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13-year-old El Paso boy raising money for mass shooting victims through artwork

Copyright 2019 KVIA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright 2019 KVIA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EL PASO, Texas – A 13-year-old El Paso boy is raising money for the victims of the August 3rd mass shooting through his own artwork.

Erik P. has already painted more than 30 pieces of art depicting the ‘El Paso Strong’ theme. He says he knew he wanted to do something the morning after the shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart.

“What came to mind was that I should do something to help those families in need,” he said. “What I decided to do was paint different designs of El Paso Strong and sell those paintings.”

Erik’s love for art started at an early age. Two years ago he started making clay figures and even started his own YouTube channel.

But his most recent artwork has taken on a new meaning.

“The first couple paintings I sold, I got at least $100 out of it. That’s when I knew I could make a lot for the community.”

Erik’s now raised more than $700 and has set a new goal of $1,000. The proceeds will go to the El Paso Community Foundation Victims’ Relief Fund.

Each painting is signed with his initials — EP.

Erik says he hopes the funds raised helps the victims’ families “feel comfortable and know that they didn’t lose anyone without help.”

If you would like to purchase a painting, click here to get in touch with Erik and his family.  

 


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Trump skips Gilroy first responders in honoring mass-shooting heroes

WASHINGTON — President Trump gave medals and commendations to police and bystanders who responded to deadly mass shootings last month in Ohio and Texas, but did not include any of the officers who ended the fatal attack at the Gilroy Garlic Festival days earlier.

The administration did not reply to a question as to why only first responders from Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, were honored at Monday’s White House event. Trump gave the Medal of Valor to six police officers from Dayton and Certificates of Commendation to five civilians from El Paso.

The shooting at the Gilroy event July 28 killed three people and injured 17. A 19-year-old gunman armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle he bought in Nevada cut through a fence to enter the festival and opened fire on the crowd.

Within one minute of the first call to 911, three officers fatally shot the assailant.

Six days later, a gunman at an El Paso Walmart killed 22 people and wounded 27, and the next day nine people were killed and 34 injured in the Dayton shooting.

The attacks provided a fresh rallying cry for Congress to pass legislation to prevent gun violence.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes Gilroy, was surprised to find out the White House had left the garlic festival first responders out of the event Monday.

“Nothing for Gilroy?” the San Jose Democrat said. “That’s really tawdry. That’s terrible.”

She said she was not aware of any outreach from the White House to honor victims or officials from her district. Shortly after the shootings, Trump visited both Dayton and El Paso, but did not travel to California.

“I don’t know if they want the president to visit or not, but certainly those first responders were incredibly brave and deserve recognition,” Lofgren said. “The first responders in Gilroy were awesome. I mean, they were there in under a minute.”

Without the quick response, she said, “there would have been hundreds of people injured.”

Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco, a Republican, told The Chronicle that his understanding was the White House was recognizing officers who were wounded. “We are fortunate that no Gilroy officers were injured,” he said in an email.

However, only one of Monday’s honorees, and none of the officers, were wounded in the shootings.

The White House event also did not include officers who responded to an Aug. 31 incident in Midland and Odessa, Texas, when a gunman killed seven people, wounded 22 and engaged in two shootouts with police that resulted in three officers being injured.

Trump has had a tense relationship with California. He visited the state last year to survey devastating wildfire damage and is close with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House GOP leader from Bakersfield, but has also threatened to cut off disaster relief to the state and is embroiled in multiple lawsuits with California over policy.

The White House ceremony came as Congress returned from a six-week break for work in their districts, with gun violence prevention legislation a top priority for Democrats. The White House is working on a package of ideas, lawmakers say, but optimism remains limited that Republicans and Democrats will agree on anything.

Democrats want the Senate to pass a House bill expanding background checks to all gun sales, which was authored by North Bay Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has refused to bring it up.

Thompson said Monday that although first responders deserve to be recognized, the best way to honor mass-shooting victims is to pass gun legislation.

“First responders are fantastic — they’ve done a great job in every one of these situations. But if we want to stop gun violence, we don’t give medals to people who do a great job,” Thompson said. “We pass a bill that will put a law in place that will help prevent gun violence.”

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Matthias Gafni contributed to this report.

Tal Kopan is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent. Email: tal.kopan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @talkopan


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Patriots' Antonio Brown signing allegedly prompts mass shooting threat from Giants fan

A New York Giants fan upset that the New England Patriots signed wide receiver Antonio Brown allegedly threatened a mass shooting at Gillette Stadium over the weekend.

Tobias Gray, 44, appeared in a Rhode Island court Monday to face a fugitive from justice charge and a domestic assault charge in East Providence, according to Boston 25 News. He was wearing a Giants jersey in court.

TOM BRADY WILLING TO HAVE ANTONIO BROWN MOVE IN WITH HIM WHILE HE GETS SETTLED WITH NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Gray agreed to waive extradition to Massachusetts where he is wanted for “making terroristic threats,” according to Boston 25 News.

Gray allegedly wrote a Facebook post expressing his displeasure about the Patriots signing Brown after he was released by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday. Stefanie DiMalo Larivee, Gray’s attorney, told the station her client deleted the post and meant no harm.

ANTONIO BROWN USED SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANTS TO ACCELERATE RELEASE FROM RAIDERS, REPORT SAYS

“I don’t ever really post too many things to you know this is real since the Patriots signed Antonio Brown I’m going to pull a white boys school shooting at Foxboro you might as well just hand them the ring right now I’m if I ever get my hands on a gun which I don’t have one yet but I’m looking I will go shoot up random people at Foxboro,” the post allegedly read.

“A lot of people have a lot of emotional reaction outside of New England, especially to Antonio Brown coming on to the Patriots,” Larivee told Boston 25 News.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

East Providence police said that Gray threatened an officer’s family when he was picked up on a warrant.


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License to carry classes see an increase after West Texas mass shooting

MIDLAND, Tx. (KOSA) – According to the latest numbers by TxDPS there are 14,000 people living in both Midland and Odessa who have licenses to carry firearms.

Gun safety classes see an increase after West Texas mass shooting.

Even in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas local classes for these licenses have seen an increase.

Stephanie Hart is married to a police officer in the Permian Basin and said her heart dropped when she first found out about the shooter.

“I want to know the proper way to carry and know that I can protect and help people in a situation like what just happened,” said Hart.

Her and the rest of the family were in Lubbock, Tx. when they first got the call and immediately sped back to Midland.

“Well I happen to know a hand full of people who own guns and they aren’t walking around shooting people so it definitely isn’t a gun problem, it is a people problem,” said Hart.

After waiting hours and not knowing if her husband was okay, Hart knew she needed to take the next step and get herself licensed to carry.

“It’s just important to know the safety of them and how to use them and why to use them,” said Hart.

Owner and Founder of “Family Armory and Indoor Range,’ Tony Grijalv said there are thousands of people licensed here in West Texas and he said one irresponsible gun owner shouldn’t impact everyone else who is responsible.

“The license to carry does not give us the right or the ability to be the bully. We do it as a defensive point of view,” said Grijalv.

Grijalv said people who are licensed to carry need to continue to keep their shooting skills sharp by visiting their local range for practice on a regular basis.


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Construction underway on memorial for victims of borderline mass shooting

VENTURA, Calif. – Construction is now underway on a permanent memorial for the victims of the borderline mass shooting in Thousand Oaks.

The Ventura County Star reported the construction started on a healing garden today. It will be located at Conejo Creek North park, which is just off the 23, a few miles away from Borderline.

There will be 12 water jets, 12 granite benches, and 12 boulders to represent the 12 people who were killed in the shooting last November.

Other features will include 248 pavers to represent the 248 survivors of the mass shooting.

The project is a “shared vision” of the city of Thousand Oaks, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the Conejo Recreation and Park District, said Andrew Mooney, the district’s senior park planner.

The city approved $250 in funding for the project in June. However, there is no word yet on when the project will be done but officials say the goal remains to complete the “Healing Garden” by the one-year anniversary of the November 7 tragedy.


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Odessa mass shooting debunks argument against universal background checks

The Editorial Board, USA TODAY
Published 5:54 p.m. ET Sept. 9, 2019 | Updated 6:01 p.m. ET Sept. 9, 2019

Will Donald Trump deliver ‘big package’ of gun-control proposals with Congress? Expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales: Our view

Story HighlightsTrump received $30 million in campaign contributions from the NRA in 2016.A court had ruled the shooter mentally unfit to purchase or own a firearm in 2014.More than a million guns were advertised for sale on 1 online site alone.

Whenever a terrible mass shooting occurs, the pro-gun lobby — and politicians pledging fealty to it — argue that any particular gun reform proposal would have done nothing to prevent this particular crime.

President Donald Trump, who received $30 million in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association in 2016, echoed this argument recently, telling reporters that so far as mass shootings “going back, even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.”

The problem with shackling your view to this kind of logic is that sooner or later, given the river of mass killings traumatizing America, there will finally be a tragedy that precisely proves this argument wrong. 

That appears to be exactly what happened when Seth Ator — known as “El Loco” to his neighbors in Odessa, Texas — took to the highways Aug. 31 and began shooting people with an assault-style rifle.

During the spree, and before he died in a shootout with police, Ator shot and wounded a 17-month-old girl in the face. He gunned down a postal worker who was nearing the end of her shift, a father of two who was sitting in his vehicle at a traffic light, a man who walked outside his parents’ home to investigate gunshots and a truck driver heading home from work. In all, seven were killed and 25 injured.

The hijacked U.S. Postal Service vehicle in which the 36-year-old shooter was killed on Aug. 31, 2019, after being chased by officers from neighboring cities Midland and Odessa, Texas. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: Background checks policy shouldn’t be decided on just Odessa

Ator, 36, never should have been able to buy a gun. He managed to obtain his AR-style rifle thanks to a loophole in the federal background-check system, anonymous law enforcement officials told The Associated Press and ABC News. A court had ruled him mentally unfit to purchase or own a firearm, so he was barred from buying a gun from a licensed dealer in 2014 after failing a federal background check. 

Ator simply purchased his rifle in a private sale not covered under federal law — a loophole that would be closed if Congress passed universal background checks favored by nine out of 10 Americans. Private sales, including those on the internet and at gun shows, are not covered under federal criminal background check requirements. 

An Everytown For Gun Safety investigation showed that in 2018, over a million guns were advertised for sale on one online site alone, and that many of those shopping for firearms would have failed a federal background check.

As members of Congress return to Washington, Trump is expected to introduce his “big package” of gun-control proposals in reaction to recent mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 dead.

The House months ago passed legislation calling for universal background checks. The Senate should do the same, showing the same willingness as Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to defy the NRA. Walmart, which accounts for 20% of the nation’s gun and ammo sales, will no longer market ammunition that can be used in assault-style rifles. Walmart had already stopped selling military-style rifles and handguns in all states but Alaska (an exception that was also ended last week). 

“We encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks,” McMillon said in a statement. 

Doing so earlier could well have allowed a toddler to grow up with her face unmarred by a bullet wound, a mail carrier to finish her shift alive, a father to survive a traffic light, a son to live out a day with his parents and a truck driver to safely arrive home to his family over Labor Day weekend.

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White House weighs controversial plan on mental illness and mass shootings

William Wan

National correspondent covering health, science and news

September 9 at 12:43 PM

The White House is considering a controversial proposal to study whether mass shootings could be prevented by monitoring mentally ill people for small changes that might foretell violence.

Former NBC Chairman Bob Wright, a longtime friend and associate of President Trump’s, has briefed top officials, including the president, the vice president and Ivanka Trump, on a proposal to create a new research agency called HARPA to come up with out-of-the-box ways to tackle health problems, much like DARPA does for the military, say several people who have briefed.

After the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ivanka Trump asked those advocating for the new agency whether it could produce new approaches to stopping mass shootings, said one person familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them.

Advisers to Wright quickly pulled together a three-page proposal — called SAFEHOME for Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes – which calls for exploring whether technology like phones and smart watches can be used to detect when mentally ill people are about to turn violent.

Using his personal connections to Trump and others, Wright has pushed his HARPA proposal to the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and several senators and Congress members, according to two people involved in the effort. Last month, on the presidential campaign trail, former vice president Joe Biden also advocated for creating such an agency.

The mass shooting idea has alarmed experts studying violence prevention, technology, psychology and mental health.

“I would love if some new technology suddenly came along that would help us identify violent risk, but there’s so many things about this idea of predicting violence that doesn’t make sense,” said Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service.

Beyond the civil liberty concerns about monitoring people through their gadgets, Randazzo said, there’s the problem of false positives.

Even if the technology could be developed, such a program would likely flag tens, or hundreds of thousands, more possible suspects than actual shooters. How, she asked, would you sort through them? And how would you know you were right, given the difficulty of proving something that hasn’t happened?

Most concerning, she said, is that the proposal is based on the flawed premise that mental illness is directly linked to mass shootings. “Everything we know from research tells us it’s a weak link at best,” said Randazzo, who spent a decade conducting such research for the Secret Service and is now CEO of a threat assessment company called Sigma.

In recent weeks, President Trump has repeatedly pointed to mental illness as the cause of America’s mass shootings. “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” Trump said immediately after last month’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Federal health officials have taken steps to make sure government experts don’t publicly contradict Trump.

But studies of mass shooters have found that only a quarter or less have diagnosed mental illness. Researchers have noted a host of other factors that are more significant commonalities in mass shooters: a strong sense of grievance, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms. Experts note that those with severe mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

“To those who say this is a half-baked idea, I would say, ‘what’s your idea? What are you doing about this?’ ” said Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on the HARPA proposal.

A John Hopkins University neurologist, Ling was a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. Ling said having the gumption to tackle really big problems and think creatively is what led to DARPA’s successes.

“The worse you can do is fail, and failing is where we are already,” Ling said. “You need to find where the edge is so you can push on that edge.”

Ling said he began working with Wright on the idea of creating HARPA shortly after the death of Wright’s wife in 2016 to pancreatic cancer. According to Ling and others who have worked on the project, Wright was frustrated with lack of major progress in halting illnesses like his wife’s pancreatic cancer – which has an overall five-year survival rate of just 9 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Wright was not available for comment while recovering from surgery, said Liz Feld, president of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, the organization Wright has used to lobby for the HARPA proposal. Feld said the foundation has worked methodically to gather support for HARPA in the past two years, meeting with Trump officials and congressional leaders.

The idea has backers in both parties. During a Aug. 8 speech at the Iowa State Fair, Biden said creating a HARPA agency could help solve health problems like Alzheimer’s and obesity. “Those who have been in the military know there’s an outfit called DARPA,” he said. “It’s the thing that allows the military to do advanced research on everything from stealth technology and the internet and all those other things….We should be doing the same thing with health care.”

There is currently a huge gap between government research bodies like NIH that fund research in its early stages and the private sector that often applies them to problems and brings solutions to market, said Michael Stebbins, former assistant director for biotechnology during the Obama administration, who has been hired as a consultant for the Wright Foundation.

“That’s the massive hole that HARPA would fill,” Stebbins said. “It’s about creating new capability, driving innovation.”

According to a copy of the SAFEHOME proposal, all subjects involved would be volunteers and that great care would be taken to “protect each individual’s privacy” and “profiling of any kind must be avoided.”

Ling said that even if SAFEHOME fails to predict mass shooters, it could lead to other advances, such as new ways of predicting and preventing suicides or child abuse.

Matthew Nock, a leading suicide researcher at Harvard University, agreed that a new health research arm like HARPA might be helpful. For decades, Nock said he has tried to find ways to predict and prevent suicides. In an email, Nock said he’d welcome an agency that would apply advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to such efforts.

But he added that using such a proposed agency to “find” links that science has shown don’t exist is “dangerous.” While research shows mental illness is strongly linked to suicide, Nock noted, the link between it and violence toward others is much weaker.

Other researchers pointed to worrisome results from other recent attempts to use artificial intelligence to predict risk of violence. In court decisions on parole and sentencing, for instance, artificial intelligence programa have at times deepened problems of racial bias, overestimating the likelihood of black offenders committing further crimes and underestimating the likelihood of white offenders doing so, said Stephen Hart, a clinical forensic psychologist and researcher on violence risk assessment.

“The irony is that there are low-tech solutions that already exist for some of these problems that we simply aren’t funding or deploying enough,” said Hart, including research and policies that address the prevalence guns in America.

Another already existing low-tech solution, Hart said, is threat assessment, which emphasizes preventing violence by identifying and addressing the problems in people flagged by fellow students or coworkers.

That was also the conclusion of a 2012 study commissioned by the Pentagon after the mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base. The study’s task force surveyed every technology available that might help predict violence– from DNA swabs, retinal scans to merging big data from military personnel records. Like the HARPA proposal, the task force experts also looked at physical, neurological and genetic biomarkers, but ultimatelyconcluded that predicting violence was a fool’s errand. The study’s panel devoted an entire appendix to dispelling the notion, entitled “Prediction: Why It Won’t Work.” Instead, it recommended approaches such as threat assessment.

“PREVENTION should be the goal rather than PREDICTION,” the task force concluded in its final report.

Jacqueline Alemany and Alice Crites contributed to this report.


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One week later: Midland-Odessa community healing from mass shooting

ODESSA, Texas — It’s been a little more than a week since the deadly shooting rampage in West Texas that killed seven people and injured 23 others.

Locals in the Permian Basin are using the tragedy to bring the community together.

It was a quiet, calm Saturday afternoon in the Midland-Odessa area.

“My family and I, we were just enjoying a day outside, swimming, and came in and had about 50 missed texts and I don’t know how many missed calls,” said Chris Kelly, lead pastor at Mid-Cities Church.


“I was in my living room in my apartment, and it’s next to the loop. I heard so many sirens going down the loop, which was unusual for so many,” said Karly Eaton, a nursing student at University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

“I was looking for a car to hide behind because I didn’t want to be a sitting duck,” said Meztli Sanchez, an Odessa resident. 

She was at the movie theater where the deadly shooting rampage came to an end.

That quiet afternoon took a traumatic turn.

“I found a stranger, got a ride, and got out of here,” Sanchez said.

A lone gunman opened fire on innocent people between the two cities. Police said the rampage lasted for more than an hour.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you, in your place, in your community, to your friends and family,” Eaton said.

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Among those injured were a 45-year-old from Round Rock and a 17-month-old from Odessa. The deceased victims ranged in age from 15 to 57.

“It’s a different kind of fear, especially when you have your friends and family and loved ones with you,” Sanchez said.

The fear from that Saturday afternoon cut deep for the people of the Permian Basin.

But now, the community is uniting in a way unexpected.

“I think, overall, people are shocked but they’re encouraged as well,” Kelly said. “They know that the community is strong, the outpouring of support, the prayers that we’ve seen, the hope that we have, all of those things are good signs. And so people are mourning, but they’re encouraged as well.”


The attack ripped the community apart, but people there are thankful for the chance to return to the quiet, calm, West Texas mood, as a stronger and more unified community.

“We’re thankful,” Eaton said. “I know that’s really simple, but it’s the emotion that everyone feels at this time, is just an overflowing of thankfulness.”

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Jaffrey memorial event honors mass-shooting victims

JAFFREY — Over the course of an hour and a half Sunday afternoon, a grassy hill outside United Church of Jaffrey filled with rows of small, white crosses, each representing someone who died this year in a mass shooting in the U.S.

About 40 people took turns hammering 286 wooden crosses into the grass as somber music played, church bells tolled periodically and area pastors took the microphone to lead the group in prayer. People pinned orange ribbons on shirts for gun-violence awareness.

Rev. Mark Koyama of United Church of Jaffrey opened the memorial service with a few remarks.

“Today we gather to acknowledge death, to honor the dead — not one death, as we usually do in this church, but 286 deaths,” he said.

Data varies on how many people have died this year in mass shootings, depending on definitions of what constitutes a “mass” shooting. The Gun Violence Archive lists 320 mass-shooting deaths so far this year.

Leaning on the power of prayer, Koyama said Sunday’s event will “illustrate to everyone who will witness this act that we are not just a bunch of mumbling old people. For us, prayer is action.”

He later said the intent is to make the matter of mass gun violence visible in a symbolic way that’s difficult to ignore.

“This is a moral issue that is significant enough that I think it needs to be kept in front of us until something is done,” he said.

There are differing opinions on gun control within the congregation, Koyama said, so the church is not making demands or calling for any specific political action. The goal is to remind people to do something rather than nothing, he added.

“This is harnessing the energy of the church. The people of the church were filled with a sense of urgency and that we needed to do something,” he said.

Even the act of hammering the crosses into the ground is a comfort to congregation members who appreciate the physical movement in addition to their prayers.

Koyama pointed out that in mass media, the phrase “thoughts and prayers” is often mocked as being synonymous with ineffectiveness and inaction.

“And so this is a direct kind of attempt to reclaim the notion that prayer is real and it has real meaning in our lives and in our society,” he said.

Stacey Kullgren of Winchester grew up in the Jaffrey church and appreciated the chance to participate in the memorial service.

“They’ve always been a faith community that’s willing to make a stand,” she said of the church.

Now the pastor of First Congregational Church of West Brookfield, Mass., Kullgren said she feels grateful to continue to be a part of the Jaffrey community’s work.

Other area pastors attended, including Susan Grant Rosen of United Church of Winchester. The crosses send a powerful message, she said, adding that she hopes state legislators will visit the church and take the next step.

But while gun violence was the theme of the afternoon, at least one attendee used the memorial service as an a spiritual experience and a time to mourn a loved one.

Since Chris Ordway moved to Jaffrey nearly three years ago, he said, he’s felt an urge to visit the church that he hadn’t explored until Sunday. Almost every time he helped hammer a cross into the hill, Ordway was overcome with emotion — but his grief was personal.

“Honestly I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend Lauren, who I lost, and she was so misunderstood,” he said. “She was transgender and nobody understood her.”

Lauren died in February 2017, Ordway said, and he doesn’t know how. But whether she died by suicide or something else, he said it derived from not being accepted by society.

His friend’s memory weighed heavily on his mind, but Ordway also came to Sunday’s event having survived his third suicide attempt, and felt “reborn,” he said.

“The third time I woke up everything was different, like in a good way,” he said, “like colors, sights, symbols — everything. I see everything.”


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