NASA chief delivers
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — NASA chief Charles Bolden Jr. has told University of Michigan graduates that it’s their time and responsibility to lead the next generation.
Bolden delivered the annual winter commencement speech on Sunday on the school’s Ann Arbor campus.
He is the 12th administrator of NASA and the first African-American in the role. He has been on four space flights, commanded two missions and piloted the space shuttle Discovery, which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.
Bolden also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree Sunday.
The Ann Arbor News reports that Bolden called graduates part of “the space generation.”
“Your generation is going to take the things that people of my generation started and make them your own,” he said. “It’s time for you to go out and challenge the status quo ... and enrich the future.
“My advice for you is quite simple: Dream big dreams. Do what you want to do. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t do something or don’t belong somewhere, and don’t let any opportunity pass you by.”
Other honorary degree recipients included Susanne Baer, a justice on German’s Federal Constitutional Court; Ralph Cicerone, a top atmospheric scientist and the National Academy of Sciences president; and Dr. Hamilton Smith, the winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in medicine.
Hate crime possible
in Florida church defacing
CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. — Authorities including the FBI are investigating a possible hate crime after three predominantly African-American north Florida churches were defaced with the letters “KKK.”
Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also involved in the probe. Someone spray-painted the letters signifying the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan on the three churches over the past week. A truck parked at a golf course was also defaced.
About 50 people attended a vigil Thursday night at New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church, one of the targeted churches. The Tallahassee Democrat reported that organizers said it was a show of unity and a sign the community will not be shaken.
Florida and U.S. law both make hate crimes felonies.
Police kill 16-year-old
suspect who shot officer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A 16-year-old robbery suspect was shot and killed by police in Nashville when he opened fire on officers who tried to use a stun gun to subdue him, authorities said.
One officer was wounded in the encounter Sunday evening, the Metro Nashville Police Department said in a news release. Police were investigating a robbery in south Nashville and were given permission to go into an apartment where officers believed the robbers had fled. The victim’s debit card was inside.
Sixteen-year-old Xavier McDonald locked himself in a bathroom, and police negotiators were sent to the apartment. McDonald eventually came to the front entrance, and officers tried to use a stun gun on him. That’s when police say McDonald opened fire, hitting officer John Downs, 42, in the leg.
Four other officers shot back, killing McDonald. They have been put on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated, which is routine.
Downs was in stable condition at Vanderbilt Medical Center and will likely need surgery, police said.
Police said McDonald was listed as a runaway at the time of the shooting. His mother had reported scuffling with him over a box of bullets on Dec. 7. She told police he was carrying a gun in his waistband and threatened to shoot her.
McDonald is Black and the injured officer is white. Recent police killings involving white officers and Black suspects have made national headlines and prompted widespread protests regarding police brutality, though the suspects in those cases were unarmed.
So far, it appeared the killing of McDonald, who was armed and shot an officer, was not generating the same outrage.
“We understand this young man shot a policeman,” said the Rev. James Thomas, a pastor at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church and one of a group of Black church leaders who meet with Police Chief Steve Anderson every month. “Someone talked to the young man’s mother and she said he wanted to kill her too.”
45 arrested after police
protests in SF Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO — Police arrested 45 people on Saturday in the hours after thousands of protesters took to the streets of San Francisco and Oakland in largely peaceful protests, joining in a national demonstration against police killings.
Protesters earlier in the day marched up San Francisco’s Market Street from the waterfront to City Hall. The demonstrators briefly lay down on the street in the middle of the city’s shopping district for a so-called die-in.
Police cordoned off nearby Union Square, barring entry out of concern that a plan was underfoot to topple the city’s giant Christmas tree. No attempt was made on the tree or any violence reported.
Oakland police said 2,500 to 3,000 people held a largely peaceful march in the downtown area there to protest police killings of unarmed Black men.
Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said that hours later a crowd of about 500 remained and officers began making arrests.
She said at least 45 people were arrested for crimes such as vandalism, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.
By midnight Saturday there were no reports of any protest activity in Oakland.
At a smaller protest earlier Saturday in Hollywood, four people who blocked an intersection were arrested for failure to disperse.
Protesters on both sides of the San Francisco Bay carried signs that read “Black lives matter” and chanted slogans and songs about opposing police brutality.
Several other cities across the United States experienced demonstrations on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, police took down effigies of three Black victims of lynching that were hung on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley Saturday morning.
Investigators believe the cardboard cutouts of life-sized photographs of lynching victims were connected to a smaller protest in Berkeley at noon. Police don’t know the motive or who hanged the effigies and are investigating.
“These images are very upsetting,” said campus spokeswoman Claire Holmes.
Organizers of the Berkeley protest said they were unaware of who hanged the effigies too.
“We hope that it’s someone who wanted to bring attention to the issue,” said Spencer Pritchard, 21, a UC Berkeley student and an organizer of the Berkeley protest, which was peaceful and attended by about 200 people. Many of the Berkeley protesters joined the Oakland demonstration.
— Compiled from The Associated Press
Former Hamlet detective sues over firing
HAMLET, N.C. — A former Hamlet police detective is suing the city and former city manager, saying he was wrongly fired.
The Richmond County Daily Journal reported that Michael Veach says that former city manager Marchell David illegally fired him in 2012 on the basis of race.
Veach’s lawsuit filed last month accused David of engineering his firing and the firing of another white police officer with the goal of removing white officers and replacing them with black officers.
David left Hamlet several months ago and is now an assistant city manager in Raleigh. David said she would not talk about the lawsuit.
Veach is seeking reinstatement and more than $10,000 in damages.
The newspaper reported Veach and another officer were fired for selling seized vehicles without going through the appropriate channels.
Little Rock officers contest shooting suit ruling
ST. LOUIS — Two Little Rock police officers asked a federal appeals court on Thursday to dismiss them from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man killed in his apartment, a case the victim’s son has likened to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The off-duty officer and a colleague were working private security for an apartment complex when one of them fatally shot 67-year-old Eugene Ellison in December 2010. The officers want the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to overturn a lower court ruling denying their claims of legal immunity. A three-judge panel heard 30 minutes of testimony but did not issue an immediate decision, and the civil suit is on hold pending that ruling.
Police have said they saw Ellison’s door open and walked in to see if he needed help because his apartment was in disarray. They say he attacked the officers and used a heavy wooden cane as a weapon. The lawsuit by Ellison’s family says the officers entered without a proper reason and made the first physical contact by shoving Ellison. It alleges that Ellison was crouched in a corner and was shot when he tried to retrieve his cane.
Like the Brown and Garner cases, the Little Rock shooting involved a black victim and white police officers. A pair of investigations by Little Rock police and the local prosecuting attorney cleared the officers, Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis, of wrongdoing. The Ellisons have appealed for a Justice Department investigation of Little Rock police force.
Lead plaintiff Troy Ellison, a Little Rock police sergeant, and his brother Spencer, a former Little Rock detective who now teaches criminal justice in Texas, say their father’s death sparked a crisis of conscience as they struggle to reconcile their oaths to protect and serve with the pain and outrage over what they call excessive force.
“We want the same things as the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” said Spencer Ellison, invoking the names of people killed by police in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York, whose deaths have sparked worldwide protests and intense debates over police powers. “We just want answers. And we want accountability.”
Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter, responding to skeptical questions by the appeals panel, said the officers had a legal right to enter Ellison’s apartment when they saw his door open on a cold day. Carpenter, who represents the two city employees, cited a “community caretaker” exemption to the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.
“They weren’t acting as investigators of a crime,” he said. “They were looking out for the welfare of a citizen.”
In the lower court’s October 2013 ruling rejecting the officers’ immunity claims, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said the two “unlawfully entered (Ellison’s) apartment and ignored his requests” to leave. Lesher shot him after a brief scuffle that began when McCrillis shoved Ellison, a Vietnam veteran and retired factory worker, for being “mouthy,” it said.
“It is undisputed that he was making no attempt to flee,” the judge wrote. “Lesher also never warned him that she had a gun and would shoot if he did not drop his cane.”
Miller did dismiss the city of Little Rock and its police chief from the suit, leaving the two officers and the apartment complex where they worked as defendants.
— Compiled from The Associated Press