- Numerous stories of heroes have come out in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
- Those being hailed as heroes in El Paso include a soldier who grabbed several children in a playpen and moved them to safety, as well as a young mother and father who died protecting their child.
- In Dayton, the police officers who stopped the shooter in 30 seconds are among those who have been praised as heroes.
Heroes From El Paso
Stories of heroes have begun to emerge in the days since two separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio left 31 dead and dozens more injured.
On Saturday morning, a man opened fire on a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso killing 22 people and injuring at least 24 others. According to reports from the El Paso police, authorities began receiving calls about an active shooter around 10:30 a.m.
Eyewitnesses said the shooter fired at people in the parking lot before entering the building. Police reportedly responded to the shooting in six minutes, and the shooter surrendered shortly after without incident, or without the police firing any shots.
One of the most widely circulated stories from El Paso was that of Jordan and Andre Anchondo. The Anchondo’s were young parents of three who died saving the life of one of their children.
According to reports, Jordan died directly shielding her baby, while Andre died trying to shield them both. The baby was injured but lived because his parents saved him.
Another person being hailed as a hero in the El Paso shooting is a man named David Johnson, who reportedly stepped in front of the gunman to save his wife and granddaughter. Both survived, though Johnson was killed.
A solider named Glendon Oakley who was at the mall at the time of the shooting has also been praised as a hero.
In an interview with CNN, Oakley said after he heard gunfire, he ran towards a playpen where children were playing without their parents and grabbed as many children as he could to move them out of harm’s way.
“I was just focused on the kids, I wasn’t really worried about myself. So just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could,” Oakley told CNN. “I did that because that’s what I was trained to do and that’s what the military has taught me to do.”
Heroes From Dayton
Just 13 hours after the shooting in El Paso, a man wearing a mask and bulletproof vest opened fire outside a popular neighborhood in downtown Dayton, killing nine people, and wounding 27 others.
Among the dead is the shooter’s sister. The shooter was killed by police 30 seconds after opening fire. Currently, there is no known motive for the shooting, though it has been reported that in high school the shooter had a “hit list” and a “rape list.”
In Dayton, officials are hailing the officers who killed the shooter as a hero. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the officers saved “literally hundreds of lives.”
A nurse named Kayla Miller stopped to perform CPR while dodging gunfire is also being praised in Dayton. According to reports, witnesses say she tried to resuscitate five people.
“I’m grateful to be able to be alive and talk to my family and friends and tell them I’m OK, but my heart breaks for these families. It’s just not fair,” Miller told the TODAY Show.
What We Know About the El Paso Shooter
While little is known at least publicly about the motive of the Dayton shooter, more information has come out about the El Paso shooter, who is currently in police custody.
Investigators and police later found what they described as a “manifesto” they believe was written by the alleged shooter. The manifesto was posted on the message board 8Chan less than 20 minutes before the police received the first call about the attack.
That post has since been deleted, but an archived version of the post contained an attachment of what the author referred to as “the actual manifesto.” Another document with the first initial and last name of the shooter was also attached.
In the manifesto, the author wrote, “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
The author referred to immigrants as “invaders” four separate times. They also say that they are against “race mixing” and said that the country should be divided up so each race has their own territory.
The author notably included a list of the type of guns they wanted to use for their attack and said they did not spend much time planning the attack or writing the manifesto.
The manifesto concludes with the author saying that their views predate President Donald Trump and his campaign and that Trump should not be blamed.
The author also added that the media will call them a white supremacist and blame their actions on Trump’s rhetoric, which they believes is an example of “fake news.”
On Sunday, officials in Texas formally announced that they would be treating the alleged shooter as a domestic terrorist.
U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash made the announcement in a press briefing.
Bash also said that his office was “seriously considering” bringing federal hate crime and federal firearm charges against the shooter, which carry a possible death penalty sentence.
The El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza separately said that his office has already charged the shooter with capital murder and will seek the death penalty in any state-level prosecution.
The federal domestic terrorism case, however, depends on whether or not it is confirmed that the alleged shooter wrote the manifesto.
To that point, El Paso Police Department Chief Greg Allen said it looks increasingly like the alleged shooter in custody wrote the manifesto, according to NPR. The New York Times also reported that a federal law enforcement official confirmed that it was written by the suspect.
Others have also pointed out at the fact that the suspect was from the suburbs of Dallas but drove nearly 10 hours to get to El Paso, a border town where more than 80% of residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent census.
The legal charges involving the El Paso shooting are also not limited to the U.S. On Sunday, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced that the Mexican government will be taking legal action against the U.S., but did not specify what that would be.
On Monday, Ebrard said that eight Mexican nationals had been killed in the shooting.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murderers 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. Instead, we will be linking to donation pages for those impacted by the shootings.
Supreme Court Sides With High School Cheerleader Punished for Cursing on Snapchat
The justices ruled that the student’s year-long suspension from her school’s cheer team over an expletive-filled Snapchat was too severe because her post was not disruptive.
SCOTUS Rules in Free Speech Case
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Pennsylvania school district violated the First Amendment when it handed a cheerleader a year-long suspension from her team after she sent friends an expletive-filled Snapchat outside school grounds.
The case in question centered around a snap sent in 2017 by now-18-year-old Brandi Levy in which she expressed frustration at not making her high school’s varsity cheer squad. The snap, sent on a Saturday from a convenience store, shows Levy and a friend flipping off the camera with the caption: “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.”
That post was sent to around 250 people, including other cheerleaders at her school. When her coaches were alerted to the post, they suspended her from cheerleading for a year.
Levy and her family, represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the school district, arguing that it had no right to punish her for off-campus speech.
A federal appeals court agreed with that argument, ruling that schools could not regulate speech outside school grounds. That decision marked the first time that an appeals court had issued such a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1969 student speech ruling.
In that case, SCOTUS allowed students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, declaring that they do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The high court did specify that disruptive speech on school grounds could be punished.
Off-Campus Speech Questions Left Unresolved
In Wednesday’s decision, the justices agreed that Levy’s punishment was too severe because her speech did not meet the test of being disruptive. However, they did not uphold the appeals court decision that schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.
“The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the opinion for the court’s majority. “Thus, we do not now set forth a broad, highly general First Amendment rule stating just what counts as ‘off campus’ speech and whether or how ordinary First Amendment standards must give way off campus.”
Breyer also added that specific question would be left for “future cases.”
In the sole dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas objected to that approach, arguing that Levy’s language met the threshold for speech that is disruptive and thus can be regulated off-campus based on past precedent. His colleagues’ ruling, he wrote, “is untethered from anything stable, and courts (and schools) will almost certainly be at a loss as to what exactly the court’s opinion today means.”
Both opinions are significant because while the majority decision focused more narrowly on whether the speech, in this case, was disruptive, the justices appear to be opening up space for a case that centers more specifically around the power of schools to regulate student speech off-campus.
Still, Levy and the ACLU cheered the decision as a victory for student speech off-campus, despite the court’s lack of ruling on the subject.
“Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school,” Levy said in a statement.
“The school in this case asked the court to allow it to punish speech that it considered ‘disruptive,’ regardless of where it occurs,” ACLU’s legal director David Cole added in separate remarks. “If the court had accepted that argument, it would have put in peril all manner of young people’s speech, including their expression on politics, school operations, and general teen frustrations.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The Associated Press)
Biden To Outline Actions Aimed at Combatting the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence
The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks.
President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise
President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence.
That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.”
Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.
Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales
Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.
In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019.
Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.
Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.
Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence.
Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.
“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.
“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program
State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.
Rent Relief in the Works
The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.
It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.
However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”
The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”
Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.
Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.
Eviction Ban Complications
Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.
According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.
State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.
Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week.
But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.
As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.
State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus
Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.
California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.
While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.
“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.