Grand Rapids Public Schools security officers help nab man with gun

GRAND RAPIDS, MI April 5 2014 – Grand Rapids Public Schools security officers helped police track down a teen who allegedly carried a concealed stolen handgun during a fight Thursday near the district’s Central Campus.

Police were called to a fight between about 15 people in the area of Lyon Street and Prospect Avenue NE about 2:54 p.m. April 3.
Security officers from nearby Innovation Central High School, 421 Fountain St., attempted to break up the altercation and noticed a 17-year-old male with a handgun, police said. The teen rode away on a bicycle before police arrived.

The suspect isn’t a student, but a security officer provided police with his name and a description.

Police arrested the teen about a half-mile away near Hawthorne Street and Eastern Avenue NE. The handgun was recovered in a garage in the 100 block of Langdon Avenue NE. Police said the suspect admitted to dropping the gun there after the fight.

Police determined the gun was reported stolen to the Wyoming Police Department.

The suspect is held on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a stolen firearm, police said. The prosecutor’s office will review the case Friday.

Anyone with additional information about the incident is asked to call police at 456-3604 or Silent Observer at 774-2345.
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Chief Keef’s manager’s home site of Northfield shooting

The house where a shooting took place in Northfield early today is rented by the manager of troubled rapper Chief Keef, said Viktor Mehta, who manages the property for the owner.

It’s unclear if the rapper, whose real name is Keith Cozart, was present at the time of the shooting or otherwise involved.

Northfield police said this afternoon that the shooting remains under investigation, and asked anyone with information to contact the department at 847-441-3842. No one has been arrested, a police spokeswoman said, but police said the shooting “appears to be isolated and we believe the community is safe.”

One person is known to have been injured. Authorities earlier reported that the person was recovering in the ICU at NorthShore Skokie Hospital and later said the person is in stable condition.

The North Regional Major Crimes Task Force and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office have been brought in to help with the investigation.

Happ Road between Old Willow and Southgate is closed off to “facilitate an ongoing police investigation,” Northfield village officials said in an email. Residents will be allowed through to get to their homes.

Residents on the block have said that their neighborhood has been beset by noise and traffic problems that they blame on the residents of the home in question. Neighbors said Chief Keef fans will drive by, honk their horns and yell out his name.

Keef has had several recent scraps with the law. He had recently been released from court supervision in Cook County following earlier arrests and failed drug tests when he was arrested in Highland Park last week on suspicion of drunken driving, according to authorities.

Cozart could not be reached.

Mehta said, who manages the Northfield property, said he received a call from police this morning informing him that there had been a shooting at the house. Police were scarce on details, he said, adding that they told him the victim was recovering in the hospital, and they were still investigating.

Mehta said Chief Keef’s manager, who lives in the palatial home with his family, has been renting the house for about a year. Mehta said the manager was behind on rent and told him it was because his client was in rehab. He said he had no other problems with the tenants before this incident.

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Gunfire, police chase, crash in Logan Square

A police chase that began in Logan Square when officers witnessed gunfire ended a few blocks later when the fleeing car crashed into an SUV, authorities said.

The chase started about 2 a.m. at the intersection of Kimball, Diversey and Milwaukee avenues. Police saw gunfire coming from a car and gave chase south on Kimball Avenue. A gun was tossed from the car during the brief pursuit and recovered by police at Kimball and Schubert Street, officials said.

The chase ended at Fullerton Avenue, about half a mile south, after the fleeing car hit a parked SUV while heading south.

The SUV was pushed into a car in front of it, which hit another car, and the fleeing car spun around and ended up facing north in the intersection of Kimball and Fullerton avenues.

The crash left a trail of debris half a block long.

The car that fled, a gray four-door sedan, sustained major front-end damage. A woman’s purse sat atop the car as snow dusted the neighborhood about 2:30 a.m. A man and a woman in the car were arrested and taken into custody.

The car’s driver was not in custody.

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Allow armed ‘school safety’ employees on every campus

Every Florida school could have an employee carrying a concealed gun, under a bill a House education panel approved Wednesday. The bill is a reworked version of an armed-teachers bill that died in the Florida Legislature last year. Both are a response to the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and an effort, one lawmaker said, to provide “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Like last year’s bill, this year’s is controversial, though opponents said the 2014 version was much improved.

The House bill (HB 753) would allow districts to have at least one “school safety designee” on each campus. That person would carry a concealed gun but would first need to meet firearm and school safety training requirements. To be tapped, that person would have to be an active duty or retired military or law enforcement or licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said previous laws that made schools “gun-free zones” were well intended but inadvertently left schools defenseless, if a “monster” got on campus.

“They don’t even have a water pistol in which to charge the gates of hell…to confront this monster,” he said.
“I think it’s time to embrace this,” he added. “Firearms save people’s lives. That’s why policemen carry them.”

The bill passed with strong support from the House education k-12 subcommittee’s Republican leadership.

But Democrats on the panel said their local school districts did not support the legislation.

“They’re saying arming administrators and teachers does not guarantee any more safety in the school system than what is in there now,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach.

But Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, said it was a “creative solution” to school safety worries and provided “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, the bill’s sponsor said it would allow “properly trained individuals” to help defend students. Schools would not have to create the new armed “designee” program, however.

But Steube said it could help those campuses that feel vulnerable. “Let’s give ourselves the Constitutional and God-given rights to defend ourselves.”

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Miss. awards more school security grants

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The state Board of Education has awarded school security grants to 24 more Mississippi school districts, but still hasn’t managed to spend even half the $5 million that the state Legislature appropriated for the program in 2013.

The board voted Friday to award $630,000. The Lauderdale County school district got the most money, $80,000.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves spurred lawmakers last year to set aside $5 million for grants paying $10,000 each toward armed school resource officers. The program was meant as the state’s response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Local districts must at least match the money, although an officer would typically cost more than $20,000 a year.

With $1.57 million awarded earlier, a total of $2.2 million has been disbursed. Of the 151 school districts in Mississippi, 73 have now received money from the Mississippi Community Oriented Policing Services programs. A total of 220 officers have been funded during the current budget year, which ends June 30.

“The demand for MCOPS grants illustrates the need communities have in keeping their campuses safe,” Reeves, a Republican, said in a statement Friday. “School is a place where children should know they are safe, and MCOPS is a way for the state and local communities to join forces to protect children and address parents’ concerns.”

Bill Welch, the Department of Education official overseeing grants, said every district that applied received money.

“They all met the criteria,” he told members of the Board of Education on Thursday.

Welch said that if lawmakers would roll over the remainder of last year’s appropriation, the state could give another year of grants to current recipients.

“The funds would be available to do another round,” he said.

Lawmakers currently propose to allot $5.5 million for the program in the 2015 budget, although those numbers are subject to change as budget talks continue.

Some districts have said they didn’t apply because their officers don’t fill all the roles required by the grants. They include not only providing security and writing a crisis response plan, but serving as a “law-related educator,” teaching character education programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), mentoring at-risk students and acting as a liaison with the local youth court.

Among the state’s five largest districts by enrollment, Harrison County was the only one that applied. DeSoto County, Jackson city, Rankin County and Madison County did not.

Pearl Public Schools also did not apply. The Rankin County district experienced Mississippi’s worst school shooting in 1997 when Luke Woodham, a 16-year-old student at Pearl High School, shot and killed two students and injured seven others after killing his mother in his home.

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Teachers Carrying ‘Panic Buttons’ in Local School

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio – From the Columbine shooting to the Newtown massacre, these tragedies have shaped the way we look at school safety.

It’s a topic that’s on the minds of many educators.

“In all the emergency situations you’ve seen around the country, time is of the essence,” said Edward Vittardi.

He’s the principal at St. Albert the Great Elementary School in North Royalton.

His staff was recently armed with a new device called the Tattletale Panic Button. All of them were paid for using grant money.

“As soon as they press the button, the police department gets notification of where the emergency button was pressed and they then can get to the school as quickly as possible,” Vittardi said.

The device is only meant for major emergencies, like if there’s an intruder. That’s a scenario Kelly Beskid hopes to never experience. She’s a teacher at St. Albert.

“I started teaching 15 years ago, and I never thought that being a teacher would have to be saving some kid’s life,” she said.

It’s difficult to set off the device accidentally — that’s because both buttons need to be pressed in order for police to come.

They’re not the only ones notified, so is the principal and on site security.

Beskid said knowing that, brings a sense of relief.

“It’s much faster than using a cellphone and entering a pass code and everything. Plus, we have it on our bodies and it`s right there for us if we were any kind of trouble like that,” she said.

St. Albert is the first school in the area to try out this device.

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Former cop invents new lightweight body armor

RAWLINS, Wyo. Feb 12 2014— The host of successful companies that began in a garage is impressive: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Harley Davidson and Mattel to name a few. Add one more to the list, RMA Armament, Inc., one of only a few companies manufacturing lightweight body armor.

Now based in Rock Island, Ill., with manufacturing facilities in Monticello Iowa, it all began in 2011 in the garage of a former Rawlins Police officer Blake Waldrop.

Waldrop had been on the Rawlins force for four years, leaving to take a job with the Gillette Police Department. However, that opportunity fell through leaving Waldrop scrambling to pay bills.

“I had a secret recipe for gun oil, which I started making in my garage,” he said. “I would bottle it up and drive to different gun stores in Wyoming and South Dakota to sell. I was just trying to survive.”

One night, serendipity struck. Waldrop came across an article on body armor. As a former police officer, and former U.S. Marine, he knew all to well how important protection was to law enforcement and the nation’s military.

“I had a friend that was killed in Iraq on New Year’s Day 2004,” he said. “I wasn’t there at the time, but we served together. When I heard about it definitely pulled a heartstring.”

Even though it had been years since the death of his friend, Lance Cpl. Brian Parnello, reading about body armor brought up memories of the incident.

The day Parnello was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device), witnesses later told Waldrop the blast penetrated the body armor “annihilating it.”

“I was told it looked like spaghetti,” he said. “I started looking at different ceramics and seeing what I could do to make armor better and stronger. I ended coming up with a unique design.”

Typically, body armor is made with a solid piece of ceramic plate and polyethylene or Kevlar backing. Waldrop’s approach looks at providing protection differently.

“Instead of being one piece we broke it down into 22 sections,” he said. “When a round hits it, it will take out only the section, not the entire plate.”

Waldrop and his manufacturing team struggled with the bond agent to seal the seams together, but eventually solved the problem and came up with an “extremely good and high quality product.”

“We made an accidental discovery. The substance we developed was good for bonding tiles, and that’s what we were going after, but it also forms a protective layer of the top of the tiles as well,” Waldrop said. “You can literately take the plates when it’s dried, and smash it on the ground and it won’t affect the tiles at all.”

When first tested at a shooting range in Casper, Waldrop knew he had something very special.

“It was a lot stronger than I first though,” he said, “That’s when the light bulb when off. I knew what I had was a lot better than the industry standard.”

There are not many manufactures of body armor, probably only seven, Waldrop added. There are a lot of distributors and resellers, but very few actual producers.

“Nobody goes into manufacturing. Nobody does this, so we have a huge upper hand and we are seeing that pay off,” he said.

Recently, during a four-day trade show RMA Armament generated between $2-3 million in sales. Currently, company officials are demonstrating the new body armor to Special Forces at Fort Bragg.

What started with a dream in his garage has grown into a 100 percent all-American made manufacturing company with eight full-time employees.

Though only producing body armor, Waldrop said the company will turn its attention to vehicle applications in March, and may consider providing armor to helicopter seats in the future.

“It’s a great success story for a former Wyomingite and Rawlins police officer to be elevated to the position I am today,” he said.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, more than 2,500 service members have been killed by IEDs during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
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Some Chicago-Area Police Worry Gang Members may Get Concealed Carry Permits

Some law enforcement officials in Cook County, Ill. – home of Chicago, America’s reigning murder capital – believe dangerous and mentally unstable people may soon acquire legal permission to carry guns in public.

Illinois is the last of the 50 states to extend concealed carry rights to gun owners and on Sunday residents can begin applying for permits online.

After an application is submitted, local law enforcement agencies have 30 days to flag it for further review by the seven-member Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board. Permit decisions must be made within 90 days.

Ahead of the influx of applications, leaders of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office says they are powerless to thoroughly vet applicants and flag individuals who may be dangerous.

The Illinois law allowing concealed carry has several safeguards. Applicants must certify they were not convicted of a felony or of certain misdemeanors in the past five years, such as threatening violence or driving more than twice under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, Illinois State Police must automatically flag applicants arrested five times in the past seven years, or three times for gang-related offenses.

Applicants must also surrender access to their mental health records, possess a valid Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card – required for gun ownership in Illinois – and complete firearms training.

Despite those requirements, Cara Smith, executive director of jails and former policy chief at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, says the 7,000-member force cannot effectively screen the applicant pool, largely because Illinois State Police denied them authorization to use the state’s LEADS database.

LEADS, Smith explains, is the “mothership of criminal history information” in Illinois.

Local law enforcement can flag any applicant for further review, even if they have not received a disqualifying conviction. Smith and her boss, Sheriff Tom Dart, believe doing so may weed out dangerous needles in the haystack of applicants.

Smith says her office is particularly interested in objecting to applicants who faced domestic violence, gun or gang-related charges that did not yield disqualifying convictions.

Illinois State Police rebuffed a request from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to automatically flag individuals meeting this criteria.

Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police, says the request was denied because those categories weren’t specified in the law.

“The statute does not provide nor will the [Illinois State Police] have a mechanism for entering ‘blanket objections,’” Bond says. “Therefore, they will need to file such objections individually through the law enforcement objection process.”

Smith also says her department’s lack of access of mental health concerns reported to state agencies may also allow a few loose cannons to slip through, despite the mental health waiver applicants agree to.

The licensing review board, which reviews flagged applications, is charged with denying permits for applicants it deems a threat to themselves or public safety.

Illinois Carry spokeswoman Valinda Rowe brushes off the concerns of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office as alarmist hogwash that is “entirely without basis.”

Rowe points to the law’s safeguards, including the requirement in Illinois that gun owners have a valid FOID card. If a cardholder is charged with domestic violence, she says, that card is revoked until charges are resolved.

Rowe says the sheriff’s office would like access to the LEADS database to conduct fishing expeditions that would enable them to object to as many applicants as possible.

“The Cook County Sheriff’s Office wants to object to everyone and anyone they can because they oppose concealed carry,” Rowe says. “They are trying to undermine the law that was passed.”

Rowe says she opposes disqualifying citizens charged – but not convicted – of crimes.

“That’s just ridiculous,” she says. “If they are determined to be not guilty, why would you object to someone following their constitutional rights?”

The Illinois law specifies that permits be awarded on a “shall issue” basis – meaning anyone who qualifies must be given a license – as opposed to laws in some states that feature the more discretionary “may issue” standard.

“They want this to be ‘may issue’ and that’s not what the law is,” Rowe says. “Tom Dart is the only sheriff I know who is speaking out in opposition [to the law].”

Smith, however, says the law’s added level of bureaucracy distinguishes it from other “shall issue” states.

The Illinois law was approved by the state legislature July 9. Legislators voted decisively to overturn Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto. In a December 2012 ruling the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decreed the state must pass legislation allowing concealed carry.

In lieu of access to the LEADS database, Smith says the Cook County Sheriff’s Office is engaging in a less-thorough and more time-consuming work-around.

Staff typically assigned to jails, policing and intelligence-gathering are being enlisted to help search the records they do have access to – including protective order listings, jail records and a database used by Chicago police.

Around 400 applications for gun training instructors were submitted in December, Smith says, and her department found some applicants faced charges they found concerning.

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Three police officers and a citizen honored for good deeds in Park Ridge

Three Park Ridge police officers received special recognition this month for their efforts in saving men who tried to end their lives.

Officers Carlos Panizo and Kristen Abbinante were presented with the Park Ridge Police Department’s Award of Valor, while Officer Mark Vallejo was given the Life Saving Award during a Feb. 3 City Council meeting.

Panizo and Abbinante’s award — the highest given out by the department — was based on a dramatic rescue that occurred in late October on the railroad tracks near the Uptown train station. A 42-year-old man, reportedly telling passersby that he wanted to “end it all,” was sitting on the railroad tracks and claimed to have a gun in his coat.

“He told the officers he had a gun, that he was going to shoot and that he wanted them to shoot him,” said Police Chief Frank Kaminski.

The officers held the man at gunpoint as they tried to talk to him and call for all trains to be stopped, but almost immediately they were faced with another danger: an approaching express train.

As the man laid down on the tracks, Panizo was able to determine he did not have a gun in his hand and, rushing onto the tracks closely followed by Abbinante, Panizo grabbed the man by his shoulders and dragged him to a platform — just as the express train roared by. Panizo and Abbinante searched the man — finding no weapons — handcuffed him and called an ambulance.

“Both of these officers put their lives in jeopardy, and for their heroic actions they are being awarded the department’s highest award,” Kaminski told elected officials and audience members gathered for the Feb. 3 recognition at City Hall.

Vallejo was presented with the department’s Life Saving Award for his actions while responding to a call of a man who had cut his wrists in a suicide attempt. With pieces of information that he had from a third-party 911 call, Vallejo arrived at the home referenced in the call, but no one came to the door, which was locked.

“He kicked down the door, he went in, went to the second-floor bathroom and found the subject in there with two knives, three puncture wounds and blood all over,” Kaminski said.

Vallejo immediately administered first aid to the man. When an ambulance arrived, the man was further treated by paramedics and taken to the hospital.

“If it hadn’t been for Officer Vallejo, an individual would have taken his life,” Kaminski said. ”He’s a very seasoned officer. His quick assessment of the situation and his judgement really helped save this person’s life.”

In addition to honoring the officers, Kaminski also acknowledged Park Ridge resident Emily Patel for her work in reporting two suspicious people to police, which led to burglary charges.

Kaminski said Patel called police in December after noticing two people outside a neighbor’s home. Police responded and a brief foot chase and search of the neighborhood occurred before two men were apprehended. The officers also determined the house where the men had been seen had been burglarized and some jewelry that was allegedly stolen had been dropped in the snow outside.

“She did the right thing — she called 911,” Kaminski said of Patel as she was presented with an Award of Appreciation.

Kaminski said the case is an example of a successful community partnership with police, an initiative he has focused on since he joined the police department as chief in 2009.

Others can take away an important message from what occurred as well, he said.

“Know your neighbors, watch out, and if you feel something’s not right, give us a call,” Kaminski said.

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Cook County sheriff objects to 240 concealed carry applicants

First month sees 8,722 online permit requests from Cook County, 36,630 from state.

In a review of the first month of concealed carry applications, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart objected to granting firearms permits to 240 people because of criminal histories that include domestic violence and gun crimes.

As of Wednesday, state police had received 36,630 applications, 8,722 of them from Cook County.

Of the Cook County applicants Dart objected to, five had already been denied by the state police. Of the remainder, 88 had records for domestic violence, 77 for gun crimes, 52 for battery/assault and 27 for aggravated battery/assault.

Twenty-nine had orders of protection filed against them. Some of the applicants had records in more than one category.

Dart also objected to applicants with records for gang activity, burglary, theft, sex crimes and drug crimes. Many applicants had more than one violation — one had been arrested 20 times, with two convictions, the sheriff’s office said.

Fourteen of the applicants Dart objected to are certified concealed carry trainers, the sheriff’s office said.

A new law allowing concealed guns to be carried in public was cobbled together after an appellate court struck down the state’s concealed carry ban in December 2012. An online system for applying for permits was launched last month.

State police also are working on a paper application process that they hope to have completed by July.

As part of the application process, county sheriffs, state’s attorneys, local police and the attorney general’s offices are allowed to review applications that have been initially approved by the Illinois State Police.

When objections are made, the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board must review the applications and make the final decision.

Dart has been critical of the approval process, calling it “fraught with problems and holes.”

While the law requires state police to file an objection if an applicant has five or more arrests in the past seven years or three or more arrests on gang-related charges, Dart has vowed to be more stringent.

He has said he wants to bar permits to those arrested even once in the past seven years for domestic violence, gun possession or gang crimes.

According to the sheriff’s office, 118 of the applicants who Dart wants to deny live in Chicago and 97 reside in suburban Cook County.

Of those, 54 are from the south suburbs, 24 from the central suburbs and 19 from the northern suburbs.

An additional 25 people live outside Cook County but fall under the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction because they lived in the county at some point in the past 10 years.

Nearly 360,000 Cook County residents are licensed to own a gun.

Dart has said he believes perhaps half of them will apply for a concealed carry permit.

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