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About James Rigney

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Wife of imprisoned Chicago officer fears he's in danger

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Associated Press

CHICAGO — The wife of a Chicago police officer who was convicted of fatally shooting teenager Laquan McDonald demanded on Thursday to know why her husband was transferred from an Illinois state prison where he was kept from harm to a federal prison in Connecticut where he was assaulted and where she fears he is still in danger.

"I don't need people to go into his cell and attack him," said an emotional Tiffany Van Dyke at a news conference. "The next time this could happen, they could kill him. I cannot bury my husband."

The Illinois Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday that Jason Van Dyke was moved to federal custody but would not say why. Asked about the attack on Van Dyke, the federal Bureau of Prisons said in an email that it could confirm "an assault resulting in minor injuries" occurred on Feb. 7. The bureau declined to provide additional information, citing privacy concerns.

Van Dyke, who is white, was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for shooting McDonald 16 times in 2014. He was sentenced last month to six years and nine months in prison.

Van Dyke was attacked by another inmate after his transfer to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, appellate attorney Jennifer Blagg said in an interview Thursday. Blagg said Van Dyke was not severely injured and has since been placed in a segregated unit away from most inmates as a precaution.

Blagg said she learned of the attack when she and another attorney were on the phone with Van Dyke talking a request the state's attorney general filed asking the Illinois Supreme Court to review Van Dyke's sentence.

"We were explaining to him what it meant … when he said another inmate had jumped him and landed a few punches," Blagg said.

Blagg didn't appear at a news conference Thursday with Tiffany Van Dyke and trial attorneys Dan Herbert and Tammy Wendt, who expressed concern that Jason Van Dyke had been placed in the prison's general population with other inmates. They said former police officers would be particularly vulnerable to attack from other inmates — something Tiffany Van Dyke and others told a judge about during her husband's sentencing hearing. While imprisoned in Illinois, Van Dyke had been kept in a segregated unit.

"It was as if he was led like a lamb to slaughter," said Wendt of the attack that she said occurred within four hours of Van Dyke's arrival to the general population unit.

Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer in a half-century convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting. He was sentenced in January to six years and nine months in prison — a sentence that angered activists. This week, the state's attorney general and the special prosecutor who handled the case and asked the judge to impose a sentence of 18 to 20 years asked the Illinois Supreme Court to review the sentence.

Absent a new sentence, Van Dyke will likely serve only about three years, with credit for good behavior.

Tiffany Van Dyke said the assault was a realization of her worst fears and noted the widespread media attention his case has received in explaining why her husband might still be in danger even though he's imprisoned several states away.

"My husband's life, my family's life is national news," she said. "At the basic minimum, they were supposed to keep him safe."

Source: Police One

2nd arrest in robbery that led to NYPD blue-on-blue death

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Police arrested a man Friday suspected of being the lookout during a robbery that led to the blue-on-blue death of a New York City police detective, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press.

The man was taken into custody in Queens hours after NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill revealed on a radio show that police were looking for a second suspect in Tuesday night's stick-up, the official said.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. The suspect's name wasn't immediately available Friday night.

Detective Brian Simonsen was hit once in the chest by crossfire as he and six other officers fired 42 shots at robbery suspect Christopher Ransom, who police say charged at them from inside a T-Mobile store pointing a fake handgun.

Simonsen, 42, will be laid to rest next week.

Ransom, who was wounded eight times, was arraigned Friday by video from his hospital bed on murder, manslaughter and other charges.

A judge ordered him held without bail. His next court date is scheduled for Tuesday. Ransom faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The Legal Aid Society, which represents Ransom, cautioned people not to "demonize" him.

"The loss of life and the serious injuries suffered by all are tragic," the an indigent defense organization said in a statement. "But we ask the public to respect Mr. Ransom's right to due process and a presumption of innocence."

Ransom, 27, has a long rap sheet and a habit of bizarre stunts, styling himself on social media as a comedian and prankster in the vein of Sasha Baron Cohen of "Borat" fame.

Ransom has been arrested at least 11 times since 2012, records show, and he was wanted by police in connection with a Jan. 19 robbery at another cellphone store. After one arrest, court papers show, Ransom was taken to a psychiatric ward.

Ransom pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and was sentenced to 20 days in jail in 2016 after allegedly climbing over a gate and walking up to a desk at a Brooklyn police station while wearing a fake SWAT vest and police badge. Police records listed his alias as "Detective."

Four years earlier, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail time for pretending to be an intern to gain access to a judge's chambers.

A funeral for Simonsen, a 19-year veteran of the NYPD, is scheduled for Wednesday in Hampton Bays on Long Island, with viewings on Monday and Tuesday.

Simonsen's supervisor and partner, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, was wounded in the leg . He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

Simonsen, Gorman and six uniformed officers swarmed to the T-Mobile store at around 6:10 p.m. Tuesday after a 911 caller standing outside reported seeing a man take two employees to a back room at gunpoint, police said.

According to a criminal complaint, Ransom ordered the employees to remove iPhones and money from the cash registers and back room safes.

Simonsen and Gorman, who were both in plainclothes and not wearing bulletproof vests, were working on another case nearby when the call came and arrived around the same time as patrol officers, police said.

Gorman and two of the uniformed officers went into the store, but retreated when Ransom emerged from a back room and came at them, police said. The gunshots blew out the store's doors, showering the sidewalk with glass.

Simonsen stayed outside as Gorman and the uniformed officers went in, police said. Simonsen fired two shots. Gorman fired 11 times. It's not clear who fired the shots that struck them, police said.

Source: Police One

Ill. man being fired from job fatally shoots 5 workers

Associated Press

AURORA, Ill. — The frantic calls started pouring in at 1:24 p.m. A gunman was shooting people inside a sprawling manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Illinois.

Within four minutes, the first police officers rushed to the 29,000-square-foot building in the suburban Chicago city and were fired on immediately; one was struck outside and four others shot inside.

By the time the chaos ended Friday afternoon, five male employees of Henry Pratt Co. were found dead and the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after a 90-minute search of the sprawling warehouse. Five male police officers were hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

"For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful," said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, was being fired from his job Friday after 15 years with the company. It was not immediately known why Martin was being fired.

"We don't know whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it," Ziman said.

She also said that authorities don't yet know if the employees firing him were among the victims. The names of those killed were not immediately released.

In addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building.

The shooting shocked the city of 200,000 that is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.

Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother's Aurora neighborhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town.

Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother's house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away.

"In Aurora, period, we'd never thought anything like this would happen," Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes.

At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbors gathered on sidewalks near Martin's unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him.

Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son's birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks.

"This is a strange thing to come home to, right," she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police.

Asked if Martin's rampage had been a "classic" workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said:

"I don't know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that's being terminated that this was something he intended to do."

Source: Police One

Suspect in Ill. mass shooting was being fired from job

Associated Press

AURORA, Ill. — The frantic calls started pouring in at 1:24 p.m. A gunman was shooting people inside a sprawling manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Illinois.

Within four minutes, the first police officers rushed to the 29,000-square-foot building in the suburban Chicago city and were fired on immediately; one was struck outside and four others shot inside.

By the time the chaos ended Friday afternoon, five male employees of Henry Pratt Co. were found dead and the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after a 90-minute search of the sprawling warehouse. Five male police officers were hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

"For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful," said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, was being fired from his job Friday after 15 years with the company. It was not immediately known why Martin was being fired.

"We don't know whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it," Ziman said.

She also said that authorities don't yet know if the employees firing him were among the victims. The names of those killed were not immediately released.

In addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building.

The shooting shocked the city of 200,000 that is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.

Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother's Aurora neighborhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town.

Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother's house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away.

"In Aurora, period, we'd never thought anything like this would happen," Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes.

At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbors gathered on sidewalks near Martin's unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him.

Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son's birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks.

"This is a strange thing to come home to, right," she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police.

Asked if Martin's rampage had been a "classic" workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said:

"I don't know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that's being terminated that this was something he intended to do."

Source: Police One

Tributes, activism, safety drills mark 1 year since Parkland

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Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Some students around the country marked the anniversary of the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, with moments of silence Thursday or somber vigils while others sought to find threads of positivity in the fabric of tragedy.

Boardman High School in northeast Ohio had a "legacy lockdown" including an active-shooter drill, a chime ringing once for each of the 17 victims from Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and an opportunity to applaud local emergency responders.

It repeated an event they did weeks after the Florida shooting: Students practiced hiding during the drill, then lined the hallways to clap and cheer as dozens of police and other responders walked through the school.

Seventeen-year-old senior Jack Pendleton, who helped plan that as a non-political response to what happened, said it's a way to help students feel safer and responders feel more appreciated.

"We turn away from the dread and have to look more toward who's helping us," he said.

Near Washington, a group of students advocating for stricter gun control displayed 671 white T-shirts outside Bethesda Chevy Chase High School as a "Memorial to Our Lives," with each bearing the name and age of a teenage victim of gun violence from 2018. That, too, expands on a display they initiated last year after the Parkland shooting.

Emily Schrader, an 18-year-old senior, said the display conveys outrage and loss, but the students who hung up the shirts Thursday morning also felt hopeful about demonstrating solidarity with victims of gun violence.

"Bringing it back to our school may be a way to allude to the student activism for the past year but also to keep the focus of the day on the victims and make sure that the stories and lives of the victims are being told," Schrader said.

Students in suburban Kansas City sent kids in Parkland thousands of notes of encouragement written on labels affixed to chocolate candy bars, which were delivered to the high school earlier this week, The Kansas City Star reported .

Educators were remembering, too. In New York, the Buffalo Teachers Federation encouraged people to wear orange — as hunters do for gun safety — and join with others nationwide dedicating a moment of silence to mark the shooting.

Leaders of the nation's largest teachers' unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, issued statements remembering the Parkland victims, honoring survivors and urging legislation to reduce gun violence and improve school safety.

In Parkland, the 14 students and three staff members who died were being honored quietly through an interfaith service and service projects by students.

A Facebook page set up for mobilizing Stoneman Douglas alumni urged people to participate in an online vigil by posting pictures of lit candles with the hashtag #17Eagles. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was among the alumni tweeting in remembrance of the victims.

How to sensitively commemorate school tragedies is part of broader guidance the National Association of Secondary School Principals is working to put together this year to help principals in the aftermath of such situations, NASSP spokesman Bob Farrace said. It will be based on conversations with school leaders who have dealt with shootings over the past two decades, he said.

Source: Police One


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