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New report details missed chances to stop Uvalde shooting

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A police officer armed with a rifle watched the gunman in the Uvalde elementary school massacre walk toward the campus but did not fire while waiting for permission from a supervisor to shoot, according to a sweeping critique released Wednesday on the tactical response to the May tragedy.

Some of the 21 victims at Robb Elementary School, including 19 children, possibly “could have been saved” on May 24 had they received medical attention sooner while police waited more than an hour before breaching the fourth-grade classroom, a review by a training center at Texas State University for active shooter situations found.

The report is yet another damning assessment of how police failed to act on opportunities that might have saved lives in what became the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“A reasonable officer would have considered this an active situation and devised a plan to address the suspect,” read the report published by the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program.

Authors of the 26-page report said their findings were based off video taken from the school, police body cameras, testimony from officers on the scene and statements from investigators. Among their findings:

— It appeared that no officer waiting in the hallway during the shooting ever tested to see if the door to the classroom was locked. The head of Texas’ state police agency has also faulted officers on the scene for not checking the doors.

— The officers had “weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been rated to stop rifle rounds), training, and backup. The victims in the classrooms had none of these things.”

— When officers finally entered the classroom at 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour after the shooting began — they were no better equipped to confront the gunman than they had been up to that point.

—”Effective incident command” never appears to have been established among the multiple law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.

The gunman, an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, entered the building at 11:33 a.m. Before that a Uvalde police officer, who the report did not identify, saw the gunman carrying a rife toward the west hall entrance. The officer asked a supervisor for permission to open fire, but the supervisor “either did not hear or responded too late,” the report said.

When the officer turned back toward the gunman, he already gone inside “unabated,” according to the report.

The report is one of multiple fact-finding reviews launched in the aftermath of the worst school shooting in Texas history. A committee formed by Texas legislators has also interviewed more than 20 people, including officers who were on the scene, behind closed doors for several weeks. It is unclear when they will release their findings.

It follows testimony last month in which Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the state Senate that the police response was an “abject failure.” He pinned particular blame on Chief Pete Arredondo, saying that as on-scene commander the Uvalde schools police chief made “terrible decisions” and stopped officers from confronting the gunman earlier.

Arredondo has tried to defend his actions, telling the Texas Tribune that he didn’t consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios but that he used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper and the classroom keys.

According to he report released Wednesday, Arredondo and another Uvalde police officer spent 13 minutes in the school hallway during the shooting discussing tactical options, whether to use snipers and how to get into the classroom windows.

“They also discussed who has the keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead,” the report read.

McCraw said police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it.

A lawyer for Arredondo and a spokeswoman for the Uvalde city police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Arredondo is on leave from his job with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and resigned from his position as a city councilor last week.

Public leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, initially praised the police response in Uvalde. Abbott said officers reacted quickly and ran toward the gunfire with “amazing courage” to take out the killer, thereby saving lives. He later said he was misled. In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts of what happened. The fallout has driven recriminations and rifts between local at state authorities. On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez released a letter asking Abbott to move administration of a victims relief fund from the local prosecutor’s office to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. They wrote that they’ve received numerous complaints about District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, “including the failure to timely deliver victim’s compensation resources to those in need.″

Busbee’s office declined to comment Wednesday.

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

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Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

Paul J. Weber And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

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Crime

High court won’t hear case involving estate of dismembered multimillionaire

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OTTAWA – When Chinese-born, West Vancouver-based multimillionaire Gang Yuan was beaten with a hammer, shot twice and his body chopped into 108 pieces in 2015, the simplest part of the story ended with a manslaughter conviction, but the fate of Yuan’s fortune remained very unclear.

Now the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal from the woman whose identity is protected by a ban but who is described as Mother 1, the first of five women who had a child with Yuan and who claims to be his spouse.

Thursday’s dismissal of the leave to appeal application ends Mother 1’s lengthy legal battle to be declared his spouse which, because Yuan died without a will, would have entitled her to half of his $7 to $21 million estate while Canadian law would have split the rest among his five children.

The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling and dismissed Mother 1’s spousal claim last December, finding no “marriage-like relationship” between her and Yuan, even though the two met before Yuan came to Canada and he supported her in China, where she lived with and cared for his parents.

As is customary, Canada’s highest court did not give reasons for its decision on Mother 1’s application.

The dispute over the estate was brushed with notoriety because of Yuan’s untimely and gory death at the hands of once-favoured business partner, Li Zhao.

Court documents from Zhao’s B.C. Supreme Court trial in 2020 trial show he disapproved of Yuan’s playboy lifestyle and treatment of women but Yuan, Zhao and Zhao’s family shared a large West Vancouver home and got along well enough.

That was until May 2, 2015, when the two fought viciously after Zhao believed Yuan first made disparaging remarks about an invention of Zhao’s and then compounded the offence by offering to marry Zhao’s beloved and only daughter as part of the price of financing the invention.

The documents detail a brutal and prolonged fight between the two men that only ended in the driveway of their home when Zhao, who told investigators he feared “life was at risk,” fired twice at close range from a rifle mainly used for shooting rabbits.

Yuan was hit in the neck and died in the driveway.

In finding Zhao guilty of manslaughter, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes, in his oral ruling delivered in October 2020, said that’s when things became “unquestionably bizarre.”

Zhao attempted to dispose of the body by using power tools to cut it into what the ruling described as “108 discrete fragments.”

The 55-year-old even explained his grisly work in the garage of the home by agreeing with the family nanny, as she passed by, that he had been out hunting and had “hunted a bear.”

Zhao had earlier ordered his wife and elderly mother-in-law away from the scene but they eventually asked a family friend to help them call police and Zhao was arrested at his home the following morning and charged with second-degree murder.

Schultes ruled the Crown failed to prove the necessary intent to convict on that charge and found Zhao guilty of manslaughter and interfering with human remains, sentencing him to 10 years and six months on the two counts.

Because Zhao had never asked for bail while awaiting trial and the case was prolonged by delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sentence handed down almost two years ago was reduced to reflect credit for pretrial custody, leaving a total remaining term of two years, four months and eight days to be served for Yuan’s killing.

.If Zhao did not seek early release, he will have completed his entire sentence by early 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.

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Alberta

California court OKs death penalty in ’80s sex slave murders

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By Don Thompson in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and death penalty for one of two men implicated in at least 11 notorious horrific torture-slayings in the mid-1980s in which the duo kept their victims hidden in a secret bunker in the Northern California woods.

Thirty-seven years later, authorities are still trying to identify the remains of some of their victims.

Charles Ng, now 61, was convicted in 1999 of killing six men, three women and two baby boys in 1984 and 1985. He was initially accused of 13 slayings — 12 in Calaveras County and one in San Francisco.

He and his criminal partner, Leonard Lake, committed a series of kidnappings in which they engaged in bondage and sadism ending in murder. They were initially suspected of killing up to 25 people.

“This is one of those stories that’s been passed down through time in this community,” said Calaveras County Lt. Greg Stark, whose father worked for the department at the time of the slayings. “There’s been wild estimates and there’s been conservative estimates, and honestly I don’t think anybody will ever know, due to how they were disposing of the bodies.”

Ng and Lake held their victims in a remote 2 1/2-acre Sierra Nevada fenced compound about 150 miles (241 kilometers) east of San Francisco. It included a bunker with three rooms, two of them behind a hidden doorway. One hidden, locked room was furnished like a cell with a bed covered with a foam pad, a plastic bucket and a roll of toilet paper.

Lake killed himself with a cyanide capsule after police arrested him for shoplifting in San Francisco in 1985 and were questioning him before any bodies were found.

The justices said in a detailed 181-page analysis of the case that Ng received a fair trial, including a change of venue from Calaveras County to Orange County because of pre-trial publicity.

It was one of California’s longest and most expensive trials at the time, costing millions of dollars, partly because the court said Ng repeatedly attempted to delay and disrupt his own trial. That included extended debates over whether he could represent himself and who would be his attorneys.

The justices unanimously also concluded that Ng was properly extradited after he fled to Canada, where he was arrested in Calgary, Alberta, in 1985 for shoplifting and wounding a store guard. He fought extradition for six years before the Supreme Court of Canada ordered him returned.

The men incriminated themselves with videotapes of them tormenting bound, terrified women they used as sex slaves before their murders.

Jurors were shown a tape of one woman pleading in vain for the men to spare her husband and baby as Ng cut off her shirt and bra with a knife in front of the camera.

Investigators also discovered piles of charred bones, blood-stained tools, shallow graves and a 250-page diary kept by Lake.

Four law enforcement agencies spent five weeks scouring the property, according to the court’s detailed description.

They found thousands of buried teeth and bone fragments throughout the property, with at least four of the dental specimens belonging to a child under age 3. “Many hundreds” of the bone fragments had been burned.

Two forensic anthropologists eventually concluded that the remains belonged to at least four adults, one child, and one infant. Two men were found in a shallow grave not far from the property. They had been bound, gagged and fatally shot.

Officials in Calaveras County last year exhumed additional bones and other human remains from a crypt in a cemetery where they had been kept since Ng’s conviction, in hopes that modern DNA tracing could reveal their identities.

A sheriff’s chaplain read a brief invocation, and soon California Department of Justice criminalists and two forensic anthropologists began sorting and analyzing the remains.

They are initially hopeful that enough viable DNA is left for a comparison, said Stark, but the Department of Justice hasn’t yet been able to run the comparisons in part because of more urgent active cases.

Investigators plan to compare the DNA to that from cooperating next of kin of the known victims, and run it through DNA databases in hopes of a comparison.

“Regardless if there are 11 (slayings) or more than 11, we’re hoping to categorize the remains and if possible return them to the families to give them their due respect and internment,” Stark said. “If we find additional identifications, we’ll definitely look into them and their connection to the case.”

Ng joined the Marine Corps after he came to the United States from Hong Kong. He earlier was imprisoned at Leavenworth, Kansas, for weapons theft while serving in the Marine Corps.

He and his defense attorneys argued that he was under the influence of Lake, an older man and survivalist who they said engineered the serial slayings. Ng denied participating in many of the crimes.

His attorneys argued at the time that Ng was shaped as a child, when he was beaten by his father.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty so long as he is governor, and Ng still has the possibility of other federal appeals.

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