Multiple Casualties Reported After Gunman Opens Fire In South Texas Church

Federal authorities are responding to a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small community southeast of San Antonio. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has tweeted that special agents from its San Antonio field office have been dispatched to the scene.

A man walked into the church during a service late Sunday morning and “began firing,” the local Wilson County News reports, citing county Sheriff Joe Tackitt. The paper notes that Tackitt “confirmed there were multiple casualties and multiple fatalities.”

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told NPR that it “was an active shooter incident.” The Wilson County News later reported that “the shooter has been taken down” — though officials have not yet publicly clarified whether that means he was taken into custody or killed.

“Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Sunday. “Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon.”

Families in tears wait to see if their family and friends are safe. Praying for the safety of all those involved. pic.twitter.com/yjzK7lZJ1S

— Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 5, 2017

Local media report that law enforcement has closed off the the scene, where emergency vehicles line the streets and witnesses have told of several helicopters overhead. FBI agents have also arrived at the church.

President Trump says he is “monitoring the situation from Japan.”

“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas,” Trump tweeted. “The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene.”

May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2017

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

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Sexual Harassment Scandals Abound In Statehouses Across The U.S.

Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, has called on any lawmakers or government employees who have settled sexual harassment allegations to resign.

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In the weeks since allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein became public, a number of other stories of abuse have come to light: in Hollywood, in newsrooms (including NPR’s), and now, in statehouses across the country.

At a news conference Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called for the resignation of any lawmakers or government employees who have settled sexual harassment claims. The governor didn’t name names, but the news conference comes just days after reports that House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) settled a complaint with a female staffer out of court.

“There have been any number of allegations in recent days that would indicate that certain individuals have been anything but faithful and true,” Bevin said. “These allegations have not been denied by anyone. These allegations are increasingly becoming corroborated.”

Statement from Gov. Matt Bevin on Alleged Misconduct from Members of
House of Representatives pic.twitter.com/7WQ0NqY8s8

— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) November 4, 2017

The message was reiterated on the governor’s Twitter page.

“These are hallowed halls,” Bevin said Saturday. “There is a higher expectation of moral authority from the people who are elected to come here.” The governor cited “multiple events and multiple people,” implying he wasn’t only speaking to Hoover.

The Louisville Courier-Journal first reported that Hoover secretly settled a complaint with a staffer who threatened to sue him and others for sexual harassment. As Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton reports, Hoover allegedly exchanged sexually explicit text messages with a female subordinate, and requested pictures from her in 2016. Another female staffer in Hoover’s office says she was placed on leave for reporting a toxic workplace culture.

A number of GOP representatives from the Kentucky House joined Bevin Saturday in calling for Hoover’s resignation. Hoover has said he will not resign, and has refused to confirm or deny the allegations publicly. The Associated Press reports:

In a private meeting with House Republicans, Hoover said he was ‘legally’ prohibited from talking about it and said he had asked for forgiveness from his family, according to Republican state Rep. Wesley Morgan who attended the meeting.

Kentucky is far from the only place dealing with allegations of sexual harassment in state government. In Florida, six women have accused the state Senate’s budget chairman Jack Latvala of touching them inappropriately. In Illinois, a former federal prosecutor has been appointed to address an ongoing sexual harassment scandal after Democratic State Senator Ira Silverstein lost his leadership position due to allegations from an activist who worked with him to pass legislation over 18 months.

An open letter from women working in the Illinois state capitol reads: “Every industry has its own version of the casting couch. Illinois politics is no exception. Ask any woman who has lobbied the halls of the Capitol, staffed Council Chambers, or slogged through brutal hours on the campaign trail. Misogyny is alive and well in this industry.”

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Ousted Catalan President Turns Himself In To Police In Brussels

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has turned himself in to police in Brussels, following an international warrant for his arrest over Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain.

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The prosecutor’s office in Brussels says the former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has turned himself in to police, along with several of his former government ministers. Now, a Belgian judge must decide whether to extradite the ousted officials to Spain, where they face charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds for their roles in Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain.

Catalonia, formerly a semi-autonomous region of the country, declared independence a little over a week ago following a disputed referendum last month. Spain swiftly dissolved the regional government and declared direct rule, calling for new elections in December. The ousted president Puigdemont fled to Brussels, while several of his former ministers remained in Spain and were jailed.

On Friday, a Spanish judge issued an international warrant for Puigdemont’s arrest. As NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports, Puigdemont happened to be on Belgian television giving an interview when the arrest warrant was issued. He said he would comply with Belgian justice, but believes Spanish justice is politicized.

The question remains whether Brussels will agree to extradite Puigdemont to Madrid. The BBC reports that a country can reject an E.U. arrest warrant if it fears that “extradition would violate the suspect’s human rights,” that the suspect would not receive a fair trial, or if it fears discrimination based on politics, religion, or race.

Meanwhile, protests continue in Barcelona, with pro-independence demonstrators holding signs depicting the jailed former ministers of Catalonia as political prisoners. One of the protesters told Frayer that he voted separatists into his regional government and “is appalled by how they’ve been removed from power.”

“Today I’m so sad because the people that I voted [for] are arrested and are in prison. I think it’s the most anti-democratic thing that could happen in a country,” Lucas Llobet told Frayer.

The Spanish government however maintains that it is preserving democracy by punishing leaders who broke the law by holding this illegal referendum, and then declaring independence.

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'Invisible No More' Examines Police Violence Against Minority Women

Andrea J. Ritchie is a black lesbian immigrant, police misconduct attorney, and 2014 Senior Soros Justice Fellow. She is currently researcher-in-residence on Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

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Ritchie reads from her book

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The names of black men and boys such as Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice, are often rallying cries during protests over alleged police misconduct. All three died during encounters with police and news about their deaths was a constant on social media.

For years, Andrea J. Ritchie, a police misconduct attorney, has worked to also bring attention to the names and experiences of black women such as Sandra Bland in Texas and Rekia Boyd in Chicago, who both died after violent encounters with police.

Ritchie’s latest effort is a meticulously researched and often chilling book, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. In it she examines violent encounters between police and citizens from the perspective of black women, women of color, transgender women and others.


Interview Highlights

On whether news about volatile situations between police and women of color are increasingly becoming part of the mainstream conversation or if the book demands it should be

It’s both and it’s also that the resistance to police violence against black women and women of color should also be invisible no more. Post Ferguson (Michael Brown’s death), young black women and women of color who were on the front lines were saying we will no longer be standing in front of tanks in Ferguson defending, asserting and refusing violence against Black men by police officers and having folks ignore the violence that we experience at the hands of police officers. So it’s also to assert that looking at issues of racial profiling, policing and mass incarceration through the lens of women’s experiences is a valid and essential standpoint. That’s if we are to fully understand the scope and complexity and depth of the problem and therefore come up with solutions that are genuinely going to address the scourge of police and state violence against black bodies and brown bodies and immigrant bodies and people of color in this country.

On how the experiences of violent police encounters for women of color differ from the experiences of men

Some things are very similar — like police shootings and police profiling. You know, driving or walking while black and some things are disproportionately experienced by black women and women of color. An example of that would be police sexual violence which is the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct but not the second most talked about. That’s even though case after case keeps coming to light. So for instance, I can think of five recent cases that have come to light of different kinds of police violence. That includes straight up rape of a young woman 18 years old in handcuffs in the back of a police cruiser after a traffic stop by a New York City police officer…

Invisible No More cover

Beacon Press

The Buffalo News did an investigation that showed a police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days. It’s already an invisible issue and certainly more invisible when sexual assault and sexual harassment is perpetrated by people who are the ones society has decided are the ones who should protect us.

On what police departments are doing about police sexual violence

The vast majority of them absolutely nothing. Thirty-eight of the 50 largest police departments responded to a survey I created two years ago. Among the 38 only half had a policy saying that you can’t sexually assault a member of the public. And very few departments have a program designed to detect that kind of behavior, prevent that kind of behavior, to make it clear that complaints about that kind of behavior can be taken by a civilian oversight authority. In the vast majority of departments the only place to report police sexual violence is to the police and that creates its own series of opportunities of further violence and threats.

I do feel people look at the Daniel Holtzclaw case (the former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of preying on women while on patrol) , look at the fact he was prosecuted and convicted and that he’s doing 263 years in prison and think, ‘Oh the criminal legal system is handling this. We’ve got this. It’s just on survivors to come forward and it will be properly investigated and officers will be prosecuted and that’s how we are going to handle this problem — on a one-to-one case-by-case basis.’ But the reality is that most people don’t come forward and most officers are not prosecuted. Those who are, often face charges of official misconduct. Often they are acquitted because survivors are not believed. And in many other cases, officers are permitted to stay on the job, do an administrative desk job or move to another department. It’s so prevalent that researchers have a term for it: the officer shuffle. An officer might be quietly terminated from one department for engaging in sexual misconduct and immediately be hired by the next department over without any warning to folks or any consequences and then continue their pattern of predation.

On why she believes the mainstream, anti-violence movement was often silent about police violence that affected black women and women of color

Because they are deeply invested in police as a solution to violence. So it makes it very difficult if you are advancing that there should be more policing and more criminalization as a response to violence to then confront the reality that police are primary perpetrators of violence. So it calls into question, the whole strategy in a way that I think is uncomfortable for what has now become an industry — that gets a significant amount of money from law enforcement, that partners with law enforcement and is invested in law enforcement as the answer to violence. It’s changing though. I made a submission to the Task Force on 21st Century Policing under President Obama calling for the Department of Justice to take action on this issue, to issue a model policy to condition funding for departments — at least saying don’t sexually harass or assault members of the public and certainly putting into a place a program to prevent, detect and hold officers accountable. Dozens of anti-violence organizations and coalitions signed onto that letter and are starting to take up the cause.

On whether social media play less of a role documenting alleged police misconduct when women are involved

Definitely. There are definitely cases that have been captured on video involving women that have helped raised visibility and expand the conversation to reflect their experiences, but you’re right. If police violence against black women and women of color is happening in the back seats of patrol cars, on the way to the precinct, in the precinct in the context of domestic violence, in the context of responses to mental health crises — all those things are happening in private spaces away from cell phones and cop-watching cameras. Also when officers are responding to domestic violence, they’re supposed to turn off their body cameras for the privacy of the survivors and I would support that except that then there’s no documentation of the kinds of abuse that happens in those contexts. That is definitely one significant reason for invisibility of police violence against black women and women of color because it’s happening in private spaces — in clinics, in homes, in welfare offices, in the back seats of patrol cars, in vacant lots, in precincts — and we are not seeing it in the same ways of the kind of public stop and frisk or the public excessive force or the public shootings that we see more often for black and brown men.

Let me say one more thing about excessive force policies that affect women. There’s a number of instances of police excessive force used against pregnant women documented in the book and many police departments don’t have a policy explicitly instructing police officers that they should not engage in certain kinds of uses of force against pregnant women — whether it’s using a taser on pregnant women, whether it’s using a kick or a punch on a pregnant woman’s stomach, or taking a pregnant woman face down or rear handcuffing. There’s a whole series of things that departments could do that would be specifically about use of force against pregnant women that departments don’t do…and again, those policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on if they aren’t effectively enforced, but if you don’t even have a policy then you certainly can’t be effectively enforcing them.

On the difficulty of reading the book and whether the focus should be on weeding out bad officers that may work in one of the country’s 18,000 police departments or whether it’s necessary to have system-wide overhauls

I invite people to read the book for the answer to that question. I think that part of the reason it is so hard to read is because there are so many stories in it. And I struggled with how many to include but the reason I did that was to say, ‘really, there are 300 cases here. Are we talking about an individual problem, a one-off problem, a rogue officer problem or are we starting to see a systemic pattern here?’

There’s also a great deal of history to point out that this is not a recent phenomenon. That sexual violence by police and law enforcement and occupying colonial armies has been a constant threat throughout U.S. history , has consistently been part of the arsenal of oppression and policing and repression against communities of color. The answer is no, there’s no question that it’s a systemic problem.

On whether including details about resistance efforts helps emphasize that some are paying close attention to violent encounters that occur between police and women of color

Of course. Individual women and girls that this is happening to are speaking out and demanding justice. Their families and communities are speaking out and demanding justice. Of course it was important to reflect that. I think this is a historical necessity. We talk about slavery sometimes as if black folks were just submissively accepting and enduring what happened, but that was certainly not the case and people were resisting in all kinds of ways. And I really appreciate many of the black feminist historians who I quote who talk about how black women resisted in all kinds of ways on a daily basis the violence of slavery. So I wanted similarly reflect the ways in which people are resisting in all kinds of ways the daily police violence that black women and women of color are subjected to and I wanted to illustrate how looking at this issue through the lens of women’s experiences might shift the ways in which we resist, might expand the demands that we make. For instance, if we are going to make a demand about excessive force policy, we are going to make sure that it addresses excessive force against pregnant people. If we’re going to make a demand about anything else, we’re going to do that in a way that reflects multiple experiences of a particular problem. That we are going to evaluate our responses also through the lens of, ‘is this actually going to reduce police violence against black women and women of color or is just going to shift the form that it takes?’

On hoping the book helps change the conversation about police and violence

There’s no question about it. And we want to think about how it changes the conversation, how it changes the solutions that we pursue, the demands that we make and how it changes the vision of what systems and what institutions we need to put in place that will actually produce more safety for black women and women of color.

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Power, Consent And Sexual Harassment In The Public Eye

Harvey Weinstein faces very serious accusations of sexual assault. But one writer thinks many men are being unfairly caught up in less serious accusations.

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Women around the country have been speaking out in what seems like a deluge of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations against men in positions of power.

The floodgates opened with a New York Times story about sexual harassment accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has since been accused of raping multiple women and is now being investigated by multiple police agencies.

A national conversation has begun about sexual harassment. But there are times when some people disagree about what that phrase means.

In a recent example, NPR’s former news boss Mike Oreskes was forced to resign this past week due to multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

NPR’s David Folkenflik detailed the numerous allegations of Oreskes’ inappropriate behavior. When “taken together, the allegations involving Oreskes paint an ominous picture of an executive willing to abuse his authority,” Folkenflik writes.

But “[s]ome of the incidents, in isolation, might not appear consequential.”

A former NPR editor who was pressured to meet Oreskes for dinner “found the experience bewildering as she tried to sort out whether what she had experienced was truly sexual harassment.”

Last month, after former President George H.W. Bush was accused of groping multiple women, his spokesman responded that Bush “has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate.” (He “sexually assaulted me,” one actress wrote.)

One person says she has been sexually assaulted while another calls the same incident “innocent.”

NPR’s newsroom uses Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which defines “sexual harassment” as: “inappropriate, unwelcome, and, typically, persistent behavior, as by an employer or co-worker, that is sexual in nature, specif. when actionable under federal or state statutes.”

NPR’s Weekend Edition asked men around the country what behavior they thought crosses the line from something less serious to harassment.

“Any line where the other person is uncomfortable or feeling like they’re being harassed or assaulted — that’s the line for me,” says 25-year-old Wade Hankin of Seattle.

He says he was raised by a feminist mom, surrounded by strong women he loved and respected and has thought deeply about issues of consent. But a friend told him he crossed a line himself.

Four years ago he was “blacked-out drunk” at a Halloween party, Hankin tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on Weekend Edition. “I was slapping and grabbing my two friends’ behinds. And neither of them liked it.”

“I felt it was necessary to say something about it and say how sorry I am,” he says. He wrote about the experience on social media. He agreed to let NPR use his full name; his recounting of something he’s not proud of will come up on Google searches of his name.

“We only ever hear women’s allegations. Women saying what has happened to them. If there is any word from a man, it’s deny. It’s suing. It’s, ‘I never did this,’ ” Hankin says is the reason why he responded in such a public way.

“It’s never: ‘This is what I have done. I am so sorry.’ It’s never taking responsibility for actions.”

The court of public opinion

Writer Cathy Young, a contributing editor for the libertarian Reason magazine, thinks some of the outcry — she calls it “Weinsteining” — has gone too far.

“Obviously I think we can all get behind people like Harvey Weinstein, or you know, Mark Halperin, being exposed for apparent very, very serious misconduct toward subordinates and co-workers,” she tells NPR.

But she thinks the punishment doesn’t fit the crime for someone like Roy Price, who was forced out of his executive job at Amazon Studios. Young calls the offending incident “what was essentially one sort of instance of a drunken overture to somebody while they were at Comic-Con … where everyone was intoxicated.” (A producer says Price “repeatedly and insistently propositioned” her with explicit language.)

“It may not be admirable conduct, but at the same time, I really don’t think that that sort of thing — where there was no hint of retaliation, no hint of him exploiting his status to coerce a sexual contact — should be treated the same as these people who are engaging in clearly criminal conduct,” Young says.

“I don’t think that we need to be concerned about taking it too far,” responds Kaitlin Prest, host of The Heart podcast.

“Even something as seemingly minor as going into a meeting and having somebody who is in a position of power over you glance down at your breasts every few moments,” she says. “Or asking if you want to go out to your boss’s beach house and have a glass of wine. …

“There’s an entire spectrum of inappropriate behavior that happens. And especially when you take that into the workplace, those seemingly innocuous behaviors are — those are microaggressions. Those are the small things that chip away at someone’s feeling of professional value in the workplace,” Prest says. A woman could feel “the only reason why she’s here is boss man likes to look at her breasts.”

Power and consent on the job

Prest would rather have a “better safe than sorry” office environment. “I think we’re so far away from understanding what consent means,” she says.

It has to do with understanding power dynamics at work, where most of us have bosses.

“You want your boss to like you, so you feel like you have to say yes to everything,” she says. “They ask you to go out for drinks after work — you say yes automatically because you want to have this person’s favor.”

Young concedes that “there are very real power differentials in the workplace.” But she’s “concerned about this mindset that we have to constantly police for microaggressions — which, a lot of that is defined very subjectively.”

She thinks there’s a danger of glances being misinterpreted, and of “seeing offenses where none exist.”

“I don’t think most people really have that much trouble understanding consent,” Young says. “I think genuine miscommunications and genuine mixed signals really do happen.”

Prest strongly disagrees with that assessment. “I don’t think that we’re overreacting,” she says.

“This is the first time where you’re hearing people who have perpetrated that type of harassment actually investigating their behavior.” Prest says “the pendulum needs to swing a little bit farther into this extreme before we can get back to the middle.”

But Prest says she and Young can agree on asking the same question.

“I do think the question of what accountability looks like is a huge question that we need to be asking right now, and a really, really important question that I don’t think we have the answer to — at all.”

NPR’s Ravenna Koenig produced and edited this story for radio and contributed to this report.

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