‘I’m mad as hell’: Anger as cop acquitted over fatal shooting

A jury in Minnesota on Friday acquitted the police officer who fatally shot 32-year-old African American Philando Castile, whose dying moments were captured on Facebook video in a case that shocked the nation.

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Jeronimo Yanez, 29, was found not guilty on three charges: second-degree manslaughter, and two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon for endangering the safety of Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter. 

Both were in the car when the officer shot Castile during a traffic stop.

0:00 Anger as cop acquitted over Philando Castile death Share Anger as cop acquitted over Philando Castile death

The aftermath of the shooting on July 6 last year was captured on video recorded by Reynolds and broadcast on Facebook Live. In it, Castile can be seen bleeding to death in the driver’s seat.

The video sparked protests across the United States and further exposed tensions between US police and African Americans.

Castile’s family reacted with anger outside the courthouse, and several groups planned demonstrations after the verdict.  

“I’m mad as hell right now. Yes, I am,” Castile’s mother Valerie told a gathering of reporters.

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez has been acquitted over the shooting death of Philando Castile.Star Tribune

“The system continues to fail black people.”

The jury in the case spent approximately 30 hours deliberating, and asked the judge to re-examine the Facebook video and the video from the police car dashboard camera, along with Yanez’s testimony on the stand.  

US prosecutors have found it difficult to make criminal charges stick in police shooting cases.

All six Baltimore officers charged over the 2015 death of Freddie Gray due to spinal cord injuries suffered in the back of a police van were eventually cleared.

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Coulthard wins Darwin Supercars opener

DJR Team Penske have fired back at Red Bull Racing’s challenge, with Supercars leader Fabian Coulthard and teammate Scott McLaughlin scoring a one-two finish in Darwin.

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Saturday’s win extended Coulthard’s lead in the overall standings to 34 points, while McLaughlin narrowed the gap on second-placed RBR driver Jamie Whincup to six.

It was Coulthard’s first victory at Hidden Valley Raceway and his third for the season.

Whincup improved from ninth on the grid to finish fourth, but was denied a top-three finish by fellow Holden driver Nick Percat, who scored his first podium since joining Brad Jones Racing.

The win capped a big week for Coulthard, who announced he and partner Becky Lamb were expecting twins later in the year.

“This is massive. It’s going to be a big year so, hopefully, we can finish it off in the correct style,” Coulthard said.

Pole-sitter Rick Kelly’s afternoon ended in disaster when his steering locked and he ploughed into a wall during a dramatic 18th lap.

With the safety car on the track, Coulthard was able to capitalise on being the first driver in the pits and didn’t look back after racing resumed on the 23rd lap.

“For us, the smartest result is to get a one-two finish for the team,” Coulthard said.

“We drove our race to getting a one-two. Whatever the order was, it didn’t matter but I’m happy to get the win.”

Moments before Kelly’s crash, defending series champion Shane Van Gisbergen had a right-rear tyre failure, all but dashing his chances of back-to-back race wins.

His day went from bad to worse when he made contact with Garth Tander with three laps remaining, preventing him finishing.

After starting the race 37 points adrift, Van Gisbergen sits 87 behind Coulthard.

“You never want to get points for free, but we’ll take them,” Coulthard said.

“But it’s such a long year, we’re all going to have a bad run at some point – that’s inevitable. You’ve just got to minimise the bad days.”

McLaughlin was able to recover after dropping to sixth on the second lap when making a failed attempt to pass Kelly, a self-described “brain-fart” from the flying Kiwi.

He also stalled exiting the pits and was comfortably beaten to the first turn by Kelly after starting alongside pole.

“At the end of the day, we came back and that was probably the main thing,” McLaughlin said.

“I need to work on my launches and we’ll be OK.”

Sunday’s 70-lap race kicks off at 3:00pm.

London protesters storm council HQ as fire death toll reaches 30

Angry residents heckled Prime Minister Theresa May and stormed the local authority headquarters as they demanded justice for the victims of a London tower block fire that left 30 people dead, with dozens more unaccounted for.

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May was criticised for avoiding locals when she visited the burnt-out shell of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower on Thursday, but faced cries of “shame on you” and “coward” when she returned the following day.

Dozens of police officers held back booing crowds and broke up scuffles as her car drove off from local church, where she had met survivors, residents and volunteers and promised new funds for those affected.

0:00 Tower victims ‘may never be identified’ Share Tower victims ‘may never be identified’

There were also angry scenes outside the offices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which was responsible for managing the 1970s social housing block, in a working-class enclave in one of London’s richest areas.

There are questions about why the block was not fitted with sprinklers or a central smoke alarm, and whether a recent refurbishment, including new external cladding, helped fuel the flames.

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“It was a death trap and they knew it,” one person shouted as demonstrators swelled outside the council building, with dozens going inside and clashing with police and security guards.

“I have friends in the tower and they are not telling us anything,” said Salwa Buamani, 25, who came with her three-year-old niece on her shoulders.

The crowds were later joined by thousands of peaceful protesters in a carnival-like atmosphere, although a few young men tried unsuccessfully to break through the police cordon outside the tower.

May faces angry crowd

The death toll rose to 30 on Friday but authorities warned it would increase further, as fire crews picked their way through the wreckage of the building which was engulfed in flames in the early hours of Wednesday.

May has announced a judge-led inquiry into what happened, and on Friday promised a £5 million ($6.4 million, 5.7 million euro) fund for emergency supplies, food and clothing. 

“Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the government is there for them at this terrible time — and that is what I am determined to provide,” she said.

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But criticism of her response has heaped further pressure on the premier, whose Conservative government remains in limbo after losing its parliamentary majority in last week’s election.

Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson Prince William visited a community centre Friday where some of the survivors are being housed, and where volunteers have been inundated with donations of clothes and food.

Police commander Stuart Cundy earlier updated the death toll from 17 to 30, adding: “I do believe the number will increase.”

He said police had started a criminal investigation but there was nothing to suggest “that the fire had been started deliberately”.

Firefighters were using drones and sniffer dogs to search the building, as some of the upper floors have not yet been made safe.

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More than 70 people remain unaccounted for, according to media reports, and many of those protesting Friday were demanding the return of their loved ones’ remains.

Police have said recovery process could take weeks, and warned some of the bodies may be too burned to be identified.

“We are not stupid, we aware people are dead. Just tell them!” said local resident Karen Brown, 36.

One of the confirmed victims died in hospital, police said, while 24 injured survivors are still being treated, 12 of them in critical care.

Syrian refugee victim

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The area surrounding the tower has been plastered by desperate relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children.

The fire forced residents to flee through black smoke down the single stairwell, jump out of windows or even drop their children from the building.

One of the victims was Mohammed Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee who came to Britain in 2014 with his brother and was studying civil engineering.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK,” the Syrian Solidarity Campaign said in a statement.

“His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria.”

A second victim named Friday was Khadija Saye, a 24-year-old photographer who had exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

Questions over cladding

Questions are growing about how the flames spread so quickly, with the focus on the cladding fitted to external walls of the 1974 tower as part of an £8.7 million ($11 million, 9.9 million euros) refit completed last year.

The cladding had a plastic core and was similar to that used by high-rise buildings in France, the United Arab Emirates and Australia which had also suffered fires that spread.

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The Times newspaper reported that the company that manufactured the cladding also made fire-resistant models that cost fractionally more than the standard version.

“Something’s gone drastically wrong,” Communities and Local Government Minister Sajid Javid told BBC radio.

Javid said inspections of similar buildings had been ordered, with particular attention to the modern cladding used to beautify and add insulation to ageing concrete and steel structures.

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Trump confirms he’s under investigation over ex-FBI director Comey’s firing

The Republican leader also lashed out at the Justice Department’s number two, the man tasked with organizing the probe.

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The furious early morning barrage of tweets — his second in as many days — came as the special counsel investigating Russia’s influence over his election pieced together a high-caliber legal team and readied to begin interviews.

Trump is accused of firing FBI director James Comey over his refusal to steer the Russia investigation away from former national security advisor and Trump ally Mike Flynn.

The US president has denied trying to influence the investigation, but has acknowledged in an interview that Russia was on his mind when he dismissed Comey.

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“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt” he tweeted from the White House shortly before a day trip to Miami.

That appeared to be the first public confirmation that Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice — and a digital salvo trained at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote a memo criticizing Comey.

A source on Trump’s legal team attempted to clarify the missive, claiming he was reacting to media reports about the investigation rather than offering public confirmation.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller — a respected former FBI director — has sought to beef up his investigatory firepower.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, told AFP he now has “13 attorneys on board, with several more in the pipeline.” 

That will only add to a sense of foreboding that pervades the White House, from the crammed collective workspaces of junior officials all the way to the Oval Office.

The widened Russia probe could have far-reaching repercussions for Trump’s presidency, transforming his closest aides into witnesses and sucking even more political oxygen out of the West Wing.

Trump was set to escape the Washington pressure cooker on Saturday. Accompanied by First Lady Melania, he will make his first trip to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

A weekend at the rustic mountain getaway is a far cry from the president’s normal routine of jetting off to one of his lavish resorts, mainly Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Related reading’Rude awakening’ 

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence took what he later described as a “very routine” step of hiring outside counsel to represent him.

Pence tapped far-from-average lawyer Richard Cullen, who litigated the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, the Watergate affair and the 2000 vote recount in Florida.

As the legal rope has tightened, Trump’s allies have gone on the offensive, questioning Mueller’s credibility and floating the idea he may be fired.

Trump’s apparent attack on Rosenstein also raised further questions about whether he will stay in his position or recuse himself from the investigation.

“As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman.

Top Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed concern that Trump may try to fire both Mueller and Rosenstein, warning “he’s in for a rude awakening” if he thinks he can shut down the investigation.

“Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law,” Feinstein said.

‘Witch hunt’ 

Trump also lashed out at the media, on a day that aides hoped would be focused on his decision to undo some of Barack Obama’s detente with Cuba.

“After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my ‘collusion with the Russians,’ nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!” Trump tweeted.

“The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media – over 100 million people! I can go around them.”

Trump’s young presidency has been battered by allegations — under investigation both by Congress and the FBI — that Russia interfered to sway the 2016 election in his favor, in possible collusion with Trump’s campaign team.

The president has long vehemently denied any collusion with Moscow.

Palestinians dismiss IS claim of Israel policewoman killing

The Israeli security services also raised doubts about the veracity of the IS claim — its first for an attack in Jerusalem — which came with the jihadists facing defeat in their Iraq and Syria bastions.

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Three Palestinians attacked officers just outside the walled Old City in annexed east Jerusalem late on Friday before being shot dead by security forces, Israeli police said.

In an online statement, IS said jihadist fighters had targeted a “gathering of Jews”, warning that “this attack will not be the last”. 

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But Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, dismissed the claim, saying the attackers had come from among its own ranks and those of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The assault took place as tens of thousands of Palestinians held night prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, on the third Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

According to police, two assailants opened fire on a group of officers who returned fire, and a third stabbed the border policewoman a short distance away before being shot.

Policewoman Hadas Malka, a 23-year-old staff sergeant major, was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died of her wounds. 

Four other people were wounded in the incident, including two Palestinians from east Jerusalem and one from the West Bank city of Hebron.

‘Muddy the waters’ 

In its statement, IS said the attack was “revenge for the religion of Allah and the sanctities of the violated Muslims”.

“Let the Jews watch for the demise of their state at the hands of the soldiers of the caliphate,” the statement said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the IS claim was an attempt to “muddy the waters”, adding that the attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the PFLP and a third from Hamas”.

The killing was “a natural response to the crimes of the occupier,” he said, echoing the language used by Hamas after other recent attacks against Israelis. 

A spokesman for Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency told AFP it was “impossible to corroborate (the IS claim) at this point.”

The Israeli army said the assailants appeared have acted independently, like many of the attackers in a wave of unrest that has rocked Israel and the occupied territories since October 2015.

Most of the attacks have been carried out by “lone wolves”, some only in their teens, and Israel has dubbed the violence “popular terrorism.”

“A preliminary army intelligence evaluation found no evidence of them belonging to any group, rather they appear to have been a typical popular terror squad,” an army spokeswoman said.

Hamas and the PFLP identified the three assailants as Bara Ata, 18, Osama Ata, 19, and Adel Ankush, 18, all from the village of Deir Abu Mashal near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Shin Bet said they had been implicated in previous “popular terror activity”.

The PFLP said Bara and Osama Ata had recently been released from several months in Israeli prison.

The army sealed off the assailants’ home village.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, a Palestinian “attempted to stab an Israeli” north of Hebron early Saturday, the army said.

The Israeli was lightly wounded and the assailant taken in for questioning.

Ramadan relaxation curbed 

Israel had eased restrictions on the entry of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jerusalem for Ramadan.

But after Friday’s attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cancel permission for Palestinians from the West Bank of all ages to visit family members in Jerusalem and Israel, police said.

Permits for Friday prayers for women of all ages and men aged 40 and over are to remain in place.

The unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 272 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

Saturday was the first time IS had claimed an attack inside Israel or annexed east Jerusalem.

The jihadist group has a major presence across Israel’s southern border in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from where it has claimed several rocket attacks from into Israel.

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