Tag Archives: crime

President Trump Deletes Every Old Press Release, But The Internet Never Forgets

Yesterday, journalists discovered that the Trump regime had deleted the president’s infamous press release from 2015 that called for a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States. But it wasn’t just the Muslim ban. Every single press release from before January 1, 2017 has been erased from donaldjtrump.com.…

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How I Got Justice After My Rape Case Failed in Court

This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Sexual assault is a difficult crime to prosecute in criminal court. Survivors who seek justice are often left disappointed after going through what is typically a retraumatizing process. I was no exception—in my case, the Crown prosecutor withdrew the charge against the accused on the condition that he complete counseling on STIs.

It started in the back of a car with someone I had just met. One Friday night in February, we were fucking for the first time—consensually. I've always thought of myself as a responsible person, so given that we had only known each other for three weeks and were basically strangers, I made sure he wore a condom because I was scared of pregnancy and STIs. When he couldn't stay hard, he removed it.

He asked me to blow him, so I asked for another condom—he didn't understand why. He picked me up and put me on my back. I said no. He got on top of me, and I felt him slip the tip in. My gut told me I needed to remember that I said no, so I enunciated it each of the three times I said it again. No. No. No. He laughed at how scared I was. If he wanted to do it, he would've done it already. I told him I was on the pill, but I'd fucking kill him if he finished in me.

Then he raped me.

I remember my mind being completely silent when I got home. I went to the bathroom, took a scalding shower, and went to bed. I spent the weekend taking as many yoga classes as I could handle, but I couldn't erase the feeling in my stomach; something horrible and fucked up had just happened. The following Monday, I woke up and called in sick to work. Then I called my doctor.

"Hi," I whispered. "I've just been sexually assaulted, and I need to be tested for STIs."

As the initial shock gave way to panic, Google was my best friend. I was desperate to know what my other options were. One of the first results for "Sexual Assault Canada" back then was the website for the Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), a provincial, adjudicative tribunal that hears applications for financial compensation from victims of violent crimes. It's one of eight provincial tribunals that serve to provide balanced resolutions to civil disputes.

Victims can apply for compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, and other related expenses to the crime. It awards as much as $25,000 for single applicants, and, in cases where there are multiple victims, the maximum lump sum is $150,000 between each applicant.

I didn't really know what to expect—I couldn't find a whole lot of personal testimony about the CICB on the internet. The website made it seem easy enough: Fill out this form, wait for them to screen in the file, expect to have a hearing, and then maybe, just maybe, it'd award me compensation for the suffering I'd been through.

Having filed a statement with the police that resulted in a charge being laid against my abuser, I had access to a case worker from the ministry of the attorney general's victim/witness assistance program. She helped me complete and submit the 15-page application a few months after the assault. Once my application was found to meet the eligibility criteria, the CICB had me collect reports from my hospital, my counselors, and my employer to support my claims.

CICB asks for details about the crime, the alleged offender/offenders' information, including their address and relationship to the victim, whether or not it was reported to the police, the status of the criminal case if there was one, and details about the victim's injuries. As per CICB rules, the alleged offender/offenders are entitled to participate in the process, should they so choose—usually, they participate remotely and are not in the same room as the applicant.

Since he was a first-time offender, and let's be real, because he was white (the Crown told me that he "didn't look like the type of person who walks into courthouses all the time"), there was a low prospect of him being convicted. When the Crown told me he took an STI course so the charge was withdrawn, I felt my world close in on me as I started to sob in my case worker's office. I wasn't surprised, of course, but the weight of the disappointment and knowing that he would never be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law was almost too much to bear.

CICB waited until the criminal court aspect of my case wrapped up before they scheduled my application for a hearing. I was told that the "alleged offender" would be notified and given a copy of my file with my personal details redacted. The detective who investigated my case, and laid the charge, would be called in as a witness as well.

Although I was aware that the "alleged offender" would have the option to participate, CICB forgot to confirm that he agreed to testify despite its mandate to do so. As such, I went into that hearing unprepared, self-represented, and alone.

I learned after the fact that sexual assault crisis centers sometimes have volunteers who can accompany applicants to their hearings. Applicants can also choose to bring a friend or family member for emotional support, or if they have access to one, can hire a lawyer.

At the start of the hearing, the adjudicating members of CICB outlined how they would make their decision. In contrast to the high burden of proof in criminal court where evidence must prove a fact beyond a reasonable doubt, most civil courts like the CICB apply a lower standard called the balance of probabilities. For me, this meant that I had to "tip the scale" in my favor, and that my evidence had to prove that there was at least a 51 percent probability that I was a victim of a crime.

Although they had already read the police report and my statement, CICB members asked me to describe my sexual assault in as much detail as possible and to provide them with context around the relationship I had with the "alleged offender." I answered questions like: Did we communicate often? Did I try to push him off? How many times did we make out in his car? And what position were we engaged in when he raped me without a condom?

Testifying was excruciating. As many sexual assault survivors who have had to go through legal proceedings can attest, the process is retraumatizing. It's dehumanizing to have invasively personal questions thrown at you so that a third party can judge the validity of your experience. Recounting the details of the worst night of my life was extremely difficult, especially knowing that the man who perpetrated my trauma was listening to my every word.

Hearings at the CICB are not recorded electronically, but the board members take hand-typed notes during testimony—and the members I had were not very fast typers. I would often be interrupted and asked to slow down or repeat myself so that they could transcribe exactly what I had said. The "alleged offender" and his counsel were both given the opportunity to question me—for example: When did I know I had been raped? Why didn't I just go home? Was I on drugs?

After CICB was satisfied with my testimony, the "alleged offender" swore on the Bible to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. His testimony was wildly different than mine, going so far as to accuse me of giving him chlamydia. Words cannot describe how infuriating and insulting it is to hear your abuser use rape tropes to blatantly lie about what happened when you are 100 percent certain about what you witnessed. I knew the board had already seen my hospital records and blood work that came back healthy, and most likely knew he was making it up, but I still felt sick that someone could lack the integrity to the point of fabrication.

In the last portion of the hearing, the detective on my case testified. CICB questioned her on how consistent my testimony was with my original statement—"straight on," she said. My credibility was not the reason the charge was withdrawn, she noted. She laid the charge because she believed that it happened, and she still believed that it happened. I could have cried.

The police witness was dismissed, and CICB muted the teleconference so that they could hear about my physical and emotional injuries in private. While I had felt numb throughout the hearing, I cried while talking about the trauma out loud to a couple of strangers with what felt like my life in their hands. Articulating the extent of my emotional injuries was difficult—vocalizing it made it real.

I sat outside in the lobby while CICB deliberated on the case. After about 15 minutes, I was called back into the room to hear the members' decision, and the "alleged offender" rejoined remotely. They ruled that they believed me, and in one of the most gratifying moments of my life, found me to have been a victim of a sexual assault perpetrated by the "alleged offender." It took about two months to receive the written decision and check in the mail.

Was it worth it? No and yes. On one hand, the emotional torture of having to testify was not worth the small sum of money I got and could never undo what had been already been done to me. On the other, hearing the "alleged offender" blatantly commit a lie to public record and have him hear from a legal authority that, yes, he indeed victimized me were two of my favorite moments of 2016. For someone who had just been denied justice through criminal court, it was satisfying to have a legal body rule in my favor.

Ultimately, I think that the Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board can be a benefit to survivors of violent crimes. But it's up to survivors to make their own decision. There is a long, arduous, and bureaucratic process involved in getting that compensation, and it's retraumatizing. I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a strong support network. If you have the resources to go through with it, it can be a source of validation and justice for a crime that is so rarely recognized for how awful it is.

Follow Roslyn Talusan on Twitter.

A Serial Shaver Is Terrorizing Cats in Virginia

According to the Roanoke Times, some weirdo has been abducting and shaving people's cats since December, sending a small town outside Richmond, Virginia, on a hunt for a mysterious, fur-obsessed criminal.

Police said at least seven cats have been snatched from outside their owners' homes and completely shaved, returning unharmed shortly thereafter. At first, cops thought some strange, benevolent friend of the feline race was spaying and neutering strays. But then they realized many of the cats were obviously people's pets—sporting collars and tags—and some of the same animals had been targeted. 

Once it became clear that Waynesboro, Virginia, was dealing with a serial kitty shaver, the cats' owners started to take matters into their own hands. They've put up flyers around the neighborhood, asking folks to call the police with any info they have about the culprit, whose behavior they say is "very upsetting to the cats." 

Photo courtesy of waynesboro.com

Because no one has actually laid eyes on the sadistic barber, or come forward as a witness, there's no way of telling if he (or she) is acting alone. For what it's worth, our best guess is that he's probably in cahoots with The Watcher or those creepy clowns who terrorized the South last summer. You find one weirdo, and—just maybe—you find them all.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

I Escaped My Manic Demons, but My Jailed Clients Often Can’t

This article was published in collaboration with the Marshall Project.

I met Raheem in an arraignments shift at the Bronx Criminal Court in New York, where I was slated to serve as his social worker.

Raheem had been arrested for stealing lice shampoo from a pharmacy and then getting into a scuffle with the security guard who caught him. As we talked, he fidgeted and scratched at his body while explaining that a lice plague was ravaging the world and only he knew the secret cure. He added that he actually had enough money to buy the shampoo, but couldn't let the store employees know about his plan, so he had tried to sneak out without paying.

At the time, Raheem was on parole, stemming from his record of over 30 arrests, almost all of them minor misdemeanor charges related to his unmanaged schizophrenia. The new arrest meant he would be sent to prison for a year.

The outcome of Raheem's case was hard for me to swallow—and not just because I was part of his defense team. Like Raheem, I too had once shoplifted from a pharmacy while in the grips of a manic episode. For some reason that had felt completely compelling at the time, I needed to stock up on over 20 bottles of nail polish without anyone knowing about it.

As a well-dressed white woman, however, nobody suspected a thing and I had simply walked out of the Chapel Hill, N.C., store without notice. The episode ended in a psychiatric hospitalization, through which I received the treatment I needed to get my symptoms under control.

Even as someone who advocates every day for people with mental health diagnoses, and whose work involves dismantling the stigma that surrounds them, it is still hard for me to disclose my own struggle.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I graduated from college. It happened after my first full-blown manic episode, in which I sped on a highway at over 100 miles an hour after buying a $3,000 engagement ring on a whim, planning to surprise my then-boyfriend halfway across the world.

Needless to say, this plan did not come to fruition, and my spontaneity, risk-taking, and impulsivity soon morphed into terrifying psychosis. I was suddenly convinced that my reality was just a big stage and everyone was acting out a script, and I was hospitalized and prescribed anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers.

About four years after my first episode, I pursued a master's degree in social work with the intention of becoming an advocate for those like me. In a mental health policy class, I remember debating the use of physical restraints, and arguing vehemently against the practice. My classmates did not know that I myself had been strapped to ER beds and restrained in seclusion rooms.

But it was in that same class that I learned about the deinstitutionalization and subsequent over-incarceration of people with mental illnesses, and began to slowly comprehend my privilege as a white woman whose circumstances had allowed her to lead a productive and fulfilling life in between episodes.

Now that I am a social worker at the Bronx Defenders, I've met many people like Raheem: men and women of color struggling with mental illness while trying to survive in the South Bronx, one of the poorest districts in America. Many end up ensnared in the criminal justice and immigration systems instead of getting the health care they need.

And I have met many more clients whose experiences are eerily similar to mine, even if their outcomes could not have been more different.

Not too long ago, I had to call a man to inform him that his brother, Jose, my client, had been arrested in a psychiatric hospital for allegedly assaulting a nurse. I heard him weep on the other end of the phone—and I remembered the time that, in the throes of my own psychosis, amid the chaos of a hallway in the ER, I bit a nurse because I thought she was trying to kill me with laser beams.

I was not arrested. Instead, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward and walked out, restored to my sane self, about two weeks later.

I'll never forget Jacob either: a green-card holder from South America whom we represented through an immigration public defense program funded by New York City.

Check out the Motherboard documentary about the strange, troubled fate of smart gun technology in America.

Jacob had been working as a medical professional when he first began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia. His illness caused him to lose his job, and he fell into homelessness and substance abuse in an effort to self-medicate. He was in and out of hospitals and ended up being arrested as the result of an incident in which he found himself responding to powerful command hallucinations. His convictions landed him in immigration detention, where he continued to deteriorate and even attempted suicide.

Despite our effort to explain his symptoms and need for treatment, an immigration judge denied his application for relief. Jacob was put on a charter plane back to a country he hadn't been to in decades, where he no longer has any family or access to meaningful treatment. I never heard from him again.

It is in moments like these that I feel survivor's guilt most acutely. I have struggled to live with my diagnosis, but how can I reconcile the stark contrast between my experience and those of Raheem, Jose, Jacob, and so many others? Every time I visit my psychiatrist in her Park Avenue office, I feel a pang of guilt accompanied by overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude that I have access to quality care, and gratitude that I respond well to treatment.

My personal experience has been both a blessing and a curse. It has made me more compassionate and patient in working with clients experiencing mental health symptoms, but it also challenges me with painful reminders of past experiences that continue to be shrouded in shame and a feeling of unearned privilege.

So I've learned that to be the best possible social worker for the community I serve, I must understand that vicarious trauma is real—that if I don't try to understand how my own experiences affect my interactions with clients and vice versa, I am doing them a disservice. In the social work profession, we are often in a position of power over our clients, and to some extent, we separate them fully from ourselves.

But I think we should all recognize that many of us share much more in common with our clients than we would readily admit. It is time for people like me to say: I, too, am one of them, but I have been permitted to survive . Survival should not be a luxury.

Kristen Anderson is a social worker at The Bronx Defenders, a public defense office serving low-income communities in New York City.

Some Guy Asked the Cops to Send a Drug Dog to Find His Missing Heroin

It's apparently been a wild year for Joseph Murphy. The Ohio man kicked off 2017 by getting arrested outside Disney World on New Year's Day and allegedly pissing on a police officer's leg. He then slammed his Mercedes into a sign near his hometown before blowing a .121 blood alcohol content. Now, Murphy's racked up yet another run-in with the cops by dialing 911 to ask his local police department if they could help him track his stolen heroin, a Cleveland ABC affiliate reports.

According to the 911 call, Murphy apparently thought he could just phone up the police and order a drug-sniffing dog from the canine unit. A police officer working at the local Bath Township police department told News 5 Cleveland that it was "the most bizarre" call he's heard in his 41 years on the job.

"You need a police dog?" the dispatcher asked. "What's going on there?"

"She stole heroin from me," Murphy replied.

Though understandably confused about a) who "she" might be and b) why Murphy specifically requested a police dog, the local police figured the whole heroin thing merited a trip over to Murphy's place. By the time the cops arrived, he'd apparently realized that telling a police officer you had heroin on you probably isn't the best idea. So Murphy changed up his story—claiming some woman actually stole his money, not his drugs.

But that story didn't fool the cops, because a few minutes later, Murphy reportedly reached into his pants and pulled out a "brown waxy substance," which authorities presumed to be drugs. The cops then threw him in a squad car and took him to the station, where they fingerprinted and booked him before letting him head home. 

According to police, he's now looking at facing a felony drug charge.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

A Serial Killer’s Random Murders Are Haunting Phoenix

Sylvia Ellis followed the sound of quavering voices into the 3 AM darkness outside her house, where she saw what was left of her daughter's red Chevy Cobalt. Members of her family had thrown the doors open in a failed attempt to save the people inside, and the dome light glowed, illuminating a portrait of carnage and broken glass. Ellis's 33-year-old daughter, Stefanie, lay slumped against the wheel, soaked with blood and barely breathing. She would die about three weeks later, after falling into a coma. Thirty-one-year-old Angela Linner, her daughter's partner, lay by her side, dead.

Later that morning, Ellis would learn that her 12-year-old granddaughter, Maleah, who was lying out of sight on the back seat, had been murdered, too.

The man believed responsible for the murders has been dubbed the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter by police and the local press, and is thought to have started his spree in March 2016. In total, he killed at least seven people in at least nine attacks over the course of about four months, stretching until July 11, when he abruptly went dark. The murders at the Ellis residence, which took place June 12, 2016, were his last known fatalities.

All of his victims, whether wounded or killed, were black or Hispanic, although police do not suspect a racial motive. There was no other discernible pattern to their ages or genders—he shot women, men, children, and adults ranging from teenagers to 50-somethings. Most of them were standing outside their homes or the homes of a loved one doing something mundane like making a phone call, or listening to the car stereo, as Ellis, Linner, and their child were the night they were murdered.

"My eyes open every night at three now, the same time as when the murders happened," Ellis told me from her dining table, her dark eyes gazing toward the sunlight coming through the kitchen window. "It happens almost like an alarm clock."

Sylvia Ellis posing in her Phoenix home. She lost her daughter and granddaughter to the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter in June 2016. All photos by Michael Lundgren

Phoenix's Serial Street Shooter has carried out most of his attacks in Maryvale, a gritty working-class neighborhood that produced NFL safety Darren Woodson. Here, residents are inclined to wonder aloud if a suspect would have been caught some time ago if his victims were rich or white. In my own brief time in the city, black and Hispanic residents near the sites of the shootings were generally aware of his reign of terror, while whites living around the strip-mall streets of the city's more affluent neighborhoods—with their robust central air-conditioning and bland, new American architecture—had either forgotten or never heard about the bloodshed in the first place.

Meanwhile, Phoenix police sergeant Jonathan Howard, the public information officer for the case, told me that the possibility of the suspect being Hispanic has created added headaches for his detectives—police worry that people who might have knowledge about the case are reluctant to speak out of fear of being deported. To get tips, police are using Silent Witness, a program that allows people to remain anonymous even while claiming a $75,000 reward for accurately naming the killer. But for those who fear their families being torn apart, such promises can seem like a trap.

To be sure, cops haven't ignored the Phoenix killer's body count. In fact, the start of the attacker's apparent hibernation came not long after police alerted the national media that a serial killer was on the loose. That's led some to fear he has simply entered a dormant stage, not unlike the "BTK killer," Dennis Rader, a Kansas-based menace who killed at least ten people during the 70s, 80s, and 90s, mostly by strangulation. Rader famously taunted police with sinister letters to papers like the Wichita Eagle and spaced his murders out for years at a time.

The Phoenix shooter mostly approached victims face-to-face, and in at least two incidents, witnesses and survivors claim the killer spoke before firing his weapon, although it is unclear what he said. He often unloaded nine or ten rounds at his victims at close range. Police call this "intent to kill," but to a lay observer it just looks like video-game-style excess.

The Maryvale neighborhood in Phoenix, where most of the shootings took place

The Phoenix metropolitan area, sometimes called the "Valley of the Sun," is a flat and sprawling desert city that grows hotter and drier every year. It also has an unsettling recent history with serial murder and gun violence. Dale Hausner—a serial killer who overdosed on the antidepressant Elavil while awaiting execution in 2013—and his accomplice, Samuel John Dieteman, killed at least eight people here in drive-by shootings between 2005 and 2006. Hausner has been connected to somewhere between 29 and 38 other shootings, in which he targeted pedestrians, cyclists, dogs, and even horses. At the same time the pair operated, another man, Mark Goudeau, also known as "The Baseline Killer," murdered nine people and sexually assaulted over a dozen victims at gunpoint. This past June, while the current serial killer was still at it, a judge upheld nine death sentences and more than 60 other felony convictions against Goudeau, following his appeal.

Phoenix's population includes the same eclectic mix of young progressives, libertarians, law-and-order conservatives, Mexican immigrants, and retirees that are trademarks of several southwestern cities. A fierce pro-gun mentality—what some people might describe as a "Wild West" vibe—is palpable in the local culture. Many of the people I met here owned and carried a gun at all times. Eleven non-fatal shootings took place on I-10, the city's most vital freeway, between August 29 and September 10, 2015, in which someone, or a group of people, opened fire seemingly randomly at cars, horrifying the city's commuters. The case was never solved.

Cops believe the serial killer who emerged last year is a lanky, light-skinned Hispanic male in his early 20s, but unfortunately no witnesses have gotten a clear look at his face. Police circulated a composite sketch of him last summer, but it was generic enough to trigger an eternity of false identifications. Among them was a 27-year-old man named Frank Taylor, who was shot by a woman in Glendale, Arizona, after attempting to rob her of a holstered gun. Police were able to connect him to the Maryvale area, but could not link him to the shootings.

The mother and sisters of Manny Castro Garcia. He was murdered by the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter in June of 2016 while going to pick up his girlfriend for a date.

Should the cops be wrong, and the killer turn out to be white, Arizona's polarized racial politics will inevitably cast a very long shadow. Ebony already ran a story about the murders in August that highlighted the minority status of the victims. And the state has an unsavory reputation with which to contend: Public Enemy's Chuck D once painted Arizona with fury and contempt in the song "By the Time I Get to Arizona," a diss track written after residents shot down a proposal to create a holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in November 1990. (Voters approved a state King holiday two years later.) Dossie Ellis, Sr., Stefanie Ellis's father, told me the anger voiced in that song is very much alive in the city's black community, and that he trusted his own family members to investigate the killer's identity by asking around in the streets better than he did the cops.

Police, for their part, claim to have a very strong relationship with Maryvale residents of all races.

For the city's Hispanic community, things are even more urgent: While I was staying in Phoenix, the deportation of Guadalupe García de Rayos, who may have been the first person removed from the country as a direct result of President Trump's immigration policies, drew emotional protests outside ICE headquarters downtown. Meanwhile, Joe Arpaio, the 84-year-old former sheriff of Maricopa County and a controversial opponent of undocumented immigration who once jokingly referred to his jail for undocumented immigrants as a "concentration camp," lost his bid for a seventh term in November. But hostility toward Hispanics crossing the border still runs hot in parts of the state. Trump won Arizona by close to 100,000 votes, and driving through Phoenix these days, you might see a giant billboard thanking the alleged human rights violator Arpaio for his service looming heavily over the coarse desert floor and cars zipping by below.

A neighbor of Horacio Pena, who was murdered by the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter in June of 2016

Nine days before the shooting at the Ellis residence, Nancy Peña, 32, was at work when she got the call from her sister that her twin brother Horacio de Jesus Peña had been shot. She assumed the violence was self-inflicted. Horacio, a caregiver for people with disabilities, led a difficult life, tormented by shyness and schizophrenia, and had attempted suicide at least three times before that night, she told me. But when Peña arrived at the family home to see her brother, she knew it was murder: Horacio lay by the curb of the street, utterly deformed by gunshots. Peña described him as looking "like a puddle." Police later attributed his murder to the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter.

Nancy Peña says she's suffered debilitating panic attacks since that night last June. She now occupies her mind with close to 60 hours of work each week, split between a retirement community and the position her brother left behind at Valley Life, an organization that cares for the disabled. She has tattoos up and down her arm that are tied to moments when her twin ran away or attempted suicide; now she keeps a wall of pictures devoted to him, showing me remembrances in a box, including signed artifacts from local sports franchises like the Phoenix Coyotes or Arizona Diamondbacks offered to the family as gifts following his death.

According to Peña, the strain and horror of her brother's killing shook the foundations of her family. "People say that tragedies like this bring people together, but for us it's been the opposite," she explained, exhaling from a Marlboro Light.

Nancy Pena posing in her home. Her brother Horacio was murdered by the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter in June of 2016.

Because the shootings were spaced out over several months in an area where gun violence is a well-known problem, police didn't determine they had a serial killer on their hands until June—after Diego Verdugo Sanchez, Krystal Annette White, Horacio Peña, Manny Castro Garcia, Stefanie Ellis, Angela Linner, and little Maleah Ellis had already been killed. Howard told me that a "sick feeling" ran through everyone in his department when they finally connected the murders to one individual.

Since the killer stopped working, there's been a fragile sense of relief among officers, mixed with a struggle to unearth new evidence. More than anything, police sought a way to keep word of the investigation alive in the community. But internal frustration mounted, with one source close to the probe telling me the case sparked a good deal of departmental infighting, although no formal changes have come as a result. As Andy Hill, who served as the public information officer during the Baseline Killer attacks but is now retired, put it, "Nobody puts more pressure on the police than themselves" in investigations like this one.

Some Hispanic and black residents in the city beg to differ.

"To say that I've spoken with any officers about this case recently would be a lie," Ellis told me. "No, I'm not satisfied with the work they've done." Nancy Peña and the family of Manny Castro Garcia expressed similar frustrations with the efforts of police, and told me that they worried the case had grown cold in the months that passed since the killer went dormant.

The house in Maryvale where three people, including a 12-year-old girl, were murdered by the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter in June of 2016.

Howard expressed empathy for the families of victims, and seemed to know them personally, especially Peña, who contacts him regularly looking for updates. He flatly denied that the races of the victims contributed to any lack of urgency on the part of police. Most recently, word of a new person of interest in the case gave Peña a feeling of hope that the killer could be apprehended, but it was coupled with a feeling of frustration that she had heard the news first from local media, and not police.

Meanwhile, cops have been forced to hang onto the few details they do know about the killer and try to isolate what makes him tick.

The shooter may be comfortable with a variety of weapons. Dossie Ellis, Sr., for example, claims to have found 9mm bullets on his property in the aftermath of the shooting. Mel Nicholson, a 63-year-old man who lived outside of the house where one of the murders took place, showed me the holes where 40 caliber bullets tuned up his car and house, slicing through the garage and then several layers of wooden shelving used for cat food and cleaning supplies. Police have said only that the shooter preferred semi-automatic handguns, capable of firing as many as 15 or 16 rounds at a time. He may have also changed cars, having possibly been seen in a late-1990s brown Nissan with a spoiler, a black BMW, and a white car—most likely a Cadillac or Lincoln.

Bullet holes still mark the home of Mel Nicholson, 63, the nextdoor neighbor of Manny Castro Garcia's girlfriend.

It's possible that the shooter travelled with other people, and one witness—a teenager who was staying at the Ellis house when the murders took place—puts him alongside as many as two accomplices. Police would not confirm or deny that account.

Whether or not the city's black and Hispanic communities' fears about police devotion are warranted, the killer's crimes live on in the grieving family members he left behind.

Sylvia Ellis's insomnia, a symptom she shares with Gisela Castro, the mother of Manny Castro Garcia, is coupled with horror-movie visions of her daughter's death: She still sees Stefanie collapsed on the steering wheel of the Cobalt, struggling to breathe, a bullet hole warping her eye.

"Every day the shooting plays in my head like a video," Ellis said. "I'm still living inside of that nightmare."

Follow Michael Edison Hayden on Twitter.

Former NYPD Cops Allegedly Traded Gun Licenses for Prostitutes

On Tuesday, authorities formally charged three retired NYPD officers and a former city prosecutor for helping get people gun licenses in exchange for a wide range of bribes—from cash to prostitutes to extravagant vacations, BuzzFeed News reports

The culprits allegedly worked together inside the NYPD's licensing division to run their bribery scheme from 2010 to 2016, CBS News reports. Paul Dean, a former lieutenant, and Robert Espinel, a former officer, are charged with accepting lavish bribes from "expediters" who charge people looking to speed up their firearm licensing.

Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective, allegedly worked as an expediter and bribed Dean and Espinel to move the process along for his clients. Those bribes sometimes came in the form of "cash, paid vacations, personal jewelry, catered parties, guns, gun paraphernalia, and other benefits," according to federal prosecutors. According to DNAinfo, the officers also scored "food, alcohol, parties, dancers, and prostitutes" from other expediters in exchange for their services.

"The alleged corruption pervaded the license division up to its senior level," Joon Kim, acting US attorney for New York's Southern District, said Tuesday. 

John Chambers, a former New York assistant district attorney, was also charged Tuesday in the scheme. He allegedly looked to represent people who had issues with getting gun licenses and is accused of bribing David Villanueva—the guy who ran the NYPD's licensing division from 2010 to 2015, but who was arrested back in June of 2016 on corruption charges. According to the criminal complaint, Chambers offered Villanueva a fancy $8,000 watch and tickets to Broadway shows and sports games.

According to BuzzFeed News, Dean, Espinel, and Valastro are facing charges for conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion. Chambers's lawyer, Barry Slotnick, told CBS News that his client will plead not guilty to his conspiracy charges.

This is just the latest development in a long-running corruption investigation of the NYPD's licensing division, launched by the force's internal affairs department and the FBI back in 2013, according to the New York Times. The last big splash came with Villanueva's arrest in 2016, around the same time two top NYPD officers were arrested for accepting bribes in exchange for services unrelated to firearms licensing. 

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