- Hundreds of students and parents gathered for a vigil on Wednesday to honor the victims of the recent shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch.
- After hearing a number of politicians and political advocates give speeches, students walked out in protest because they were angry that they did not have the chance to speak and felt that the tragedy was being politicized.
- The students eventually returned to the vigil and were able to share their thoughts and mourn the loss of their schoolmate.
A vigil for the heroes and victims of the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado prompted students and parents to walk out in protest of the event’s speakers, who they felt were politicizing the tragedy.
More than 1,000 students and parents attended the planned vigil on Wednesday night, which was intended to honor 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo who was killed during the shooting, as well as the eight other survivors who were injured.
Castillo has been praised as a hero for giving his life to protect his fellow students by lunging at one of the shooters, giving the others time to take cover or escape to safety.
The event was described as “an interfaith memorial vigil,” hosted by another high school nearby. The vigil was intended to bring the community together, but instead, it resulted in a large portion of the crowd leaving the service in protest.
Many people who walked out were reportedly angry that the platform was given to politicians who politicized the shooting by talking about gun control, instead of letting STEM students have a chance to speak.
The vigil was organized by students who are part of an organization called Team ENOUGH, which is a youth program of the Brady Campaign, a national organization that advocates for gun control and gun violence prevention.
The event featured Colorado Congressman Jason Crow and Senator Michael Bennet, who is running for president. A representative from Moms Demand Action, a gun control advocacy group, also spoke.
The students made it clear that they wanted to speak and hear from each other multiple times during the speaker-led portion of the event and during the silent candle-lit vigil following. In clips from the event, voices can be heard repeatedly calling out, “Let STEM students speak!”
After the speakers finished, hoards of people walked out of the gym where the vigil was held. The group then took over the hallways of the school, where at one point they were seen chanting “Mental health!”
After gathering outside, the students started chanting, “To the gym!” They eventually returned to the event where they were finally given their chance to talk and remember Castillo. The students also seized on this opportunity to explain why they walked out.
“What has happened at STEM is awful, but it’s not a statistic. We can’t be used for a reason for gun control, we are people, not a statement.” One student said.
“We wanted Kendrick to be mourned, we wanted all of you to join us in that mourning,” another student added. “But that was not allowed here. We all walked out, we were not kicked out despite what you have heard, and we’re back now to tell you that we love Kenrick, and we love all of the survivors.”
The Big Picture
The students eventually were able to make their voices heard by reclaiming the vigil and redirecting it to focus on community and mourning.
However, they had to protest first to be able to have the memorial they wanted, and it came at the cost of these students and this community feeling used and taken advantage of.
Politicizing gun-related tragedies to push an agenda is not a new practice. It is also not just limited to the “side” that wants gun control and regulation. On the other end of the spectrum, plenty of politicians and advocates have used school shootings as a reason to call for more guns in schools.
The same day as the vigil, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that will allow public school districts in the state to arm their teachers. This new law came as a response to the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida which killed 17 people.
The combination of politics and gun violence in schools creates a very sticky situation. Some students affected by school shootings use their platforms to advocate for a certain agenda, like David Hogg and Emma Gonzales, who were survivors of the Parkland shooting and have become prominent activists.
However, the walkout at the vigil last night shows that many students and communities who are forced to live through these tragic experiences just want to remember and mourn, making it extremely difficult to determine how to move forward.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.