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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Last Updated Apr 22, 2021 at 12:14 am EDT

Floyd killing has prompted state reforms, but not everywhere

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — George Floyd’s killing last year and the protests that followed led to a wave of police reforms in dozens of states, from changes in use-of-force policies to greater accountability for officers. At the same time, lawmakers in a handful of states have had success addressing racial inequities.

But those changes mask a more complicated legislative legacy to a movement that many hoped would produce generational change: Other states have done little or nothing around police and racial justice reforms, and several have moved in the opposite direction.

In Texas, where Floyd was raised and laid to rest, state Sen. Royce West this year helped introduce the “George Floyd Act” to overhaul policing. But the bill has languished for weeks after getting one hearing, and West, one of the state’s most prominent Black lawmakers, acknowledges it faces long odds in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

“We have members of the Senate that just refuse to pass a bill with his name on it,” he said.

He now hopes to take a different approach in hopes of getting a win — stand-alone bills without Floyd’s name that would make piecemeal changes such as banning police chokeholds.

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Daunte Wright to be eulogized at Minneapolis funeral

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just days after guilty verdicts were handed down for the former Minneapolis police officer whose killing of George Floyd set off nationwide protests and a reckoning over racism, the family of another Black man killed by police, this time in a nearby suburb, is preparing for his Thursday funeral.

Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday at a Minneapolis church for the public viewing for 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a father of one shot by a police officer on April 11 during a traffic stop in the small city of Brooklyn Center.

Friends and family members wept as they stood before Wright’s open casket, which was blanketed with red roses. All who viewed the open casket on Wednesday saw the young man dressed in a jean jacket bedazzled with several red and green gem-like buttons on both sides of the lapels.

An obituary handed out at the memorial recalled Wright’s love of Fourth of July fireworks, the “lemon head” nickname bestowed by an aunt and the months he spent in a hospital intensive care unit when his son was born prematurely.

The city’s police chief said it appeared from body camera video that the officer who shot Wright used her pistol when she meant to use her Taser. The white officer, 26-year veteran Kim Potter, is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both she and the chief resigned soon after the shooting.

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Grim list of deaths at police hands grows even after verdict

Just as the guilty verdict was about to be read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, police in Ohio shot and killed a Black teenager in broad daylight during a confrontation.

The shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, who was swinging a knife during a fight with another person in Columbus, is in some ways more representative of how Black and other people of colour are killed during police encounters than the death of George Floyd, pinned to the ground by Chauvin and captured on video for all the world to see.

Unlike Chauvin’s case, many killings by police involve a decision to shoot in a heated moment and are notoriously difficult to prosecute even when they spark grief and outrage. Juries have tended to give officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim to have acted in a life-or-death situation.

While Tuesday’s conviction was hailed as a sign of progress in the fight for equal justice, it still leaves unanswered difficult questions about law enforcement’s use of force and systemic racism in policing. The verdict in the Chauvin case might not be quickly repeated, even as the list of those killed at the hands of police grows.

“This was something unique. The world saw what happened,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who has examined over 100 use-of-force cases there. To have video, witnesses, forensic evidence and multiple police officers testify against one of their own is unique and “demonstrates how high the bar has to be in order to actually have that kind of accountability,” he said.

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Garland announces sweeping police probe after Floyd verdict

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis after a former officer was convicted in the killing of George Floyd there, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday.

The decision comes a day after the former officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, a verdict that set off a wave of relief across the country. Floyd’s death had led to months of mass protests against policing and the treatment of Black people in the United States.

The Justice Department was already investigating whether Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights.

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said.

The new investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping review of the entire police department. It may result in major changes to policing in the Minnesota city.

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Biden pushes for momentum as US returns to climate fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is convening a coalition of the willing, the unwilling, the desperate-for-help and the avid-for-money for a global summit Thursday aimed at rallying the world’s worst polluters to move faster against climate change.

The president’s first task: Convincing the world that the politically fractured United States isn’t just willing when it comes to Biden’s new ambitious emissions-cutting pledges, but also able.

Success for Biden in the virtual summit of 40 leaders will be making his expected promises — halving coal and petroleum emissions at home and financing climate efforts abroad — believable enough to persuade other powers to make big changes of their own.

For small countries already fighting for their survival, global climate progress noticeably slowed in the four years of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the effort. Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes hopes the United States’ high-profile return to international climate work will spur months of one-on-one worldwide deal-making leading up to November. That’s when there will be United Nations talks in Glasgow, where about 200 governments will be asked to spell out what each is willing to do to keep the Earth from becoming a far hotter, more dangerous and less hospitable place.

With Biden’s summit, “we can start with that momentum,” Mouynes said. In Panama, freshwater shortages that officials blame on climate change already are complicating shipping through the Panama Canal, one of the world’s main trade routes and the country’s main money earner. Even Panama’s best climate safeguards, like hotlines and surveillance drones to catch rainforest logging, aren’t enough to save the country on their own, Mouynes says.

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Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

JERUSALEM (AP) — A missile launched from Syria was fired into southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defence systems in neighbouring Syria.

The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabotage at its Natanz nuclear facility on April 11, and vowed revenge. It also threatened to complicate U.S.-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

The Israeli army said it had deployed a missile-defence system but could not confirm if the incoming missile was intercepted, though it said there had been no damage. The air raid sirens were sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few kilometres (miles) from Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located. Explosions heard across Israel might have been the air-defence systems.

The Israeli military initially described the weapon fired as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defence against warplanes or other missiles. That could suggest the Syrian missile had targeted Israeli warplanes but missed and flown off errantly. However, Dimona is some 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said four soldiers had been wounded in an Israeli strike near Damascus, which also caused some damage. The agency did not elaborate other than to claim its air defence intercepted “most of the enemy missiles,” which it said were fired from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

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Sheriff: Deputy fatally shot Black man while serving warrant

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina deputy shot and killed a Black man while serving a search warrant Wednesday, authorities said, spurring an outcry from community members who demanded law enforcement accountability and the immediate release of body camera footage.

Authorities wouldn’t provide details of the shooting but an eyewitness said that Andrew Brown Jr. was shot while trying to drive away, and that deputies fired at him multiple times. The car skidded out of Brown’s yard and eventually hit a tree, said Demetria Williams, who lives on the same street.

Williams said after hearing one gunshot, she ran outside, where she saw other shots being fired at the car.

“When they opened the door he was already dead,” Williams told The Associated Press. “He was slumped over.” She said officers tried to perform chest compressions on him.

A car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a broken rear windshield.

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After Floyd, Congress ready to plunge into policing laws

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bolstered with new momentum, Congress is ready to try again to change the nation’s policing laws, heeding President Joe Biden’s admonition that the guilty verdict in George Floyd’s death is “not enough” for a nation confronting a legacy of police violence.

Legislation that was once stalled on Capitol Hill is now closer than ever to consensus, lawmakers of both parties said Wednesday, a day after a Minneapolis jury found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Behind the scenes, negotiations are narrowing on a compromise for a sweeping overhaul, though passage remains uncertain.

Tuesday’s verdict launches “a new phase of a long struggle to bring justice to America,” declared Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., in urging passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. “This is the human rights issue in the United States of America.”

The revived effort, led by Black lawmakers including Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, comes at a pivotal moment. The nation is on edge over the Floyd case, the deaths of other Black Americans — including a 16-year-old girl brandishing a knife about the time the Minneapolis verdict was announced — and almost a year of protests accusing police of brutal actions that often go unseen.

The guilty verdict for Chauvin was a rare occurrence, not least because in this case an officer’s actions were recorded by a bystander and shown to the jury in court. That followed months of the video being played repeatedly on TV, imprinted in the minds of Americans everywhere.

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Super League backer says breakaway competition is on standby

MADRID (AP) — The Super League is far from dead and its clubs have not given up on the idea of the breakaway competition despite having to shelve the project just a few days after it was announced, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez said on Thursday.

Pérez, who would have been the new league’s founding chairman, said the clubs behind the Super League will continue working on a way to make the competition work, even if changes have to be made to its format.

He said the Super League is on “standby” and the group is open to discussing ideas with European soccer’s governing body and other entities to help the game amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pérez said he was certain that a “very similar” competition would soon be created.

“We are going to keep working,” Pérez told Spanish radio network SER in an interview after midnight local time. “We are looking for ways of getting this done. It would be a shame not to get it done.”

The Super League was announced on Sunday but essentially folded after the English clubs involved in the project pulled out Tuesday amid escalating backlash from their supporters and warnings from the British government that legislation could be introduced to thwart them.

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Lava from Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano threatens towns

EL PATROCINIO, Guatemala (AP) — Residents of small communities living around Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano wake each day wondering if the lava will reach their homes.

A lava flow descending the volcano has advanced between El Patrocinio and San José el Rodeo. In the case of the latter, the lava has advanced to within two and half blocks of the outermost homes.

Emma Quezada, a 38-year-old homemaker in one of those houses, has lived there her entire life and said she’s used to the volcanic activity. Still, this time she’s afraid.

“These last three days the lava stopped; we hope it stays there,” Quezada said.

Local authorities had spoken to residents about moving the community to another location some 62 miles (100 kilometres) away, but without the space they have now, she said.

The Associated Press

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