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National Govt & Politics
Lawmakers call for Confederate change at U.S. Capitol

Lawmakers call for Confederate change at U.S. Capitol

Lawmakers call for Confederate change at U.S. Capitol
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Lawmakers call for Confederate change at U.S. Capitol

The repercussions from last week's mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina continued to spread on Wednesday, as the Governor of Alabama took down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol, both U.S. Senators from Mississippi urged a review of their state flag, and some black lawmakers in Congress called for the removal of statues in the U.S. Capitol honoring leaders of the Confederacy.

"I think it's a testament to America that people can wake up one day, and look honestly at reality, and then change their minds on a deeply held belief," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) of the change of heart on the Confederate flag.

"We need to get rid of this divisive symbol of hatred," Johnson told me off the House floor.

A few steps away, the news was also welcomed by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

"I'm very pleased; I know Gov. Bentley of Alabama," Lewis said. "Alabama is my home state."

But when asked about one of Georgia's two statues in the U.S. Capitol - that of Alexander Stephens - Lewis turned steely, and made clear he wants that marble likeness replaced by his state legislature.

"I want to see it go," Lewis said. "I don't like taking young people on a tour and telling them that this was the Vice President of the Confederacy."

"We have to get our own house in order," Lewis said. "We have to have a cleansing in this place."

Stephens may be best known for a speech he gave in Savannah, Georgia before the shooting started in the Civil War - known as the "Cornerstone Speech" - in which he bluntly set out the differences between North and South.

"They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man," Stephens said of slavery opponents.

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition," Stephens continued.

"I don't like seeing it," Lewis said flatly of the Stephens statue, which is located in the old chamber of the House of Representatives on the second floor of the Capitol, just a dozen feet or so from a statue of Rosa Parks.

"Vice President of the Confederacy," it says clearly on the Stephens statue.

Stephens is not the only Confederate era statue that may face scrutiny, as the Capitol is also home to statues of other Confederate leaders, like Robert E. Lee (Virginia) and Jefferson Davis (Mississippi), as well as statues to several other Confederate military heroes.

"This Capitol represents the United States of America," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who suggested to reporters that Confederate statues be moved to a museum.

"They did everything they could to split away from this government," Thompson said, as he argued that the Congress should not even display the flag of his home state of Mississippi, because of the Confederate emblem on that flag.

In another stunning turn of events on Wednesday, that Mississippi flag also drew fire from the state's two Republican U.S. Senators.

"As a proud citizen of Mississippi, it is my personal hope that the state government will consider changing the state flag," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who had earlier steered clear of calling for any change in the flag of the Magnolia State.

Cochran followed the lead of fellow Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), who said, "our state flag should be put in a museum and replaced by one that is more unifying."

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  • The Seattle Seahawks received 10s across the board from boy band NSYNC for their touchdown celebration during Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. >> Read more trending news  After catching a touchdown in the second quarter, Jaron Brown was joined by Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and David Moore and the receivers did NSYNC's iconic 'Bye Bye Bye' choreography in the end-zone. Video of the celebratory dance spread across sports Twitter and got a response from the person behind the official NSYNC Twitter account.  'How'd we do?' the team asked. 'The judges scores…10-10-10-10-10,' the band tweeted. 'Nice job fellas!!' The Seahawks went on to beat the Browns 32-28. They'll host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
  • Police officials in California have identified a man accused of killing four of his family members, including two children, before driving one victim’s body more than 200 miles from home and turning himself in at a police station. Shankar Nagappa Hangud, 53, of Roseville, is charged with four counts of murder, according to Roseville police Capt. Josh Simon. Hangud, who is believed to be of East Indian descent, was initially arrested in Mount Shasta, where he turned himself in. He was returned to Placer County, where he was booked into the jail just before 3 a.m. Tuesday, jail records show. >> Read more trending news  “It appears the victims were killed by this suspect over a few days’ time span,” Simon said during a Tuesday media update. “We’re still working to put that timeline together.” Simon said investigators are seeking the public’s help in establishing a timeline. “Within the last week, the suspect left his home in Roseville with one adult male victim of East Indian descent. They drove away in his vehicle,” the captain said. “They drove from Roseville, traveled to unknown places in northern California and ended up in Mount Shasta.” Hangud was driving a red Mazda 6, photos of which Roseville investigators released Tuesday. The car bore California tag number 7ZJH479. Simon said the timeline of the killings could go as far back as a week or begin as recently as just a few days ago. It was not clear yet if Hangud left his apartment and returned while some of the victims were still alive or if he killed them all and never went back home. Investigators are keeping tight-lipped about a possible motive for the homicides. “At this time, we are not releasing a motive for these crimes, as this remains an active investigation,” Simon said. “We’re continuing to work in coordination with the Mount Shasta Police Department, Placer County District Attorney’s Office, Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office and Siskiyou County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.” Simon asked anyone who may have spotted Hangud -- with or without the male East Indian victim -- or his car between Roseville and Mount Shasta over the past week to call investigators at the Roseville Police Department at 916-746-1059. The cause of and time of death for each victim was still being determined Tuesday. Investigators were withholding the identities of the victims, as well as their relationship to the suspect, pending positive identification and family notification by the Placer County coroner. Simon said authorities were also struggling to find the victims’ next of kin. “If you have information about this family, we are asking that you please contact the Roseville Police Department,” he said. Roseville and Mount Shasta authorities said Hangud walked into the Mount Shasta Police Department just after noon Monday and told officers he had killed four relatives in his apartment in Roseville. “(Hangud) claimed to have murdered individuals at his residence here in Roseville,” Simon said during a news conference Monday evening. “One of the victims was inside the vehicle at the Mount Shasta Police Department in Siskiyou County, and other victims were at an apartment here in Roseville.” Watch Tuesday's media update on the case below.  Mount Shasta officers went outside and found Hangud’s passenger dead in the car, officials said. It was not yet known Tuesday if the man was killed in the car or at Hangud’s apartment. After the gruesome discover, investigators in Mount Shasta made a phone call down to their counterparts in Roseville, which is located about 20 miles outside of Sacramento. “Officers were dispatched to an apartment complex in the 1800 block of Junction Boulevard in Roseville and confirmed there were three additional victims found deceased at the scene,” Simon said. Hangud’s apartment at Carmel at Woodcreek West was swarming with investigators and crime scene technicians Monday. “He just came in and told our dispatcher that I want to confess to a murder, and then just gave it up,” Mount Shasta police Sgt. Robert Gibson told The New York TimesTimes. “I have never had someone come in with a body and turn themselves in here. This was unusual for us.” Gibson said officers at the front desk initially didn’t believe Hangud. He then handed them the keys to his car, which was parked out front. Photos posted on Fox 40's Twitter page showed the car covered by a red tarp outside the station. Police tape roped off the scene. Simon said Monday that the two departments were working in tandem to piece together what happened. “There is this distance between the two jurisdictions,” Simon said. “The detectives both at the scene here and the detectives up at the scene in Mount Shasta are really trying to backtrack and figure out: Are there additional crimes?” Watch Capt. Josh Simon give an initial briefing on the case below. Hangud is the sole suspect in the slayings, Simon said. He said information remained somewhat scarce in the investigation, which on Tuesday was less than 24 hours old. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to share more information as it becomes available,” Simon said. Simon said the quadruple homicides have left a mark on the Roseville community, which, unlike the tiny city of Mount Shasta, is the largest city in Placer County. U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2016 put the city’s population at around 132,000. Roseville played an important role in authorities’ capture last year of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the suspected Golden State Killer who was nabbed after investigators traced DNA evidence from the notorious, long-unsolved case to DeAngelo’s family tree. They confirmed the DNA match by obtaining a sample of DeAngelo’s DNA off the door handle of his car, which sat in the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby in Roseville while DeAngelo was inside the store. Related story: Golden State Killer suspect’s DNA obtained while he shopped at Hobby Lobby, affidavit says Monday’s quadruple homicide had Hangud's neighbors at Carmel at Woodcreek West nervous. One neighbor, Eric McDermid, told CBS Sacramento the situation was “absolutely insane.” “It’s kind of surprising, but I guess this kind of stuff can happen anywhere,” resident Philip McGinty told the news station. Simon said Tuesday that the quadruple homicide was considered an isolated incident in Roseville, which he described as “an extremely safe, family-oriented community.” He said he could not recall such a deadly crime happening in the city during his time with the department. “It’s had an effect on the community, it’s had an effect on the first responders and everybody involved,” Simon said. “It’s just a sad, sad situation.”
  • Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit accusing a high-ranking Georgia tax official of unfairly targeting them in a “bogus” investigation. The plaintiffs, known for the USA Network show “Chrisley Knows Best,” recently paid $150,000 to settle tax evasion allegations with the Georgia Department of Revenue, but the couple maintains they did nothing wrong and that they have incurred great legal expense because of the investigation. The lawsuit claims Joshua Waites, director of the state agency’s special investigations unit, unfairly targeted the Chrisleys so he could bask in the media spotlight that came with taking down television stars. >> Read more trending news  “He is truly a rogue,” the Chrisleys’ lawyer, former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the suit. “And I do not use that term lightly.” No one from the Chrisley family attended the conference. Waites didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The Georgia Department of Revenue hasn't responded to a request for comment or a request to make Waites available for an interview. The suit is against Waites, not the Department of Revenue. The suit says Waites tried to get dirt on the Chrisleys — who remain under federal indictment on tax-related charges — by cultivating a relationship with Todd Chrisley’s estranged daughter, Lindsie Chrisley Campbell. In the process, he allegedly broke federal law by sharing confidential tax and grand jury information, the suit claims. Waites sent numerous text messages to Campbell, giving her a blow-by-blow of the investigation and also revealing that his agents had put a photo of her father on a dart board and a punching bag, it claims. Bowers showed images of text exchanges during the Tuesday news conference. The state department of revenue had suspected the Chrisleys evaded about $2 million in state taxes between 2008 and 2016, but in the settlement, the agency conceded that wasn’t true, according to Bowers. In detailing how Waites allegedly mishandled the Chrisley investigation, the suit also accuses Waites of using harsh tactics against “numerous individuals and businesses on dubious tax-evasion claims.” The suit claims Waites has worked with prosecutors’ offices across the state to bring such cases and then use the civil forfeiture funds to create a so-called “slush fund” for his office. But the Chrisleys’ attorneys acknowledge they don’t know how the funds have been spent, and they have made no allegations that the money was used inappropriately. A federal indictment from August on tax fraud charges is still pending against the Chrisleys. The allegations in that case are from 2007 to 2012. “Todd and Julie Chrisley are charged not only with defrauding a number of banks by fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in loans, but also with allegedly cheating taxpayers by actively evading paying federal taxes on the money they earned,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said recently. “Celebrities face the same justice that everyone does.” The couple have pleaded not guilty. The Chrisleys’ suit seeks unspecified damages from Waites. Bowers said anything they are awarded will be donated to the Institute of Justice in Washington, D.C., which helps citizens who feel they’ve been unfairly treated by the government. “It can affect any citizen of this state,” Bowers said. “This kind of conduct simply cannot be tolerated.”
  • A white police officer who shot and killed a black woman Saturday through a back window of her home has been booked into jail on a murder charge, police in Texas said Monday. >> Read more trending news  Fort Worth police Lt. Brandon O'Neil said the officer involved, identified as 34-year-old Aaron Dean, failed to announce himself as a police officer before he fired the single shot that struck and killed Atatiana Jefferson, 28. The shooting happened around 2:25 a.m. Saturday after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report her home's front door had been left open. Update 2:45 p.m. EDT Oct. 15: Authorities confirmed in an arrest warrant affidavit released Tuesday that Atatiana Jefferson's 8-year-old nephew was in the room when a Fort Worth police officer shot and killed her inside her Tarrant County home on Saturday. Authorities said Jefferson cried out after an officer, identified as 34-year-old Aaron Dean, shot her through a window while responding to a call from her neighbor. Investigators said Jefferson's neighbor had noticed her front door was open in the pre-dawn hours Saturday and that he called a police non-emergency line to have them perform a welfare check. Jefferson's nephew told a forensic interviewer he was playing video games with his aunt when she heard noises from outside her home. He told authorities she took her handgun from her purse and pointed it toward the window before she was shot. Police Chief Ed Kraus said earlier Tuesday that a gun was found in the room after authorities entered the home, but he added that 'it makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt threatened or thought someone was in the backyard.' Police on Monday arrested Dean to face one count of murder. Jefferson's family has called for an independent investigation into the shooting. Police said Monday that they've presented the case to the Texas Rangers, who declined to take it, and to the FBI. Update 11:25 a.m. EDT Oct. 15: Police Chief Ed Kraus confirmed Tuesday that Fort Worth police arrested Aaron Dean on Monday night without incident. Kraus said Tuesday that Dean had yet to give a statement on the shooting to police. Dean joined the Forth Worth Police Department in August 2017 and resigned Monday amid an investigation into the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, Kraus said. 'There's absolutely no excuse for the incident and the person responsible will be held accountable,' Kraus said Tuesday during a brief and emotional news conference. 'I don't have any officers saying this action should not have been taken against this individual, this officer. I'm getting the opposite reaction. ... The officers are hurting.'  He reiterated Forth Worth's city manager, who said Monday that authorities were considering bringing an independent, third party in to review the police department's procedures. Jefferson's family has called for an independent investigation of the shooting. 'We're looking at bringing an independent third party group to come in and evaluate our policies, our practices and our training to ensure that we are above best practice standards,' he said. Update 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 15: Police in Forth Worth are holding a news conference Tuesday morning to provide updates on Monday's arrest of Aaron Dean, the police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home over the weekend. Update 9:55 a.m. EDT Oct. 15: Fort Worth police are expected to hold a news conference Tuesday morning, one day after police arrested Aaron Dean on suspicion of murder. Chief Ed Kraus said Monday that Dean resigned from his post with the Forth Worth Police Department before he could be questioned about the shooting. Kraus told reporters Dean would have been fired if he hadn't resigned. He had been with the Forth Worth Police Department since August 2017. Jail records show Dean was out of custody after posting bond Monday night, less than four hours after his arrest. He had been held on $200,000 bond Update 9:45 p.m. EDT Oct. 14: A $200,000 bond has been set for Aaron Dean in the fatal shooting of a black woman inside the woman's Fort Worth home.  Jail records did not list an attorney for Dean.  The attorney for the family of a black woman shot and killed in her Fort Worth home by a white police officer says they are 'relieved' that the now-former officer has been jailed on a murder charge. Update 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 14: Aaron Dean has been charged with murder and was booked into the Tarrant County jail in Fort Worth, Texas Monday afternoon, according to KDFW. Bond has not been set. Update 2:25 p.m. EDT Oct. 14: Police said an officer who shot and killed a Texas woman Saturday morning in her own home resigned Monday before he could be fired from the Fort Worth Police Department. Police Chief Ed Kraus said Officer Aaron Dean joined the department in August 2017 and was commissioned as a police officer in April 2018. Police placed him on detached duty after the shooting and stripped him of his badge and firearm. Kraus said Dean resigned before he could cooperate with investigators. '(Atatiana's) father called this shooting senseless and I've certainly not been able to make sense of why she had to lose her life,' Kraus said. The chief said the case is subject to an internal and a criminal investigation. He added that authorities have presented the case to the FBI because of possible civil rights violations. Officers also presented the case to Texas Rangers. Kraus and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price apologized to the community for the shooting. 'We are all heart-broken today,' Price said. 'Atatiana was a beautiful, smart, amazing young woman by all accounts who was unjustly taken from her family.' Update 12:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 14: The family of Atatiana Jefferson held a news conference Monday, days after the 28-year-old was shot and killed in her home by a Fort Worth police officer. Relatives said an agency other than the Fort Worth Police Department should investigate Jefferson's death. One of her sisters, Ashley Carr, described her as 'a smart, ambitious, kind person with a nurturing spirit.' Carr said her sister had a bachelor's degree in biology from Xavier University and that her coworkers saw her as a person of integrity. Original report: A Fort Worth police officer did not announce that he was an officer before firing a single shot striking Atatiana Jefferson, who was inside the room with the boy, Fort Worth police Lt. Brandon O’Neil said at a news conference Sunday.  “What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues,” O’Neil said in a statement. “The members of the Fort Worth Police Department share your very real and valid concerns, as do the members of this city and people across the country. This tragic loss of life has major ramifications for all involved, especially the family of Ms. Atatiana Jefferson.” O’Neil declined to answer reporters’ questions and said Fort Worth police Chief Ed Kraus plans to conduct a more in-depth news conference Monday. The family also confirmed Jefferson was watching her nephew at the time. The two typically lived with an older woman who’s been in the hospital. Jefferson’s family is seeking answers. “It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” said Jefferson’s sister, Amber Carr. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.” Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family, said the officer never had time to perceive a threat.  “You didn’t hear the officer shout, ‘Gun, gun, gun,’” Merritt said. “He didn’t have time to perceive a threat. That’s murder.” Neighbor James Smith called a nonemergency line Saturday for a welfare check after noticing the lights were on and a door was open. Fort Worth police released bodycam footage soon after the incident Saturday.  Video shows officers with flashlights and guns drawn scanning the perimeter of the home. The front door appears to be open although the screen door is closed. As officers continue to walk through the property, one of them sees a person standing at a dark window and yells: “Put your hands up. Show me your hands,” before firing a single shot.  Police located a gun in a bedroom when they entered the house. Investigators did not indicate if Jefferson was holding the firearm. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave. He has been with the department since April 2018. He is scheduled to be interviewed by investigators Monday.  The shooting comes less than two weeks after a white former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of her black neighbor inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger, 31, said during her trial that mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean’s. Merritt also represents Jean’s family. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • It's that time of year to light a few candles, dress all in black and summon the spirits from the afterlife. For some, the Ouija board is the perfect 'game' to play when the calendar turns to October.  For others, it may just seem like a bunch of hocus-pocus. >> Read more trending news  But for Rick Schreck, it was the time to try and beat a world record for the world's largest Ouija board. It took him 99 sheets of plywood, 20 gallons of wood stain and paint, and a year to build the massive game he's dubbed 'Ouijazilla,' CNET reported. Schreck assembled his board on Salem Common over the weekend under gloomy skies, the Talking Board Historical Society said on Instagram. Salem Common officials took a drone photo of the board to see the scale of it.  The planchette, or the pointer, weighs about 400 pounds and is glided around the board either by the people asking the friends on the other side questions, or the spirits themselves, CNET reported. Schreck had permission from Hasbro, Inc., the company that has the rights to produce the Ouija board 'game.' Originally Parker Brothers, which is now owned by Hasbro, started production on it in the '60s, basing it on a design created by William Fuld, according to the Museum of Talking Boards.  The world record for the largest Ouija board was held by the owners of Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, Pennsylvania, according to Guinness World Records. The board was painted on the flat roof of the former hotel.
  • A Missouri woman whose family has been devastated by her eldest son's addiction to heroin and meth shared a heartfelt post on Facebook that has now gone viral. >> Read more trending news  In the Facebook post, Jennifer Salfen-Tracy included photos of her son, Cody Bishop, that she says were taken just seven months apart.  Bishop was an athlete and graduated from Wentzville Holt High School in 2011, KSDK reported. According to Salfen-Tracy, Bishop is now homeless and living in Las Vegas. It has been weeks since she last heard from him. Bishop said she was hesitant in sharing her son's challenges, but that drug addiction is a 'true issue in our world today that we need to pull together and focus on to fix instead of the government worrying about and spending all their money on throwing each other under the bus.'