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Atlanta Police Walk Out in Protest of Murder Charge Against Officer Who Killed Rayshard Brooks

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  • On June 12, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolfe after an altercation in a Wendy’s parking lot. 
  • Ongoing protests over systemic racism in law enforcement soon began to invoke Brooks’ name, and some demonstrators burned down the Wendy’s where Brooks died the following day.
  • On Wednesday, Rolfe was charged with 11 crimes, including the murder of Brooks. The other officer involved at the scene faces three charges, including aggravated assault.
  • Hours later, reports began to flood in that Atlanta police officers were calling in sick and staging a walkout in response to the charges.

Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan Charged

The two Atlanta officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks have been charged. The officer who killed him, Garrett Rolfe, faces 11 charges, including murder and aggravated assault. 

On Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges and revealed several new details from the incident, which took place on June 12. The first is that when Rolfe shot Brooks, he reportedly exclaimed, “I got him.” Howard also said Rolfe kicked Brooks as he struggled for his life. Following that, Howard accused Rolfe of failing to render first aid, reportedly for more than two minutes.

Of Brooks, Howard described his demeanor as “almost jovial,” saying, “For 41 minutes and 17 seconds, he followed their instructions, he answered questions.” 

After Brooks failed a sobriety test, Howard claimed that officers failed to inform him that he would be arrested.

Rolfe’s attorneys have denied the charges against him, saying he reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.” They claim Rolfe immediately called for an ambulance and began rendering aid to Brooks. 

Surfaced video, as well as Howard’s accusation, appear to contest that claim. Video shows the officers standing over Brooks for more than two minutes before they directly administer aid. 

The other officer, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges including an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks’ shoulder after Brooks had already been shot. 

Like Rolfe, Brosnan’s legal team has argued the accusations against him, saying that he shouldn’t have been charged with assault because “an assault puts somebody in fear of immediately receiving a violent bodily injury. That wasn’t Devin’s intent.”

His lawyers also argue that he put his foot on Brooks’ arm for less than 10 seconds to make sure he couldn’t get access to a weapon. 

Police Walkout and Call in Sick After Charges

Hours after these charges came down from the DA, unusual reports that Atlanta police officers weren’t responding to calls in three of the city’s six zones began to surface. 

Essentially, it appeared like officers were staging a walkout in response to those charges. 

Following those speculations and fears that the city wouldn’t be equipped to handle 911 calls, Atlanta PD denied that police had staged a walkout after clocking into their shift.

“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the department said on Twitter. “The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.” 

Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, then refuted that claim. 

“There are officers walking off,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There are officers saying they are not going to leave the precinct unless to help another officer. Some are walking off and sitting in their personal vehicles.” 

Later that night, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN that the city had enough officers to cover it through the night, though she didn’t say exactly how many had called in sick, presumably in protest. She also said the city could call in different agencies for back-up if needed, but as to whether it actually asked for help, Atlanta PD would not say.

Thursday morning, Atlanta PD stressed that it could still respond effectively to 911 calls, writing on Twitter, “Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency.”

Arrest, Death, and Viral Video

According to a release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Rolfe and Brosnan responded to a call at a Wendy’s of a man who had fallen asleep in his car. 

That man was later identified as Brooks. While responding, those officers reportedly conducted a sobriety test on Brooks. When Brooks failed that test, they tried to take him into custody.

According to the officers, Brooks resisted arrest. During the struggle, he somehow managed to get a hold of one of the officer’s tasers. After that, Brooks attempted to run away. As he did, he pointed the taser at the officers, who were chasing after him.

That’s when Rolfe shot Brooks, who was later pronounced dead.

Two days later, The New York Times published an analysis of security footage and eyewitness videos that had surfaced. In The Times markups, Brosnan can be seen pulling his taser out during a physical struggle. Notably, that taser is the one Brooks would later grab.

From there, the three struggle. At one point, Brooks appears to punch Rolfe. Brooks then runs away. Rolfe allegedly fires his taser at him. 

Rolfe then reaches for his handgun. Meanwhile, Brooks turns around and fires the taser he had stolen from Brosnan. As he does, Rolfe draws his gun and shoots at Brooks three times. 

According to The Times, for the next minute or so, Brooks is injured but moving on the ground. Brosnan and Rolfe stand over him, but don’t appear to provide medical assistance until after another officer arrives. Shortly afterward, an ambulance rushes Brooks to the hospital, but eight minutes later, he’s pronounced dead.

Police Chief Steps Down and Brooks’ Autopsy

Brooks’ death added a fresh wave of outrage from demonstrators who were already protesting the deaths of other Black people at police hands—including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among a long list of others.

On Saturday, protesters surrounded the Wendy’s where Brooks was killed, with police reportedly responding by using tear gas and flash bangs to break up the crowd. Later in the night, some demonstrators reportedly broke windows and threw fireworks inside, causing the building to go up in flames.

“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction of what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said at a new conference on Saturday. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.” 

Brooks’ lawyer has also given similar defense, saying that while Brooks was resisting arrest and had a taser, that taser wasn’t a deadly weapon and police could have arrested him without shooting him.

During her news conference, Bottoms also announced that Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields would be stepping down.

“And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful police reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities,” Bottoms said. 

On Sunday, Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was put on administrative leave. 

The Fulton County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Brooks said Brooks had been shot in the back twice. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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As Unemployment Claims Rise, CA Officials Report Inmates Collected Millions in Benefits

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  • Unemployment numbers spiked for the second week in a row, marking the highest amount of new claims made since early October with 778,000 people filing. Over 20 million Americans are still collecting some kind of joblessness aid.
  • Experts say this will only get worse as COVID cases continue to rise and states impose more restrictions. However, unlike during the spring shutdowns, struggling Americans and small businesses will likely not have any help from the federal government.
  • Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in California reported that tens of thousands of inmates received upwards of $1 billion in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that officials described as “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”

Unemployment Numbers Spike

Another 778,000 Americans filed for unemployment this week, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, marking the highest spike since early October and the second week in a row that new claims have risen.

According to experts, this data signals that the massive coronavirus spikes the U.S. has seen in recent weeks are slowing the economy once again. On Wednesday, the country reported a record 2 million new cases in the same two weeks that joblessness claims also went up, bringing the official case count to more than 12.6 million Americans infected and over 260,000 dead.

As the COVID-19 spikes continue, and with more state and local governments imposing new restrictions on public gatherings, limiting hours and operations for restaurants and bars, and temporarily closing down some businesses entirely, economists say this situation will get worse before it gets better.

Unlike the first wave of shutdowns this past spring, it seems almost certain that struggling Americans will have to weather these latest closures without any help from the government.

Already, many of the programs that gave trillions of dollars to unemployed Americans and small businesses under the CARES Act have expired, and most of the few remaining programs will run out soon.

That is especially concerning when it comes to unemployment benefits. According to a recent report from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, unless Congress and the White House sign off on a deal to extend key programs, roughly 12 million Americans will lose these benefits entirely the day after Christmas.

But after months of deadlock, any hopes for a new stimulus package petered out when the election came around. Democratic leadership is reportedly attempting to restart those talks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to approve some kind of bill before the end of the year. 

However, it remains unclear how all the problems that had deadlocked the lawmakers for months during the earlier negotiations will be resolved in time.

Inmate Unemployment Fraud

Meanwhile, states are still continuing to struggle with distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.

On Tuesday, a task force lead by nine district attorneys across the state of California reported in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that tens of thousands of prison and jail inmates — including more than 100 people on death row — have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that the officials say “appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,”

According to the task force, between March and August, inmates housed in every single California prison and in jails throughout the state filed 35,000 claims totaling at least $140 million in benefits, though the alleged crimes could total as much as $1 billion.

In most cases, officials said that the payments were given out in the form of prepaid debit cards sent to friends or family on the outside who would then later deposit the proceeds to inmate accounts.

In some cases, the joblessness benefits were sent directly to the jails and prisons. Sometimes the inmates used their real names, but other times, they used fake names and fake Social Security numbers.

In fact, prosecutors were tipped off to some of the cases by listening to inmates recorded phone calls, where they bragged about how easy it was the game the system.

As far as how such widespread fraud could happen, law enforcement officials blamed California’s Employment Development Department, which has been swamped with processing more than 16.4 million unemployment claims since March, resulting in a massive backlog of unfilled claims that, according to reports, has totaled upwards of more than 1.6 million people at times.

However, the task force also said that part of the problem was due to the fact that unlike at least 35 other states, California does not have the technology to crosscheck inmate rosters against unemployment claims.

Looking Forward

In their letter, the officials called on Newsom to crack down on the rampant fraud and provide “significant resources” to do so. 

Newsom, for his part, responded in a statement by calling the fraud “absolutely unacceptable,” and ordering the Office of Emergency Services to create a task force to help the prosecutors with their investigation.

However, as The New York Times pointed out, Newsom had already formed a “strike team” a few months ago to help the state’s employment department speed up claims and address other issues, including fraud at correctional facilities.

The district attorneys were still forced to form their own task force with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after the reports of fraud in the employment department continued and the “strike team” failed to uncover the large amounts of fraud the other groups had seen.

Currently, it is unclear how Newsom’s new task force is different from the largely unsuccessful “strike team.” 

California, of course, is not the only state having these issues with unemployment insurance fraud. There have also been similar reports of fraud in Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, and other states.

These problems also go beyond unemployment. There have been frequent reports of CARES Act funding being misused, including by people using small business loans to buy luxury cars, as well as large companies or businesses connected to President Donald Trump Trump and members of Congress improperly receiving funding.

As Congress considers another much-needed stimulus package, these issues of transparency and accountability have now become paramount. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (USA Today

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COVID-19 Cases Expected To Surge After Thanksgiving

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  • With coronavirus cases already on a steep rise in the U.S, experts are warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will likely make things worse. Canada, for example, saw a jump in cases after its citizens celebrated the holiday last month.
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Americans should hold out for a vaccine, which is on the horizon, and be safe this Thanksgiving.
  • A family in Texas is also waring against gathering, saying they learned how dangerous it is the hard way. After celebrating a birthday together, all 15 people who attended the party tested positive for the virus.
  • On top of this experts are also warning against thinking a negative test clears you for socialization. In reality, you can test negative for the virus and still have and transmit it.

Warning From Surgeon General 

As Thanksgiving looms closer, warnings against family gatherings are being echoed by experts and everyday people alike. 

Health officials have been vocal about the threat the Thanksgiving holiday poses when it comes to the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen 12.4 million cases and lost 257,000 lives to the virus, and cases have been on a steep increase this month. The CDC has already warned against travel and experts have said that based on the spike Canada saw after its October Thanksgiving, America is set to go down a similar, or even worse path. 

“I want the American people to know that we are at a dire point in our fight with this virus by any measure,”  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on Good Morning America.Cases, positivity, hospitalizations, deaths. We’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted than ever before.” 

Adams said that with a vaccine on the horizon, Americans should just wait out this homestretch and stay put for the holiday.

“I’m asking Americans, begging you, hold on just a little bit longer,” he said. “Keep Thanksgiving and the celebration small and smart this year.” 

Family in Texas Urges Caution

Health officials are not the only ones preaching this advice. In Arlington, Texas, a family that has lived the consequences of gathering without regard for public health is urging people to not make the same mistake as them. The Aragonez family celebrated a birthday earlier this month indoors without masks or distancing. Now, all 15 people who attended tested positive for the virus. 

“We feel guilty for gathering,” members of the family said in a video encouraging caution. “All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to be healthy could have been prevented.” 

“Please don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” one person said. “By staying apart we can fight this virus together.” 

While most cases in the family were mild, one person was hospitalized for over a week.

“One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money,” one family member told the Washington Post. 

Testing Negative is Not Enough

Many have still forged on with their gathering plans under the false idea that if everyone tests negative before attending, they are in the clear to socialize. However, experts warn this is far from the case.

Just because a person tests negative does not necessarily mean they do not have the virus. Tests are not 100% accurate and it can take days or even a week to test positive for the virus after exposure. Not to mention, people could come into contract with the virus between their test and the family event. 

“A negative result is a snapshot in time,”  Dr. Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago explaining to the New York Times. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”

While it might slightly minimize the risk of spread, it certainly does not eliminate it. More than anything, it gives people a false sense of security that they have a free pass to go wherever and see whoever they want, despite the fact that it still poses a large health threat.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Washington Post) (Associated Press)

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Over 1 Million People Traveled Through U.S. Airports Friday, Despite COVID-19 Warnings

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  • Over 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Friday, marking the second-highest single day of airport traffic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • The new record comes despite the fact that the CDC has issued a warning against travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging people to stay home instead because COVID-19 cases are already on a steep rise.
  • In Canada, cases spiked after the country celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday in October.
  • While cases were already increasing in the country, contact tracing has linked outbreaks to holiday gatherings, which likely accelerated the speed of spread.

Cases and Travel Both Increase

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is expected to worsen the already increasing coronavirus outbreak in the United States. 

Currently, the country has seen over 12.3 million cases and lost more than 256,000 lives to this virus. On Friday, the U.S. broke its record for new cases in a single day, reporting 198,500 cases. The daily average has reached 171,462 cases a day and roughly one-quarter of all cases in the U.S. have come from just the month of November. 

These circumstances paint a grim picture of what could come after all of the traveling and large gatherings that are expected to happen over the holiday, even after repeated warning against doing so.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling and advised that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The CDC told travelers to ask themselves questions, like if cases are high in their home or destination, if their method of travel makes social distancing difficult, and if there are travel restrictions in their area. If the answers to any of those questions are yes, people should “consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.”

Despite these warnings, air travel is on the rise in the country. On Friday, more than 1 million people passed through airports, marking the second-busiest day of air travel since the pandemic began. While this is 1.5 million people less than the same day last year, the travel surge troubles health officials who fear the virus could spread as people gather with their families. 

Case Spike After Canada’s Thanksgiving

All the U.S. has to do is look to its neighbor to the North in order to find out just what kind of impact Thanksgiving can have on coronavirus cases. Two weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, the country saw a spike in cases. While cases were already on the rise at the time, experts believe that holiday gatherings contributed to and accelerated the spread.

“Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data,” Dr. Laura Rosella, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto told CBS News.

Contact tracing in the country showed a significant transmission from household gatherings stemming from Thanksgiving. 

“One local health unit that reported about 12 people being infected because of a Thanksgiving gathering,” Rosella explained. 

It’s not the only reason the cases are increasing, it’s not the only setting in which transmission is occurring, but definitely when people gathered indoors it did transmit COVID.”

Superspreading Events

Still, people are more likely to feel safe with their family, no matter how high the COVID-19 risk actually is. Superspreading weddings are among the strongest examples of this, as numerous have led to significant outbreaks because couples thought it was safe to gather with friends, family, and other people they trust.

“Many people don’t believe that you can actually catch it from your family and friends. They feel safe when they are around people that they know,” Karen Potts, the director of the Adams County Health Department in eastern Washington explained to NBC News. “And I think that’s why this sort of event happens. People just feel safe, and they go to the event, and it just spreads so rapidly.”

One August wedding in Maine, for instance, was liked to 177 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Many of those cases include people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, none of the deaths traced back to the wedding were attendees. 

An October wedding in Cincinnati led to 32 of the 83 guests getting COVID-19, including grandparents of the bride and groom. In Washington, a 300 person wedding earlier this month has led to 17 people getting the virus so far. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (NBC News) (Washington Post)

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