North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen’s Hanging Death

North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen's Hanging Death

The family of Lennon Lacy, a black 17-year-old found hanging from a swing set in a North Carolina trailer park in August, wants a federal inquiry into his death. Local Bladenboro authorities ruled the high school football player’s death a suicide due to depression and closed the case within five days. Family members say the investigation happened too quickly. The local NAACP “has been careful to not call the teen’s death a lynching,” the ABC affiliate reports. “However, it’s raising the possibility that Lennon may have been a victim of ongoing racial tensions from whites in his community.” 

A separate examination of Lacy by a pathologist hired by the family and the NAACP “found a number of inexplicable oversights,” according to IBT:

Lacy’s hands were not bagged to protect them from contamination, no photographs were taken by police at the scene and the shoes found on Lacy’s feet did not match the ones his family had last seen him wearing and were a size and a half too small. The shoes found on Lacy’s body were removed from the body bag sometime between when the body was placed inside it and when it was delivered to the state medical examiner. Additionally, Daily Kos reports that different agencies on site argued over evidence being taken and the need for an autopsy.

Most notably, though, Roberts’ examination found that given Lacy’s height, weight and items at the scene where his body was found, it would have been virtually impossible for him to hang himself.

There will be a march this Saturday in Bladenboro, N.C., to honor Lacy and “bring awareness to the case.” Read more about it on the Guardian and IBT.

House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • The federal government is “allowing” tribal nations (which already have tribal sovereignty) to grow and sell marijuana on reservations, regardless of what the state the reservation is in thinks about it. Not sure if this means medical marijuana would be reimbursed by flexible spending accounts when purchased on the rez. 
  • Like us on Facebook? Cool. Dislike us on Facebook? Not so much
TAGS: Morning Rush

Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Beverly Johnson is the latest and highest profile woman, along with fellow model and friend Janice Dickinson, to publicly accuse Bill Cosby of drugging her. (Dickinson also accuses Cosby of rape.) Johnson, a former supermodel and businesswoman writes in Vanity Fair:

I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?

As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

Read the rest in Vanity Fair, which reports, Cosby’s attorneys declined to comment.

[Video] How Police Are Using Social Media to Lock Up Harlem Teens

[Video] How Police Are Using Social Media to Lock Up Harlem Teens

Teens living in high-crime areas have a new concern: cops tracking them through their Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and other social media posts. A new Verge investigation uses Harlem as a case study to look at how police have been using social media’s strength—cataloguing friends and friends of friends—to catch violent perpetrators and their innocent friends and siblings, too. As noted here and herehigh crime neighborhoods are already highly surveilled, i.e. foot patrols, cameras (street corners, public housing, shops, laundromats), eye-in-the-sky surveillance towers, helicopters overhead and perhaps more. For teens in these neighborhoods, the Internet is no reprieve. From Verge:

Over the last five years, the New York City police department and Manhattan prosecutors office have ramped up their efforts to understand, oversee, and infiltrate the digital lives of teenagers from crime-prone neighborhoods like Harlem. They track the activity of kids through services like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, going so far as to create fake accounts and spark online friendships to sidestep privacy settings. A recent indictment discusses activity of crew members as young as 10, and arrested several 15-year-olds following a four and half year investigation.

Read (and watch above) journalist Ben Popper’s story of brothers, Jelani and Asheem Henry on And the watchers may not be the NSA, but digital surveillance and online privacy also impact poor and working class communities of color. Learn more here and here.

Torture Report Reactions, USAid Infiltrates Cuban Hip-Hop, TIME’s Person of the Year

Torture Report Reactions, USAid Infiltrates Cuban Hip-Hop, TIME's Person of the Year

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

‘Rectal Feeding’ the CIA Used on Alleged Terrorists Had Zero Nutritional Value

'Rectal Feeding' the CIA Used on Alleged Terrorists Had Zero Nutritional Value

Among the many “enhanced interrogation methods” (a.k.a physical and psychological acts of torture) that CIA personnel and independent contractors used on the men they designated as Muslim terrorists and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and “black” sites around the world was “rectal feeding.”

The Daily Beast’s Russell Saunders points out how this horrific act of violence has no medical or nutritional value: 

Even if one accepts the highly dubious notion that anyone believed “rectal feedings” were a legitimate means of nourishing someone, there was no reason to consider such extreme measures in the first place. The rule of thumb in medicine is “if the guts works, use it,” meaning that it’s best to use the stomach to hydrate a patient if it’s functioning properly. There is no indication that these detainees couldn’t have had tubes inserted into their stomachs through their noses for the purposes of feeding them, assuming that respecting their right to refuse food had already been thrown out the window. For hydration, an IV would have been effective, as CIA medical officers conceded.

In other words, it’s a sickening, humiliating twist on the already-painful force-feeding of imprisoned people through their noses. 

Do Body Cameras Actually Reduce Police Brutality Complaints?

Do Body Cameras Actually Reduce Police Brutality Complaints?

Manufacturers may be the only sure winners in President Obama’s new $75 million plan to outfit cops with body cameras. As everyone tries to figure out now what the new “Body Worn Camera Partnership Program” will mean for police-community relations in their neighborhoods, a three-month Fusion investigation finds body cams help cops, not the community. One big issue: officers control the on/off switch. Says Fusion in its review of records from five police departments, “the way body cameras are used usually serve police more than citizens charging misconduct. And in the data from two cities provided to Fusion, there was little evidence police body cameras reduced police involved shootings or use of force incidents.”

The five participating police departments: Albuquerque, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Oakland and Ft. Worth.

Read more at Fusion. And get digital civil liberties watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s take on Obama’s body-cam plan, here.

(h/t Fusion)

Torture Report, Pirate Bay Offline, Laughing Gas for Depression

Torture Report, Pirate Bay Offline, Laughing Gas for Depression

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Michael Jeffries, the 71-year-old who touted the chain’s image as a rich white youth brand, steps down suddenly
TAGS: Morning Rush

Complaints of NYPD Misconduct Hit All-Time High

Complaints of NYPD Misconduct Hit All-Time High

Between 2006 and 2012, complaints of New York Police Department misconduct jumped 150 percent to an all-time high of 5,601 in 2012, Al Jazeera America reported. Those complaints are expensive, too. The city pays roughly $45 million every year to settle claims or pay plaintiffs who win in trial. 

While it’s not the most expensive line item among all the kinds of settlements the city must pay out (medical malpractice tops the list), alleged police misconduct is the top claim type filed against New York City.

The information comes amidst the aftermath of a New York City grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who choked Eric Garner. In October, Garner’s family announced plans to file a $75 million suit against New York City over his death. 

Read the rest at Al Jazeera America.

[Video] ICYMI: President Obama’s BET Interview on Race, Policing and National Protests

[Video] ICYMI: President Obama's BET Interview on Race, Policing and National Protests

In response to sustained national uproar over high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, President Obama sat with BET’s Jeff Johnson for a 25-minute interview that aired last night. “Absolutely,” Obama agreed that the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. On the question of whether he’s been aggressive enough in talking about the number of African-American men shot versus white men, Obama says (11:51):

Well, sometimes people’s concerns are not based on fact. If you look at after what [happened] with [Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner] I’m being pretty explicit about my concern. And being explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem… I think sometimes what people are frustrated by is me not saying, “This is what the outcome should have been.” And that I can not do institutionally. It is my Justice Department that is investigating these cases. And part of the rule of law is that I’m not putting my fingers, my thumb on the scale of justice. It could compromise investigations if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome. So I’m sure there’re some folks who just want me to say, “In such-and-such-a case this is what I think shoulda happened,” and “If I’d been on a grand jury this is what I woulda said.”…I’ll leave it to people to speculate on what I’m saying to myself or Michelle when we’re alone at night. 

Watch the rest of Obama’s interview on BET.

Torture Report, #ShutItDown Continues, ‘Selma’ Makes AFI’s Top 2014 Films List

Torture Report, #ShutItDown Continues, 'Selma' Makes AFI's Top 2014 Films List

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning (don’t skip Curiosity right at the end!): 

  • An executive summary of what is sometimes called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which is a nicer way of saying “torture” post 9/11, could be released as early as Tuesday. 
  • AFI’s top 10 films of the year is actually a list of 11 films—and includes “Selma.”
TAGS: Morning Rush

Justice Department Updates Racial Profiling Rules—With Big Exceptions

Justice Department Updates Racial Profiling Rules--With Big Exceptions

Attorney General Eric Holder is set to announce new anti-racial profiling regulations today which will expand characteristics that federal law enforcement are barred from profiling to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. The guidance applies to federal law enforcement and state and local police engaged in federal law-enforcement duties, but includes broad exceptions. Under the pretext of national security concerns, the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), will still be allowed to engage in profiling in the course of airport screening work and while engaged in activities “in the vicinity of the border and ICE enforcement ports of entry,” according to the regulations, CBS reported.

The guidance is an update from the original, released in 2003 under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, which only prohibited profiling by race and ethnicity. The updated guidance preserves exceptions for the Department of Homeland Security included in the 2003 policy.

Holder heralded the new regulations last week in a speech in Atlanta, saying that they would “help end racial profiling.”

“Profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective, because it wastes precious resources and undermines the public trust,” Holder said ahead of the release of the regulations, MSNBC reported.

“Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level—and the widespread concern about trust in the criminal justice process which so many have raised throughout the nation—it’s imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices,” Holder said.

Such wide exceptions for the Department of Homeland Security do “little to nothing to protect some minority populations that have to endure unfair targeting by law enforcement every day,” Laura Murphy, legislative office director at ACLU Washington, said in a statement. The ACLU praised the gains but criticized the loopholes, such that altogether, “this Guidance is not an adequate response to the crisis of racial profiling in America.”

“It’s baffling that even as the government recognizes that bias-based policing is patently unacceptable, it gives a green light for the FBI, TSA, and CBP to profile racial, religious and other minorities at or in the vicinity of the border and in certain national security contexts, and does not apply the Guidance to most state and local law enforcement,” Murphy said.

Protests Continue, Delhi Bans Uber, Mark Wahlberg Wants Racially-Fueled Crimes Pardoned

Protests Continue, Delhi Bans Uber, Mark Wahlberg Wants Racially-Fueled Crimes Pardoned

Here’s what I’m reading up on:

  • Uruguay receives four men from GITMO—four from Syria, one from Tunisia and one from Palestine—who were imprisoned for more than a decade but never so much as faced trial.
  • From Leavenworth Prison, Chelsea Manning writes about how trans women—and trans women of color in particular—are routinely denied their rights. 
  • North Korea, whose Kim Jong Un is the butt of the joke in an upcoming film, says hacking Sony was a “righteous deed,” but denies doing it
TAGS: Morning Rush

[VIDEO] James Baldwin: “I Can’t Afford Despair”

[VIDEO] James Baldwin:

In the short clip above, essayist, novelist and truth-teller James Baldwin explains why he can’t afford despair. Watch, if only for his gorgeous smile at the end.

(h/t The Society Pages)

New York City Mayor Says, #BlackLivesMatter

New York City Mayor Says, #BlackLivesMatter

Set to a backdrop of ongoing protests, New York City’s police union and mayor are publicly at odds over the grand jury’s decision not to charge officer Daniel Pantaleo in the video-taped homicide of Eric Garner. Elected on a progressive platform, Mayor Bill de Blasio heads not only the country’s largest city but its policing laboratory. New York City is where policies like COMPSTAT and “broken windows” got their start. De Blasio also has a bi-racial son with his African-American wife, Chirlane McCray. And it’s partly from that personal lens that de Blasio framed his 20-minute response to the grand jury’s decision at a press conference this Wednesday. The result is a speech that whatever its limits, strikes an unprecedented note of empathy for the fear felt by black and brown families:

Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers he may face. He’s a good young man, law abiding young man who never would think to do anything wrong. And yet because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers—who are there to protect him. … For so many of our young people there’s a fear and for so many of our families there’s a fear. So I’ve had to worry over the years. Chirlane’s had to worry, “Is Dante safe?” each night. There’re so many families in the city who feel that each and every night: “Is my child safe?” And not just from the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods but, are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors. That’s reality. …

You’ve heard in so many places, people of all backgrounds utter the same basic phrase. They’ve said, black lives matter. And they said it because it had to be said. It’s a phrase…that should be self-evident. But our history sadly requires us to say, black lives matter.

Notwithstanding that it’s the present that necessitates the phrase, #BlackLivesMatter, “the people” was another powerful theme of de Blasio’s speech. His insistence that change comes not from city hall or police leadership but “people who’ve demanded it,” make it worth the listen (see clip above).

While de Blasio re-emphasized his faith in commissioner William Bratton (known for implementing COMPSTAT and “broken windows”), he displeased at least another key sector of police leadership. Cops, according to their union, felt, “thrown under the bus.” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association:

“[Mayor de Blasio] spoke about, ‘we have to teach our children that their interaction with the police and that they should be afraid of New York City police officers.’ That’s not true,” Lynch said. “We have to teach our children, our sons and our daughters, no matter what they look like, to respect New York City police officers, teach them to comply with New York City police officers even if they think it’s unjust.”

The war of words in New York City is the latest pushback from police unions feeling under siege—and it’s serving to draw attention to their roles in advancing accountability and keeping abusive cops on the street. Asked about race and policing, Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police says, “it’s not an issue of race”:

The FOP’s been on record over the last 15 years denouncing racial profiling. It’s not a legitimate police practice; it’s not taught in any police academy in the country. That doesn’t mean there aren’t officers who have racial bias. But any cop who demonstrates any form of racial bias should be put off the job, and we support that.

The one topic that’s not being discussed and is never discussed is [that] we don’t believe it’s an issue of race. We believe it’s an issue of poverty. Communities that have distrust of law enforcement — it’s because law enforcement is the only part of government they ever see. They’re poor; infant mortality rates are higher; single-family homes are higher; unemployment is higher; people don’t live as long as the average American. And that is the issue in every community in America that we police.

Read more in The Washington Post


Black Trans Woman Killed in Los Angeles While Pounding on Door for Help

Deshawnda “Tata” Sanchez, 21, desperately sought help as she pounded on the front door of a home in Compton in the early morning hours of Wednesday morning. But help arrived too late. Sanchez was shot and killed by someone detectives believe was out to rob her.

“Deshawnda is a transgender female,”  LAPD Detective Christopher Barling told KTLA. “At this point we cannot say it’s a hate crime but we have not ruled out that as being a possibility.”

A heart-wrenching but potentially helpful detail in the case is that the killing was caught on a nearby surveillance camera. Diana Williams, Sanchez’s sister, watched it.”The footage, it was heartbreaking,” she said.

Sanchez’s death seems eerily similar to Aniya Parker’s, another black transgender woman who was killed in Los Angeles in recent months during what police suspect was a robbery. Parker’s killing was also caught on camera, and while a $50,000 reward has been offered in the case, no one has been arrested for the crime.

Shortly after Parker’s death in October, the Anti-Violence Project issued a statement bringing attention to a rash of recent murders of transgender women of color. The statement noted that the organization has “documented 18 anti-LGBTQ homicides last year. Of those homicide victims, almost 90 [percent] were people of color, almost three-quarters (72 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women of color.”

The group detailed homicides of trans women since June 2014:

  • June 3: the body of Kandy Hall was discovered in a field in Northeast Baltimore in what local police believe to be a homicide.
  • June 12: Zoraida Reyes’s body was discovered behind a Dairy Queen in Anaheim, Calif., Her death has been ruled suspicious by investigators because it is believed her body was moved to that location, but has not yet been ruled a homicide.
  • June 19: the body of Yaz’min Shancez was found behind a Budget Truck Rental on Powell Street in Fort Myers, Fla. According to local media reports, local police believe her death to be a homicide, and her body had been burned.
  • June 26: Tiff Edwards was found shot to death in the middle of the road in Walnut Hills, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.
  • July 16: Mia Henderson was discovered in an alley in Baltimore while police were serving a search warrant in the area. According to police, she appears to have died from trauma to the body, indicating homicide.
  • August 15: An unidentified gender non-conforming person was the victim of a homicide in Detroit. Police have arrested Eduardo Moss, who they believe was the victim’s partner, in connection to this homicide. Local authorities also believe this homicide is connected to two other attacks against transgender women in Michigan in recent weeks.
  • September 7: Alejandra Leos, a transgender woman of color, was shot outside her home following a domestic dispute that originated within the home. Marshall Pegues, age 21, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.

Last month, BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden reported that transgender women in Ohio are at the heart of a national crisis.




223 Arrested in NYC, Grammy Nominations, Cosby Sues Accuser

223 Arrested in NYC, Grammy Nominations, Cosby Sues Accuser

Here’s what I’m reading up on:

  • Two hundred and twenty three people were arrested in New York City as nationwide protests continue over a grand jury’s decision to not indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death. 
  • Bill Cosby says he’s the victim, and is suing one of the many, many women accusing him of sexual assault. 
  • The flu vaccine won’t help much against mutations to this season’s most common flu virus. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

More Than 80 #ThisStopsToday Actions Planned Nationwide for Thursday

More Than 80 #ThisStopsToday Actions Planned Nationwide for Thursday

The people who brought you the Tumblr that listed actions ahead of a St. Louis grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson—the Ferguson National Response Network—brings you the list of actions planned for Thursday, the day after a Staten Island grand jury failed to  indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death.

So far, there are 84 planned actions in 29 states, plus the District of Columbia. While some of the protests are taking place in parks and college campuses, others are happening outside of government buildings such as police headquarters and courthouses. There will be actions in:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • D.C.
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Ney York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin

Be sure to check the Ferguson National Response Network’s Tumblr, which also lists actions by state, for updates. Submissions to announce non-listed events are accepted on a linked page

White Phoenix PD Officer Shoots and Kills Unarmed Black Man

White Phoenix PD Officer Shoots and Kills Unarmed Black Man

An unnamed white Phoenix police officer shot and killed an unarmed 34-year-old black man, Rumain Brisbon, Tuesday evening.

Brandon Dickerson, who told FOX-10 that he was with Brisbon when the officer approached and that he didn’t hear the officer give any commands. According to police, Brisbon ran when approached; the Phoenix Police Department claims that after a brief struggle, Brisbon reached for a bottle of prescription painkillers in his pocket—which the officer mistook for a gun.

Phoenix Police spokesperson Sergeant Trent Crump told the local news station that the officer who shot and killed Brisbon “was doing what we expect him to do, which is fight crime.”

Brisbon’s family is being represented by Phoenix attorney Marci Kratter, who told that the story appears incomplete; her office is conducting its own investigation into the killing. 

Cleveland Shooter of Tamir Rice Ruled Unfit for Duty

Cleveland Shooter of Tamir Rice Ruled Unfit for Duty

The white Cleveland police officer who shot black 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene was effectively dismissed from a smaller, suburban police department two years ago. About an emotional breakdown Officer Timothy Loehmann had on the gun range, his then-supervisor wrote, “leads one to believe that he would not be able to substantially cope, or make good decisions, during or resulting from any other stressful situation.” That’s according to a damning five-page letter (see pp 56-60) written in November 2012 by Deputy Chief of Police Jim Polak of Independence, Ohio. The letter was released this week as part of Loehmann’s 60-page personnel file. Polak ended his review of Loehmann, who was on the force six months, by “recommending he be released from the employment of the City of Independence. I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.” Rather than firing him, It appears that Independence allowed Loehmann to resign. Cleveland’s police department hired him this past March.

Polak’s letter raises broader questions around police hiring and, in particular, how transfers between jurisdictions are handled. As local media reported this morning, Cleveland police did not review Loehmann’s Independence file before hiring him.

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected in Cleveland today, The Department of Justice has been investigating excessive force complaints long levied at Cleveland’s police department.

Hundreds of mourners gathered yesterday for the funeral of 12-year-old Rice, who had been playing with a replica toy gun at the time of the shooting. According to early reports, dispatch did not relay crucial information to responding officers that his gun “was probably fake” and that Rice was “probably a juvenile.” Video of the incident showed that officers shot Rice within two seconds of arriving on the scene.

(h/t NEOMG)

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