Suspect shot in standoff with officers on California freeway

Police officers investigate the scene of a standoff with a suspect driving a sports utility vehicle on westbound Interstate 80 on Wednesday, in Emeryville, Calif. (AP)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Suspect shot in standoff with officers on California freeway

CALIFORNIA: A homicide suspect died in a shootout with police Wednesday in the middle of a San Francisco Bay Area freeway as stunned motorists looked on, some recording the scene on their cellphones and sharing it on social media.
Traffic came to a standstill for hours on the busy Interstate 80 that connects San Francisco with several other cities during the standoff between police and the unidentified man who had been chased about 40 miles (65 kilometers) by police.
The morning rush-hour standoff shut down all lanes of I-80 in the suburb of Emeryville. It ended when the suspect got out of a black sports utility vehicle and “officers received gun fire from the suspect,” authorities said. Officers fired back at the man, who was wounded and died of his injuries at a hospital.
The events unfolded after police in the city of Fairfield tried to detain the man, who they said was wanted in a homicide. Police did not identify him or provide details about the homicide.
When the driver refused to stop, Fairfield police chased the vehicle, officials said. Assisting them were officers from the city of Richmond and the California Highway Patrol.
Highway patrol officers used a spike mat to pierce the SUV’s tires and the standoff began with the vehicle stopped in Emeryville, surrounded by a dozen police cruisers.
“Officers negotiated with the suspect for an extended period of time until officers received gun fire from the suspect,” said a statement issued by the Emeryville, Fairfield and Richmond police departments. “Officers on scene returned fire and the suspect was struck during the exchange.”
The statement did not specify how many shots were fired or what type of weapons were involved.
A Facebook Live video shot from the air showed the man getting out of the car and taking a step before falling to the ground. Another video shot by a motorist appeared to show officers firing their guns and the sound of at least 20 gunshots.
Traffic was shut down during the standoff for miles (kilometers) on several key roads into San Francisco and surrounding cities.
California Highway Patrol Officer Matthew Hamer said the danger to motorists ended about 10:30 a.m.
The freeway’s eastbound lanes were reopened but the westbound section of the freeway remained closed Wednesday afternoon. Officials said they did not know how long it would be closed.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.