Legacy of Columbine
Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Two students brought handguns to their suburban Denver charter school this week and fatally shot one student while injuring eight others. The deceased, Kendrick Castillo, 18, was three days away from graduating at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a K-12 school with roughly 1,800 students. Witnesses said Castillo was shot while rushing a shooter. Two suspects are in custody: Devon Erickson, 18, along with a minor whom Sheriff Tony Spurlock called “a female juvenile.” Police haven’t identified a motive for the shooters, one of whom was restrained by an armed private security officer hired to protect the school. The school was among hundreds in the area that temporarily closed last month in response to threats made around the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, located 7 miles from Highlands Ranch.
President Trump this week pardoned former Army Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted in 2009 of murdering an Iraqi prisoner. A military jury had found Behenna guilty of fatally shooting Ali Mansur Mohamed, a suspected al-Qaida operative, after Mansur failed to provide details on a roadside bombing weeks earlier that killed two members of Behenna’s platoon. Behenna had stripped Mansur naked, ordered him to sit on a rock, and questioned him at gunpoint, at which point Behenna claims Mansur tried to take his weapon. A translator testified that was not true. Behenna was granted parole five years into a 25-year sentence. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter urged Trump to grant the pardon, denying that he’d been persuaded to do so by Behenna’s mother, a former federal prosecutor. Behenna, 35, said, “I had big ol’ tears in my eyes” during his phone call with Trump.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, reported this week for his three-year prison sentence. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to evading taxes on $4 million in income, lying to acquire bank loans, orchestrating $280,000 in payments to President Trump’s alleged mistresses, and lying to Congress about his work on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen sought to delay his incarceration by promising incriminating evidence against Trump and others. Hours before he arrived in prison, multiple outlets reported that Cohen recently claimed to have prevented the release in 2016 of personal photographs embarrassing to Jerry Falwell Jr., the evangelical leader who vouched for Trump’s Christianity during the campaign. Cohen described the photos as the sort that would be kept “between husband and wife.” “I actually have one of the photos,” Cohen said. “It’s terrible.”
Waller County, Texas
A video concealed from the public for four years sheds new light on a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement. Sandra Bland was arrested in 2015 in Prairie View, Texas, for allegedly failing to signal, and killed herself in a jail cell three days later. A dashcam video filmed trooper Brian Encinia pulling out his Taser and yelling at Bland, “‘I will light you up. Get out. Now.’” Encinia claimed he didn’t know what Bland might grab in the car and had feared for his safety. The new video, however, shows that Bland was directly facing Encinia and filming with her cellphone during the arrest. Bland’s suicide sparked outrage nationwide; a perjury charge against Encinia was dismissed after he agreed to change careers. After local news outlets published Bland’s video, authorities denied covering up the film, noting that it was referenced in investigative reports.
New York City
President Trump reported $1.17 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994, The New York Times revealed this week, letting him avoid paying any tax at all in eight of those 10 years. The Times said it acquired official IRS transcripts detailing Trump’s frenzied acquisition and construction of hotels, casinos, and an airline funded by hundreds of millions in loans. Most of those investments failed, even though at the same time Trump was burnishing his reputation as a master businessman with 1987’s The Art of the Deal. When compared with Internal Revenue Service information on other high-income earners, Trump “appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer,” the Times reported. Trump called the report a “hit job,” saying other real estate developers used write-offs and depreciation. “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes,” Trump said on Twitter. “It was sport.”
‘Heartbeat’ abortion ban
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill this week banning most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. The Republican said he was fulfilling his 2018 campaign pledge to enact “the toughest abortion bill in the country.” He faces stiff competition: Sixteen states have passed or are racing to pass “heartbeat” bills, with Alabama weighing a ban on all abortions unless the woman’s life is at risk. The Georgia law, slated to take effect Jan. 1 next year, would ban abortions before many pregnancies are even detected. Georgia is one of the states aiming to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Courts have blocked “heartbeat” bills in Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota, and the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to challenge Georgia’s. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found that only 44 percent of Georgians support the legislation. ■