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Crime

Decatur police raid casino disguised as church

Josh Moon

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Preaching to the right, antiques to the left, gambling in the back.

Decatur Police announced over the weekend that it had shut down an illegal casino operating inside a purported church and antique store.

Signs outside of a building which used to house McCollum’s Seafood Restaurant — a longtime Decatur staple — advertised Life Church and Vintage Treasures antiques. But inside, in a secret room in the back, Decatur Police say they confiscated 17 slot machine-type gambling machines.

Additionally, police say they discovered “an alarm and bell system” set up to warn workers if police showed up.

“During the month of December, DPD had received multiple reports of a gambling ‘casino’ operation inside of the old McCollum’s Seafood Restaurant,” a post on the Decatur PD’s Facebook page said. “Investigators discovered a large gambling machine operation inside of the church.”

DPD arrested Timothy Keith Roberts, of Huntsville, on charges of promoting gambling and unlawful maintenance of electric bells, etc., both felony charges.

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Donna Joanne Weir, of Meridian, Miss., a worker at the church/store/casino, was also arrested on charges of promoting gambling.

It was the second arrest for Roberts in the last two years for gambling-related crimes. He was also arrested in Decatur in 2017 for possession of a gambling device and establishing a gambling place.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Crime

Opinion | Slain Birmingham officer needed our help

Josh Moon

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On Sunday, Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter was shot and killed by some criminals who were apparently trying to break into cars.

Carter died at the scene. His partner was also shot, and remains in critical condition at UAB Hospital.

It was senseless. And stupid. And maddening.

And not at all unpredictable.

In fact, it’s astounding that it has taken this long for a cop in one of the most violent cities in America — one of the most violent industrialized nations on earth — to be killed. Carter was the first police officer murdered in the city in 14 years.

In that same city, more than 200 people have been killed — most of them by gunfire — in just the past TWO YEARS.

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And it will get worse.

It will get worse because we continue to turn a blind eye to the root causes of the violence that permeates our major cities: under-education, extreme poverty, drug use and a flood of easy-to-obtain firearms.

To put that another way: you have large groups of people who are hopeless, desperate and angry. They have been failed at every step of their lives — by their parents, their government, their schools and their justice system. They have been immersed in horrific violence since birth. They have no idea what acceptable conflict resolution even is, much less how to practice it. And they have been afforded ridiculously easy access to any firearm they would like.

A few years ago, as Montgomery suffered through one of the ugliest and deadliest years on record, I spent several days essentially hanging out in the highest crime neighborhoods — the projects, the abandoned apartment buildings, the neighborhoods you tell your kids to avoid when they start driving.

What I found was depressing.

Because these were not bad people, They were not lazy or unmotivated. They were not happy with their lives, nor were they particularly hostile.

They were hopeless.

Every single day mothers in those neighborhoods sent their kids off to schools that they knew were failing them. Every day, they prayed that their kids found some crack to slip through and into a better life — maybe they would be great at sports or a gifted student who landed in a magnet program or … hell, anything.

But deep down, they knew.

They knew that at some point reality would take hold. Their kids, lured by quick and easy money, would fall into the gangs. The violence and crime would take root and become common. Juvenile detention facilities would follow. And probably, if their kids survived, jail and prison.

The stories are more nuanced, and there are more twists and turns along the way, but this was life in a nutshell for a good chunk of Alabama’s capital city.

The people had no hope.

And when such a thing happens, when you remove hope from hurting people, you also remove a valuation of life. Their life seems to be so utterly unvalued by everyone, so why should they value yours?

Or a cop’s?

This is where we are. And it’s getting worse.

You can get angry and stomp your feet and pretend that sticking kids in electric chairs or locking ‘em all up is going to solve it, but it’s not. Deep down, after centuries of that nonsense, surely you all know that by now.

The only thing that will solve it is love.

Until we love the poor kids, the black kids, the brown kids and all of the other kids who are a little bit different, this will never get better. Until we are as invested in the kids who dress in ratty clothes and have bad attitudes, in the kids who don’t speak the language well and who fight first and ask questions later, we will continue to produce murderers and cop killers.

It seems that Sgt. Carter knew this.

In interviews with local media outlets, those who knew Carter best said he served Birmingham because he wanted to make a difference in his city. He wanted kids and the good people to feel some measure of safety. He wanted kids to know there were alternatives to the gangs..

But mostly, he wanted the people in the worst parts of his city to simply know that someone cared about them.

Sgt. Carter didn’t die because his efforts were naive or misguided, or because the people he tried to help are too hopeless.

He died because not enough us joined him.

 

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Crime

Birmingham police officer killed, second in critical condition

Brandon Moseley

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Saturday night two Birmingham Police officers were shot. Sergeant Wytasha Carter has died from his wounds and the second officer remains in critical condition.

On Sunday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced the tragic news of Sergeant Carter’s wounds.

“We began today with the heartbreaking news that Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter was killed in the line of duty and a second officer still remains in critical condition,” Gov. Ivey said. “On behalf of the entire state of Alabama, I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers as we all mourn the death of Sergeant Carter, which came far too soon. This is a terrible loss for Sergeant Carter’s loved ones, his fellow law enforcement officers and our entire state. Let us keep Sergeant Carter, his wife and children close to our hearts during this difficult time.”

“I offer my fervent prayers to the second officer still fighting to stay alive,” Ivey continued. “I also pray for the doctors, nurses and staff working to help this officer survive the tragedy. To this officer, know that the people of Alabama stand behind you.”

“We must never forget the tremendous sacrifice that our law enforcement make each and every day,” Ivey concluded. “We certainly will always remember Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter and his ultimate sacrifice for the people of Birmingham who he served so well.”

“Sgt. Wytasha Carter laid down his life for the city he served,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “This husband and father was a true public servant and will be honored by each of us.”

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“As this investigation continues, I ask that everyone pause and reflect on how our Birmingham police officers go out every day to protect our community,” Mayor Woodfin added. “We also remain in prayer for the second officer who was shot along with Sgt. Carter. He is currently in critical condition.”

“This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers all law enforcement face while we sleep,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town said. “While they keep us safe. While they do the job. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the officers, the officer still fighting for life, and the fallen officer whose end of watch came much too soon.”

“As the scripture teaches us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”” Woodfin concluded. “Each day, Birmingham police officers risk their lives when they report for duty. This is a time of mourning for our city, but please know our police officers will be dedicated to justice and continued service for the people of Birmingham.”

Wytasha Carter was highly respected in the Birmingham Police force.

“He was just driven,’’ said his supervisor, Lt. Shelia Finney. “He was a great sergeant. I enjoyed working with him.’’

Sgt. Carter was killed in the line of duty as he investigated car burglaries in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue North. Th other officer is being treated at UAB Hospital.

The police have apprehended two suspects. The case remains under investigation.

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Courts

Brooks voted against bipartisan criminal justice reform

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, voted “No” on S. 756, the First Step Act of 2018. Rep. Brooks says that the legislation releases violent criminals from prison early, making Americans less safe and more likely to be victims of violent crimes and drug overdoses.

“The Senate version of the First Step Act is a step backward,” Rep. Brooks said. “My experience in law enforcement taught me early on that strong enforcement of criminal statutes and tough penalties for criminal conduct help keep dangerous criminals off the street. To be clear, I joined 359 of my House colleagues in voting ‘Yes’ on the House version of the First Step Act, which did not include dramatic cuts in criminal penalties and early release provisions for violent criminals. It is only a matter of time before the verdict on this legislation is rendered: more crime, more crime victims, and more dead Americans. To cite but one major flaw, S. 756 as amended CUTS penalties for gun use during the commission of violent crimes. That is nuts! Further, this soft-on-crime bill even provides for early release of offenders who commit sex crimes, assault law enforcement officers, commit hate crimes, and assist with jailbreaks.”

“Many major, national law enforcement groups strongly oppose this bill including but not limited to the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Major City Chiefs Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations,” Rep. Brooks continued. “In sum, this bill makes America a more dangerous place to live. According to FBI annual ‘Crime in America’ data, violent crime has fallen sharply over the last quarter decade in America.[3] Why? Because, as every law enforcement officer knows, the greater the penalty for violation of criminal laws, the greater the deterrence and the less the crime. Further, stiff criminal penalties keep violent repeat criminals off the streets and in jail. The Senate-amended First Step Act kicks violent, repeat offenders out of jail much quicker than under current law. Reform efforts should focus on reducing crime and apprehending suspects. This bill does none of that.”

“The bottom line is, at a time when fatal drug overdoses plague our nation, Congress has irresponsibly passed legislation that increases the likelihood that even more fatal drugs will be imported into America by illegal aliens and foreign drug cartels,” Brooks concluded. “Let the record show, I voted against this irresponsible, soft-on-crime, and dangerous legislation.”

The National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America wrote in a letter to Senate leadership: “The current draft of the First Step legislation remains troubling to the leaders of law enforcement. Sheriffs are elected solely to protect our communities, and Police Chiefs have taken an oath to protect the public. We feel unless the changes recommended below are enacted, this legislation creates a high-risk path for dangerous criminals with gun crime histories to early release from prison. This amounts to a social experiment with the safety of our communities and the lives of Sheriffs, deputies and police officers in the balance. Please know that we did not come to this conclusion lightly. We have been working diligently with the Administration to correct these inequities. It is our hope the Senate will listen to the nation’s elected Sheriffs and the Chiefs of Police of our nation’s most populous cities.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President Donald J. Trump (R) into law on Friday.

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Crime

Trump administration orders gun owners to hand over, destroy all bump-stock-type devices

Brandon Moseley

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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced that the Department of Justice has amended the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), clarifying that bump stocks fall within the definition of “machinegun” under federal law, as such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.

“President Donald Trump is a law and order president, who has signed into law millions of dollars in funding for law enforcement officers in our schools, and under his strong leadership, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more gun criminals than ever before as we target violent criminals.” Acting Attorney General Whitaker said. “We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semiautomatics into machine guns, are illegal, and we will continue to take illegal guns off of our streets.”

On February 20, 2018, President Trump issued a memorandum instructing the Attorney General “to dedicate all available resources to… propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”
In response to that direction from President Trump, the Department reviewed more than 186,000 public comments and made the decision to make clear that the term “machinegun” as used in the National Firearms Act (NFA), as amended, and Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended, includes all bump-stock-type devices that harness recoil energy to facilitate the continued operation of a semiautomatic firearm after a single pull of the trigger.

This final rule amends the regulatory definition of “machinegun” in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), sections 447.11, 478.11, and 479.11. The final rule amends the regulatory text by adding the following language:

“The term ‘machine gun’ includes bump-stock devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.” Furthermore, the final rule defines “automatically” and “single function of the trigger” as those terms are used in the statutory definition of a machine gun. Specifically, “automatically” as it modifies “shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot,” means functioning as a result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through the single function of the trigger; “single function of the trigger” means single pull of the trigger and analogous motions”

Because the final rule clarifies that bump-stock-type devices are machineguns, the devices fall within the purview of the NFA and are subject to the restrictions of 18 U.S.C. 922(o). As a result, persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule. A current possessor may destroy the device or abandon it at the nearest ATF office, but no compensation will be provided for the device. Any method of destruction must render the device incapable of being readily restored to its intended function.

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From the founding of the Republic, U.S. citizens generally were allowed to own military “small arms”. In World War I most soldiers were still equipped with bolt actions rifles, like the American 1903 Springfield or the German 1898 Mauser (G98). While regular soldiers were fumbling with their bolt actions trying to get into bayonet range, much of the killing was done by heavy machine guns. When inventors began to produce machine guns that were air cooled rather than water cooled, they were able to make fully automatic rifles light enough for individual soldiers to carry them into combat.

One of the best of these was the 1918 Thompson Submachine gun. Like almost every rifle that had gone before it, after the war the Thompson was marketed to civilians. Most civilian Thompsons were used by ranchers to shoot nuisance coyotes or prairie dogs; however, in the hands of Prohibition-era gangsters the Thompson became the dreaded “Tommy Gun.”  Gangsters would ride up the street in their automobiles blasting other gangsters and anybody who got in the way with their Tommy guns.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) was determined to end this street violence so proposed the first nationwide gun control measure. The National Rifle Association, at that time more of a shooting sports participants association than the pro-Second Amendment group it is today, agreed and Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1938 with bipartisan support. That was followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968. Guns like the fully automatic Thompson, the thirty caliber MG, the fifty caliber MG, etc. were restricted to military use only. Existing machine guns in civilian use were grandfathered in and remain in the hands of federally licensed collectors and dealers.

To make matters more complicated many civilian weapons look much like their military counterparts. The defining difference is simply mechanical. Outlawed are guns that, if you pull the trigger in fully automatic mode, the gun will keep firing rounds until the shooter releases the trigger or the magazine or belt runs out of bullets. Any weapon that fires in fully automatic mode can primarily be possessed by the military or a specially licensed collector.

In 1936 frontline American troops began replacing their bolt-action Springfield rifles with the semi-automatic eight round M1 Garand. With a semi-automatic, all you have to do is to pull the trigger over and over again. In the Vietnam War the U.S. military used the M16 a military rifle with a fully automatic setting. The Gun Control Acts of 1936 and 1968 prevent most civilians from obtaining M16s. In 1989 President George H. W. Bush (R) wrote an executive order banning the import of dozens of foreign military rifles such as the Kalashnikov AK-47 and AK-74. Pres. Bill Clinton (D) signed the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 banning many military-style weapons largely based on appearance and accessories; but that bill included a sunset provision after ten years. That ban was allowed to expire in September 2004. This launched the AR-15 (the semi-automatic version of the M-16) platform as America’s favorite rifle. The AR-15 family of rifles are both legal and commonly used for both police and civilian use.  “America’s rifle”  is being widely mass produced by a number of manufacturers.

Bump stocks are devices that increase the rate of fire of civilian rifles, like the AR-15. Critics contend that the fire rate of a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock functions more like an illegal machine gun, like the Thompson or the M16. Pres. Barack H Obama’s (D) Administration disagreed and approved the sale of bump-stocks for civilian use.

On Oct. 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock, age 64, opened fire on an open-air concert in Los Vegas from a hotel room killing 59 and wounding over 400. Hundreds more were hurt fleeing the carnage. Paddock’s sizable arsenal at the scene included fourteen AR-15s equipped with bump stocks. He also had eight AR-10s, a bolt action rifle and a revolver.

Legislation to ban bump stocks was introduced in Congress, but failed to pass. Pres. Trump responded by ordering them banned by executive order. This rule by the Justice Department and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is designed to accomplish President Trump’s directive.

The Gun Owners of America (GOA) have filed suit arguing that Trump’s bump stock ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has promised that the new Democratic majority will prioritize sweeping gun control legislation, including a new assault weapons ban.

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Decatur police raid casino disguised as church

by Josh Moon Read Time: 1 min
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