May 2019 - Mass Shooting News

Virginia Beach mass shooting: Live updates


At least 11 people were killed Friday after a shooter entered a building of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and started firing indiscriminately, Virginia Beach Chief of Police Jim Cervera said in a news conference.

The suspect is also dead, the chief said.

Six people were injured, he said. The extent of their injuries is unknown at this time.



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Florida school guardian program is growing


TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – An executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in February helped increase the number of counties participating in a controversial “guardian” program that allows school staff members to be armed on campus, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Thursday.

A total of 30 school districts have told the state they are participating in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which was named after one of the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Baker, Escambia, Franklin, Levy and Taylor counties joined the program after the executive order, while 13 more have expressed interest in doing so, Corcoran said in a statement.

The latest districts to join the program are mostly in rural areas. Also, the list does not include Okaloosa County, where the school board voted Tuesday to join the program, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

DeSantis issued an executive order in February that reopened the application period until April 1 in an effort to expand the program, which faced reluctance from many school districts in its first year.

Extending the application period allowed more counties to tap into money that had gone unused. At the time the governor signed the executive order, $50 million had not been used out of the $67 million set aside for the program.

“I hope more counties follow their lead, especially now that the Florida Legislature has expanded the Guardian Program,” Corcoran said.

DeSantis this month signed into law a school-safety bill that expands access to the guardian program. Under the new guidelines, trained classroom teachers can be armed in schools. Also, the bill allows districts to decide whether to participate, rather than leaving the decision to local sheriff’s offices.



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They Survived Mass Shootings. Years Later, The Bullets Are Still Trying to Kill Them


Colin Goddard lay in a pool of his own blood, hoping his racing heart would not tip off the approaching gunman that he was still alive. The shooter hovered over Goddard, paused and fired two more bullets into him anyway.

Goddard survived the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, which killed 32 people and was the worst school shooting in U.S. history. Twelve years later, he tries not to dwell on the day, but he has dozens of constant reminders: bullet fragments lodged in his body, leaching toxins into his blood.

Like hundreds and possibly thousands of shooting survivors across the country, Goddard, a 33-year-old father of two, is suffering a lesser-known and often unrecognized side effect of gun violence: lead poisoning. When he was shot in his French class that spring day, one bullet pierced his right shoulder cleanly, but three others shattered when they hit his hips and left knee. Because the fragments did not pose life-threatening risks, trauma surgeons left them in his body—a common and widely accepted practice in emergency rooms throughout the United States. Now, with his blood lead levels seven times higher than what is considered safe, Goddard faces long-term health risks, including neurological problems, kidney dysfunction and reproductive issues.

The metal’s toxicity is well-documented, but only wildlife have so far benefitted from efforts to outlaw its use in bullets, and even those results have been limited. California on July 1 will become the first state to ban lead hunting bullets, the culmination of a yearslong battle that pitted environmentalists against the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups.

“I was told, ‘You’re going to be fine in the long-term,’ and that’s not right,” Goddard says. “It throws you back when you realize you’re not out of the woods yet, and this terrible day is not entirely behind you.”

With roughly 80,500 nonfatal gunshot injuries annually, a vast number of Americans every year experience a version of Goddard’s worst day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tens of thousands more don’t live through their ordeal. In 2017, the most recent year with available data on mortality, more people in the U.S.—nearly 40,000—died from firearm injuries than in any other year since at least 1968, when the government first started keeping track electronically. It was the third consecutive year that the U.S. saw a rise in the rate of gun deaths. “Doctors think we solved the lead problem because we took lead out of paint and we took lead out of gas,” Goddard says. “But we still have these very acute, very severe problems within a big population of the country—a population that’s already been victimized in a significant way.”

In 2017, when the CDC released its first report linking lead toxicity to bullet fragments, the health agency said at least 457 adult shooting survivors tested positive for elevated blood lead levels from retained bullet fragments between 2003 and 2012. As its main source, the CDC pulled data from 41 states participating in the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program, which requires labs and health care providers to report blood lead level test results to their state health departments. The program requires states to specify the sources of lead exposure—paint versus bullets, for example—but many states did not comply. That made it impossible for researchers to draw conclusions on the full magnitude of the national issue, and the true tally was likely far higher than 457, says CDC epidemiologist Debora Weiss, the report’s lead author.

It’s even harder to collect such data today. Since it released the report, the CDC has stopped studying the issue—citing a drop in the number of states willing to submit sufficient information—and the federal government eliminated the program’s funding in 2013. When it restored funding in 2015, only 26 states were part of the program, according to the CDC. “The biggest unanswered question,” Weiss says, “is whether the number of cases is increasing, becoming a trend.”

There is no evidence the exposure has slowed. In at least 12 ABLES states that do track different lead exposure sources, roughly 300 people tested positive for elevated lead levels from retained bullet fragments between 2012 and 2018, according to data obtained by TIME. During that time period, more than 200 people in California tested positive for elevated blood lead levels from retained bullet fragments, as did 28 people in Missouri, according to the states’ health departments. In Michigan, where the Flint water crisis created a heightened awareness of the dangers of lead, nearly 60 shooting victims tested positive for lead toxicity from bullets between 2012 and 2016, the most recent year with data, health officials said.

“There’s clearly sufficient research that substantiates cause for concern. There’s no doubt about that,” says Donald Smith, a professor of toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, whose research team helped the state ban the use of lead ammunition by hunters. While studying the effects of lead toxicity in California condors—one of the world’s largest birds threatened with extinction—the researchers found the creatures were dying in droves or being severely sickened from lead poison, primarily by eating the carcasses of animals that had been shot with lead ammunition, but also by being shot with lead bullets themselves. “Take it from the condors,” Smith says. “Embedded lead from ammunition poses significant toxic concerns.”

Decades of research into the effects of lead-tainted paint, fuel and drinking water have shown its devastating impact on humans and forced policy changes. In 1978, the U.S. banned consumer uses of paint containing lead. In 1996, the federal government went a step further, prohibiting the sale of leaded fuel. The public health crisis in Flint, Mich. put the national spotlight back on lead in 2014 when the city’s water supply became contaminated with it after officials switched water sources.

Because lead is common and inexpensive, it has long been the metal of choice for product manufacturers in many industries, including ammunition, says Michael Helms, a firearms historian in Baton Rouge, La. The material is also heavy and dense, Helms says, which helps bullets maintain consistent trajectories as opposed to those made with copper. This ensures maximum damage when a target is hit. Of the 9 billion ammunition rounds produced in the U.S. or imported into the country each year, 95% are made with lead components, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun trade group. “If you have the misfortune of being shot,” says retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toxicologist Mark Maddaloni, “the bullet is probably going to be made of lead.” Yet when it comes to how much we know about the internal impact of lead from retained bullets, much is shrouded in mystery.

That’s partially because it’s difficult to detect. Lead poisoning’s symptoms—fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea—are often mistaken for common illnesses like the cold or a stomach bug. “It’s really difficult sometimes for physicians who are treating these patients years after they’ve been shot to diagnose and figure out exactly what the problem is,” says Dr. Jennifer Cone, a trauma surgeon who frequently operates on gunshot victims in Chicago. “If somebody has these symptoms, it’s much more common for them to have menstrual cramps or a virus or gastroenteritis.”

In February 2017, Goddard, the Virginia Tech survivor, was a new father and a grad student at the University of Maryland, so he dismissed his fatigue as a natural byproduct of his busy life. He’d never considered he might have lead poisoning, but after his mother read the CDC’s report, she emailed him to suggest he get his blood tested. “I think it’s a good precaution,” she wrote, “but I wouldn’t worry at this point.”

To keep his blood lead levels low, Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard has to swallow 31 pills a day as part of his chelation treatment, a chemical process used to rid the body of excess or toxic metals. | Bryan Thomas for TIME

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“Gulp,” he replied. “Will call the Health Center to determine options.”

Ten days later, Goddard’s blood test came back. His blood lead level was 37 micrograms per deciliter. On average, a healthy adult has a blood lead level of 2 micrograms per deciliter, according to Maddaloni, the retired EPA toxicologist. While the World Health Organization says no level of lead exposure is considered safe, the CDC recommends taking action when blood lead levels are above 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Goddard underwent surgery later that year to remove some of the bullet fragments in his hip, which only slightly decreased his blood lead levels. While toxicologists insist the remaining 50 or more pieces need to come out, doctors say it’s too dangerous to remove them. Now, the business-development director in Bethesda, Md., has to swallow 31 pills a day as part of his chelation treatment, a chemical process used to rid the body of excess or toxic metals. The treatment only works as long as he takes the pills. If he stops, the lead levels rise again and he’s back to where he started.

“It feels like you’re a frog in boiling water. You don’t know these small changes in you until it’s too late,” says Goddard.

Unless there’s an immediate danger—if the bullets are near a major organ like the heart, or a large blood vessel—or unless the pieces have surfaced near the skin and are easy to remove, surgeons leave them in. Of the roughly 1,000 gunshot victims treated every year at the University of Chicago Medicine alone, up to 75% walk out with bullets still in their bodies, according to Cone, the trauma surgeon. Every day, at least one patient is patched up with a retained bullet, she says. And at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis—which, according to FBI statistics, has the highest murder rate among major cities in the nation—up to 75% of the roughly 450 annual gunshot victims leave with retained bullet fragments, says trauma surgeon Dr. Carl Freeman. “Oftentimes going in to get the bullet causes more harm than good,” says Cone. “We cut through healthy tissue, blood vessel and nerves, and it can cause a lot of scarring or other issues down the road.”

Sarah Salazar, 17, was shot three times at Santa Fe High School in Texas on May 18, 2018 and has shotgun pellets embedded in multiple parts of her body. Surgeons removed six bullet fragments from her left shoulder and left buttock on April 12, 2019 but her blood lead levels are still high. | University of Texas Medical Branch

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Often, the body will naturally form a protective barrier of scar tissue around a bullet or fragment, resulting in little to no damage, Cone says. “In the past, it’s been thought that these bullets are completely benign,” she adds. But sometimes, as years pass, the fragments dissolve and start making their way through the bloodstream, causing lead poisoning.

Even the best surgeons in the world couldn’t remove the shrapnel embedded in Morgan Workman’s left leg after she was blasted with an assault-style rifle during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The fragments, small as sawdust, look like purple freckles on her calf—a permanent mark from the rampage on Nov. 5, 2017 that killed 26 fellow congregants, including six close friends. “To remove it all,” Workman says of the shrapnel, “they basically would have had to tear my leg apart.”

As a gunman wearing all-black tactical gear and a ballistic vest opened fire in the church she’d attended most of her life, Workman dropped to the floor and hid behind equipment in the sound booth in the back of the sanctuary, where she works as a technician. “My brain was like, you’re never going to eat a chocolate chip cookie again,” she recalls. “That’s the first thing that came across my head.” But survival mode kicked in and she started counting the number of reloads and rounds fired while ducking her head side-to-side to avoid the shooter. And then she was hit.

Compared to others, her injury was minor, Workman says, and she was off crutches and back to work within weeks, but she suddenly started losing control of both of her feet. “I fell up the stairs at my house about four or five times in two weeks,” says the 21-year-old from La Vernia, Texas. “I knew something was wrong.” Her condition baffled her and her doctors. It wasn’t until almost a year later that Workman learned she had a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter, which was triggering foot drop, which causes her to lose control of the muscles that let her raise the front parts of her feet. “I’m not a person who cries a whole lot, but when I actually found out what was causing the problem, I just broke down immediately,” she says.

Workman, who later married another survivor of the church shooting, now has to wear braces on both feet, but she’s gotten her blood lead levels down to 2 micrograms per deciliter through chelation. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Workman says no medical professionals had advised her to get tested for lead toxicity. Now, she and her family want to save other shooting survivors from suffering the months of uncertainty that plagued her before she was correctly diagnosed. So in December 2018, Workman’s mother-in-law, Julie Workman, a nurse who also survived the massacre, traveled some 200 miles to Santa Fe, Texas, to warn the victims of the latest mass shooting about the dangers of lead in bullets.

She passed the message on to Sonia Lopez, whose daughter, Sarah Salazar, survived a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School that killed 10 people on May 18, 2018. Sarah was shot three times, leaving her with approximately 20 shotgun pellets embedded in multiple parts of her body, including her left lung and around her spinal cord. One of the major veins on the left side of Sarah’s neck was severed, her jaw had to be wired shut, and she lost a significant amount of flesh on the left side of her left arm.

Sarah Salazar, 17, may need to undergo more invasive surgery in the chest and lung after being shot three times at Santa Fe High School in Texas on May 18, 2018. Doctors say her body has been slow to respond to the chelation pills that are supposed to lower her blood lead levels. | University of Texas Medical Branch

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The 17-year-old honor roll student also complained of headaches, fatigue and light-headedness after the shooting, but it never occurred to Lopez, 53, that her daughter could have lead poisoning.

Heeding Workman’s warning, Lopez demanded doctors test Sarah’s blood. They found she had a blood lead level of 21 micrograms per deciliter. On April 12, Sarah had six of the roughly 20 pellets surgically removed and was put on the same chelation treatment as Goddard and Morgan Workman. A month later, her blood lead level was still at 15, meaning doctors will have to consider more invasive surgery in the chest and lung. “She just feels sick all the time,” Lopez says of her once-active daughter.

The last time the government regulated lead ammunition on a national level was in 1991. After researchers found some 2 million ducks were dying each year from ingesting spent lead shot left by hunters, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outlawed their use in hunting migratory waterfowl. For the last decade, conservationists have been pushing the U.S. to expand restrictions to hunting of other species, because they say lead in hunting ammunition still poisons and kills between 10 million and 20 million animals every year. But wildlife advocates have faced fierce opposition from gun rights advocates.

In 2017, when President Barack Obama’s administration announced a ban on lead ammunition on federal wildlife refuges on the last full day of his presidency, the NRA criticized the move as an “attack on our hunting heritage.” The ban was reversed as soon as the new U.S. Interior Secretary under President Donald Trump took over. “It is a losing battle in the Trump administration,” says Jonathan Evans, an environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group that has unsuccessfully challenged the NRA in court over banning lead ammo.

Conservationists have since shifted their focus toward making progress at the state level. Besides California, more than 30 other states have imposed less-stringent rules on lead ammunition used by hunters, according to the Humane Society. “We know it can be done,” Evans says.

For animals, maybe, but not necessarily for humans. Doctors are growing more aware of the risks human shooting survivors face from lead, but many feel their hands are tied by a lack of research into treatment alternatives for gunshot victims whose bodies are saturated with bullet fragments. “We’re not doing enough for them,” says Dr. Ikenna Okereke, the University of Texas Medical Branch’s chief of thoracic surgery, who is treating Sarah Salazar. “It’s a huge problem, and I’m seeing it more and more. And if I’m just one physician seeing it more and more, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”



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Mass shooting insurance? Ad campaign by LA students makes anti-violence pitch



LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Do you have mass shooting insurance?

A group of Los Angeles high school students who serve on the Mayor’s Youth Council to End Gun Violence says it’s gotten to the point where we all need it. They’re behind a new ad campaign to let people know that gun violence can’t be accepted as normal.

“We are very desensitized to it. We hear it every single day on the news. We go online, everybody’s talking about it. We hear it all the time. So getting something that’s this eye-catching, this big, brings more attention it and says hey, this is actually happening. it’s a big deal. We should do something about it,” said Katherine Henriquez, a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council to End Gun Violence.

You’ll start seeing the four ads scattered at 50 bus stops throughout the city. Each poster lists a hotline number and website featuring resources on efforts to prevent gun violence.

“We got an email that was sent to us saying I couldn’t believe this. I was so offended this was allowed on a billboard. That there was an actual product called insurance for a shooting. Until, they read the fine print and this constituent said, bravo, thank you for doing this. Because, we have to wake people up. We can’t just accept this violence. Maybe it’s a mass shooting, maybe it’s an accidental shooting or a suicide. Maybe it’s just gun violence caused by gang activity,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The campaign costs just under $25,000 and is paid for by the mayor’s office of gang reduction and youth development. The Youth Council is the first mayor-led initiative in the country where youth are leading the charge on gun violence prevention.

“Having them hear our suggestions. We got to work on everything, every step of the way and just to see our final product come together, it’s just such an empowering feeling to know that we are being heard,” said Henriquez.

Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.



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Rookie Tacoma police officers run through active shooter training


TACOMA, Wash. — Thursday afternoon an old unused elementary school in Pierce County was turned into a training course for the region’s newest officers. Tacoma’s newest police officers suited up for a drill they hope to never use. 

The officers had to take down an active shooter at the elementary school. 

“They all have a look in their eyes, some of them are wide-eyed, some of them are just excited to get out there,” said Officer Tom Perry, an instructor for the training.

The officers were armed with special, non-lethal rounds. The lights and actors were used to get they’re adrenaline pumping. Moments later they’re sent into the school not knowing what’s around the corner. They encountered a single male gunman and took him down.

With the shooter down the priority now turns to the wounded.

“You know a lot of us are parents, I’m a parent myself, so when I come into these schools it really brings it back to you, personally, of what goes on in here,” said Officer Shelbie Boyd.

In many cases, police officers don’t have the luxury of waiting for backup, at least not any more. In a mass shooting, experts will tell you that every second counts, something they tried to drill into these teams today.

“The priority is ending the threat, yes, saving as many lives,” Boyd added.

The hope is that they will never encounter this scenario in the real world but if they do, they’ll know they’ve trained for it.



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State, feds say they


TRENTON — Gang members and violent scofflaws beware. The state and federal authorities are coming for you.

After two mass shootings that rocked the capital city within days of each other over the Memorial Day weekend, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito unveiled a “Trenton violent crime initiative” in a joint statement Thursday.

Craig Carpenito

Photo courtesy of Alston & Bird LLP

The initiative, modeled on similar law enforcement strategies in Newark and Jersey City, was in the works for months, the law enforcement officials said, but was unrolled on the heels of two massing shootings, one outside a city bar, that claimed the life of 18-year-old Unique Anderson and injured 15 others.

The new cooperative initiative includes an alphabet soup of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the DEA. Leaders from the participating agencies will meet regularly and reviewing intelligence gathered on Trenton’s “most violent offenders, their accomplices, crime trends, and potential leads that can be acted on by the partnering agencies,” Grewal and Carpenito said.

“In analyzing intelligence, the partnering agencies will look at all of those involved in shootings, including victims as well as shooters, because victims in many cases may be likely participants in future gun violence,” they said.

Anderson was gunned down on the 100 block of Walnut Avenue in the Wilbur section of the city. In many Facebook posts, he expressed support for Keith “Durk” Hamilton, one of the three defendants charged in connection with the November 2018 murder of Shaela Johnson, a 19-year-old Crips gang member. And he paid homage to former Nottingham High School basketball player Kuyler Fowler, 19, who was fatally shot in Trenton last year.

Police finishing up at the scene of a mass shooting outside of Ramoneros Liquor and Bar on Brunswick Ave in Trenton Saturday morning. 

John Berry — The Trentonian

The posts strongly hinted at Anderson’s involvement in the streets though it’s unclear if he belonged to a specific gang. In Trenton, the Los Angeles-born Blood and Crips gangs are not as prolific as they were decades ago, officials have said, replaced by more loosely affiliated neighborhoods groups.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, Starbucks store manager Stephanie Campfield, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal at the Trenton Starbucks during Wednesday’s “Coffee with a cop” event. 

Submitted Photo

“We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight violence in Trenton, which means collaborating across all levels of law enforcement and sharing intelligence and resources through our new Violent Crime Initiative,” Grewal said in a statement. “The time to act is now, before more lives are lost. We cannot stop every shooting, but we want city residents to know that we stand with them, and we will work with the Trenton Police, the County Prosecutor’s Office, and all of our partners to arrest the gun-toting criminals who are bringing violence and fear to their neighborhoods.”

Former Mayor Doug Palmer said the state and federal authorities successfully partnered with local authorities in the 2000s to target Trenton’s gang problem, which he initially denied. Those efforts resulted in getting numerous gang members off the streets, something Carpenito alluded to in his statement.

He noted efforts in other cities helped greatly reduce violent crime, with a 15 percent drop in Newark from 2017 to 2018, and an 18 percent reduction in Camden over the same period. Carpenito said shootings were down as much as 69 percent in Jersey City in “comparable periods” from last year to this one.

Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri speaks about the mass shooting that occurred outside a North Ward bar during a press conference at Trenton Police headquarters Saturday, May 25, 2019. He was joined by elected officials and police brass.

By Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
sulaiman@Trentonian.com
@Sabdurr on Twitter

It wasn’t clear how additional resources will be deployed only that they’ll rely on intelligence from the State Police’s regional operations intelligence center. Trenton Police Department will help identify the city’s top violent offenders and violent crime suspects in Trenton.

Executing warrants and other “crime suppression efforts” focused in violent hot spots will be among the arsenal of tools authorities use in their crackdown on Trenton’s worst of the worst.



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Salesforce says it won’t work with online retailers that sell semi-automatic weapons


Tech giant Salesforce has entered the debate over gun control in the US with a policy that forbids customers who use its software from selling certain firearms. The ban applies to semi-automatic weapons, 3D-printed guns, and a range of accessories, including large-capacity magazines and devices that make semi-automatic guns fully automatic.

The policy was made official on April 11th this year, according to company documents, but was highlighted in a recent story by The Washington Post. The Post notes that it’s not clear how many companies the policy affects, but says at least one retailer, Camping World, has been told to either stop selling guns or stop using Salesforce software.

A spokesperson for Salesforce confirmed the change to The Verge: “After carefully reviewing similar policies in the industry and discussing with internal and external stakeholders, we updated our policy. The change affects new customers and a small number of existing customers when their current contracts expire.”

A person familiar with the situation said Salesforce employees had been informed about the policy in early April, and that the internal motivation was to keep the company in line with peers like Amazon (which doesn’t sell semiautomatic weapons and certain accessories).

Salesforce is a quiet giant in the online ecosystem, helping companies talk to customers

The move is significant though. Although Salesforce and its businesses are not well-known (when Googling the company, the first suggested question is: “What exactly does Salesforce do?”), it plays a crucial role in the online ecosystem, including retail.

The services it provides help companies interact with customers by tracking their activity, complaints, purchases, and preferences. Salesforce has more than 150,000 clients, including giants like Adidas and American Express, and a market cap of $118 billion.

Salesforce is known also for its forthright CEO, Marc Benioff, who regularly speaks out on social issues, including gun control. Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February, Benioff tweeted: “The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. Ban it.” He later said he would donate $1 million to March for Our Lives, a demonstration led by students supporting greater gun control measures.

As the Post’s story notes, if Salesforce refuses to work with retailers that sell semi-automatic weapons, it could spark a backlash in some sections of society. Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Post that the company was engaging in “corporate-policy virtue signaling” and that its actions would have a “chilling effect.”

The new restrictions in Salesforce’s policy can be read below:

Worldwide, customers may not use a Service to transact online sales of any of the following firearms and/or related accessories to private citizens. Firearms: automatic firearms; semi-automatic firearms that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any of the following: thumbhole stock, folding or telescoping stock, grenade launcher or flare launcher, flash or sound suppressor, forward pistol grip, pistol grip (in the case of a rifle) or second pistol grip (in the case of a pistol), barrel shroud; semi-automatic firearms with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds; ghost guns; 3D printed guns; firearms without serial numbers; .50 BMG rifles; firearms that use .50 BMG ammunition. Firearm Parts: magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds; flash or sound suppressors; multi-burst trigger devices; grenade or rocket launchers; 80% or unfinished lower receivers; blueprints for ghost guns; blueprints for 3D printed guns; barrel shrouds; thumbhole stocks; threaded barrels capable of accepting a flash suppressor or sound suppressor.



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What this town did after a devastating mass shooting is awe-inspiring


Josh Edelson/AP

On a rain-soaked afternoon in Napa Valley this spring, a somber crowd of about a hundred gathered inside the Yountville community center, located on a tree-lined street in the town’s business district. Many residents from the wine-country town of about 3,000 held white roses and wore purple bracelets bearing the words “Never To Forget.” “A year ago, something unimaginable happened,” Steve Rogers, the town manager, told the crowd. “Talking with a lot of our residents, neighbors, and friends, this was a very challenging moment. It changed Yountville.”

On March 9, 2018, about a small group of staff members and residents of the nearby Pathway Home, a specialized residential treatment facility for military veterans, had gathered for a party inside the building when a 36-year-old Afghanistan war veteran showed up, uninvited and armed with two guns and a supply of ammunition. Albert Wong had been dismissed from the Pathway program two weeks earlier for threatening to shoot staff members, according to a civil lawsuit filed by a victim’s family. He ordered the partygoers out one by one, until three women remained—Christine Loeber, Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, and Jennifer Golick, all of whom had worked closely with Wong on his treatment. Responding to a frantic 911 call from one of the fleeing staff members, police raced to the scene within a few minutes and began attempting to communicate with Wong. But less than 15 minutes into the hostage crisis, Wong had fatally shot his three former caretakers and himself.

It was a devastating blow from which the community was still reeling a year later. At a Yountville coffee shop the morning of the memorial gathering, I met with Larry Kamer, a former Pathway board member who became the de facto spokesperson for the organization after the shooting. A temporary power outage from the stormy weather left us sitting in only the faint light coming through the storefront window. Nearly everyone in Yountville had some kind of tie to Pathway, including Kamer, whose wife was communications director for the home—and was the last hostage Wong released before he opened fire.

“You have the incident itself, which was horrible enough,” Kamer said, recalling how frightening and painful that day was. But as with other venues hit by mass shootings, keeping the place open was just too much to bear. The home was permanently closed less than six months later, with residents transferred to other programs. Now, the aftereffects of the shooting compounded the trauma of those under care at the time. Perhaps worst of all, Kamer said, was that “something like that could happen to the very people who are at ground zero treating these vets.”

That unthinkable loss has Kamer and his colleagues seeking to continue the mission of the Pathway Home, which dates back a decade and was highly regarded among veterans’ affairs experts as among the most effective treatment programs in the country for troubled soldiers. A small, community-focused program that was housed on the grounds of the largest veterans’ home in the United States, the Pathway Home was seen as a successful model, working with about two dozen men at any given time. It became known for trauma-informed care that was effective, built on a combination of intensive therapy and the teaching of key skills for reintegration into civilian life.

One of the women was known to particularly like working with vets because she “felt like they wanted to be helped.”

The three women killed were at the heart of that work, Kamer said. Christine Loeber, Pathway’s executive director, had started off in social work and transitioned to veterans’ care, working with female vets in Boston before coming to California. “It really is a calling for some people,” Kamer said. “It was a deliberate choice she made to come out and do this work.”

Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba was a clinical psychologist at Pathway. She was six months pregnant at the time of the shooting. Her husband told a San Francisco reporter that she had often seemed drained when she came home from work, but that the fatigue was no match for her passion. Her father said she particularly liked working with vets because she “felt like they wanted to be helped.”

Jennifer Golick, who had joined Pathway as the clinical director six months before the shooting, had worked with troubled boys in Petaluma, California. She was known for her ability to connect with the vulnerable, according to a family friend who told the San Francisco Chronicle that Golick “could figure people out really quick.”

From left: Golick, Loeber, and Gonzales Shushereba

Muir Wood AFS; Pathway Home; PsychArmor

Wong had been receiving in-patient psychological treatment at Pathway, and like the other residents he had access to various resources of the tight-knit town surrounding the home, such as job training and social outings. But as the community still grapples with what went so wrong in Wong’s case—the subject of ongoing civil lawsuits over who may be responsible for the carnage—the tragedy also points to the ongoing risks of violence and suicide among a relatively small but significant population among America’s 3 million post-9/11 war vets.

According to Mother Jones‘ in-depth database of mass shootings, of the 55 mass shooters who have struck in the United States since 2012, 14 were military veterans, or more than a quarter of that group—an outsized percentage given that vets are less than 10 percent of the total population. In addition to the Yountville perpetrator, other suicidal attackers included a former Marine who opened fire at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, last November; an Air Force veteran who massacred churchgoers in rural Texas in 2017; and an Army vet who gunned down five Dallas police officers in 2016. 

The vast majority of military veterans do not commit violent attacks. But according to experts, the link with military service among a small group of mass shooters underscores pervasive mental health problems and suicidal ideation among vets, and an urgent need for better veterans’ care in this era of prolonged US-involved wars. “The fact of the matter is, [veterans] are most likely to harm themselves if they’re going to harm anyone,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of the nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “The vast majority of the time, they’re going to be the ones running to help.” Studies show that veterans are far more likely to struggle with issues like homelessness and depression and ultimately be a risk to themselves: According to VA statistics, veterans comprise eight percent of the US population but account for 14 percent of suicides nationally.

For the minuscule number who may be thinking of committing a mass shooting, the danger can be exacerbated by weapons know-how and access to guns. Wong was outfitted for battle when he attacked the Pathway Home, armed with a shotgun, semi-automatic rifle, and extra ammunition and wearing ear and eye protection.

A more robust system should be in place for handling troubled vets before America repeatedly sends its troops into war zones, said Butler. “What we’ve seen from these post-9/11 conflicts is that we’re not giving enough thought to what has to take place once you bring the service members home—what kind of treatment and services they’re going to need, and how we’re going to fund that.”

The Pathway Home, which opened its doors in 2008, was part of a solution. It was initially funded by a private grant and later relied on local fundraising. A 2014 documentary followed a group of Pathway residents, and a 2017 film depicted the story of a vet who had gotten help for his PTSD at Pathway and later became a peer counselor there himself. A key for the organization was its strong local support; someone in the community would hear from Pathway staff that a vet needed help buying a car, for instance, and would take that person to the dealership.

“A lot of these guys come back [from multiple tours], and they haven’t had to balance a checkbook in a long time,” Kamer told me, as we sat in the dim light of the café. Substantive opportunities to get vocational training or study at a local community college were “very, very helpful to these guys,” he said, adding, “Pathway would say jump, and people in the community would say, ‘How high?’” Over time, the organization was able to alleviate the stigma and worry often associated with troubled war vets. “Word got out that Pathway was a good thing,” Kamer said.

Since last summer, Kamer and former members of Pathway’s board have been working to spread Pathway’s mission elsewhere. At a VA center in Martinez, a town about an hour south of Yountville, veterans participate in a treatment program similar to the one used by Pathway. With the assistance of a journalist who focuses on veterans’ health care, Pathway leaders are creating a guide for other veterans homes to implement their own community-centered programs in this mold. And they hope to galvanize Martinez residents, as in Yountville, to visit the home often and forge connections with residents.

The goal now for Kamer and other local leaders, he said, is to “keep the conversation alive here, difficult though it may be, about these vets.” As fellow Pathway board member Dorothy Salmon said at a memorial service after the shooting, “This has been our mission for 10 years and it will go on.” Speaking of the three women killed, she emphasized: “This is their gift and this is their legacy, that we keep this going.”



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Witnesses: Liberty Co. shooting victims are


CLEVELAND, Texas — A long-time employee of B Dependable Plumbing in Cleveland said the world should know the business at the center of Wednesday’s deadly Liberty County shooting is owned by a good family, kind to everyone who walks in the door.

The 14-year employee, whom KHOU 11 is not identifying, said he was first to arrive after the mass shooting where two people were injured and another killed, and they were all related.

“All of them are good people,” shared Jarrod McNeary, a Cleveland native and witness to Pavol Vido’s manhunt. “They didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

McNeary lives close by and said he knows the victims. McNeary was home when he learned the Vido was on the run.

“I made sure the wife and everything stayed in the house, and we checked our outbuildings to make sure he wasn’t there,” McNeary said.

He soon learned Vido was close by. In fact, he was next door outside McNeary’s great uncle’s house.

McNeary recorded live on Facebook some of what happened and said he even saw Vido make a run for it.

“I mean, 20 seconds later, here come the cops right behind him,” McNeary said. “They exchange words and back and forth. I heard he shot himself. We never heard a gunshot it was a little muffled, I guess.”

The employee at B Dependable Plumbing told KHOU 11 the owners allowed Vido to live on the property for free, even proving water and sometimes food, under the condition he clean up after himself.

Junk clutters the property behind the building, which is why Vido was being evicted, according to the employee.

“They are good people,” McNeary said. “They always have been and they try to help the guy out.”

KHOU 11 is not releasing the names of the victims in case all family members have not yet been contacted.

The employee told KHOU 11 the woman who was killed was a kind, religious woman who often watched Christian videos at work. The employee said his only comfort is she’s in heaven.

RELATED COVERAGE

Liberty County shooting suspect is dead of self-inflicted gunshot wound

Pavol Vido: Here’s what we know about the suspect in Liberty County mass shooting

Liberty County mass shooting witness: ‘He was set to hurt somebody’



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Nevada Senate panel passes gun bill with 'red flag' proposal


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – A Nevada Senate committee passed firearm legislation Wednesday with a new “red flag” proposal that allows police or family members to seek a court order to take guns away from those who pose a danger to themselves or others.

The so-called red flag proposal, which was included in an amendment to the larger bill, also allows a court to authorize law enforcement to seize a firearm if the person doesn’t surrender it.

Opponents say such court orders are too broad and lack proper due process, while supporters argue they help prevent school shootings, other mass shootings and suicides.

“I’m here because I believe this policy can save lives,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who sponsored the bill after escaping the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival that killed 58 people.

Her legislation also would ban bump stocks at the state level, lower the legal blood alcohol level to carry a firearm outside a home, and create a criminal penalty for those who negligently store a firearm where a child could access it.

A nationwide ban took effect this year on bump stocks, the attachment used by the Las Vegas gunman to make his weapons fire rapidly like machine guns in the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the firearm legislation in a party-line vote on its way to the full Senate.

The vote comes after Jauregui announced she was gutting the main provision of the original bill that allowed counties to pass stricter firearm laws than those imposed by the state.

“With these changes, we are enacting statewide policy that will set a new floor for gun safety in Nevada,” she told the committee.

Law enforcement agencies expressed support for the amended legislation.

Fifteen other states have passed laws authorizing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders that take guns away from people, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ten of those laws have followed the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Andrew Karwoski, deputy director of state policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, told lawmakers.

Under the Nevada legislation, a court could order a gun owner to surrender their firearm if the person is a danger to himself or others and engaged in “high-risk behavior,” such as a threat of “imminent violence.”

Republican Sen. Ira Hansen protested the committee hearing process Wednesday, saying lawmakers should postpone the meeting and get more time to review the legislation.

“It’s just really bad protocol to drop that size of an amendment at the last minute like this on us,” he said.

Hansen said he saw the red flag amendment the same morning as the committee meeting, describing the situation as an abuse of process.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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