- A shooter opened fire inside a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people and injuring four others before being shot by police.
- In several press conferences from city officials and police officers, leaders chose to focus on the victims and heroes rather than the shooter, specifically saying the gunman’s name only once.
- Some are glad to see this become a regular practice after mass shootings, while others argue that knowing basic facts about the acts and actors is important.
Virginia Beach Shooting
Government officials and police officers have emphasized the need to focus on the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach.
On Friday afternoon, a gunman entered the municipal building and opened fire. According to police, he shot and killed a victim in a car outside before entering the building. He then went into the building, killing 11 others and injuring four additional people.
The shooter was an employee of the city and as a result, he had access to the building. Police arrived shortly after and began exchanging fire with the attacker. After a while, the shooter was eventually shot by police and later died from gunshot wounds.
Authorities are still looking for the motive behind the attack. It was later reported that the shooter had sent in his resignation by email earlier that same morning, though he did not say why or allude to the shooting.
Friday Press Conference
Rather than focusing on the shooter himself, officials with the City of Virginia Beach and police officers chose to center their press briefings around remembering the victims of the shooting.
“Our process is always to notify family members prior to releasing names,” Virginia Beach Chief of Police James Cervera said in a press conference Friday. “We do know who the suspect is, we have not been successful in notifying certain family members.”
“Once we are able to do to that we will release his name once. We’re going to mention his name once, and then he will be forever referred to as ‘the suspect,’ because our focus now is the dignity and respect to the victims in this case and to their families.”
Cervera also recognized the police officers who responded to the scene, saying, “I want you to know that during this gun battle, basically, the officers stopped this individual from committed more carnage in that building.”
Saturday Press Conference
The sentiment of remembering the victims was also echoed in a longer press conference on Saturday.
“We want you to know who they were, so in the days and weeks to come, you will learn what they meant to all of us, to their families, to their friends, and to their coworkers,” Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen said. “They leave a void that we will never be able to fill.”
Hansen then went on to give a detailed presentation of the victims, including their names, photos, job titles, and the cities or towns they lived in. Hansen also noted that of the people who died, 11 were city employees, and one was a contractor.
One of those people was Ryan Keith Cox, who has been hailed as a hero for rushing others to safety and helping barricade them in a room, before going to see if other people needed help. Cox died in the shooting, but he saved his co-workers who he helped hide.
Following Hansen’s presentation, he passed the mic off to Chief of Police Cervera, who talked about the investigation and then went on to discuss the suspect. As he promised, Cervera only said the suspect’s name once.
Shift in Narrative
Throughout all the many press briefings in Virginia Beach from government officials and the police, the victims, rather than the shooter, have been the intentional focal point.
“We wanted to control that narrative,” Virginia Beach’s deputy city manager of public safety Steve Cover told the Associated Press after Saturday’s briefing.
“We didn’t want it to leak out piece by piece through family and friends and so forth through the media. We felt it was kind of our obligation to get that message out.”
In fact, this idea of controlling the narrative is something we have been seeing more and more. After the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to say the gunman’s name and urged people to say the names of the victims instead.
According to experts, refusing the name mass shooters and instead remember the names of the victims is a growing tactic that has huge implications for how we talk about mass shooters and could impact the motivations of future attacks.
“The goal is to kind of interrupt the cycle of new mass shooters citing previous ones, and the new mass shooters who are becoming role models for even more attackers,” Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, told the AP.
“What the guy’s face looks like is not the sort of information that will help stop the next mass shooting.”
However, not everyone agrees with this tactic. James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings, told AP that it is appropriate for law enforcement to release basic facts.
“It is news,” said Fox. “We provide basic details on other types of offenders.” Fox also argued that it is the “act — not the actor” that influences other shooters, continuing, “The Columbine massacre, for example, inspired copycats, not the assailants’ names and faces.”
Fox did say there is a limit for how much should be reported, noting that reporting too much about a killer’s background can “humanize” them and turn shootings into a spectacle or a “celebrity watch.”
However, that concept presents a huge gray area. How can we draw the line between what the public should know and giving too much attention to shooters?
Regardless, it is important to remember and say the names of the victims instead of the shooter and it is refreshing to see officials and police officers doing just that in Virginia Beach.
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.
Flint Prosecutors Drop All Criminal Charges Against Government Officials
- Prosecutors in the Flint water investigation announced that they will drop all existing criminal charges regarding the Flint water crisis.
- Prosecutors explained in a statement that they dropped the charges in order to start a new investigation.
- They said that when they inherited the investigation from previous prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” about how it had been handled.
- Residents of Flint, who already have little trust in the government, are upset with the decision.
Michigan state prosecutors said Thursday that they are dropping all pending criminal charges brought against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis.
In a statement, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who took control of the Flint investigation in January, said that they decided to drop the charges in order to launch a new, more complete investigation.
Hammoud and Worthy explained that when they took over the investigation from the previous team of prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” with how the investigation had been handled.
“Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued,” they said in the statement.
They also said that the previous team had let law firms representing former Gov. Rick Snyder and other defendants have “a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.”
“We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation,” they continued.
Hammoud and Worthy also added that the dismissal will not prevent them from refiling the same charges against the officials or adding more charges and new defendants in the future.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel defended the prosecutors in a separate statement.
“I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable,” she said.
Flint Water Crisis
The Flint water crisis traces back to April of 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s drinking water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as part of a cost-saving effort.
However, proper precautions were not taken to prevent lead in the pipes from contaminating the clean water.
Fifteen state and local officials involved in the oversight of Flint’s water system were charged by the Michigan attorney general’s office of crimes ranging from willful neglect of duty to involuntary manslaughter.
Seven of those accused took plea deals. Eight others, including the majority of high-ranking officials implicated in the scandal, were still waiting for trials.
Notable among those accused was Nick Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his failure to tell the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease linked to bacteria in the Flint River, which resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.
While prosecutors argue that the dismissal of criminal charges is necessary to expand the investigation, many Flint residents, who already have low trust in the government but crave justice, are more skeptical.
Nayyirah Shariff, a Flint resident and the director of the grassroots group Flint Rising, told the Detroit Free Press that the announcement was “a slap in the face to Flint residents.”
“This has been bungled,” Shariff said. “I’m very disappointed with Dana Nessel’s office because she ran on a platform that she was going to provide justice for Flint residents, and it doesn’t seem like justice is coming.”
Flint resident Melissa Mays, who founded the group Water You Fighting For, also told the Detroit Free Press that she was upset the decision was made without the residents of Flint. “It’s extremely terrifying,” she said.
“Now, we have people who may or may not know what is going on, all it does is reinforce that our voices mean nothing.”
Another Flint resident named Fortina Harris told CNN that he feels helpless. “We’ve been dogged out, misused, abused and we still need to pay water bills and wash our bodies,” he said.
“We don’t get any supplement. No discounts or nothing for buying water. We got to fend for our self.”
Political figures who represent Flint in various government bodies also expressed their dissatisfaction with the prosecutors’ decision. Flint City Councilwoman Monica Galloway told CNN that she was “appalled” by the move.
“The lead impact on our children hasn’t even been realized, which means that there’s many unknowns for their future. They haven’t been made whole,” she said.
“It causes me to believe that Gov. Snyder just got a get out of jail free card. The people that are responsible will be walking away free.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, who represents Flint, echoed the same sentiment, telling the Detroit Free Press he wants “to see people behind bars.”
“Words cannot express how disappointed I am that justice continues to be delayed and denied to the people of my city,” Ananich said. “Months of investigation have turned into years, and the only thing to show for it is a bunch of lawyers who have gotten rich off the taxpayers’ dime.”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, however, expressed more optimism.
“We’re excited about a full investigation,” Weaver said in an interview with a local news station.
“What we deserve is a full investigation because we know what happened in Flint was criminal adn we’ve been waiting for accountability and justice.”
See what others are saying: (The Free Detroit Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Deadly Memphis Shooting Prompts Protest
- A protest broke out in Memphis after U.S. Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old who they claim was wanted on felony warrants.
- The protest escalated quickly, as rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, and vehicles and property were vandalized.
- According to Memphis Police, 25 officers were injured.
- The city’s Mayor said that the “aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”
- While a Shelby County Commissioner said, “Don’t judge Frayser without asking a community how it feels to mourn their youth over and over again.”
Marshals Kill Man in Memphis
After United States Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old man in Memphis, protests broke out in the city, resulting in 25 officers being injured.
On Wednesday evening, officers in the U.S. Marshal Service encountered a man, who reports have identified as Brandon Webber. Officers claim the man was wanted on several felony warrants. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the officers tried to stop him as he entered a vehicle.
In a statement, the bureau said that Webber “reportedly rammed his vehicle into the officers’ vehicles multiple times before exiting with a weapon. The officers fired striking and killing the individual. No officers were injured.”
According to his family, who were allegedly witnesses to the shooting, Webber was shot nearly 20 times. No authorities have confirmed this.
Protests Break Out
Word of the shooting ended up spreading through the Frayser neighborhood, which is where the incident occurred. This prompted unrest in the area and led to a protest around a nearby convenience store late Wednesday night.
The protest escalated. According to reports, protesters threw rocks and other objects at police, vandalized a squad car, broke the windows of a fire station, and tore down a concrete wall. Reports also say that police used tear gas to control the crowds.
According to CNN, there were over 100 people at the protest. However, numbers from people who attended say there could have been as many as 300.
Memphis Police said that at least 25 officers were injured, as well as two journalists. According to a post that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland made on Facebook, six people were hospitalized. However, Memphis Police tweeted that most of the injuries were minor.
Memphis Police say that three arrests were made.
Community Leaders Respond
“As I monitored tonight’s fatal shooting involving the US Marshal’s, I was proud of our first responders,” Mayor Strickland wrote on Facebook. “I’m impressed by their professionalism and incredible restraint as they endured concrete rocks being thrown at them and people spitting at them.”
“Let me be clear—the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted,” he later added.
Memphis police director, Michael Rallings spoke to reporters in a news conference about the protests and said he did not condone the violence.
“We’ve been very supportive of protests, but we will not allow any acts of violence,” he said. “We will not allow destruction of property. We will not allow acts of vandalism to occur.”
Tami Sawyer, a Commissioner for Shelby County who is also a mayoral candidate for the City of Memphis responded to the news on Twitter, saying she attended the protests herself because she stands “with her people.”
“Every life lost should matter,” she added.
TBI is still investigating the circumstances around Webber’s death. The NAACP also said they would be monitoring the situation.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Fox 13)(Daily Memphian)
Ex-Stanford Coach Sentenced to One Day in Prison in College Admissions Scandal
- A former Stanford sailing coach is now the first person to be sentenced for his participation in the massive college admission scandal.
- John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge for accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit two applicants with no sailing experience to the school’s team.
- However, none of the money landed directly in Vandemoer’s pockets and instead was funneled into the school’s sailing program.
- A judge sentenced him to one day in prison, which was counted as time already served, along with two years of supervised release with six months of home detention and a $10,000 fine.
A former Stanford University sailing coach avoided prison time on Wednesday for his role in the massive college admission scandal after a judge handed him a one day sentence, which was counted as time already served.
John Vandemoer is now the first person to be sentenced for participating in the corruption scandal that involved wealthy parents securing their child’s acceptance into top universities by falsifying documents, paying bribes, and altering SAT test scores.
Vandemoer was fired from Stanford after it learned of his participation in the scam. He then pleaded guilty in March to one count of racketeering conspiracy for accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit two prospective students. Neither of the students had experience in the sport and ultimately neither ended up attending Standford.
According to the judge and lawyers on both sides, the money did not ever directly hit Vandemoer’s pockets, but instead went to the school’s sailing program.
Prosecutors asked for a 13-month sentence and a year of supervised release, along with a $250,000 fine. They argued that although he did not pocket the funds, Vandemoer still benefited from the corruption.
“While the defendant did not profit financially from his crimes in a directly measurable way … his actions nonetheless enhanced his own status within the university, gave him more money to use for the sailing program he implemented, and furthered his career,” they said.
“His actions not only deceived and defrauded the university that employed him, but also validated a national cynicism over college admissions by helping wealthy and unscrupulous applicants enjoy an unjust advantage over those who either lack deep pockets or are simply unwilling to cheat to get ahead,” the federal prosecutors added.
U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel ultimately sided with defense lawyers who pushed for the one day sentence, which the judge dismissed as time served. Vandemoer was also ordered to two years of supervised release with six months of home detention and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
“From what I know about the other cases, there is an agreement that Vandemoer is probably the least culpable of all the defendants in all of these cases,” Zobel said. “All the money he got went directly to the sailing program.”
Vandemoer apologized for his actions in court, saying “I want to be seen as someone who takes responsibility for mistakes.”
“I want to tell you how I intend to live from this point forward. I will never again lose sight of my values.” Outside of court, Vandemoer added, “Mistakes are never felt by just yourself, this mistake impacted the people I love and admire in my life.”
“Stanford is a place that I love … I have brought a cloud over Stanford, the amazing students, athletes, coaches and alumni,” he continued. “I have let you down and that devastates me. I have so much respect for all of you and never wanted to let you down, but I did. I will carry this with me for the rest of my life.”
The university vowed to take a closer look at its admission’s policies in the wake of the scandal. Then this week, it said it was studying what to do with the funds that stemmed from the scam.
“We continue to be in contact with state authorities regarding the proper way to redirect to another entity the funds that were contributed to the Stanford sailing program as part of this fraud,” Stanford said.
“We are eager to complete this process and will do so as soon as we have received the necessary guidance.”
Operation Varsity Blues
Vandemoer was one of several college coaches caught up in the scandal, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” At least 50 people were charged in the federal investigation, including Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and Full House’s Lori Loughlin.
Last month, Huffman pleaded guilty to mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to get her daughter’s SAT scores boosted. She is expected to be sentenced in September.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were handed additional charges of money laundering in April and have both pleaded not guilty.