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Deputy Fired After Response During Parkland Shooting Will Be Reinstated

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  • Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four deputies fired last year for inaction during the 2018 Parkland shooting, with him specifically found to have been taking cover behind a car at the time. 
  • But an arbitrator found that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated his right to due process by firing him two days after a 180-day window it had to notify him. 
  • He will now be reinstated with full seniority, benefits, and backpay. For reference, Miller was paid more than $137,000 in 2018.
  • The sheriff’s office said it is exploring legal options and stood by its initial termination, calling the arbitration “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.”

How Miller Responded During the Shooting 

A Florida deputy who was fired for hiding behind his patrol car during the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has just won his job back, the police union said Thursday.

Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four Broward County Sheriff’s deputies fired last year for neglect of duty during the Feb. 15, 2018 shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead.

Miller was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene while shots were being fired, but a report from Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Public Safety Commission found that his first radio call wasn’t made until “approximately ten minutes after the first radio traffic about the shooting and approximately five minutes after his arrival.”

He defended his conduct to investigators by saying he had problems communicating over his radio. He explained that he stayed behind “trying to get resources to people in places to help.” That claim, however, was inconsistent with radio recordings and witness statements, which showed no evidence of him doing so.

When the Coral Springs Police Department arrived at the scene and rushed into the school, officers reported seeing Miller and other deputies staying on a nearby road instead of entering the campus. Other officers also reported seeing Miller and other deputies taking cover behind their cars.

“Any law enforcement officer — regardless of rank — who arrives at the scene of an active shooter while shots are still being fired has an obligation to pursue the sound of those gunshots and confront the shooter, but Sgt. Miller remained behind his car in a position of personal safety,” the commission’s report said.

In December, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a committee member, called Miller’s performance an “absolute, total failure,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Miller to be Reinstated After Arbitration 

Now Miller will be reinstated with full seniority, back pay, and other benefits thanks to a recent arbitration ruling made Wednesday. For reference, he was paid more than $137,000 in 2018, including his salary, overtime, medical reimbursements, paid holidays, and other time off, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

However, the decision had nothing to do with his actions on that tragic day. Instead, the arbitrator, Danielle Hargrove, said the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated Miller’s right to due process when firing him in June.

The Sheriff’s Union had argued that the department terminated him two days past the 180-day deadline state laws allow for punishing law enforcement officers once an investigation is completed. The arbitrator ultimately agreed and granted their motion for summary judgment.

Sheriff’s Office Responds 

In a statement, the general counsel for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said the decision was “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.” The counsel also said the agency was exploring all legal options.

The sheriff’s office also added that the arbitrator didn’t address “the conduct of Sergeant Miller on the day children and adults were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while he stood by. Nowhere in the decision is he vindicated for his lack of action on that day.”

On top of that, the current Broward County Sheriff, Gregory Tony, said he still believes he made the right call in firing Miller.

“I stood by the termination then, I stand by it now,” he said Thursday.

“The arbitration process is always part of the final aspect for any employee that is terminated or suffers some form of disciplinary action that I take, and I understand that’s always going to be on the table. But it’s not going to change my decision-making, in terms of doing what’s right for this community.”

Family members of the shooting victims were also outraged by the decision. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at the school, tweeted that Miller should immediately resign.

Miller’s attorney, Gary Lippman, said at a news conference Thursday that the union had been prepared to address Miller’s firing “on the merits,” but it first filed a motion addressing the violation of his procedural rights.

Though Miller’s actions on the day of the shooting have faced heavy criticism, the public safety commission’s investigation found widespread problems with law enforcement’s response, including flawed 911 and radio systems, deputy failures, and an “abysmal” response from school resource officer Scot Peterson.

Peterson’s case was arguably the most notorious after the shooting, as he was on campus when shots broke out, yet failed to confront the gunman. Peterson was charged last June with child negligence, culpable negligence, and perjury. He pleaded not guilty and his lawyers called the charges “politically motivated retribution.” 

See what others are saying: (Insider)  (CNN) (NBC News

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Soldier Charged With Assault After Shoving Black Man in Viral Video

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  • Authorities charged Army soldier Jonathan Pentland with third-degree assault and battery on Wednesday after a viral video showed him shoving a Black man while yelling at him to leave a South Carolina neighborhood.
  • Many people, including dozens who protested outside Pentland’s home this week, condemned the confrontation as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
  • Pentland and others claimed the unidentified man was picking a fight with neighbors, which the man denied, but police said nothing that may have happened earlier justified Pentland’s actions.
  • If convicted, Pentland faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Viral Video

A U.S. soldier was charged with assault on Wednesday after a video that circulated online showed him yelling at and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.

Footage of the April 8 incident was posted to social media Monday. It shows the Army soldier, Jonathan Pentland, confronting the unidentified man and telling him to leave the neighborhood. 

The other man explains that he’s just walking through the area and doing nothing wrong, but Pentland becomes increasingly aggressive. “You better walk away,” he shouts at the man after shoving him.

“You either walk away, or I’m gonna carry your ass out of here,” he continues before adding, “You’re in the wrong neighborhood motherf*ker. Get out!”

The man then tries to tell Pentland that he lives in the neighborhood, and Pentland then asks for his address, which he does not give.

The confrontation continues with Pentland cursing and getting in the man’s face. As he does so, the man says that Pentland smells drunk. 

It’s unclear what exactly led up to the confrontation, but in the video, a woman off-camera says the man “picked a fight with some random young lady that’s one of our neighbors.”

“I don’t even know who she is. Nobody picked a fight when someone ran up on me,” the man replies. Another woman off-screen then encourages the man to leave with her, saying, “What’s your name? Come on. You don’t want no trouble.”

Video Triggers Protests Outside Pentland’s Home

After this video spread online, many social media users condemned it as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”

In fact, protesters even began demonstrating outside of Penland’s home. Those protests started off peaceful, but deputies were then called after 8 p.m. because unknown individuals vandalized the house. That forced police to shut down access to the area and remove Pentland’s family to another location.

As far as the viral video, deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene.”

Police did confirm that there are two reports of alleged assault against the unnamed man Pentland shoved that are being investigated. However, they also added that the man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents.”

Pentland Charged

Either way, police said whatever happened earlier did not justify Pentland’s actions. He was ultimately arrested Wednesday morning and was charged with third-degree assault and battery. He faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail if convicted.

“We’re not going to let people be bullies in our community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Wednesday. “And if you are, you’re going to answer for it, and that’s what we’ve done in this case.”

On top of that, the Justice Department reportedly was investigating. Pentland’s Commanding General even issued a statement condemning his behavior, adding that Pentland “brought disrespect to @fortjackson our Army and the trust with the public we serve.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (Huffpost)

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Texas Students Created Snapchat Group To ‘Slave Trade’ Black Classmates

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  • Freshmen at a Texas high school set up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 
  • A screenshot showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
  • That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer while a second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
  • The school faced backlash for initially describing it as “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment,” without acknowledging the racism. The district later issued a stronger condemnation and said the students were disciplined but did not list specific consequences.

Racist Snapchat Group

Aledo high school students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus in Northern Texas are making headlines for setting up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 

A screenshot reviewed by several local news outlets showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”

That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer. A second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”

Screenshot of group chat message via KXAS

At least one student who was mentioned as being “sold” in the chats was later sent screenshots of the conversations.

According to a report from the Star-Telegram reported last week, when the issue was brought to Principal Carolyn Ansley, she sent parents an email that didn’t mention the Snapchat group but only cited “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment.”

That caused frustrations because parents felt the issue of racism wasn’t being addressed or acknowledged.

Mark Grubbs, a father of three former students, told KXAS he was sickened by the students’ actions. Grubbs, who is Black, also said he had taken his children out of the district over other racist incidents in the past.

“My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter,” he said.

District Responds

After the incident garnered media attention, the Aledo Independent School District issued a statement.

The district said it learned of the incident more than two weeks ago and started an investigation that involved law enforcement.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,” it added. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

District officials spoke with the students responsible as well as their parents, saying they “made it clear that statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”

The district also said it assigned disciplinary consequences, though it did not explicitly state what those consequences were or state how many students were involved.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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What You Need To Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause

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  • The CDC and the FDA have issued a joint recommendation to pause distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that six women experienced “extremely rare” blood clots after receiving the single-dose shot.
  • The vast majority of the 6.8 million Americans who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported minor to no side effects, and no direct link has been established between the vaccine and blood clots at this time. 
  • The two agencies are expected to release updated guidance in the coming days.
  • Several states and cities are now automatically giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to people who were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. 

CDC and FDA Recommend J&J Vaccine Halt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, released a statement Tuesday recommending a pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, most with zero or only mild side effects.

The updated guidance comes after six women, all between the ages of 18 to 48, experienced what both agencies described as “extremely rare” blood clots six to 13 days after being vaccinated. One of those women has died and another is in critical condition.

Neither the CDC nor the FDA has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the cause of these blood clots; rather, they said this guidance comes “out of an abundance of caution.”

That’s also in line with Johnson & Johnson itself, which said it’s aware of the reports but added that “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events.” As a precaution, Johnson & Johnson has also now delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe. 

What Happens From Here?

Principal Deputy Director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said further recommendations will come quickly.

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock echoed that statement, saying, “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”

Wednesday, a CDC committee will convene to discuss the cases and assess their potential significance.

When asked if the government was overreacting to just six cases out of nearly 7 million vaccinations (a criticism made by some online), Schuchat said the CDC pulled its recommendation specifically because the type of blood clots seen in these 6 women requires special treatment, so “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out.”

In the meantime, both agencies are urging Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients to contact their doctors if they experience any combination of severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. 

What If I Had A J&J Appointment?

Both agencies, as well as other health officials, are still urging unvaccinated people to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines when available in their area.

The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator has said that 28 million doses of those vaccines will be made available this week. Notably, that’s more than enough for the country to continue giving 3 million shots a day. 

If you had an appointment scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re likely not completely out of luck.

For example, while D.C. vaccination sites are canceling all Johnson & Johnson appointments between Tuesday and this Saturday, the health department there has said it’ll send out invitations on Wednesday to reschedule.

Similar situations were reported in Virginia and Maryland, though some vaccination sites in Maryland are still honoring existing appointments by automatically giving people Pfizer instead. That’s also a process that is now being conducted in places like New York State and Memphis.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (NBC News) (The Washington Post)

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