Blog Posts by Jason Sickles, Yahoo

  • Video captures Jasper, Texas, police officers beating woman

    [Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET]

    A southeast Texas town with a history of racial unrest on Monday fired two white police officers recently captured on video slamming a black woman’s head into a countertop and wrestling her to the ground.

    “The amount of force used was abominable,” the woman's attorney, Cade Bernsen, told Yahoo News.

    The incident was captured by security cameras at the Jasper, Texas, police headquarters.

    Keyarika "Sha" Diggles, 25, was brought to the jail on May 5 for an unpaid fine, according to Bernsen. He said she was was on the phone with her mother trying to arrange to get the $100 owed when Officer Ricky Grissom cut off the call.

    There’s no audio on the video, but Diggles and Grissom were apparently arguing when Officer Ryan Cunningham comes in behind Diggles and attempts to handcuff her. When she appears to raise her hand, Cunningham grabs Diggles by the hair and slams her head into a countertop. The officers wrestle Diggles to the ground before dragging her by her

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  • Live updates: Tornadoes, storms slam Oklahoma

    [Updated at 9 p.m. CT]

    A mother and baby have been confirmed killed when several tornadoes, including a large twister, touched down in the Oklahoma City metro area. A large and powerful storm system moved through the vicinity of Oklahoma City and Moore, which was devastated two weeks ago. Softball-sized hail, heavy flooding and straight line winds were reported throughout the region. Many warnings have been issued for cities and towns along the track of the storm system, including St. Louis, Missouri.

    Yahoo News is following the latest developments via social media from meteorologists, storm chasers and government officials. We welcome your comments, especially if you have firsthand information about this dangerous storm.

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  • Boy Scouts vote to end ban on gay youth members

    Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    [Updated at 6:55 p.m. CT]

    DALLAS – The Boy Scouts of America, one of the country’s largest and oldest youth organizations, decided on Thursday to break 103 years of tradition by allowing openly gay members into its ranks.

    The controversial move was approved by more than 60 percent of the approximate 1,400 votes cast by the BSA’s national council. According to the new resolution, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

    “The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” the BSA stated in a press release.

    Lifting the organization’s ban on gay adult volunteer leaders and paid staff was not considered and remains in place.

    Pascal Tessier, a gay Scout from Maryland, told Yahoo News that he was ecstatic with the outcome.

    “Proud, happy and on top of

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  • Volunteers rescue photos from Oklahoma tornado debris

    Photos recovered from the debris after a tornado swept through Moore, Okla. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    MOORE, Okla. — Some of the photos are crumpled. Others coated in crud. But what the monster tornado couldn’t obliterate are the memories captured in the images.

    A girl playing kitchen with her pink toy stove.

    Colleagues clowning around the office.

    A father posing with his young girls at a daddy-daughter dance.

    Angela Madory examines photos she recovered. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    “These are things insurance can’t replace,” says Amy Habegger-Pierce.

    Habegger-Pierce, her mother-in-law and a friend were scavenging downtown Moore for photos on Wednesday.

    Like crime scene detectives, they wore rubber gloves and gently rummaged through debris left by Monday’s 200-mph twister, which damaged or destroyed 13,000 homes.

    “It’s hard to tell if it is trash or a picture until you flip it over,” Habegger-Pierce said.

    A few blocks away, Angela Madory had the same idea and was hunting as well.

    “Damaged or not, they are still valuable,” says Madory, a mother of three. “I know I would want someone to find my pictures and contact me.”

    Their mission might seem

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  • Financial, emotional tolls mount as Oklahoma tornado recovery effort begins

    A group of men pray with tornado survivor Tim Wardwell. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    MOORE, Okla.—Atop a pile of rubble that had been his home, Tim Wardwell choked back tears, grateful for the strangers who prayed with him to give thanks that he wasn’t among the 24 tornado fatalities.

    “I don’t know how I’m here, dude,” Wardwell told Yahoo News.

    Wardwell and his wife, Kelsey, had biked back to the house—which had collapsed on him and their two dachshunds—to survey the damage. They managed to recover their family birth certificates, a handful of photos and a few keepsakes for their children.

    “The bear still squeaks,” said Kelsey, pointing to a tattered toy.

    An upended car rests on what was once a house. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    Nearly 13,000 homes are believed to have been damaged or destroyed in the Oklahoma tornado, affecting more than 33,000 people. The 200-mph twister cut a path of destruction 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.

    On Wednesday, the Medical Examiner's office identified the 24 people killed by name. Ten are children, including two infants. At an afternoon press conference, officials said they were still trying to account for

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  • Texas grandfather describes surviving massive tornado

    Ethan Jones (center) and German Hernandez help clear out Bill Jones' destroyed home. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    CLEBURNE, Texas - Living in “Tornado Alley,” 77-year-old Bill Jones has heard the blare of civil defense warning sirens more times than he can count. But on Wednesday night it was the mighty oak trees in his yard that finally persuaded him to take cover.

    “They were swirling every which way,” Jones said of the 40-year-old trees. “We knew it was pretty serious the way the wind was blowing.”

    The hallway where the Jones family escaped the twister. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)

    Jones, his wife, Nadine, and their daughter and son-in-law hurried into an interior hallway, slamming a door shut in the nick of time.

    “We saw the chimney come crashing down through the ceiling,” Jones said.

    For a harrowing 20 minutes, they hunkered down in the 3-by-5-foot space where family photos on the wall kept watch over them.

    “My wife was praying pretty loud,” Jones said. “We were all scared.”

    Outside the hallway, their home of 41 years was being butchered by what many residents and storm spotters described as a milewide twister.

    “When I first saw it, my heart almost stopped,” storm chaser

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  • Courtroom use of mental illness manual often debated

    By Jason Sickles

    Courtroom gavel (Thinkstock)Behavioral addictions could be considered bona fide illnesses under the American Psychiatric Association’s new manual for mental disorders, prompting criticism from some pundits.

    “You see, I'm addicted to bling, so I just had to knock over the jewelry store,” quipped Kent Scheidegger on his Crime and Consequences blog as a possible excuse a suspect might give.

    Scheidegger is legal director and general counsel for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a nonprofit public interest group dedicated to advocating swift and fair punishment for criminals.

    His bling addiction humor aside, Scheidegger told Yahoo News he’s concerned about how the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) will play out in the legal community. The “bible” for psychiatric diagnoses is primarily a health care tool, but is often quoted as gospel in courtrooms, too.

    “In an awful lot of criminal cases, the guy is guilty as sin … they’ve got him cold, and [defense

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  • Florida man’s massive gun collection gets lots of looks

    Chris, who asked that his last name not be used, hasn't fired a third of his collection. (@Gun_Collector)

    How many guns is that, you say?

    One hundred and fifteen.

    The country’s clash over gun control has created anxiety about ammo shortages, increased applications for conceal-carry permits and even brought a Florida man social-media fame.

    1980 Colt MKIV/Series '70 Government Model M1911 (@Gun_Collector)

    @Gun_Collector had 8,500 followers on the photo-sharing site Instagram before the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary bolstered calls for tougher firearms laws.

    Now he has a celebritylike following of nearly 40,000 fans who subscribe to portraits he posts of his arsenal of semi-automatic handguns and rifles.

    “I don’t consider myself a ‘gun nut,’” the 42-year-old father said. “I have a collection, and it is something I really enjoy and like to share with people. There really is no agenda other than that.”

    He knows not everyone shares his passion or position on bearing arms, and asked that Yahoo News not publish his last name.

    “There will be activists that would target me because of what I do,” Chris said. “I am not using this for personal

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  • Photo: Boston marathoner’s eerie brush with terror suspects

    The Tsarnaev brothers look on in the background as Laura Cummins (No. 19751) finishes. (Bob Leonard/AP)

    Runner Laura Cummins had an uneasy suspicion she’d crossed paths with the men suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon. A photo now proves it.

    Minutes before the first explosion, a photographer near the finish line captured Cummins midstride with terrorism suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev looking on in the background.

    “That picture just spooks me, seeing how close they were to me,” Cummins said.

    Dzhokhar, in his backward white baseball cap, appears to be looking right at Cummins, who wore race bib No. 19751.

    “Every time I see it, I get goose bumps,” she told Yahoo News.

    [Related: Runner, spectator get photos of marathon bombing suspects]

    The Warrenton, Va., resident finished the race in four hours and six seconds. Had she been nine minutes slower, she would have been in the line of fire.

    “That keeps going through my head,” said Cummins, who was battling leg cramps and considered dropping out after Mile 15.

    “But I bought one of those expensive jackets that cost $100. And I said, ‘I can’t wear it if I don’t finish.’ So I somehow found it in me to keep on chugging.”

    This wasn’t Cummins’ first brush with terror.

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  • Boston bombing suspect’s arrest presents intelligence opportunity, legal challenges

    Wanted poster showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as being captured. (FBI)

    BOSTON – Keeping bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive and able to answer questions would be a badly-needed intelligence coup for terror investigators, a former U.S. District Attorney told Yahoo News on Saturday.

    “The fear of law enforcement has always been the small, insular cells that are kind of under the radar,” said Richard Roper, a federal prosecutor for 21 years. “Either the lone wolf or the small cells … they’re difficult to obtain intelligence on. I hope they get some good stuff out of him.”

    On Saturday, Dzhokhar was reportedly clinging to life and under heavy guard at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He apparently suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and leg during separate gun battles with authorities on Friday.

    Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are believed to have planted the two backpack bombs near the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon. The twin explosions killed three people and injured 180 others.

    Tamerlan Tsarnaev was

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