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A Cleveland police officer shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice about two seconds after the officer and a partner pulled up in a car to investigate reports that someone was brandishing a gun at a park, surveillance video that police released Wednesday shows.


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By Julia Edwards and Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told civil rights activists the Justice Department would aggressively investigate police practices in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury declined to indict a white officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager, two of the activists said on Wednesday.
In a phone call late on Monday, Holder, the country’s top law enforcer, said the Justice Department was “moving strongly” in its investigation of police patterns and practices, said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who was on the call.
Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, who was also on the call, said Holder is “very conscious of it needing to move quickly.”
A Justice Department spokesman on Wednesday confirmed a call took place.
Police have arrested more than 400 people nationwide in two nights of protests that erupted after St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced on Monday the decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Should the Justice Department conclude that Ferguson police systematically violated citizens’ rights, it can take action under a 1994 federal law that prohibits officers from engaging in a “pattern or practice” that deprives people of their constitutional rights.
The law gives the Justice Department considerable leverage in requiring police departments to institute reforms, such as installing an independent monitor or adopting new training policies. Police departments facing such claims usually enter into a settlement with the Justice Department. A settlement may be enforced by a federal judge if the two parties agree.

TENSE RELATIONS
The shooting has highlighted the often-tense nature of U.S. race relations and the strains between black communities and police. With the grand jury having acted as it did, protesters and civil rights activists have urged the federal government to get involved.
U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat in the Congressional Black Caucus, said he hoped the federal investigation into Ferguson police tactics would end in a disbanding of the force and a handover of police responsibility to St. Louis County.
A northern suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson’s 21,000 population is mixed, with 63 percent of the residents African-American and 34 percent white, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. To some in Ferguson, the fatal shooting symbolizes how African-Americans are treated unfairly in a town still run by a Caucasian minority.
A 2013 state attorney general’s report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city are African-American, and the arrest rate among blacks is twice the rate among white residents.
The first African-American attorney general and one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s longest-serving advisers, Holder has said little in public about either the probe of the police department or a separate investigation of officer Wilson.
In a statement late on Monday he said the inquiry into Wilson’s actions in the shooting was at a “mature stage.”
To win a criminal conviction on civil rights charges, federal prosecutors would need to prove that Wilson intended to violate Brown’s rights when he fatally shot him. Former prosecutors said such charges are unlikely and hard to prove.
The small size of the Ferguson Police Department might make its absorption into St. Louis County a viable option, said Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department lawyer now in private practice. “That would kind of be an elegant solution. If I was at DOJ, that would save me a lot of trouble,” Driscoll said.
As angry demonstrators took to the streets of Ferguson to protest the decision on Monday night, activists on the call with Holder urged him to quickly announce reforms to the Ferguson Police Department to bring calm.
“Something good needs to come out of Ferguson,” Arnwine said. “It would be wonderful if people were able to see some hope.”
Similar federal investigations into police practices in Detroit and in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have led to measures to address the use of force and detention practices and unreasonable use of deadly force.
Typically, investigations into patterns and practices take a little over a year on average, said Michael Selmi, a former lawyer for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. But he said the small size of Ferguson’s police force may allow for a faster review.
Holder has made civil rights a priority from his first days in office nearly six years ago. He provoked controversy almost immediately when he said in a speech that in matters of race, America had acted as a “nation of cowards.” (Reporting by Julia Edwards and Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Writing by Howard Goller; Editing by Bernard Orr)


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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas mortician whose conviction for killing a rich widow and storing her body in a freezer inspired the movie “Bernie” was granted a new sentencing hearing Wednesday, after the state’s highest court agreed that his life prison sentence may be overly harsh.

Bernie Tiede was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1996 shooting death of his longtime companion, 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent. But he was released from prison earlier this year after a lower court sided with his attorneys. A new sentencing date hasn’t been set. Tiede’s attorneys argued that jurors should have been told he felt abused by Nugent and was sexually abused as a child. They also said the mistreatment by Nugent caused Tiede, now 56, to kill her during a brief dissociative episode, and that the sentence was too harsh.

Prosecutor Danny Buck Davidson, who pushed to convict Tiede in 1999, said he agreed and believed Tiede deserved to be convicted of second-degree murder, which carried a maximum 20-year sentence.

Nugent’s family had asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to restore the life sentence. But on Wednesday, the court said the 1999 trial was marred by false testimony and that the jury should have heard testimony about Tiede’s childhood abuse.

Family spokesman Ryan Gravatt said Nugent’s relatives were disappointed and expect Tiede would remain free after being credited for time served in prison. They accused Davidson, the prosecutor, of being “star-struck” and said they will ask the state attorney general’s office to take over the case for the new sentencing hearing.

“Bernie Tiede’s story is not the truth. The truth is Tiede stole from Marjorie Nugent because of greed, he victimized her and Tiede executed her to avoid getting caught. He’s a con, a thief and a killer. The public should never forget this,” Gravatt said in a statement.

Nugent’s body was found in a freezer at her home several months after she disappeared in Carthage, a town about 150 miles east of Dallas.

Interest in the case surged after the 2011 release of the movie “Bernie,” in which Jack Black portrays Tiede as a quirky mortician’s assistant beloved by the town. Nugent is depicted by Shirley MacLaine as a grumpy, unpopular cheapskate.


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By Ellen Wulfhorst, Daniel Wallis and Edward McAllister
FERGUSON, Mo., Nov 26 (Reuters) – National Guard troops and police aimed to head off a third night of violence on Wednesday in Ferguson, Missouri, as more than 400 people have been arrested in the St. Louis suburb and around the United States in unrest after a white policeman was cleared in the killing of an unarmed black teenager.
There have been protests in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities decrying Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in a case that has touched off a debate about race relations in the United States.
Ferguson, a predominately black city, has been hit by two nights of rioting, looting and arson with some businesses burned to the ground, but authorities say an increased security presence on Tuesday night helped quell the violence.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has deployed about 2,200 National Guard troops in and around Ferguson. Police made 45 arrests in Ferguson in the Tuesday night protests, down from 61 in aftermath of Monday’s grand jury decision.
“The ramped up presence and action of the Missouri National Guard has been helpful,” Nixon said on Wednesday after facing criticism for not deploying enough guardsman in the hours after the grand jury’s decision.
Tensions between police and black Americans have simmered for decades, with many blacks feeling the U.S. legal system and law enforcement authorities do not treat them fairly. In Washington, President Barack Obama has tried to keep a lid on anger that has spilled over to other cities and garnered international attention.
Obama remained cautious in his comments in the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, but has been more expansive in recent days including remarks at the White House after the grand jury’s decision. On Monday he said deep distrust exists between police and minorities and that “communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”
Russia on Wednesday pointed to rioting in Ferguson and the other protests across the United States as evidence that Moscow’s detractors in Washington were hypocrites and in no position to lecture Russia on human rights.
St. Louis police said three people were arrested at a protest near City Hall on Wednesday in which activists staged a mock trial of Wilson, who told the grand jury he shot Brown because he feared for his life.
Ferguson’s mayor, James Knowles, is white, as are most of its city council members. A 2013 state attorney general’s report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city are black, and the arrest rate among blacks is twice the rate among white residents.

‘SAD FACT’
Obama’s Justice Department is probing the Ferguson shooting as it considers whether to bring federal civil rights charges against the officer and the police department.
“The sad fact is that it brings up issues that we’ve been struggling with in this country for a long, long time,” said Matthew Green, an associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.
“These are not problems and issues that are going to get resolved by one president in the remainder of his term.”
Wilson said his conscience was clear. He told ABC News that there was nothing he could have done differently that would have prevented Brown’s death. But the parents of the slain teenager said they did not accept the officer’s version of the events.
“I don’t believe a word of it,” Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.
The crowds in Ferguson were smaller and more controlled than on Monday, when about a dozen businesses were torched and others were looted amid rock-throwing and sporadic gunfire from protesters and volleys of tear gas fired by police. More than 60 people were arrested then.
“Generally, it was a much better night,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters on Wednesday, adding there was little arson or gunfire, and that lawlessness was confined to a relatively small group.
A Conoco gas station and convenience store in Ferguson has escaped looters with armed, black local residents guarding the white-owned store.
Protests over the Ferguson decision in several major cities on Tuesday night shut highways and led to some arrests.
Police in Boston said on Wednesday that 45 people were arrested in protests overnight that drew more than a thousand demonstrators. In Dallas, seven were arrested for blocking traffic on Interstate 35, a major north-south U.S. roadway.
In New York, where police used pepper spray to control the crowd after protesters tried to block the Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge, 10 demonstrators were arrested, police said.
Protesters in Los Angeles threw water bottles and other objects at officers outside city police headquarters and later obstructed both sides of a downtown freeway with makeshift roadblocks and debris, authorities said.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Fiona Ortiz and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago, Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans, and Laila Kearney and Letitia Stein in New York, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina.; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Frank McGurty; Editing by Will Dunham)


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Taking loaded guns to the airport without permission isn’t a good idea. Airport security will likely seize it, and you could be subject to criminal and civil penalties.


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Last weekend, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a Cleveland police officer responding to a 911 call. The caller was concerned about the young black boy who appeared to be handling a gun at a park. The firearm, it turned out, was only an Airsoft pellet gun — and although the orange plastic ring indicating it wasn’t an actual weapon had been removed, the caller did say the gun was “probably fake.” But that detail was apparently not relayed to responding officers, who shot Tamir twice in the torso just seconds after they arrived at the scene. Tamir died later at a hospital.

On Tuesday, police officials announced that they planned to release video of the incident. The next day, Tamir’s family and members of the community, still reeling from the boy’s death as well as the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, awoke to this headline from the Northeast Ohio Media Group instead:

tamirricehed

Hours before the public was to see a video of Tamir’s last moments, editors at the Northeast Ohio Media Group decided that it was important to point out that Tamir’s father and mother both have criminal records. While the domestic violence charges against Tamir’s father are indeed disturbing, it’s hard to see what they have to do with the death of an innocent black child at the hands of a police officer.

We’ve seen this type of media coverage before, though it’s often focused on the victims of police violence themselves, rather than on their relatives. After the deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown in August, for example, some news stories evidently sought to paint the slain teenagers as drug addicts, delinquents and thugs.

This coverage was criticized by many as an attempt to smear the victims’ characters and distract from the issue of police violence — and, more subtly, to suggest that the killing of young black men is somehow acceptable or unsurprising. And it succeeded — these stories were used by some people to explain why Martin and Brown deserved to die, or how they may have somehow invited their own deaths.

Brandon Blackwell, the author of the story about Tamir’s father, was the subject of heavy critique on Twitter once the piece went live. He told one critic that he’s also planning to report on the officer who killed Tamir.

Blackwell didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. One Twitter user, however, offered an explanation that reflects a disappointingly common attitude in situations like this.

Rather than asking why police officers were so quick to exercise lethal force on a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun, as 12-year-old boys everywhere do, some people are asking instead how Tamir’s parents could have allowed their child to get his hands on a fake weapon in the first place. Instead of focusing on how young black males face a far greater risk of being killed by police than their white peers, they blame the grieving parents — a mother and father who, whatever their legal history, will be going to sleep tonight without their son.

You can read more about Tamir Rice here and here.