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Debate rages over gun-free zones in Washington


The gun control debate rages on. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Gun safety advocates say gun-free zones makes the public safer. Local gun rights advocates disagree, and are launching a new ad campaign to spread their message.

How I-1639 is already affecting Washington gun sellers

A new ad campaign to end gun-free zones is just getting underway this week and comes from the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue. Alan Gottlieb is the group’s Executive Director and claims gun-free zones have been giving people a false sense of security for decades. His organization is hoping to change that.

“Our new ad campaign basically labels gun-free zones as shooting galleries for maniacs, and we need to end them,” he told KIRO Radio.

Gottlieb calls gun-free zones “counterproductive,” noting the vulnerability of people should a mass-shooting incident take place.

He points to research from the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center, that says 98 percent of mass shootings since 1950 have happened in gun-free zones. Gun safety advocates dispute that research, but Gottlieb says there are plenty of examples to back it up, such as recent shootings in schools, malls, and movie theaters among other public places.

“It’s really crazy when you go to the shopping mall or movie theater, and you’re licensed to carry and you’re trained, and you’re not allowed to have your gun to protect yourself,” he said.

Kristen Ellingboe with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility disagrees, saying that ending gun free zones makes no sense.

“It relies on the idea that incidents of gun violence and mass shootings in particular could be stopped if only a good guy with a gun were allowed to intervene,” said Ellingboe. “The truth is that armed citizens are almost never successful in intervening in an active shooter situation.”

Gottlieb points to situations where a good guy with a gun has saved lives, including a local pastor who intervened when a shooter and carjacker went on a bizarre rampage in Tumwater last year.

They plan to run the ads online and in print, and Gottlieb says they hope the campaign can help lead to change in Washington and beyond. He believes, ultimately, it will make the public safer.

Washington AG’s 2019 legislative agenda is heavy on gun control

Ellingboe says no way.

“There are many things that we can and should be doing to help prevent mass shootings in our communities — this is not one of them,” she noted.

Other solutions

News of the ad campaign came on the first day of a two-day Gun Violence Summit in King County organized by the Board of Health. The summit involves gun violence survivors, state and local lawmakers, community groups, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

On Tuesday night, that forum focused on issues surrounding gun violence in South Seattle, and King County, and community groups doing gang intervention work in minority communities.

Ellingboe said they plan to shift gears on Wednesday.

“We’ll really focus in on suicide prevention and the public health approach to addressing this crisis,” she described.

From there, the idea is to come up with a detailed plan that can be implemented by the county Board of Health. It remains to be seen exactly what that could look like, but Ellingboe pointed out that the summit is not about creating more new guns laws at this point. Instead, the hope is to come up with strategies.



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Not if, but when: Here


YUBA COUNTY, Calif. — Mass shootings are all too common these days. That’s not an observation or an opinion, it’s the unfortunate truth.

In fact, the FBI registered 27 active shooter incidents last year in 16 states, a number that is only slightly down from the 30 active shooter incidents in 2017. A total of 85 people were killed and 128 were wounded. The alarming statistics are one of many reasons law enforcement agencies want to be ready, because it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

“We need to learn how to work together in situations like these, we need to be on the same page,” explained Yuba County Undersheriff Nick Morawcznski. 

Preparing for the worst is the goal behind a training exercise in Yuba County today.  First responders will learn what to do if there’s an active shooter during a 14-hour training at Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland, a busy concert venue during the summer.

READ MORE FROM CARLOS HERRERA:

The exercise, which is organized by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, will include multiple law enforcement agencies from federal, state and local levels, along with emergency services and rescue teams.

The expected outcome of the exercise is evaluating the training, response, communication and lifesaving abilities of the participating agencies. “Personnel will apply their training and then evaluate the operation, see what they can improve on,” Morawcznski said.

A group of more than 200 volunteers were enlisted to simulate a concert crowd and some of them will be made up, using make-up and artificial blood, to indicate severe wounds suffered during a simulated shooting incident. 

Law enforcement teams participating in the training will only have partial information about the situation, to reflect what would occur in actual events.

According to Morawcznski, the main focus will be on decision-making, coordination, and integration with other organizations during an active shooter and mass casualty incident. 

Morawcznski said they also want to remind everyone that training exercises are not only a learning experience for first responders, but for the general public too.

“They’re a big part of this as well, everyone needs to be on the same page and know what to expect,” Morawcznski said.

In a time period where mass shootings are common, “Run. Hide. Fight.” has become a slogan. When faced with an active shooter, Morawcznski says people should try to escape the area or protect themselves. As a last resort, they should always counter the gunman.

Here’s what “run, hide, fight” means:

RUN:

First and foremost, Morawcznski prefers people try to get away from the shooter. That means run, “but remember to also be vigilant and aware of the surroundings,” he said. A person should know where the exits are, and if a specific exit is full, seek an alternative. 

They should also always be able to visualize how they would get out of a location before a potential mass shooting unfolds, he said.

HIDE:

If running to safety isn’t possible, the next best option is to find cover. Morawcznski says that means hiding behind something that could stop a bullet. It also means taking other necessary precautions like locking or barricading doors, turning off lights and, most importantly these days, silencing cell phones.

FIGHT:

If a person ends up being close to the shooter and is not able to run or hide, Morawcznski recommends the person be prepared to defend themselves. “That means fight — not fairly. Do what you have to do,” he said. “You should be prepared to be aggressive and use whatever you have or can to fend off the attacker. Target the weak points like the eyes, throat and groin,” he added.

You should also be ready to coordinate and cooperate with law enforcement when they respond to an active shooting. “Just remember that [police] don’t know much about what is going on besides the fact that it’s a mass shooting,” he explained. That means first responders don’t have a clear idea of who the shooter(s) is.

“Pay attention to our commands, have your hands in the air so we know you don’t have a fire arm,” he said.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Carlos Herrera.

WATCH MORE: From the archives: 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting



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His brother died in Newtown. Now, he’s running for office while backing Trump and gun rights.


On Dec. 14, 2012, Joseph Theodore “JT” Lewis huddled in the back of his Spanish class at Newtown Middle School while a gunman clad in sunglasses and an olive green utility vest massacred 20 children and six adults two miles away at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Eight hours later, Lewis, 12 at the time, learned that the dead included his kid brother, Jesse, who had yelled “Run!” as the gunman paused in his first-grade classroom. While his classmates took his advice — nine students fled — Jesse was shot in the head.

The 6-year-old is among the more than 144 people who have been killed in school shootings since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, a moment that solidified public alarm about gun rampages at places of learning. The victims have left behind parents and siblings, part of a grim club that none of them wanted to join. Their stories present a central question about America’s mass shooting epidemic — how people who knew and loved the victims cope with their pain, perhaps even channeling it into new endeavors.

Lewis, now 19 and a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is channeling his pain into politics.

He launched a campaign on Monday for state senate, vying to represent a district that includes Newtown, along with several other towns in southwestern Connecticut. The college student is an avid supporter of President Trump, who he hopes will gain four more years in 2020 as he aims to claim his own term in office.

Although he faces an uphill battle, he would not be the youngest state lawmaker in history. A handful of 18-year-olds have been elected statewide, and, in Connecticut specifically, a 20-year-old politician, and onetime Republican, joined the legislature in 2015, serving for just two years. (Aundré Bumgardner has since left the GOP because of Trump.)

“I’m not doing this to break a record,” Lewis said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I’m doing it to make sure my brother’s story is told as many times as possible.”

Lewis appears to be the first family member of a Newtown victim to run for elected office. More than six years after the killing rampage, the episode remains a touchstone — the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school in American history.

Parents of Newtown victims have been engaged in charged political, if not electoral, battles, centering on efforts to stamp out conspiracy theories about their children’s deaths.

Political reverberations of the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have been even more pronounced — and not only because of the advocacy of the teenage students. Two parents ran for seats on the school board last summer. One of them won.

Now, former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is seeking a U.S. Senate seat from Arizona. Giffords was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011, turning the lawmaker and her husband, both Democrats, into outspoken exponents of gun control.

And Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), whose 17-year-old son died in 2012 at the end of a gun barrel, now sits in Congress, having prevailed in last year’s midterm elections on a platform of combating gun violence. McBath entered politics by way of a network of black women brought together because their children had lost their lives either to gun violence or as a result of confrontations with police. The women became a potent force on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which christened them the “Mothers of the Movement,” cutting ads featuring their testimony and flying them to the Democratic primary debates.

The movement embraced by JT Lewis is different. He is a Republican and a Trump supporter, making him an outlier in his age demographic, as well as among the clutch of people inspired to enter politics because of gun violence.

As an advocate for school security — favoring efforts to install bulletproof glass and increase the presence of armed guards over tightening gun rules — Lewis represents a notable contrast with some of the most prominent voices that have emerged from the so-called “mass shooting generation.” Their testimony, which gained widespread attention after the shooting in Parkland, has featured pleas for gun control joined to condemnations of Republicans friendly with the National Rifle Association. Some of the Parkland teenagers have spoken out against intensifying security at their high school, which David Hogg, a survivor and activist, said was beginning to feel like a prison.

Lewis is also fed up with politicians, but his ire isn’t aimed at one party alone; he thinks elected leaders in general have failed.

“They show up to events to take pictures, and that’s the end of the story,” Lewis said. “I’m absolutely sick and tired of that.”

The 19-year-old wants to unseat an incumbent Republican and residential real estate agent who, he claims, ignored his family’s appeals when he was elected in 2014.

Lewis said his mother, Scarlett Lewis, attempted to contact the freshly minted state senator, Tony Hwang, about an initiative promoting social and emotional learning in classrooms. Calls by his mother, as well as his grandfather, went unanswered, Lewis said.

In 2018, as Hwang, was gearing up for reelection, the college freshman saw an ad on Facebook that touted the candidate’s commitment to community.

“And I thought, ‘He didn’t do anything for us,’” Lewis said. “We had just lost a sibling and son. He didn’t even return our call.”

After the teenager commented on the ad, expressing his dismay, a message from the lawmaker arrived in his inbox, apologizing for having “dropped the ball” and asking for a phone number and email address.

“Typical politician,” Lewis said.

In a statement, Hwang, 54, said he was a state representative for a district that did not include Newtown at the time of the shooting in 2012, before he was elected to the upper chamber in 2014. He pledged to “continue to do all I can to be a voice our constituents can be proud of.”

“I will always rise above accusations and political negatives,” the incumbent added.

An old family photo features JT Lewis, right, with his little brother, Jesse, who died in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Their mother, Scarlett Lewis, is center. (Courtesy of JT Lewis) (Courtesy of J.T. Lewis/Courtesy of J.T. Lewis)

Lewis was born and raised in Newtown. Before his mother became involved in advocacy work, she worked for a telecommunications company. An elder brother works as a police officer in New Jersey.

Lewis is an avid football player. He made the team for the University of Connecticut, where he is a political science major, but won’t continue in order to focus on his campaign.

He has repressed much of what happened the day of the shooting, which comes back to him in interrupted images — Spanish class, the SWAT uniforms, the fire station where he learned of his brother’s death.

Influential in his political ambitions were opportunities to speak with President Barack Obama in the direct wake of the tragedy, and then with Trump years later. He praised Obama for spending time with each family, “just connecting with us.”

But Trump’s response to learning about his little brother was no less humane, Lewis said.

Lewis and his mother attended a roundtable discussion on school security with the president and members of his Cabinet in December. A 177-page report issued at the event recommended that schools consider arming staff, among other measures, while eschewing proposals to crack down on gun purchases.

Research spanning 18 years casts doubt on the effectiveness of hardening schools, even warning that these measures can create a “false sense of security.”

But Lewis said efforts to introduce new controls on guns have also not been successful.

“In the 20 years since Columbine, the predominant amount of time has been spent on gun control, and we still have shooting today,” he said. “If there had been an armed guard at Sandy Hook, I’m pretty sure my brother would be alive.”

Although he counts himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment, he said he would be open to compromise on measures that enjoy the overwhelming support of the public.

After the meeting in the Roosevelt Room, Trump invited Lewis back to the Oval Office, where the two laughed together and “had a good time,” the 19-year-old recalled.

“Because of that personal connection, I have to support him,” he said. “Some of the rhetoric needs to be toned down, but he is our president, so he deserves our respect.”

He praised Trump’s handling of the economy, which he predicted would be the basis for his reelection next year.

Lewis is hoping to jump on that bandwagon. As he prepared to launch his campaign, he used Twitter to seek the attention of Trump associates, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and adviser.

The president’s daughter noticed, posting a tweet of support for Lewis and his family.

Jesse is a hero – an angel now with the angels. We honor his courage and sacrifice.
God bless you and your family. https://t.co/IW93i3BTAm

— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 12, 2019

There was sympathy on the other side of the aisle, too, and not just for the personal story recounted by Lewis. It was unclear if she knew which party the candidate favored when Stephanie Cutter, a former senior aide in the Obama White House, asked on Twitter, “Where do we donate!”

Perhaps most importantly, however, the teenage candidate secured the endorsement of his mother.



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House to vote on bill that would name post office after Virginia Beach shooting victim


WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Elaine Luria announced that the House will vote this week on a bipartisan bill that would name a Virginia Beach post office in honor of Ryan “Keith” Cox.

Ryan Keith Cox, Virginia Beach victim

The post office is located at 2509 George Mason Drive. Virginia’s entire U.S. House delegation has cosponsored the bill. Congresswoman Luria introduced the bill on June 17. It is expected to receive a House Floor vote on Wednesday.

“I am proud to have led this delegation-wide effort to honor Keith’s selfless actions and impact on our Virginia Beach community,” Congresswoman Luria said. “When we walk by that post office and see Keith’s name, we’ll think of his life-saving heroics. Congress can honor the bravery that emerged from this terrible tragedy by passing this bill into law.”

Cox was one of the 12 individuals killed in the Virginia Beach mass shooting. He served Virginia Beach as an account clerk in the Department of Public Utilities for 12 years.

Virginia Beach Strong: Remembering Ryan Keith Cox

An active member of the Virginia Beach community, Cox sang in his church’s choir with a “golden voice.” His friends and his colleagues describe Cox as a selfless man who put the needs of others before his own.

This was exemplified when he laid down his life to guide his fellow coworkers to safety on May 31 in Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. After bringing his colleagues to safety, Cox courageously stood watch and refused to take refuge, stating: “I’ve got to see if anybody needs help.”

In the wake of the tragedy, Congresswoman Luria was approached by Virginia Beach Postmaster Joseph A. Croce Jr. with a request to honor Cox. Congresswoman Luria agreed, setting the legislative process in motion.

Congressman Bobby Scott, Congressman A. Donald McEachin, Congressman Rob Wittman, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Congressman Denver Riggleman, Congressman Morgan Griffith, Congressman Don Beyer, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, Congressman Gerry Connolly, and Congressman Ben Cline are original cosponsors of the bill.

Click here for our full coverage on the Virginia Beach mass shooting.



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Brother of student killed in Sandy Hook school shooting to run for public office


The 19-year-old brother of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim announced Monday that he will run for state Senate in Connecticut, challenging the incumbent who he said never returned a phone call his grieving mother made after the mass shooting.

JT Lewis, whose younger brother Jesse was killed along with 19 other classmates and six staff members after a gunman opened fire in the Newtown, Connecticut, school in 2012, kicked off his candidacy in a video on Twitter.

Lewis said that after the shooting, he and his mom called then-Republican state Rep. Tony Hwang “to help prevent future tragedies” but never heard back from the lawmaker. Hwang went on to win a state Senate seat in 2014.

“The little boy who just wanted someone to hear his mom’s call for help is grown up,” Lewis said in the video. He also expressed frustration with elected officials who he said, “are in it for themselves, take pictures and feel an inflated sense of importance.”

Lewis’ brother Jesse, who was a first-grader when he was killed, has been credited with saving others after he shouted for his classmates to run while the gunman paused to reload, Jesse was shot moments later.

He had just seen his teacher shot and urged the others to flee while the gunman put a new clip into his semi-automatic rifle, his mother said back in 2013.

“I believe that inside every one of us is that same innate courage and to honor Jesse, I’ve decided to be courageous enough to run for state Senate in my home state,” Lewis said after describing his brother’s last moments. “I’m entering the fray because it is only with real leadership that Connecticut will see change that it is so desperate for.”

Lewis, a Republican, has been a supporter of President Donald Trump and met with him for a roundtable on school security at the White House in December, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Connecticut election will take place next November.

Safia Samee Ali writes for NBC News, based in Chicago.



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‘Stop profit on blood shed:’ Mother of Pulse victim seeks…


ORLANDO, Fla. – The mother of one of the 49 victims slain at Pulse nightclub in Orlando has created an online petition to stop others from “profiting” from the mass shooting. 

Christine Leinonen lost her son, Christopher, at the downtown nightclub three years ago.

Leinonen wants the city of Orlando to change current plans proposed for the memorial, which could include charging for admission and selling merchandise. Instead, she said she wants the building torn down and a simple reminder posted in its place. 

In the petition titled “Stop profit on Blood shed,” Leinonen wrote: “I appeal to your humanity. A memorial should be a place of reverence and solace honoring the lives taken too soon so tragically.”

“Orlando has enough tourist attractions. The last thing we should have is a tourist attraction based on a mass shooting,” Leinonen said in a phone interview with News 6. “They want to make this some grotesque, fetish, guest, fetish freak show.”

Plans recently uncovered by the Orlando Sentinel show the Pulse Memorial and Museum will cost over $40 million to design and build. It will also attract about 300,000 visitors a year. 

Last month, U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto introduced a bill that could recognize the site as a national memorial.

In 2016, the city of Orlando agreed to buy the property for more than $2 million, but the property owner, Barbara Poma, never went through with the deal.
 

Copyright 2019 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.



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Montreal massacre survivor quits gun panel, says she feels used by ‘timid’ Liberals


OTTAWA — Mass-shooting survivor Nathalie Provost has quit the federal firearms advisory committee in frustration, saying she is “extremely disappointed” with the Liberal government’s failure to crack down on assault-style rifles.

Provost, who was shot four times during the 1989 spree by a gunman at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, says she feels used by a government unwilling to take the steps needed to make Canadians safer.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of Provost’s resignation letter sent Monday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the cabinet members responsible for firearms issues — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair.

Provost, who served for more than two years on the advisory committee, says the government repeatedly ignored her calls for an overhaul of the firearms-classification system — a move that could tighten restrictions on some semi-automatic rifles.

She claims the committee contributed nothing to the Liberal firearms bill, C-71, recently passed by Parliament — legislation she considers very timid.

Provost was not granting interviews Monday, letting her letter speak for itself.

She has long been active with PolySeSouvient, a group that pushes for stricter gun control and includes students and graduates of the Polytechnique engineering school.

In late 2016 the Liberals made Provost vice-chair of the firearms advisory committee, which counsels the public safety minister on Canada’s gun policies, laws and regulations. At the time, the committee was chaired by a former Supreme Court justice and has counted a police chief, a competitive sport shooter, an emergency physician and a farmer among its members.

Provost says she saw the appointment as an opportunity to take concrete action to improve public safety. But she was surprised in early 2018 when Goodale introduced Bill C-71 “without any discussion” with the advisory committee, putting members in a difficult position.

The legislation expanded the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire guns, strengthened record-keeping requirements for sales and required purchasers to present valid firearms licences.

Some firearms owners accused the Liberals of targeting law-abiding hunters and target-shooters, while gun-control advocates said the bill did not fulfil a Liberal vow to get assault-style rifles and handguns off Canadian streets.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, said Monday the government was grateful to Provost for her service. He also defended the government’s “substantive action” to fight gun violence, including Bill C-71, $86 million to combat smuggling and $214 million for community-level prevention and enforcement efforts.

“And we will seek a mandate from Canadians to strengthen public safety,” Bardsley added.

Last August, Trudeau asked Blair to study the possibility of a ban on handguns and assault-style rifles after a deadly shooting in Toronto. A summary of federal consultations said Canadians were divided on the idea.

In her letter, Provost blasts the exercise as a scientifically discredited and “obviously useless” consultation that delayed any further legislative action until after the fall election.

Blair said last month that more must be done to address gun violence, but he also signalled no new measures would be coming soon.

The pro-gun lobby will oppose any tightening

Future steps could include efforts to prevent theft, illegal diversion and cross-border smuggling of handguns. The government is also open to the idea of allowing municipalities to decide exactly where, or even if, firearms can be stored within their boundaries, Blair said.

However, any additional gun-control initiatives are expected to be planks in the Liberal election platform. Goodale and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier are co-chairing the party’s national platform committee in advance of the October ballot.

The Liberals could immediately ban a range of rifles by regulation, Provost says.

By limiting efforts “to timid measures or half-measures,” the government provokes the fierce opposition of the firearms lobby without delivering worthwhile improvements, she adds.

“In fact, the pro-gun lobby will oppose any tightening — be it modest or daring — so why not move quickly to prioritize public safety?”



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Police Searching For 2 Suspects In Possible Road Rage Shooting That Killed Man, Injured Another In Kensington



PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia police are investigating a possible case of road rage. The violence led to a deadly shooting in Kensington Monday morning.

It was a fender bender that took a deadly turn. Police responded to a 911 call a little after 4:30 a.m. at the corner of Lee and Ontario Streets in Kensington, where they found one man heavily bleeding from a gunshot would to his arm and another man lying in the street dead.

“We have around him five shell casings, one projectile. We also have a blood trail that runs down Ontario from Lee to Water Street,” Philadelphia Police Capt. George Fuchs said.

Credit: CBS3

A Chevy Malibu appears to be one car involved in a collision that preceded the confrontation. The other vehicle, with two male suspects, sped from he scene minutes after the deadly shooting.

“It appears from the witness we could have a possible accident that initiated the argument and from the argument led to the shooting,” Fuchs said.

Police say the getaway vehicle was caught on surveillance video, the shootout was not. Right now, police are looking for help to identify the men.

Philadelphia Mayor Wants Greater Police Presence At Playground Events Following Second Mass Shooting In Month

Neighbors say they’re sick of the gun violence. Bob Dunn, who has been a block captain for nearly a decade, now finds himself doors from where the latest homicide happened.

And on the other end of his block is a memorial for another homicide just three months ago.

And all along the block is a fresh trail of blood from the victim who was shot in the arm Monday morning.

“It’s horrible, I can’t even get it off, look. They told me I can’t get it off until it dries up. I stay in my house, I don’t come out at night. I’m done. I’m done with this block,” Dunn said.

As of now, police are not releasing the name of the victim or the surveillance video they’ve gathered so far. They are looking for help identifying the suspects who drove off in a gray or silver Ford Taurus or Mercury Sable.

Anyone with information should call police.



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Basketball tourney organizer laments mass shooting at Overbrook playground


At the playground Monday, Patricia Bevins-Moye, 62, leaned on a walker and slowly climbed the steps with her grandchildren Hassan Bevins, 10, and Andrea Bevins, 12. She would have been at the playground during the shooting if not for a last-minute change in plans. “Why did it happen?” she asked plaintively.



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