Oregon State Police announced they will pull out of downtown Portland where nightly protests have continued for weeks, sometimes devolving into late-night clashes with law enforcement. The decision came after the county district attorney said Tuesday that he will not prosecute most cases against protesters who are arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer or other low-level offenses.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s office said it has received about 550 cases related to protests that have occurred since May 29. About 410 cases are misdemeanors or violations, and many of those will probably be rejected under the new policy.

State police spokesman Timothy R. Fox told The Washington Post that the agency had committed to serving the area for two weeks, a timeline that ended earlier this week.

“The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” Fox said. “Troopers are returning to the communities that they are assigned to serve and protect.”

Here are some significant developments:
  • The Austin City Council unanimously voted Thursday to cut about one-third of next year’s $434 million police budget amid national calls for “defunding” law enforcement agencies.
  • A Minneapolis police officer who was fired for decorating a Christmas tree with racist items has been reinstated after an arbitrator ruled he was wrongly terminated for the November 2018 incident.
  • D.C. police detained demonstrators late Thursday in the Adams Morgan area after the group had been marching for about two hours through Northwest Washington.
August 14, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT

Tennessee trooper is fired after ripping off a civilian’s mask

By Jessica Wolfrom

A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer has been fired after a video emerged of him ripping a mask off a protester near the state capitol.

Officer Harvey Briggs, a 22-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, was terminated for unprofessional conduct Friday after a cellphone video showed Briggs approach Andrew Golden, a civilian who was recording a traffic stop involving two other officers nearby, and removed Golden’s mask.

Briggs warned Golden not to impede on the traffic stop. “Don’t use that language again,” Briggs can be heard saying in the video. “You don’t talk to me like that. … I prefer better language than that out of you.”

Briggs, who was unmasked, is seen marching up to Golden, getting so close that their toes touch, and his face blurring the screen of Golden’s camera. Seconds later, Golden flips the camera around, and the pair are within inches of each other’s faces.

Although the video doesn’t show Briggs removing Golden’s mask, a red and white mask is tossed to the ground and Golden shouts an expletive as Briggs walks away.

“He grabs my mask off of my right ear and rips it off and throws it on the ground,” Golden said, according to WKRN. “And at that point, I’m just dumbfounded.”

Golden said he filed a complaint with the state’s office of professional accountability and he said he believed the trooper should face discipline, WKRN reported.

“It is the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s policy to warn, suspend, demote or dismiss any employee whenever just or legal cause exists,” said a statement released by Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long and Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Dereck Stewart. “Employees shall not commit any act that would reflect discredit upon themselves or the department while on or off duty.”

August 14, 2020 at 7:13 PM EDT

Georgia state trooper charged in traffic-stop shooting of Black man

By Jessica Wolfrom

A Georgia state trooper who shot and killed a 60-year-old Black man during a traffic stop last week will be removed from his job and charged with murder.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday it arrested former officer Jacob Gordon Thompson, who is White, on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault following the shooting of Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis last week.

Thompson tried to stop a Nissan Sentra for a traffic offense on a rural road in Screven County late on Aug. 7, a news release said. The driver initiated a brief chase along several county roads. The trooper used an intervention technique to push the car into a ditch, where it stopped and Thompson fired one round. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Lewis family’s attorney, Francys Johnson, said the trooper initiated the traffic stop over a burned-out taillight, and he asserted that Lewis was shot almost immediately after the trooper forced his car into a ditch, the AP reported.

In a statement on his firm’s website, Johnson called Lewis’s death “unnecessary” and said Lewis died of “a single-gun shot to the face on a rural dirt road.” The GBI documents do not specify the details of the gunshot.

The president of Georgia’s NAACP chapter called the incident another chilling example of a Black man being killed unlawfully by a White law enforcement officer, the AP reported.

Thompson’s attorney, Keith Barber, told the AP that he believes the former trooper “has an excellent character” and that he will be exonerated in this case. Barber could not be reached for further comment Friday night.

The shooting comes amid nationwide protests calling for police reforms and racial justice following the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The incident marks the 56th officer-involved shooting the GBI has been asked to investigate in 2020, WRDW12 reported.

August 14, 2020 at 5:22 PM EDT

Doctors in Texas sound the alarm over police use of ‘less lethal’ munitions

By Jessica Wolfrom

A dozen doctors in Austin cautioned against the use of what are known as “less lethal” munitions to control crowds after examining multiple protesters who had been seriously injured during recent demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice.

In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, doctors from the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas said bean bag rounds fired into crowds by Austin police had caused serious injuries, including a fractured skull.

“Beanbag rounds are purported to be ‘less lethal’ munitions that should not cause penetrating injuries when used at appropriate distances,” the letter said. “Although our report reflects the experience at only one center during a short period and we cannot determine the frequency of injuries when these munitions are used, these findings highlight the fact that beanbag munitions can cause serious harm and are not appropriate for use in crowd control.”

Despite the lack of research dedicated to bean bag munitions, the report sheds new light on the consequences of police tactics deployed across the nation in an effort to control crowds and diffuse sometimes violent demonstrations prompted by the May killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

“Of the 19 people treated at the UT hospital, eight were admitted to the hospital, seven underwent surgery and four retained fragments or entire beanbag bullets,” the AP reported.

The letter is supplemented by documentation of some of the most severe cases, including CT scans showing brain damage and a photograph of a woman with a bloodied bean bag lodged in her cheek. In June, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley pledged to stop firing bean bag rounds into crowds after a teenager was shot in the head and critically injured by a bean bag, the AP reported.

August 14, 2020 at 3:16 PM EDT

University of South Florida officer fired over a racist Twitter bio

By Jessica Wolfrom

A campus police officer in Florida whose Twitter bio cited her as a “KKK member” has been fired, officials said.

The University of South Florida terminated Presley Garcia, 26, after a BayNews9 reporter sent screenshots of Garcia’s Twitter account to the USF police department, prompting an investigation. The account “@presleyyyg,” has since been deleted.

Garcia, who was hired in 2018, admitted the account was hers but claimed a friend had updated the bio five years ago. She told the Tampa Bay Times that she was disappointed in the decision to terminate her.

“There’s all the talk of ‘Back the Blue,’ but not one person had my back,” she said. “I feel helpless and like I’m drowning. No one was willing to just listen to my story, and I feel like the university was just trying to cover their butts.”

USF Police Chief Chris Daniel, who recommended her removal from office, said that Garcia’s actions posed a threat to others.

“If, despite her self-indicated alignment with the KKK, Officer Garcia were to continue her employment as a law enforcement officer, it is reasonable to expect protests and other demonstrations that could disrupt operations of this department and threaten the safety of her co-workers,” Daniel wrote in a letter to Human Resources, reviewed by The Washington Post.

August 14, 2020 at 1:58 PM EDT

Activist charged in toppling of Minnesota Columbus statue

By Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota prosecutor charged an Indigenous activist with a felony on Thursday in the toppling of a Christopher Columbus statue on state Capitol grounds during a rally weeks after the death of George Floyd.

Mike Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is charged with criminal damage to property. Forcia, also a Twin Cities American Indian Movement activist, organized the June 10 American Indian Movement rally at the Capitol that resulted in the toppling of the statue, which came as many similar monuments were being pulled down worldwide after Floyd’s death in late May.

The toppling came after a State Patrol captain warned Forcia of criminal consequences and urged him to work through a Capitol planning board to remove the statue, according to the complaint.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said his office will develop a community engagement process to “determine how best we hold Mr. Forcia accountable while healing our community from the harm that was caused.”

August 14, 2020 at 11:47 AM EDT

Dallas police investigate reports of police brutality amid protests

By Maria Sacchetti

The Dallas Police Department is investigating several arrests after protests in May, including those of a woman shot in the chest with pepper balls and the freelance photographer who documented the incident.

Police spokeswoman Melinda Gutierrez confirmed that “internal affairs” is looking into the incident, which unfolded amid nationwide demonstrations after the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A police officer in that city had knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes before he died.

The investigation also comes as the U.S. Conference of Mayors is calling on cities and towns nationwide to take action to reduce police brutality, in part by mandating body cameras, training police to protect demonstrators’ constitutional rights to protest, and ensuring that problematic officers do not stay in their jobs.

The Dallas Morning News detailed the allegations in a report Sunday against Police Sgt. Roger Rudloff, an officer who has been disciplined in the past for use of force. The News said he told them that he fired at the woman because “she wasn’t doing what we told her to.” He also said he was not wearing a body camera, according to the News.

The Dallas Police Association, the union that represents most officers, had no comment, a spokeswoman said Friday.

After demonstrators filed a lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in Dallas barred the city police in June from deploying “less lethal” weapons, as he put it, such as “tear gas, smoke bombs, flashbangs, pepperballs, mace, and other chemical agents” against protesters, bystanders or the press, unless they pose an immediate threat. The order is in effect through Sept. 9.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he was “extremely disheartened'' by the News’ report, and the City Council has called for an Aug. 18 hearing to question the police chief on the department’s response to the demonstrations, according to the News.

August 14, 2020 at 10:17 AM EDT

Cook County prosecutors announce charges in week’s looting in Chicago

By Associated Press

CHICAGO — Cook County’s state’s attorney’s office Thursday announced 42 people have been charged with felonies in connection with the looting of stores along the city’s premier retail street that occurred earlier in the week.

Prosecutors said among the charges filed include one for attempted murder and 28 for burglary and looting, in addition to aggravated battery, resisting a police officer, theft and criminal damage to property.

“I am committed to keeping our communities safe and continuing to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to demand accountability and seek justice for the people of Cook County,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement.

Foxx, who is up for reelection later in the year, has been criticized as being too lenient after the looting earlier in the summer after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Earlier in the week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Foxx should make sure there will be consequences for Monday’s widespread looting.

“Our expectation is that this is going to be treated with the level of seriousness it should be. Period,” Lightfoot said.

August 14, 2020 at 10:11 AM EDT

A Florida GOP sheriff allegedly ordered the arrest of his lover. Now he’s the one facing charges.

By Teo Armus

Darryl Daniels, the Republican sheriff of Clay County, Fla., dialed his deputy from the quiet suburban road with an urgent plea for backup: He said he was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger."

But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: It was Cierra Smith, his former employee and lover of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair.

Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up in handcuffs. On Thursday, after a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.

August 14, 2020 at 10:10 AM EDT

Police officer fired for racist Christmas decorations returns to work

By Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis police officer who was fired for decorating a Christmas tree with racist items has been reinstated through arbitration, a process that makes it difficult to fire officers and has been cited as an obstacle to police reform.

The arbitrator ruled that Mark Bohnsack was wrongly terminated for the November 2018 incident, but that he must serve a 320-hour suspension without pay, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday. The city has a right to appeal.

Police spokesman John Elder confirmed that Bohnsack is back with the department, but said another officer who was fired over the incident, Brandy Steberg, is not. Elder declined to give further details, saying he wasn’t authorized to discuss personnel matters.

The two officers were fired in the fall after an internal affairs investigation found that they were responsible for decorating a tree in the lobby of a station in a mostly Black precinct with a pack of Newport menthol cigarettes, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, a bag of Takis tortilla chips and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

August 14, 2020 at 10:07 AM EDT

Virginia House Democrats roll out plans for criminal justice overhaul

By Laura Vozzella

RICHMOND — Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates announced plans Thursday for the twin challenges they’ll take up in a special session next week: a criminal justice overhaul sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and a state budget do-over forced on them by the coronavirus pandemic.

The General Assembly’s return to Richmond on Tuesday comes just months after newly empowered Democrats pulled off a raft of legislative wins in the regular session. Floyd’s killing in May by Minneapolis police has Democrats on offense in the realm of social justice, in some cases pushing further than the General Assembly was willing to go just a few months ago.

Virginia House Democrats will try to make it easier for local governments to remove Confederate monuments — revisiting a battle they waged against Senate Democrats in the regular session, when the Senate insisted that localities must clear procedural hurdles before taking them down.

House Democrats are also proposing a ban on police chokeholds and no-knock warrants. Another bill would prohibit sexual relations between officers and arrestees, something that is already banned in many states and is included in a wide-ranging overhaul measure that state Senate Democrats offered last week. One would expand the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race.

August 14, 2020 at 10:06 AM EDT

Austin cuts police budget by one-third amid national ‘defund’ push

By Associated Press

AUSTIN — In a unanimous vote, the Austin City Council moved Thursday to cut about one-third of next year’s $434 million police budget amid national calls for “defunding” law enforcement agencies in favor of spending more money on social services.

That will come to just over $150 million that will be redirected to social services in the 2021 fiscal budget, which starts Oct. 1.

Beginning in October, about $21 million will fund social services, community resources including response to the novel coronavirus, mental health aid programs, violence prevention, victim services and food, housing and abortion access.

Another $80 million will be redistributed to similar city services throughout the year, and $49 million will be spent on city’s Reimagine Safety Fund, which aims to provide alternative forms of public safety and community support besides policing.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference after the vote that the budget cuts and plans to reimagine the city’s policing would lead to changes unlike anything he had seen in his 30 years of working at the police department.

August 14, 2020 at 10:05 AM EDT

New Mexico city agrees to police reforms in choking death settlement

By Associated Press

A New Mexico city will seek to adopt racial bias training for police and may require officers to intervene in possible excessive force episodes following the choking death of a Latino man, according to an agreement in a lawsuit announced Thursday.

The deal between the city of Las Cruces and a lawyer for the family of Antonio Valenzuela was part of the relatives’ push to reform Las Cruces police following their wrongful death lawsuit in the case.

The Washington Post has reported that between 2015 and April, Las Cruces — where nearly 60 percent of residents are Hispanic — recorded the highest per-capita rate of police killings in the nation.

Under the agreement, Las Cruces police agreed to ban all chokeholds and fire any officer who violates the new policy — something city officials say the city already does. Police also must adopt a warning system involving officers who use excessive force and forge a policy so officers can undergo yearly mental health exams.

August 14, 2020 at 9:52 AM EDT

3 Milwaukee residents headed to D.C. event are arrested in Indiana

By Associated Press

WARSAW, Ind. — Three men who are members of a Milwaukee group that’s marching to the nation’s capital for a national commemoration of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington were arrested in northern Indiana after police said they were blocking traffic on a highway.

Frank David Sensabaugh, 30; Eric Ajala, 20; and Tory Lowe, 44, were arrested Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction of traffic, Indiana State Police said. Lowe was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement, police said.

All three Milwaukee residents were taken to the Kosciusko County Jail and later released, The Times-Union of Warsaw reported. State Police spokesman Sgt. Ted Bohner said all three are Black men.

Sensabaugh told the newspaper after their release that they planned to sue Kosciusko County.

“You treat Black people differently than you do White people,” he said. “So let’s play the game to see who loses more money.”

Sensabaugh, who goes by the name Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh, and Lowe are leaders of a group that’s marching nearly 800 miles from Milwaukee to D.C. to join an Aug. 28 commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

August 14, 2020 at 8:03 AM EDT

Oregon State Police are pulling out of downtown Portland

By Jessica Wolfrom

Oregon State Police are pulling out of downtown Portland, a spokesman for the department said Thursday night.

“The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” spokesperson Timothy R. Fox told The Washington Post. “This decision was based on the fact that our two week commitment ended last night. … Troopers are returning to the communities that they are assigned to serve and protect.”

The decision to remove police presence from the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, the focal point of the demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice, comes after clashes between protesters and police erupted again this week following the pullout of federal troops from the state in July.

Police declared a riot early Thursday as a group of protesters set fires and exploded commercial-grade fireworks outside the courthouse. Officers then set off tear gas. It was the first time that Portland police officers released tear gas downtown, Oregon Live reported.

The city’s police department said in a statement Thursday morning that “a large explosive and other fireworks were thrown towards officers, along with fist-sized rocks, bottles, and cans of paint,” posing “life safety issues” and prompting officers to use elevated levels of force. Additionally, the release said, “during the dispersal, one officer’s hand was severely hurt and several others sustained minor injuries.”