Weeks of fighting between militias for control of Tripoli’s airport have edged toward the embassy in recent weeks, leading the State Department to close it and issue a travel warning.
About 150 personnel, including 80 U.S. Marines were evacuated from the embassy in Libya and were driven across the border into Tunisia, U.S. officials confirm to CNN.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California UPS delivery driver was arrested Friday for stealing dozens of shipped guns that were sold on the black market, federal prosecutors said.
Curtis Hays, 36, of Rancho Cucamonga, was taken into custody on a federal indictment filed Wednesday in federal court in Riverside.
A call to his attorney, Carlos Juarez, was not immediately returned.
In 2012, the delivery driver allegedly stole packages containing 72 weapons at the UPS shipping hub in Ontario, east of Los Angeles, according to the indictment.
The guns were bound for a Turner’s Outdoorsman sporting goods store in Rancho Cucamonga and included .22-caliber rifles, .12-gauge shotguns and .22-caliber and .45-caliber pistols, authorities contended.
He also allegedly stole more than $7,000 worth of jewelry and some cellphones, prosecutors alleged.
Hays passed the guns on to a Moreno Valley man who sold them illegally, the indictment contended.
Some of the guns have been recovered, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
“Certainly it is not representative of the integrity of our organization and the performance of our drivers and we took swift action,” said Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman at UPS Inc.’s Atlanta headquarters.
The company has been cooperating with federal investigators for more than two years and Hays was fired more than 1 ½ years ago, she said.
The indictment charges Hays and Dennis Dell White Jr., 35, with conspiracy; theft of firearms; receipt and possession of stolen firearms and theft, receipt, and possession of interstate and foreign shipments. They could face up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted on the weapons charges alone.
White is additionally charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
White was not arrested but was expected to surrender later to face the charges, Mrozek said.
It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney and a phone number for him in Moreno Valley couldn’t be located.
A psychiatric patient who killed his caseworker — and grazed his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back — has a lengthy history of gun arrests, violence and mental health problems, authorities said.
Dr. Lee Silverman emptied his gun’s chamber, striking patient Richard Plotts several times, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said. Plotts by then had shot the caseworker in the face and fired several shots at Silverman, including one that grazed his temple and another that struck his thumb, he said.
Plotts had 39 unspent bullets on him when he was wrestled to the ground at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, just southwest of Philadelphia, and police believe he had planned to use them.
“If the doctor did not have a firearm, (and) the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead,” Whelan said.
Police in Upper Darby, where Plotts lived, were aware of at least three mental health commitments — including once after he cut his wrists and once when he threatened suicide — but said such stays can last just one to three days.
Whelan said Plotts had spent time in a mental health facility, but he did not discuss any potential diagnosis.
Plotts also had at least four gun arrests, along with assault and drug charges, according to police and court records. And he has been barred from at least one residential shelter because of his violent history, Upper Darby police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.
“The caseworkers and the doctors and the catchment centers — they know who violent individuals are, because they’re frequent fliers,” Chitwood said. “And the system is not geared toward keeping these people housed somewhere until they start to be better. So you put whole communities at risk.”
Cathy Nickel, a neighbor at Plotts’ last known address, an apartment complex in Upper Darby, saw a caseworker move him out of the building about a year ago. As he was taken away in a van, she said, he yelled, “You haven’t heard the end of me!”
Plotts was sedated but in stable condition after surgery Thursday for his gunshot wounds, police said. They expected to arraign him at his Philadelphia hospital bedside, charging him with murder in the death of caseworker Barbara Hunt and other crimes.
Plotts doesn’t have a listed home number, and it was unclear if he has relatives in the area.
Hospital policy bars anyone except on-duty law enforcement officers from carrying weapons on campus, said a Mercy Health System spokeswoman.
The hospital said Friday it was thankful for the “brave and difficult action” taken by Silverman and his colleagues. It said he remains a full member of the medical staff and “we look forward to Dr. Silverman’s return to serving patients at our hospital.”
Plotts had complained to Silverman previously about the gun policy.
Whelan said he believes Silverman, not Hunt, was Plotts’ target. He said that when the caseworker was shot, Silverman crouched down behind a desk to avoid being shot also.
“He was able to reach for his weapon, and realizing it was a life-or-death situation, was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire,” Whelan said.
The struggle spilled into the hallway, where another doctor and a caseworker jumped in to help Silverman and secure Plotts’ weapon, Whelan said.
Plotts showed up at the hospital about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, nearly an hour early, for the appointment with Silverman, who had last seen him six weeks ago. Silverman called Hunt to say their patient had arrived.
Colleagues heard arguing during the closed-door session and saw Plotts aiming a gun at Silverman when they peeked inside, authorities said. They quietly backed out and called 911. The shooting soon began, just before 2:30 p.m.
Silverman told police he was at his desk, behind a computer screen, when Plotts pulled a gun from his waistband and killed Hunt. The psychiatrist ducked behind a chair, pulled his gun from his pocket and fired off six or seven shots, authorities said.
Silverman was recuperating at home Friday. His wife said he did not want to discuss the shooting.
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Friday extended its Ukraine-related sanctions to target top Russian intelligence officials and leaders of the pro-Russia revolt in eastern Ukraine, official documents showed.
Among the 15 new people subjected to an EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban were Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security Service, and Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB department that oversees international operations and intelligence activity. Four members of Russia’s Security Council were also included on the EU list. The new measures, designed to put pressure on Moscow and its allies in Ukraine, were announced in the EU’s Official Journal, and took effect immediately. Eighteen organizations or businesses, including rebel formations in Ukraine’s east, were added to the trade bloc’s sanctions list at the same time.
The action brought the total number of people under EU sanction in connection with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the revolt in eastern Ukraine to 87. Two Crimea-based energy businesses had already had their EU holdings frozen.
Earlier on Friday, EU ambassadors reached a preliminary deal to go even further in sanctioning Russia, targeting its access to European capital markets and trade in the defense sector, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies.
EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the proposals were transmitted to EU officials to codify into regulations, with the ambassadors scheduled to meet again Tuesday to review the results. She said EU member states must decide whether the measures need to be approved by a summit meeting of the organization’s 28 member countries to go into effect.
On Tuesday, EU foreign ministers ordered the preparation of stepped-up economic sanctions, frustrated over Russia’s refusal to heed their demands to help bring about an end to the fighting in Ukraine, and with many Europeans leaders and citizens outraged by the shooting down of a Malaysian jetliner over eastern Ukraine.
In a document prepared for the ambassadors, EU officials suggested restricting Russian state-owned financial institutions’ access to European capital markets. Last year alone, the document said, 47 percent — or 7.5 billion euros ($10.2 billion) worth — of all the bonds issued by such institutions came from EU financial markets.
Abdel-Moaz Banoun, an outspoken critic of the nation’s clashing militias, was taken from his car by two armed men in Tripoli.
Russian President Vladimir Putin bears at least some responsibility for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.
The Netherlands is stepping up efforts to try to ensure that the remains of all the victims of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 return home from Ukraine, the Dutch prime minister told CNN.
Back in the 1980s, due to the civil war in El Salvador, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and Contra counter-revolutionary guerrillas based in southern Honduras, and the oppressive military regimes in Guatemala, thousands of Central Americans fled to the United States to escape the killing fields. A large portion of the refugees went to California and settled in Los Angeles. In an effort to defend themselves against African-American and Mexican-American gangs that were already established in places such as East Los Angeles, some of the Central American refugees formed gangs of their own, including the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and Mara 18 (M-18 or Barrio 18).
In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA). The law expanded the list of crimes for which both illegal and legal immigrants could be deported. Central American gang members were targeted. Tens of thousands of convicted criminals were flown back to Central America via the U.S. Marshal Service’s Justice Prisoner Alien Transport System, or “Con Air”. Yeah, remember the movie with Nicolas Cage? Well, it wasn’t entirely fictional.
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times on October 30, 2005, during the previous 12 years, U.S. immigration authorities had “logged more than 50,000 deportations of immigrants with criminal records to Central America.” According to an article in The Daily Beast earlier this month, “Between 2001 and 2010, Con Air flew 129,760 convicted criminals back to Central America. These included 44,042 who arrived in Honduras on daily flights that were initially to one of two cities. The flights to the capital, Tegucigalpa, were then suspended and they all began landing at the country’s second-largest metropolis, San Pedro Sula.”
Prior to the 1990s, there did not exist a gang problem in Central America. While there were certainly gangs in the region during the 1980s, they did not start posing a serious threat until the mass deportations from the U.S. began in the mid-1990s. Now, it is estimated that the gang population in the region may surpass 100,000. Estimates range to as many as 50,000 gang members in El Salvador, about 36,000 in Honduras, and up to 14,000 in Guatemala — the three “Northern Triangle” countries.
With the Internet and the use of cell phones and smart phones during the past two decades, the gangs in Central America have had no problem staying in close contact with their chapters throughout the United States. There is ample communications and coordination, even with those members who are locked up in prisons. The gangs in both the U.S. and Central America are thriving, because they are benefiting from each other’s strengths in vastly different geographic areas.
The gangs in the U.S. cater to consumer demands for drugs and prostitutes (and variations of), while the gangs in Central America supply the products. On the side, the gangs in Central America serve as contract killers for the drug cartels and operate their own local extortion, drug dealing, and human trafficking businesses. They are outstanding entrepreneurs.
The gangs continue growing in numbers because of the relative powerlessness of the authorities in Central America. The police are outgunned and easily corrupted, while the judges and politicians are effortlessly cowed. Most of all, because of the extreme poverty and social decay in the region, there is a seemingly endless reservoir of both willing and unwilling young recruits for the gangs.
The greatest favor the U.S. government can do right now for these gangs is to deport the tens of thousands of child migrants back to whence they came — mainly to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Who knows, with U.S. assistance perhaps the gang population in Central America could soon top 200,000. Hey, if we’re really lucky, pretty soon the U.S. might even be able to accomplish what it has in Iraq. That would be exceptional.