Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf faced questions from lawmakers Thursday on the Trump administration’s response to protests at a federal building in Portland, Ore., in a hearing before the Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Wolf said in his opening statement that the “full, augmented federal force” remains in Portland, on standby, amid protests.

Here are some significant developments:
  • With the United States confronting a persistent reckoning spurred by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Seattle’s City Council moved to cut some police funding and reduce the number of officers.
  • A move to disband the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s killing faced an uncertain future after a commission blocked the City Council from putting a necessary initiative on the November ballot.
August 6, 2020 at 9:08 PM EDT

New York man charged with arson after police car is set on fire

A 25-year-old man was charged with arson for allegedly setting fire to a police car in Rochester, N.Y., the Justice Department said Thursday. The man also was charged with conspiracy to commit arson.

Christopher Tindal attended a peaceful protest for racial justice outside the Public Safety Building in Rochester on May 30, a demonstration prompted by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis just days before. But as dusk fell, the demonstration devolved into vandalism, property damage, looting and burning.

Tindal and another protester, Dyshika McFadden, who previously was charged with arson and conspiracy to commit arson, used an aerosol can to set fire to a police vehicle near the protest, according to court documents. The duo were caught on police static cameras, footage from a law enforcement aerial drone and Facebook Live videos.

“As alleged in the various charging documents filed against them, these individuals, including Mr. Tindal, engaged in acts of ‘violent rioting’ not ‘peaceful protest,’ ” said James P. Kennedy Jr., U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York. “Instead of speaking-out in pursuit of the ideal of justice, these defendants acted-out in denigration of it, and as such, they have been appropriately charged in federal court.”

Tindal’s arrest brings the total number of those charged with protest-related violence in Buffalo and Rochester to 13, the report stated. If convicted, Tindal faces a penalty of five to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 6, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT

Milwaukee oversight board, critical of police response to protests, demotes police chief

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission unanimously voted Thursday night to demote Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who the civilian board said poorly handled the police response to protests in the city sparked by George Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day.

Commissioners earlier this year reprimanded Morales for the department’s deployment of tear gas against protesters, with one board member saying in June that using the cough- and tear-inducing gas during a viral pandemic was “unacceptable.”

The commission issued 11 directives to Morales in mid-July and warned the chief that if he did not adhere to the orders he could be fired or punished. Those directives included issuing reports after officer-involved shootings and creating a public report on the department’s tear-gas use, as well as acquiring the board’s approval on overtime and promotions, Milwaukee’s Fox 6 reported.

“It should be no surprise that we have issued directives,” Nelson Soler, a member of the commission, said Thursday night, “and it should be no surprise that I personally don’t feel you have worked with us as your oversight board.”

On Wednesday, in anticipation of the board’s decision, Morales told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a vote in favor of his removal was “not going to be the end of it. … There’s an outpouring of support and at the end of the day, we’ll see what happens.” Morales has hired an attorney and said he was considering the possibility of legal action.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) told the Journal Sentinel earlier Thursday there was a “blood feud” between Morales and Steven DeVougas, the commission’s chair. “I think it’s all really bad for our city and they both should be embarrassed,” the mayor said.

The board demoted Morales to captain, the rank he held before he was appointed as chief.

By Ben Guarino
August 6, 2020 at 8:48 PM EDT

Senate Democrats in Virginia unveil wide-ranging police overhaul

Democrats in the Virginia Senate unveiled a wide-ranging bill to overhaul policing in the state Thursday ahead of a special session this month in which criminal justice issues will be one of the centerpieces of debate.

The proposal touches on the recruitment of officers, training, use of force, standards of conduct and accountability, but it sidesteps some hot-button issues that have bogged down reform efforts in other states and already generated controversy in Virginia.

Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) said at a news conference that legislators were responding to the national reckoning on policing that has followed the deaths of African Americans at the hands of officers in other parts of the country.

By Justin Jouvenal
August 6, 2020 at 5:14 PM EDT

New body camera footage shows Cleveland police tear gassing peaceful protester

Newly released footage from a body camera shows a police officer discharging tear gas into a peaceful protester’s face during a demonstration in downtown Cleveland in late May.

The footage from a Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputy reveals use of force by officers to control protests for racial justice and police restructuring following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

The Cleveland Police Department is already facing two excessive force lawsuits over officers’ actions during the May 30 protests that escalated into riots, reports.

In the body camera footage, a White woman can be heard talking to police officers as a man approaches behind her with a parking sign. The woman calls the line of police officers a “pathetic disgrace” seconds before an officer unloads an orange gas into her eyes.

“What did I do?” she asked, as the incident was being recorded by another officer’s body camera. “I stood here. You watched it. I stood there, talking to you. And look at my face."

The moment seemed to mark an escalation between protesters and police, as protesters began throwing bottles and rocks into the line of officers. Officers returned fire, launching tear gas canisters and grenades into the crowd.

The footage was obtained by months after the news outlet demanded its release.

Department spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia responded to a list of questions asked Wednesday by saying that the incident was “under investigation."

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 6, 2020 at 4:33 PM EDT

Indiana man charged with hate crime for making threats against his Black neighbor

A 50-year-old man in Indiana has been charged with a hate crime for threatening “to intimidate and interfere” with his Black neighbor, the Justice Department said Thursday. The man was also charged with two counts of unlawfully possessing firearms.

Shephard Hoehn, of Lawrence, Ind., began to harass his Black neighbor in June, according to court documents. Hoehn was reportedly angry that the neighbor hired a construction crew to remove a tree from the neighbor’s property.

The man allegedly threatened his neighbor in multiple racist ways. Hoehn “placed and burned a cross above the fence line facing his neighbor’s property,” the Justice Department said in a statement. He also “created and displayed a swastika on the outer side of his fence, facing his neighbor’s property; created and displayed a large sign containing a variety of anti-Black racial slurs next to the swastika; visibly displayed a machete near the sign with the racial slurs; loudly played the song ‘Dixie’ on repeat; and threw eggs at his neighbor’s house,” the statement said.

The FBI and the Lawrence police department investigated the case. When FBI agents searched Hoehn’s house in July, they said, they found guns, which he was not permitted to have because he was also a fugitive in a Missouri case.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charges, the Justice Department said.

“Although the First Amendment protects hateful, ignorant and morally repugnant beliefs and speech, it does not protect those who choose to take criminal actions based on those beliefs,” said Josh Minkler, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, according to Indianapolis news station Fox 59. “This office will continue to prosecute federal hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

By Ben Guarino
August 6, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT

Suspect in Seattle protest zone shooting charged with murder

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed murder charges against a teenager who allegedly shot and killed a 19-year-old inside Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in late June.

Marcel Long, 18, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the killing of Seattle resident Lorenzo Anderson, who died at Harborview Medical Center shortly after the shooting.

Long confronted Anderson with a handgun inside the CHOP zone in the early hours of June 20 and chased after him until he was restrained by witnesses, according to court documents. Surveillance video shows that Long broke free from the restraints and raced after Anderson, ultimately aiming the gun into the crowded street.

Anderson suffered multiple gunshot wounds, the report said.

Officials said that Long, who remains at large, may have fled the state after the shooting. His bail was set at $2 million and he is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 19.

“The defendant’s willingness to fire his weapon around crowds of people, in his effort to kill Lorenzo, demonstrates the severe danger to the community and the risk of harm to others,” documents state. “His immediate flight also demonstrates his desire to avoid being held accountable for this crime.”

The incident marked the first of several shootings inside the CHOP zone. The violence, which rocked Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for weeks, ultimately led to its shutdown in early July.

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 6, 2020 at 2:33 PM EDT

Chad Wolf defends Trump administration’s Portland protest response

Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf on Thursday defended his handling of the protests in Portland, Ore., and bristled at criticism from his predecessors, telling a Senate panel that former DHS secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff were “dead wrong” when they raised concerns that the Trump administration’s response had gone too far.

Appearing before the Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Wolf said DHS officers and agents were deployed to Portland to protect federal buildings from destructive attacks and claimed they did not interfere with peaceful protests. He blamed city and state officials for cutting off cooperation with the Trump administration, including a Portland City Council resolution that directed local police to sever ties with federal authorities.

“DHS law enforcement officers received almost no assistance from state and local law enforcement in Portland,” he said. “They were left to defend the courthouse besieged by attempts of arson and constant destruction. This circumstance should never have happened.”

After images circulated last month of federal agents in camouflage uniforms using unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters, both Ridge and Chertoff — who served under George W. Bush as the country’s first DHS secretaries — expressed concerns that the actions could hurt the department’s reputation.

Wolf said he has spoken to both men since then: “At the end of conversation, they thanked me and said they did not know all the facts,” Wolf told the panel.

By Nick Miroff
August 6, 2020 at 2:31 PM EDT

Judge’s blistering opinion says courts have placed police beyond accountability

A federal judge made clear in his blistering opinion that he thought Clarence Jamison was doing nothing more than driving a Mercedes as a Black man when he was stopped by a White Mississippi police officer. The officer detained Jamison for nearly two hours, tore his car apart looking for drugs and left him on the side of the road when nothing was found.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves placed the 2013 case alongside others that have sparked outrage, citing the deaths at the hands of police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. He lamented that thousands had lost their lives to police use-of-force and countless others had been subject to misconduct by officers.

Even so, Reeves dismissed Jamison’s civil suit arguing that Richland police officer Nick McClendon had violated his rights. In an opinion released Monday, Reeves wrote that the case was a miscarriage of justice, but that his hands were tied by a once-obscure legal doctrine that is coming under increasing fire as the nation reckons with how to hold police responsible for misdeeds: qualified immunity.

By Justin Jouvenal
August 6, 2020 at 1:02 PM EDT

Videos show jail officers restraining North Carolina inmate

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Body camera videos from a North Carolina jail show a man, who died days after his arrest, struggling with guards to get up from where he lay on the floor, calling out for his mother and yelling “I can’t breathe!” more than 20 times as they restrained him.

The videos released Wednesday show the moments in December when John Neville, 56, was told by a nurse in the Forsyth County jail in Winston-Salem that he had a seizure. Neville died at a hospital of a brain injury Dec. 4, three days after his arrest on a warrant accusing him of assaulting a woman.

Five former jail officers and a nurse were charged in July with involuntary manslaughter in Neville’s death.

By Associated Press
August 6, 2020 at 12:40 PM EDT

Man pleads guilty to making threatening call to burn down Black church in Va.

A 63-year-old North Carolina man faces a maximum of 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to making a threat over the phone to burn down an African American church in Virginia Beach, officials said.

Prosecutors said John M. Bareswill called a Virginia Beach church that has a mostly Black congregation on June 7. During the call, he made “racially derogatory remarks, and threatened to set the church on fire,” according to court documents and a statement from the Justice Department.

The call came several days after one of the church’s leaders had participated in a “public prayer vigil and peaceful demonstration” after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, prosecutors said.

By Dana Hedgpeth
August 6, 2020 at 12:36 PM EDT

‘Policing looks different’ in some neighborhoods, Condoleezza Rice says

Appearing at a recent forum, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice spoke about the debates raging nationwide this summer, including policing and the removal of Confederate statues.

“We know that in certain neighborhoods policing looks different than it looks in other neighborhoods,” Rice said Tuesday during a video discussion at the annual Aspen Security Forum shown on C-Span. “And because of economic circumstances, those neighborhoods tend to be more minority than not. Is that something in the system? Yes, that is."

Rice, a former George W. Bush administration official and an Alabama native, also shared her views on statues being torn down or threatened with removal across the country.

“I actually don’t know why anybody wants to defend the Confederacy and Confederate monuments,” she said.

But she noted, for instance, that a statue in Washington depicting Abraham Lincoln and an ex-slave in broken shackles at his feet that activists are calling to be removed was actually funded by the wages of freed slaves. “So this has gotten a little out of control, frankly.”

Rice said she believes America “had a birth defect, slavery was a birth defect.”

But the former national security adviser does not want a colorblind society.

“I don’t really care for colorblind, but I would like to get to the place when you see somebody who is Black, you don’t have preconceived notions of what they’re capable of, who they are,” she said.

By Donna Owens
August 6, 2020 at 12:10 PM EDT

Lack of study and oversight raises concerns about tear gas

Tear gas has commonly been used as a defensive tool by law enforcement to disperse rioters.

But during the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have sometimes used it offensively, including against peaceful protesters, children and pregnant women, without providing an escape route or by releasing excessive amounts of gas, witnesses and human rights advocates say.

Law enforcement officials say tear gas, if used properly, is an effective tool for crowd control.

But interviews by the Associated Press with medical researchers; federal regulatory agencies; and a review of U.S. government-funded scientific studies raise questions about the safety of the gas, especially about its use on individuals in confined spaces, in excessive quantities and when it’s fired directly at protesters.

Medical professionals interviewed by the AP said the use of tear gas is particularly concerning during the coronavirus pandemic. The AP also found that there is no government oversight of the manufacture and use of tear gas. Instead, the industry is left to regulate itself.

Read more here.

August 6, 2020 at 11:42 AM EDT

Portland police say ‘several’ people arrested during demonstrations

After federal agents largely withdrew from the area around the federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., that had been the epicenter of nightly clashes, things calmed in that part of the city.

But protests have continued in Portland, with some new flash points and volatile confrontations emerging in other areas. Police said that a precinct was damaged in a riot late Wednesday and that some officers were struck with fireworks and heavy objects.

Demonstrators, meanwhile, have said that Portland police — who have long had a troubled relationship with minority communities — have overreacted in using force against them.

Police said there were two different events in Portland on Wednesday. One, they said, was “mostly peaceful” and involved a group blocking traffic downtown. The other involved a group that police say approached the East Precinct, where authorities said some demonstrators shined lasers at officers and one tried to pull down a surveillance camera.

According to police, they declared a riot shortly before 10 p.m. and used a type of tear gas and “crowd-control munitions” on the crowd. Police say that the precinct’s doors were damaged and that officers were hit with items such as rocks and “commercial-grade fireworks.” The confrontations continued into early Thursday morning, police said, and “several arrests” were made.

By Mark Berman
August 6, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT

Biden says he doesn’t hold a grudge against Harris

Biden made clear in an interview broadcast Thursday that he holds no hard feelings toward Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) as he enters the final days of deliberation to choose his vice presidential nominee.

“I don’t hold grudges,” he said. “And I have been very clear that I don’t hold grudges.”

During the Democratic presidential primaries, Harris had attacked Biden’s past praise of segregationist senators and his opposition to federally mandated school busing.

In an interview by leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden was asked about reported comments by former senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a leader of Biden’s vice presidential search effort, about Harris not showing sufficient “remorse.”

“He did not say that to the press. He was talking to someone offline and it was repeated,” Biden said of Dodd’s comments.

By Michael Scherer