National Roundup

South Carolina
Family sees video of shooting, still has questions

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The family of a man shot 19 times by police in South Carolina watched a video of his killing and were left with almost as many questions as answers, their attorney said Wednesday.

Solicitor Chip Finney showed the video to Waltki Williams’ family Tuesday. Finney plans a 2 p.m. Wednesday news conference to announce whether he will charge the three Sumter Police officers.

The officers were trying to arrest Williams on Dec. 10 after his estranged girlfriend called 911 saying he had pointed a gun at her car at the Sumter Mall, police said at the time. Williams was shot 19 times, 17 of them in the back, attorney Carter Elliott said, citing the autopsy.

Williams’ family were not shown all the body and dashboard camera video and the footage didn’t include the audio either, making it harder to figure out exactly what happened in a few chaotic moments, Elliott said.

“It’s still hard to understand how we went from a chase to him being shot 17 times in the back in 15 seconds, Elliott said.

Finney also showed the family photographs of a gun in Williams’ hand. Elliott’s lawsuit said Williams was unarmed and the lawyer said in the video it doesn’t appear Williams has anything in his hand when the chase begins.

Williams drove off after police confronted him at the mall, but wrecked and tried to run away, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Williams’ sister, Tomekia Kind, against the city of Sumter and its police force.

Several officers tackled Williams and stepped back before at least three of them fired two dozen shots, according to the suit.

Elliott said the family plans to continue its wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit.

Investigators have released little information about the shooting, including the videos and the names of the officers involved.

State police have been reluctant to release police shooting videos in South Carolina until cases are closed, even though First Amendment lawyers said there is no exemption to their release under the state’s open records law.

“You can’t see these videos until you file a lawsuit,” said Elliott, who has handled a number of police brutality cases in South Carolina. “It would be better if they just made them available.”

New York
Questions persist in death of judge

NEW YORK (AP) — When Sheila Abdus-Salaam agreed to speak this month at an alumni gathering at Columbia Law School, it was business as usual for someone in demand as the first black woman to serve on New York’s highest court.

But only six days before the event at her alma mater, Abdus-Salaam’s success story took a startling turn: Her body was found floating in the Hudson River, leaving those who knew her trying to reconcile a seemingly stable life with a mysterious death that’s still under investigation.

The New York Police Department said this week that it’s still found no signs of foul play, suggesting she may have killed herself after wandering the streets of Harlem for four hours. Her family and admirers insist that doesn’t add up.

“Sheila was one of the most rational, measured and intellectual folks that I’ve ever known,” said Keith Wright, a former state assemblyman, longtime friend and neighbor who exchanged pleasantries with her in the subway two days before the death. “I don’t believe she killed herself.”

In a statement, Abdus-Salaam’s family has disputed reports that she was battling depression and that, according to police, her death fell around the anniversaries of the suicides of both her mother and brother. Police later admitted that they were wrong about the mother’s cause of death.

More questions followed after the NYPD tweeted a photo of a flyer last week asking for information from anyone who may have come in recent contact with Abdus-Salaam and after a police official called the death “suspicious.” But police have stressed that only meant they hadn’t reached a conclusion about the death.

The 65-year-old Abdus-Salaam was raised with six siblings in a working-class family in Washington. She graduated from Barnard College before attending Columbia Law School.

After she rose from a lawyer for low-income Brooklyn residents to state court justice, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed her to the state Court of Appeals in 2013. She once said that she wanted people to “consider me to be a judge who listens and gives them a fair shot.”

Her death brought an outpouring of accolades. Cuomo called her a “trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

Unable to locate any witnesses, police so far have relied on security video to try to retrace the last hours of Abdus-Salaam’s life. She spent her workweeks in the city at an apartment on West 131st Street in Harlem.

After staying home from work on April 11, she was seen on video leaving the home at around 8:30 p.m. and walking several blocks north, then eventually west on West 145th Street to an elevated park on the Hudson River, where a final video shows her alone there at about 12:30 a.m. on April 12, according to two law enforcement officials.

Her body was found in the water about 13 hours later without obvious signs of trauma. She was in the same clothes — sweatshirt, sweatpants and white sneakers — as seen in the videos.

The law enforcement officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn’t been completed.

Results of an autopsy are pending.

“I don’t get it,” Wright said of the death. “I don’t understand it. Hopefully, we’ll have some answers soon.”

Man accused of raping girl, 14,  pleads guilty

CINCINNATI (AP) — A suburban Cincinnati man accused of having a 14-year-old girl brought to his home by taxi while he was on electronic monitoring, holding her captive for months and raping her has pleaded guilty to charges in county court as his federal case is pending.

Twenty-one-year-old Cody Jackson pleaded guilty Tuesday to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and interference with custody.

A message seeking comment was left Wednesday for his attorney.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to federal charges, including child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor.

Authorities say he contacted the teen through Facebook in February 2015 while under monitoring at his Norwood apartment in an abduction case. They say he later fled without her after being taken off monitoring. He was eventually arrested in Utah.