines flight from Miami to Chicago moved him to another seat, according to WPLG

After he was moved to another seat, he began using racial slurs and was asked to leave the plane, according to WPLG. When he refused, the crew started to deplane the entire aircraft. That is when Garcia started a physical altercation with the passenger he was rude to earlier, according to airline officials. 

“What is the reason? Why you are removing from this plane,” Garcia is heard saying in a passenger’s video

“You just assaulted a lady,” a man replies.

When Miami-Dade police officers arrived, Garcia was belligerent with them and was subsequently subdued with a Taser, video shows. The remaining passengers on board can be heard clapping when he was removed. The plane departed about an hour later than scheduled, American Airlines said.

Police said Garcia reached for an officer’s service weapon and kicked out a window of a patrol car when he was taken into custody, according to WPLG.

Garcia was arrested and charged with battery, attempting to deprive an officer of their means of protection, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer and criminal mischief, according to police.

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Florida judge does not return to courtroom after berating frail inmate who died 3 days later

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 3:15 PM

Judge Merrilee Ehrlich. (Photo: Seventeeth Judicial Circuit of Florida)
Cliff Frommer
Judge Merrilee Ehrlich. (Photo: Seventeeth Judicial Circuit of Florida)(Cliff Frommer)

A Florida judge who berated a frail inmate who died three days later will not return to the bench, court officials said. 

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Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich will not return to the bench after her treatment of Sandra Twiggs, 59, who appeared before her last week on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter said Saturday, according to WFOR.

“In light of recent events we have decided Judge Ehrlich will be told not to return to the courthouse as her retirement is effective June 30,” Tuter said, according to The Associated Press. “I will be working this weekend to find a substitute to cover Judge Ehrlich’s (family court) division.”

During the first appearance, Twiggs, who was in a wheelchair, explained to Ehrlich that she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and needed breathing treatments, according to WFOR

First appearance hearings are streamed online and recorded.

“Ma’am, don’t even say yes. Just listen,” Ehrlich said. “I’m not here to talk about your breathing treatments.”

Ehrlich released Twiggs without bond. Twiggs died Wednesday in her sleep.

“When she came home from being in there she was never the same,” Carolyn Porter, Twiggs’ goddaughter, told WFOR.

Ehrlich who was first elected in 2008 planned to retire June 30. She filed her retirement paperwork two weeks prior to this incident. 

Tuter said he would be calling Twiggs’ family to apologize. 

“I am saddened and disappointed in the way Judge Ehrlich behaved on the video. Her behavior cannot be condoned,” he said.

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Video shows Alabama police wrestle woman, expose her breasts at Waffle House

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:12 PM

A graphic video shows Saraland, Alabama, police officers wrestling a black  woman before arresting her inside a Waffle House restaurant (not pictured). (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
A graphic video shows Saraland, Alabama, police officers wrestling a black woman before arresting her inside a Waffle House restaurant (not pictured). (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)(Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

graphic video showing police officers wrestling a black 25-year-old woman before arresting her inside a Saraland, Alabama, Waffle House restaurant Sunday is making the rounds on social media, sparking outrage across the country. The incident allegedly escalated over 50 cents’ worth of plastic cutlery.

Chikesia Clemons was arrested around 2:45 a.m. on charges of “disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” her mother, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard, told AL.com. She paid her daughter’s $1,000 bond Sunday morning.

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In the cell phone video, captured by Clemons’ friend, Canita Adams, Saraland police officers are seen speaking with Clemons and then pulling her off a chair and onto the floor of the restaurant.

“What are you doing?” Clemons asks the officers in the video.

“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer responds.

Two officers are then seen wrestling with Clemons, grabbing her neck and wrist and trying to flip her over to arrest her. The altercation turns graphic as Clemons’ clothes are pulled down “to reveal her breasts as white patrons continue to eat in the background,” AL.com reported.

Related: Philadelphia Starbucks arrest: Men say manager called 911 minutes after they arrived

In the video, when the officer placed his hand around her neck, Clemons cries, “You’re choking me!”

Clemons-Howard told AL.com the incident arose after Clemons refused to pay an extra 50 cents for plastic utensils and the employee canceled the order. According to AL.com, Clemons and Adams said they were not charged for utensils when they ordered from the same Waffle House the night before.

“They didn’t even ask her to leave, she was waiting for them to give her the district manager’s card so she could file a complaint on one of the waitresses,” Clemons-Howard told AL.com. “When they went to go get the card, that’s when the police showed up. The officer should’ve come in and said we need you to leave.”

Chance the Rapper weighed in on Twitter.

“Protect our women. This is wrong, this is unjust and this happens to alot (sic) of women when there are NO cameras around,” he wrote. “Stand with our women. Defend their voice, and their right to ask why they’re being handled, being removed, being CHOKED. Be infuriated. Be willing to fight.”

The altercation and arrest come 10 days after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia on trespassing charges.

Mobile, Alabama, NAACP President David Smith said in a statement Sunday that the organization is looking into the episode. 

“In light of the current situation in our country -- such as the arrest of two young black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop -- we felt it was important for our members to get a firsthand account of the incident, which has now gone viral on social media locally and across the country,” Smith said.

A spokesman with the Saraland Police Department also said the department is investigating. The department also said that Saraland’s public safety director, Chief J.C. West, and Mayor Howard Rubenstein are aware of the situation.

“The Saraland Police Department is aware of the arrest at Waffle House and the accompanying video on social media,” the department said in a Facebook post. “The situation is being thoroughly reviewed and is under active investigation right now. Our department strives for transparency and we encourage our community to be aware of current events.”

Read more at AL.com.

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