Jeremiah Button evaded authorities for nearly four years, hiding deep in the woods in a self-made, solar-powered bunker before getting caught Aug. 9, several news organizations reported this week. Police marveled at the hideout, dug about 15 feet into an embankment and equipped with eight solar panels, a tin-can chimney, and an antenna that snaked down a tree to his flat-screen TV. Charged with child sexual assault, incest, and possession of child pornography, Button fled his mother’s home in 2016 and traveled 150 miles to a remote state park near a landfill, which he scoured daily for food and supplies. Using books on engineering, Button, 44, outfitted the bunker with LED lights, fans, and a bicycle-powered generator. When authorities arrived after being alerted by a hunter, Button said he considered setting himself on fire. Yet he became chatty with deputies, telling them, “It was nice to talk to some human beings.”
Norwalk, Conn.; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Youngstown, Ohio; Chicago; Memphis
Five men were arrested in separate incidents over the past two weeks for plotting mass violence. In Ohio, James Reardon, 20, threatened to shoot up a Youngstown Jewish community center. Reardon attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia and spoke of wanting “a homeland for white people.” In Florida, authorities found 400 rounds of ammunition in the apartment of Tristan Wix, 25, who had sent a text saying he wanted to “break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever.” After Brandon Wagshol, 22, of Connecticut expressed interest on Facebook in committing a mass shooting, police found military-style gear at his home. Thomas McVicker, 38, allegedly told a friend he planned to shoot up a Memphis church. And Farhan Sheikh of Chicago posted about plans “to slaughter and murder” anyone at an abortion clinic. He told FBI agents he was joking.
More from the Mooch
New York City
As his falling out with President Trump grew nastier this week, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci promised to enlist former Cabinet officers in his efforts to remove an “unstable” Trump from office. The New York investor and longtime Trump surrogate—who lasted just 11 days in the White House—said other former members of the administration share his view that Trump is unfit for office. He urged them to “defy the culture of fear” and go public with their concerns. The goal, he said, was to build support for a primary challenge to the president. “When you’re trying to deprogram people from a cult, one of the first things you have to do is allow them to change their mind,” Scaramucci said. Trump called Scaramucci a “nut job,” and some Republicans accused Scaramucci of contriving a stunt to get his wife, Deidre, on The Real Housewives of New York City.
President Trump phoned National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre this week and reportedly assured him that universal background checks for gun sales are “off the table,” reversing the public stance he took after 31 people were shot dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. In the wake of those shootings, Trump said, “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks.” He reportedly told LaPierre on Aug. 7 that people “will love us” for enforcing background checks on all gun purchases, including private transactions—a bill House Democrats had already approved. Yet the NRA pressured Trump to oppose that bill, and he’s since adopted their talking points, saying, “It is not the gun that pulls the trigger, it is the person holding the gun.” He also blamed mental illness for gun violence, despite having rolled back Obama-era regulations making it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns.
Five years on
New York City
Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose use of a banned chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014, was fired this week and stripped of his pension benefits. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that although Pantaleo, 33, was right to try to subdue Garner, 43, who was confronted on a Staten Island sidewalk on suspicion of illegally selling loose cigarettes, he should have switched to a “less lethal” method. Garner had been pushed against the ground with Pantaleo’s arm around his neck when he repeatedly gasped, “I can’t breathe.” Police union president James Lynch stood before an upside-down New York Police Department flag and said O’Neill had caved to “anti-police extremists,” leaving cops “brokenhearted.” He called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove Lynch and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Garner family said the firing was long overdue and that Pantaleo belongs in jail. Federal and local prosecutors had declined to charge Pantaleo, who pledged to sue for reinstatement.
Police serving a narcotics warrant in a row house last week were met with a barrage of bullets, sparking a seven-hour gun battle. Police Commissioner Richard Ross said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that no officers were killed, or even seriously injured, after Maurice Hill fired more than 100 rounds with an AR-15–style rifle and handgun, grazing one officer in the head and hitting five others. Hill, 36, has an extensive criminal history and said during the standoff that he didn’t want to return to prison. Two officers and three other people were trapped in Hill’s house for hours. At least 30 officers fired shots before using tear gas to force Hill onto the street, his arms up and a handgun still in his pocket. Hill, father to a teenage son and a daughter born two days before the standoff, now faces multiple counts of attempted murder, among other charges. ■