As the US mourns another mass shooting, Trump says guns not to blame

Law enforcement officials work at the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing and wounding many. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. (AP/Eric Gay)
Updated 06 November 2017
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As the US mourns another mass shooting, Trump says guns not to blame

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, United States: The United States was in mourning Monday after a gunman wearing a bulletproof vest opened fire with an assault rifle on the congregation of a small-town Texas church, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more in the nation’s latest shooting massacre.
President Donald Trump said the nation was living through “dark times” but guns were not to blame for Sunday’s carnage, which came just five weeks after the worst mass shooting in modern US history.
“I think that mental health is your problem here,” said the US president, speaking in Tokyo as part of his Asia tour. “This was a very — based on preliminary reports — a very deranged individual.”
“This isn’t a guns situation,” Trump insisted, calling it “a mental health problem at the highest level.”
The victims, who ranged in age from five to 72, were gunned down at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a rural community of some 400 people 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.
The gunman, widely identified as Devin Kelley, 26, was described by authorities as a young white male who was found dead in his vehicle after being confronted by a local resident.
The Air Force said Kelley served at a base in New Mexico starting in 2010 before being court-martialed in 2012 for allegedly assaulting his wife and child.
He was sentenced to 12 months in confinement and received a “bad conduct” discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told AFP. He was discharged in 2014.
Dressed all in black, Kelley fired outside the church before entering the building and continuing to spray bullets, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle, and fled from the church. Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time,” Martin said.
Law enforcement later found Kelley dead in his car, which had crashed on the Wilson-Guadalupe county line. It was not clear if he had killed himself or was shot by the resident who had confronted him.


Multiple weapons were found in the car, which was processed by bomb technicians.
“We have multiple, multiple crime scenes. We have the church, outside the church. We have where the suspect’s vehicle was located,” said Martin.
“We have been following up on the suspect and where he’s from. We have Texas Rangers at all the hospitals locating those and interviewing those who were injured.”
“There’s so many families who have lost family members. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters,” Governor Greg Abbott said, warning the toll could rise.
“The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down. We mourn their loss, but we support their family members.”
The wounded had been transported to various hospitals with “injuries that vary from minor to very severe,” Martin said.
The dead included the 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy, the church leader told ABC News.
Annabelle Renee Pomeroy “was one very beautiful, special child,” her father said.
Frank Pomeroy had been in the neighboring state of Oklahoma at the time of the shooting, and was driving back to Texas after the tragedy.
Other victims, some of whom were evacuated by helicopter, included a six-year-old boy named Rylan who was in surgery after being shot four times, his uncle told CBS News. A two-year-old was also shot and wounded, The Dallas Morning News reported.
A spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center in nearby Floresville said the hospital received eight patients with gunshot wounds. Four were transferred to San Antonio.


Police formed a perimeter around the area while tearful relatives and neighbors stood outside, nervously awaiting news from inside the traditional white-frame church.
Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were headed to Sutherland Springs, the agencies said.
Trump called the “horrific shooting” an “act of evil,” ordering flags be flown half-staff at the White House and federal buildings.
“Our hearts are broken but in dark times — and these are dark times — such as these, Americans do what they do best: we pull together,” he said.
Though he said “it’s a little bit soon to go into it” regarding renewed calls for gun control, the president promised his administration’s “full support” for the investigation.
As with many other previous shootings, Democrats pointed to the latest tragedy to highlight the need for gun control, a hot-button issue in a country that holds the right to bear arms as almost sacred.
In denouncing the “act of hatred,” Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama said: “May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.”
The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room on to an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
A little more than two years ago, white supremacist Dylann Roof entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.


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.