Four Blackwater Operatives Sentenced to Prison for Committing Iraqi Massacre

Originally published on April 15, 2015, at

One former Blackwater USA contractor was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, while three others each received 30-year sentences for killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 more in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. After pleading guilty in December 2008, a fifth contractor testified as a government witness in the trial and has not yet been sentenced. Blackwater’s founder and former CEO, Erik Prince currently does not face any criminal charges.

At approximately noon on September 16, 2007, a Blackwater convoy codenamed Raven 23 disobeyed orders from US Embassy officials to remain in the Green Zone and instead established a blockade at Nisour Square in Baghdad. While driving his mother to an appointment, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y stopped his white Kia sedan at the checkpoint and waited for the Blackwater mercenaries to let them pass. Hiding inside the convoy’s command vehicle, Nicholas Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal and fired a round at Ahmed.

As Ahmed’s head exploded, his car slipped into neutral and slowly began to approach the Blackwater convoy. While attempting to stop the car, Iraqi police officer Ali Khalaf Salman raised his left arm signaling the shooters to stop firing. Inside the sedan, Ahmed’s mother, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, clutched his bleeding head screaming, “My son! My son! Help me, help me!”

A turret gunner, Jeremy Ridgeway, opened fire killing Ahmed’s mother. Another Blackwater shooter launched an M-203 grenade that caused the sedan to erupt into flames. Unleashing sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers, the Blackwater convoy murdered ten unarmed men, two women, and two boys, ages 9 and 11. At least 18 victims were wounded. The only damage inflicted upon the convoy’s command vehicle came from shrapnel by an American grenade fired at close range by a Blackwater operative.

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Deputy Charged with Manslaughter for Gunning Down Unarmed Man

Originally published on April 14, 2015, at

A reserve sheriff’s deputy was charged with second-degree manslaughter on Monday after video captured him shooting an unarmed man on the ground. The deputy immediately apologized claiming he believed that he was firing his Taser when he pulled the trigger on his gun and killed the suspect. The victim’s family has accused the Tulsa County Sheriff of protecting the deputy due to his political connections to the sheriff.

At 10 a.m. on April 2, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) Violent Crimes Task Force attempted a sting operation to catch Eric Harris selling a 9mm semiautomatic pistol to an undercover cop on video. Surveillance footage revealed Harris meeting the undercover officer in a parking lot and retrieving a gun from his backpack. Harris placed the gun on the floor of the vehicle before noticing officers arriving to arrest him. Instead of complying, Harris fled on foot with officers in pursuit.

Video from a deputy’s sunglass camera shows a deputy exiting his patrol car and tackling Harris to the ground. As the officers attempt to restrain Harris, 73-year-old reserve sheriff’s deputy Robert Bates can be heard off-camera shouting, “Taser! Taser!”

Instead of firing his Taser at Harris who was being held down by deputies, Bates fired a single bullet from his gun into Harris. Bates immediately dropped his gun while exclaiming, “Oh! I shot him. I’m sorry.”

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10 Deputies Suspended for Excessive Beating Caught on Video

Originally published on April 11, 2015, at

Ten San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, including a sergeant and a detective, were placed on paid administrative leave Friday after a news helicopter captured video of them savagely beating a suspect who had surrendered. After reviewing the video, San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon accused the deputies of using excessive force and suspended them pending an investigation into the incident. Although the sheriff admitted that the deputies involved in the initial pursuit had a history with the suspect, McMahon would not confirm whether the suspended deputies were familiar with him or not.

At 12:12 p.m. on Thursday, deputies arrived at Francis Pusok’s home in Apple Valley to serve a search warrant involving an identity theft investigation. According to sheriff’s department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman, Pusok was already sitting inside a car when the deputies approached his residence. Pusok fled in the vehicle prompting a near three-hour pursuit through the desert.

After Pusok abandoned his vehicle and ran into the desert, the sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol deployed helicopters and off-road vehicles to continue pursuing him. A few minutes later, the deputies received a report that Pusok had stolen a horse from a group of people near Deep Creek Hot Springs. As the deputies tracked down Pusok and made contact with him around 3 p.m., Pusok fell off the stolen horse.

According to the sheriff’s department, deputies used a Taser on Pusok but it was rendered ineffective due to his loose clothing. But video shot from NBC4’s helicopter revealed Pusok surrendering to the deputies by lying facedown with his hands behind his back when one cop appears to repeatedly punch Pusok in the head. The other deputy kicked Pusok in the groin as he remained on the ground.

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Former Police Commander Sentenced to Prison for Multiple Abuses

Originally published on April 9, 2015, at

A former Police Commander was sentenced earlier this week to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of stolen firearms, extortion, and wire fraud. In addition to the federal charges, former Pacific Grove Police Commander John Nyunt has also pleaded guilty in state court to second-degree commercial burglary, threatening a witness, and being an accessory after the fact. By abusing his position within the police department, Nyunt had profited from a life of crime until his ex-wife turned against him.

In 2009, Nyunt served as both Commander of the Pacific Grove Police Department (PGPD) and as an instructor at the former police academy at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC). The MPC police academy offered to donate numerous assault rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic pistols to the PGPD. Nyunt accepted the donation of firearms without authorization and secretly sold the stolen guns instead of giving them to law enforcement.

In 2010, Cmdr. Nyunt and his wife, Kristin, opened a private investigation firm in California called Nyunt Consulting Investigations Services (NCIS). Instead of opening petty crime cases, Nyunt would direct victims to hire NCIS for security and investigative services. After Nyunt gave his wife access to the departmental database and his password without authorization, Kristin collected personal information and bank account numbers in order to commit dozens of identity thefts including Nyunt’s son, his ex-wife, other police officers, and citizens throughout the state and country. Nyunt also systematically ordered subordinates in the PGPD to close investigations in which Kristin was the prime suspect.

After Nyunt and his wife separated, Kristin threatened to contact the police and inform them of Nyunt’s involvement in her crimes. In a phone conversation recorded by Kristin, Nyunt threatened to shoot his fellow police officers and Monterey County District Attorney investigators with an assault rifle and slit Kristin’s throat if she began cooperating with prosecutors. In 2012, Kristin was arrested and charged with 43 counts of identity theft, burglary, and fraud.

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Police Officer Faces Murder Charge for Shooting Unarmed Man in the Back

Originally published on April 9, 2015, at

A South Carolina police officer was arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder after shooting an unarmed man in the back. Law enforcement officials arrested North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager after a video surfaced recorded by a bystander who witnessed the incident. On the same day, another South Carolina officer was arrested on a felony weapons charge resulting in the death of another unarmed man.

At 9:33 a.m. on Saturday, Patrolman Slager noticed 50-year-old Walter “Lamar” Scott driving with a broken brake light. Some time after Slager pulled him over, Scott exited his car and fled on foot. Slager chased after him and reportedly fired his Taser at Scott in an attempt to subdue him.

According to Slager, Scott turned around to confront the officer and managed to take Slager’s Taser from his hands. Slager claims that he felt threatened, pulled out his gun, and fired several rounds at Scott. But video of the shooting appears to contradict the officer’s account.

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Eight San Francisco Cops Suspended for Racist Texts

Originally published on April 6, 2015, at

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr suspended eight officers for sending racist text messages and has recommended their immediate termination from the department. According to the police chief, at least 14 officers and department employees have been caught exchanging racist and homophobic texts regarding coworkers and citizens. The violent tone of the text messages has prompted San Francisco County prosecutors to re-examine over 1,000 criminal convictions involving these suspended officers.

On Friday, SFPD Chief Suhr announced that he has requested a police oversight committee to approve firing the suspended officers. Their text messages included racial slurs and bigoted remarks against blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos, and gay men. They also included references to cross burning and lynching.

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Senator Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges

Originally published on April 2, 2015, at

Federal prosecutors indicted Sen. Robert Menendez on corruption charges on Wednesday for allegedly accepting lavish gifts and contributions in exchange for political favors. According to the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, Sen. Menendez used his position to advance the business interests of campaign contributor and Florida ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Investigated for years by the FBI, the Senate Ethics Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), and a federal grand jury, Sen. Menendez and Dr. Melgen have finally been charged for participating in a bribery scheme.

After receiving an anonymous tip, the FBI began investigating allegations that Dr. Melgen had purchased underage prostitutes for Menendez during one of his trips to the Dominican Republic. Although the prostitutes eventually recanted their stories, the FBI and HHS investigators raided Dr. Melgen’s offices in January 2013. Less than a month later, Menendez became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In March 2013, a federal grand jury in Miami reportedly began investigating Menendez’s questionable relationship with Dr. Melgen. After acknowledging that he had failed to disclose two free trips aboard Dr. Melgen’s private plane in 2010, Menendez wrote the doctor a personal check for $58,500 to reimburse him for the rides. The Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into why Menendez did not disclose the flights earlier.

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Federal Agents Arrested for Bitcoin Money Laundering and Fraud

Originally published on April 1, 2015, at

Two former federal agents have been charged with money laundering, wire fraud, and related offenses during their investigation of the online black market, Silk Road. Former DEA special agent Carl Force allegedly abused his authority by stealing from the government and selling sensitive information to the target of their investigation, while former Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges reportedly diverted over $800,000 Silk Road bitcoins into his personal account instead of confiscating the funds as government property. By taking advantage of encrypted communications, multiple aliases, and hacked administrator accounts, these federal agents operated in the shadows and above the law.

According to court documents, Ross Ulbricht created Silk Road in January 2011 and operated the underground website until law enforcement agencies shut it down in October 2013. By concealing the IP addresses of the computers, the Silk Road became an open market facilitating both legal and illegal commerce. Although the majority of items sold on the website were illicit narcotics, Silk Road also offered computer hacking services, fake IDs, and other forged documents. After Sen. Chuck Schumer learned about the site, he asked law enforcement authorities to shut down Silk Road.

Between 2012 and 2013, agents Force and Bridges served on the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force. As the lead undercover agent, Force established communication with Ulbricht, while Bridges worked as the computer forensics expert on the team. Force initially fed Ulbricht fraudulent information, but the DEA agent also created multiple pseudonyms and began encrypting his surreptitious communications with Ulbricht.

Under the moniker “Nob,” Force posed as a criminal offering to kill Silk Road employee Curtis Green before he could become a potential witness against Ulbricht. Designed to ensnare Ulbricht into a murder-for-hire plot, the sting merely allowed Force to initiate contact with Ulbricht who went by the pseudonym “DPR” or “Dread Pirate Roberts.” After a few months of communication with Ulbricht, Force began encrypting his conversations and utilizing multiple online personas without informing his superiors.

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Army Apologizes to Troops Exposed to US-Designed Chemical Weapons in Iraq

Originally published on March 27, 2015, at

In response to a New York Times investigation, the undersecretary of the Army apologized this week for the military’s mishandling of more than 600 service members who reportedly suffered from chemical exposure in Iraq. After being exposed to potentially lethal amounts of sulfur mustard and sarin gas, US troops often received inadequate medical treatment, gag orders, and found themselves ineligible for Purple Heart medals. Due to the fact that many of the chemical weapons were American-designed artillery shells manufactured in European countries, the Pentagon neglected to inform the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of the proliferation of dangerous chemical munitions being uncovered in Iraq.

On May 15, 2004, then-Staff Sgt. James Burns of the 752nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company and Pfc. Michael Yandell were exposed to sarin gas from a 152-millimeter binary sarin shell. After receiving substandard medical treatment, Sgt. Burns and Pfc. Yandell returned to the field and began suffering long-term symptoms of nerve agent exposure. Burns’ medical records from late 2004 described memory lapses, reading difficulties, problems with balance, and tingling in his legs.

“They put a gag order on all of us — the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” Burns recalled. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified top secret.”

In July 2008, six Marines reported exposure to mustard gas from an artillery shell. On August 16, 2008, five soldiers had been exposed to mustard gas while destroying a weapons cache. The blisters on their skin were the size of their hands. In April 2010, seven Iraqi police officers became exposed to a dozen M110 mustard shells found near the Tigris River.

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Cop Charged with Homicide for Shooting Unarmed Man Twice in the Back

Originally published on March 26, 2015, at

A Pennsylvania police officer was charged with criminal homicide on Tuesday for shooting an unarmed man in the back while he remained facedown on the ground. Although the unarmed man had been fleeing from a traffic stop over expired tags, the District Attorney admitted that the video from the officer’s Taser shows nothing in the victim’s hands when the officer shot him twice in the back. Accused of employing deadly force without justification, the officer has been released on bail and is under electronic monitoring.

Around 4pm on February 2, Hummelstown Police Officer Lisa Mearkle noticed a blue Saturn with expired inspection and emission stickers from last December. After Mearkle activated her patrol car’s lights and siren, 59-year-old David Kassick fled to his sister’s home where he had been living temporarily. Arriving at his sister’s residence, Kassick pulled the Saturn into the driveway, exited the vehicle, and ran towards the backyard. Mearkle parked her patrol car behind his vehicle and pursued Kassick on foot.

After closing the distance between them, Mearkle fired her Taser deploying probes into Kassick’s back. Kassick fell facedown onto the snow as Mearkle held the Taser in her left hand and drew her Glock .22 pistol in her right hand. After ordering Kassick to show his hands, Mearkle shot him again with her Taser. Momentarily unable to see Kassick’s left hand, Mearkle fired a bullet into his back.

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