National Roundup

Church suing on virus restrictions burns down

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) — A church in Mississippi was destroyed by a suspected arson fire, about a month after its pastor filed a lawsuit challenging the city of Holly Springs on gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, burned down Wednesday morning, news outlets reported. When investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office got to the scene, they found graffiti in the church parking lot that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”

“We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea,” Jerry Waldrop, the pastor of the church, said. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”

Waldrop had filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, alleging police officers had disrupted a church bible study and Easter service. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 parishioners inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.

Churchgoers practiced social distancing while indoors and only held indoor services when bad weather would not allow them to gather outside, the lawsuit said. Waldrop’s complaint also asked for a temporary restraining order to keep city officials from preventing church services.

While Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’s safer-at-home order allowed churches to operate as essential businesses, Byers said the city did not give churches the same latitude until they amended their local order in late April to allow for drive-thru services. She said Waldrop’s lawsuit has yet to be served.

Authorities are offering a reward for tips on the arson investigation.

Attorney: Woman ‘executed’ by police in her home

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A black emergency medical worker fatally shot by police serving a narcotics search warrant in Kentucky was “executed” in her home, a high-profile civil rights attorney said Wednesday.

Benjamin Crump’s remark to the Louisville public safety committee came during testimony the committee was receiving about the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times by police in March. The case has drawn national attention and calls from political figures for an outside investigation.

Crump is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down in a Georgia neighborhood in February, and he has been involved in several cases involving police shootings that have provoked public outrage.

“I still think this tragic killing of Breonna Taylor, in the sanctity of her own home, is one of the worst ones that I have ever seen,” Crump said during the meeting, which was streamed online. “She did not deserve to die in this manner.”

The warrant to search Taylor’s home on March 13 was in connection with a suspect who did not live there. Police found no drugs at Taylor’s home after using a “no-knock” search warrant, which allows them to enter without first announcing their presence. Louisville police changed policy on those warrants earlier this week to require the chief’s signature.

Another attorney for Taylor’s family, Lonita Baker, said Louisville police should ban the use of such warrants in drug investigations.

“Narcotics investigations do not justify the risk associated with no-knock warrants,” Baker said.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at officers, striking one during the warrant search. Walker has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer. Crump said Walker was defending himself and Breonna from what they thought was a break-in.

Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad also spoke at the meeting but declined to discuss details of the investigation.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday that the police department’s internal investigation of the shooting has been completed and will go to the state attorney general and the U.S. Attorney in Louisville for review.

Teacher sought castration over prison, receives 12-year sentence

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida high school teacher was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing students after the judge ignored his request to be castrated instead.

Mark Lua, 32, told Circuit Judge Thomas Dannheisser on Wednesday that he wanted to raise his daughter and would volunteer for castration if that would spare him a prison sentence, the Pensacola News Journal reported.

The former English teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola pleaded guilty last year to promoting a sexual performance by a child, unlawful sexual activity with minors and two counts of unlawful sexual activity with minors.

Prosecutors say he sexually assaulted an 18-year-old former student, had sex with an underage student and coerced another to send him a sexually explicit video.

“My actions were despicable,” Lua said. “I do believe that punishment is necessary, and I am requesting chemical castration not only as a punishment but as an act of solidarity to show how sorry I am for everything. If your honor is so inclined, I am even willing to undergo physical castration if that way I can stay home and raise my daughter.”

Judge Dannheisser ignored the request before issuing his sentence. Prosecutor Erin Ambrose told the judge Lua targeted vulnerable girls.

“He seemed to seek out girls that came from unstable or troubled homes,” Ambrose said. “He manipulated them, and he betrayed them because he was a teacher.”

Man who shot, wounded Cleveland cop gets 19-year sentence

CLEVELAND (AP) — A man who shot and injured a Cleveland police officer with an assault-type rifle while the officer was responding to a call is now headed to prison.

Jonathan Chambers received a 19-year sentence on Wednesday. He had pleaded guilty in February to three counts of attempted murder.

Authorities have said Chambers, 32, shot a man in the neck while the man was sitting in a car in November 2018 and then shot 28-year-old police officer Shane McNea in both legs when McNea and another officer arrived to investigate. The other officer was not injured.

The first man was shot in the neck and survived, while McNea underwent emergency surgery.

Chambers fled the scene on foot after shooting McNea but was captured later that day.


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