Posts by Jason Sickles, Yahoo

  • Officer stares down Colorado theater shooter James Holmes during trial

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 2 days ago

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Aurora police Officer Jason Oviatt’s stare — it was a telling moment in a week marked by tense and often tearful testimony.

    The patrolman who arrested murder defendant James Holmes was wrapping up his testimony in the Colorado movie theater shooting trial Thursday when the judge called attorneys for both sides to the bench.

    Oviatt had already glared at Holmes at least 20 times during his hourlong testimony on the witness stand. The bench conference brought a pause in the proceedings — and an opportunity.

    From his seat about 10 feet away, Oviatt turned to Holmes and began to stare. For a full minute, the dark-eyed, square-jawed officer locked in on the admitted gunman and didn’t flinch.

    Holmes swiveled slightly in his chair, as he often has during this first week of his capital murder trial. If he reacted to Oviatt in any other way, it wasn’t visible to those seated in the courtroom gallery. At the defense table, Holmes is tethered to the floor by a harness and cable.

    All five patrol officers who testified Thursday had to point Holmes out in court for the record. A few occasionally looked at Holmes, but none with the same directness and intensity as Oviatt.

  • Colorado theater shooting trial: With tissues and aromatherapy, special fund helps soothe victims and family members

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 4 days ago

    Those sitting in the victims’ section of the courtroom coped in different ways as they sat through the first day of testimony in the Colorado theater shooting trial. A therapist assisting the prosecution team recommended that victims try swabbing fragrances on their fingers to help soothe their emotions.

    “So they provided scented hand lotions,” said Sandy Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed by the accused gunman, James Holmes.

    “We can put the scents on our fingers and breathe in when we start to feel overwhelmed in [the] courtroom.”

    Phillips appreciates the lotion, but is sticking to her own scent remedy.

    “I put my daughter's perfume on my index finger,” she said, her voice cracking. “It’s my reminder of why I’m here and why I have to be here.”

    Holmes, once a promising neuroscience graduate student, is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 others at an Aurora movie house in July 2012. Holmes admits he opened fire in the theater, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

    Beyond the deceased or wounded, it’s estimated that more than 1,300 people either witnessed the events or were directly impacted by the tragedy.

  • Parents of Colorado theater shooting victim fear copycat massacre

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 6 days ago

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Inside a windowless second-floor courtroom on Monday, Tom and Caren Teves came face-to-face again with the gunman who fatally shot their firstborn son in the head.

    But that encounter and the start of the long-awaited Colorado movie theater massacre trial, which began on Monday with opening statements, is not what troubles them most.

    The Teveses’ biggest worry is the possible effect of the mass media coverage due to the throng of TV news trucks outside the Arapahoe County courthouse and the dozens of reporters assigned to the trial, which is a rare event. Most U.S. mass shooters are killed by police, commit suicide or plead guilty to avoid trial.

    In Colorado v. James Holmes, the judge is also allowing a live video stream of the court proceedings.

    “One shooter inspires another,” Caren Teves told Yahoo News over the weekend. She fears that there is, in her words, “a contagion effect.”

    Her husband is more blunt: “I fear there’s going to be another shooting,” as a result of the anticipated exhaustive media coverage of the trial.

  • Ferguson police investigation was botched from the start, Michael Brown’s family alleges in lawsuit

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 10 days ago

    Former Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department destroyed potentially crucial evidence shortly after fatally shooting Michael Brown, the slain teen’s family alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

    The unarmed 18-year-old was killed last August during a physical altercation with Wilson. A state investigation and a federal criminal civil rights probe resulted in no charges against Wilson.

    But attorneys for the Brown family say the investigation was bungled from the beginning, when police supervisors allowed Wilson to leave the crime scene unescorted and return to the Ferguson Police Department, where he washed his hands and stored his weapon.

    “Defendant Wilson returned to the police station and began destroying evidence and interfering with the investigation,” the lawsuit states.

    According to his account, Wilson said he spotted blood on both hands while driving back and wanted to get clean it off for safety reasons.

  • Details emerge about jury picked for Colorado theater shooting trial

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 18 days ago

    At least two of the 12 jurors and 12 alternates reportedly have ties to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, including a man who was a student there at the time. The man, known only as Juror No. 737, fled the building safely, but was childhood friends with the gunmen and went to prom with a victim.

    The niece of Juror No. 535 is also a Columbine survivor, according to Fox 31 in Denver. The woman's niece escaped physical injury, but was in the cafeteria that the killers tried to bomb.

    Both jurors were handpicked from a pool of thousands to decide if Holmes is guilty in the Colorado movie theater rampage that left 12 people dead and 70 others wounded in 2012.

    The three-month selection process involved summonsing 9,000 candidates, the largest jury summons in U.S. history.

    Until the very end, Holmes’ lawyers argued that prospective jurors would be too sympathetic to survivors. Defense attorney Tamara Brady said she was nervous “about whether Mr. Holmes can get a fair trial in this case or whether it’s just too big.”

  • Video captured 2014 Taser shooting involving S.C. officer Michael Slager

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 20 days ago

    Allegations of excessive force used on minorities are mounting against the South Carolina police officer recently caught on video fatally shooting unarmed suspect Walter Scott in the back.

    Julius Garnett Wilson alleges in a new lawsuit that he was tased by officer Michael Slager last August while lying face-down on the pavement.

    The North Charleston police officer, who is white, was terminated and charged with murder last week after a bystander’s video captured him firing eight shots at Scott after a traffic stop. The 50-year-old unarmed black man was running from the officer when he was struck four times in the back and once in the ear. He was buried on Saturday.

    The case has brought protests to North Charleston, where some residents say minorities have been unfairly targeted for decades.

    On Monday, Wilson and his attorneys met with reporters on the steps of city hall to hand out copies of their lawsuit and police dashboard video of the alleged abuse.

    Slager is among three patrolmen named as defendants in the suit along with the city of North Charleston, the police department and police chief Eddie Driggers.

    “Back up,” Slager yells. “I’m going to tase!”

  • North Charleston officer chuckled about adrenaline rush after shooting Walter Scott

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 20 days ago

    Shortly after fatally shooting Walter Scott in the back, North Charleston police Officer Michael Slager nervously chuckled about his adrenaline “pumping,” but also assured a caller that things would be all right, according to new audio clips published by two media outlets.

    “Hey. Hey, everything ’ s OK, OK?” Slager says in a phone call to someone believed to be his pregnant wife. “I just shot somebody. Yeah, he ’ s OK.”

    If Slager meant Scott, then he wasn ’ t OK. Slager fired his .45-caliber Glock eight times. Four bullets struck Scott in the back and one hit him in the ear. He died at the scene.

    The recording of the officer ’ s phone call and a conversation with a supervisor at the scene doesn’t show Slager — it’s audio only, from the patrolman’s uniform microphone that’s synched with his squad car’s dashboard camera.

    Last week, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) made public 4 minutes and 22 seconds of the dashcam video showing Slager stopping Scott for a broken taillight and then giving chase when Scott took off on foot prior to the shooting.

  • North Charleston police officer Michael Slager ‘didn’t create any issues nor was he an award winner’

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 25 days ago

    The rookie “was very enthused and ready to work,” a field training supervisor documented on Slager’s first day. “He wanted to be involved.”

    On Wednesday — five years and a month since that initial promising shift — Slager was stripped of his badge.

    Last weekend, Slager told the department he had feared for his life when Walter Scott took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop.

    But a bystander’s video shows Slager firing eight shots as the apparently unarmed black man runs away. The final shot from the officer’s .45-caliber handgun drops Scott face-first into the ground. Then Slager, who is white, approaches and cuffs the man’s hands behind his back.

    “I have watched the video, and I was sickened by what I saw,” Eddie Driggers, the North Charleston police chief, said at a news conference announcing the officer’s termination.

    “We think that is the humane thing to do and we are going to do it,” the mayor said.

    Related video:

  • Texas state trooper punished for Snoop Dogg Instagram photo

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    It’s been a big week for marijuana busts in Texas.

    On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that a trooper seized a staggering $24 million worth of marijuana during a recent traffic stop along the Mexico border.

    But a cannabis crackdown of a different kind is making even larger headlines in the Lone Star State.

    That’s because the state police snagged one of its own officers. The offense? Posing for a photo with rap star Snoop Dogg — who’s been very public about his affinity for pot.

    The snapshot, taken at Snoop’s request, shows veteran Trooper Billy Spears — wearing the department’s iconic uniform and cowboy hat — standing backstage with the rapper during Austin’s recent South by Southwest music festival.

    Snoop later published the photo on Instagram with the caption, “Me n my deputy dogg.”

    When the state police top brass caught wind of the photo, they informed Spears that he should have declined the photo op, given Snoop’s admitted indulgence in the illegal drug.

    “Refuse photos,” he wrote.

    There goes the Deputy Dogg badge.

  • Colorado theater gunman not a ‘monster,’ Arlene Holmes writes in new book

    Jason Sickles, Yahoo at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    “The first time I prayed for them by name and by wound, I was shaking, overcome,” Arlene Holmes writes in a new book. “Kept praying; made it through the list. Please, victims, please, feel my prayers. I pray for you by name.”

    The book, titled “When the Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes 2013-2014,” was released March 9. The diarylike pages don’t offer any great insight on the case or her son’s mental condition. Most entries share her personal prayers — for victims, families, prosecutors and public defenders alike — courtroom observations, thoughts on mental illness and her own guilt.

    Caren Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater, called Arlene Holmes’ words an “insult to our son’s memory and to our family.”

    “I struggle to understand how this individual could possibly pray for, by name, the thousands upon thousands of innocent people who continue to be directly impacted by her son’s evil, premeditated acts,” she told Yahoo News. “The release of this book is nothing more than a calculated attempt to influence members of the jury. Almost three years after Alex was executed in that theater, she has never even extended the decent act of a simple apology.”