Day: June 17, 2019

Latest: LAPD reviewing officer’s actions in Costco shooting

LOS ANGELES — The Latest on a fatal shooting at a Costco Wholesale warehouse store in Southern California (all times local):

12:45 p.m. Monday

Los Angeles police say an off-duty officer who shot and killed a man inside a Southern California Costco store won’t have any contact with the public during a criminal investigation and separate department review.

Police in the city of Corona are investigating the shooting Friday night that left Kenneth French dead and his parents critically wounded. Rick Shureih, French’s cousin, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the 32-year-old was a “gentle giant” who had mental disabilities. He declined to give specifics about his condition.

Investigators say the off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer claims French attacked him without provocation as the officer held his young child.

LAPD Officer Norma Eisenman says Monday that the officer, who has not been identified, has been assigned administrative duties during the investigations. She says the officer works at the LAPD’s Southwest station.


9:58 p.m. Sunday

The Los Angeles Police Department is gathering evidence and video footage in an administrative investigation into an off-duty officer who shot and killed a man authorities say attacked him inside a Southern California Costco Wholesale warehouse store.

Authorities did not respond Sunday to requests for comment about what provoked the Friday night confrontation and whether anyone but the officer was armed. Two others were critically injured in the shooting in Corona, which is about 40 miles (64 kilometres) east of Los Angeles.

The officer opened fire after Kenneth French, 32, of Riverside, “assaulted” him “without provocation” as the officer held his young child, Corona police said Saturday.

Bullets struck French and two of his family members, police said.

Rick Shureih, French’s cousin, told The Press-Enterprise that he was a “gentle giant” who was mentally disabled. Shureih also identified the other two victims as French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, and said they remained in an intensive care unit Sunday.

The Associated Press

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Arkansas woman charged with murder in ex-senator’s killing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas woman was charged Monday with capital murder in the killing of a former state senator whose body was found outside her own home.

A judge also found probable cause to charge 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O’Donnell with abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, Jonesboro television station KAIT reported. The judge did not set bond for O’Donnell, who was arrested Friday in former Sen. Linda Collins’ death.

Authorities haven’t said how or when Collins was killed. The day after her body was found, a judge granted prosecutors’ request to seal all documents and statements obtained by police during the investigation.

Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found dead June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, which is about 130 miles (210 kilometres) northeast of Little Rock. A former Collins spokesman said O’Donnell was friends with Collins, and court records show that O’Donnell was a witness in the former lawmaker’s divorce proceedings. Collins divorced retired Circuit Judge Philip Smith last year and the two were in the middle of a court fight over their properties.

Robin Emis, an attorney for Collins during her divorce, said she didn’t believe O’Donnell was capable of the crime and described the woman as a close confidante of the ex-lawmaker.

“She treated Linda as if she was either her friend or her mother. She just watched over her and protected her to a degree that was touching,” Emis said.

Tim Loggains, O’Donnell’s fiancé, proclaimed her innocence and said they “both loved Linda and tirelessly gave our time and energy to support her, in every way.” Loggains was granted power of attorney for Collins during her divorce proceedings.

“Although Becky and I are devastated by the current accusations, we are trying to trust the judicial process and we hope that every possible suspect is being looked into,” he said in a statement. “A lot of hurtful things are being printed and we ask that people please show us mercy while the police investigate every possibility.”

Prosecutor Henry Boyce on Monday also defended his decision to ask that the case records be sealed, saying news reports and social media posts became a “distraction” to law enforcement within hours of Collins’ body being found.

“The biggest threat to the successful prosecution of any criminal case is the premature release of information which has the tendency, as with this case, to become distorted and ultimately has the effect of prejudicing the potential jurors who may eventually be chosen to hear the case at trial,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Collins was buried on Saturday and her family over the weekend said they were “sickened and upset” by the thought that one of her friends could have been involved in her killing.


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Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press

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Ontario legal aid cuts will harm refugees

Marites N. Sison
LGBTQ refugee claimants take part in the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto's peer support group meeting, where they learn about available community services, receive an orientation about the city, and meet other refugees or claimants. Photo: Courtesy of MCC.

When Helmer Pereira first heard in April that the Ford government had cut the budget of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) by 30 per cent — or $133 million — and prohibited the agency from using provincial funds for refugee and immigration cases, the first thing that came to his mind was, “Please, may God touch the hearts of these people.”

And he remembered his own family’s story of arriving in Toronto as refugees. “I cannot, I really do not want to, imagine what would have happened to my family if we had not had access to legal aid.”

He thought about those “who are suffering all over the world and have Canada as one of the safest places in the world to raise their children and rebuild their torn lives.”

Originally from Angola, engineers Helmer and Carla Pereira, along with their three young children, arrived in Toronto and sought refugee status in April 2016. Helmer said he and his family fled to Canada after he was repeatedly threatened over his involvement with an organization focused on transforming Angolan politics.

With help from Romero House — a charitable agency that provides transitional housing and settlement services for refugee claimants — the Pereiras applied for legal aid and were able to hire a lawyer.

With their lawyer’s guidance, Helmer said, they were able to express their experiences and concerns clearly and accurately to reflect the life-threatening danger their family had faced. The Pereiras are now permanent residents, their children are doing well in school, and Helmer and Carla are back in academia.

Erin Simpson, a Toronto-based lawyer and spokesperson for the Canadian Refugee Lawyers Association, said as a result of the cuts, many refugee claimants are now left to fend for themselves in navigating a complex legal process.

“That’s a real problem because the refugee determination process is rigorous,” said Simpson. Claimants are required to prepare a detailed narrative and present evidence to support their claim; they undergo exhaustive questioning from the independent tribunal hearing their case, among other things. Often, refugees arrive “traumatized from persecution, some are still physically unwell from torture, and they are without English skills and unfamiliar with our legal system,” said Simpson.

In cutting legal aid, the Ford government has argued that immigration is a federal matter and the federal government should pay for legal aid for refugees and immigrants.

Simpson said “historically, the responsibility has been shared between the two levels of government, and it should continue that way.” Or, she added, “at the very least, the services should have been continued until there was a new funding arrangement.”

In its budget, the province said it hopes to save $164 million on legal aid spending each year starting in 2021. It added that the cuts would help streamline the delivery of legal aid.

Reverend Jeff Rock, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC), said the cuts are “devastating” to the LGBTQ asylum seekers that his church serves. MCC runs an LGBTQ asylum seekers’ program, which provides emotional and basic information support to individuals who arrive in Canada on their own. (It also has a sponsorship agreement with the Canadian government for LGBTQ refugees who are brought to the church’s attention by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the UNHCR.)

Rock said about 700 LGBTQ asylum seekers come to Canada and seek refugee status each year — a number he described as “staggering.”

“We do our best, but we don’t have the legal expertise to give people legal advice,” said Rock.

If previous years’ statistics of legal aid recipients are an indicator, the number of people denied legal help as a result of the cuts will be significant, said Simpson. In 2017-2018, Legal Aid Ontario issued 13,687 legal aid certificates to refugee and immigrant individuals and families who meet certain criteria, including an annual income below $17,000. These certificates cost about $45 million per year.

The effects of these cuts will be “severe — both for the individuals affected and for the justice system,” said Simpson. Lawyers and refugee service organizations continue to field a high volume of calls from people requesting legal aid. Those immediately affected are claimants with no lawyers to prepare for their hearings, refugees who need to appeal their cases, permanent residents facing the threat of removal, and individuals subject to immigration detention.

By creating barriers like cuts to legal aid, “we are failing the human rights needs of the most marginalized and traumatized people in the world,” said Rock. “They come under duress to begin a new life of freedom, and it is our moral and I might add, legal, obligation as part of the UN to accept refugees when they come to our doors.”

LGBTQ refugees, in particular, “want a chance at a life of dignity in Canada, knowing that there are still 70 countries in the world where being [who they are] is illegal and eight that have the death penalty,” said Rock. They are also eager to contribute to society, he said. Rock spoke about how his family recently found out that the new personal support worker taking care of his father, who lives with advanced dementia in a long-term care facility, had been a participant of MCC’s refugee program.  

Simpson said Canadians need to decide “if we want to live in a country that marginalizes people seeking refuge — to nobody’s benefit — or instead, provides supports and resources to ensure that people can get on their feet, and become contributing members of communities and economies.”

Lawyers and other groups are continuing to engage in various forms of advocacy to push back against these cuts, including an online petition, which has gathered more than 15,000 signatures, said Simpson.

The Ontario attorney general’s office did not respond to‘s request for comment.

Helmer said he will keep praying “that those who hold power in Ontario today are enlightened by God.” He added: “While I understand that there is sometimes a need for governments to reduce budgets and cut costs, I believe that fairer solutions can replace this decision that will deeply impact the lives of vulnerable people.”

Marites N. Sison is a freelance journalist based in Toronto.

Photo: Courtesy of MCC

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Quebec Bans Public Employees From Wearing Religious Symbols At Work

Quebec Premier François Legault, seen here in France in January 2019, led his government to push through Bill 21 in the province on Sunday.

Quebec’s contentious secularism bill banning religious symbols for teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority was voted into law late Sunday.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government used its majority to push through Bill 21 by a vote of 73 to 35 after applying the mechanism of closure to end debate on the bill prematurely. The Parti Quebecois also voted in favour, while the Liberals and Quebec solidaire were opposed.

The bill prohibits public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. Its opponents say the law targets religious minorities while the government argues it affirms the Quebecois people’s secular identity.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government introduced last-minute amendments toughening the law, making provisions for a minister to verify that it is being obeyed and to demand corrective measures if necessary.

Liberal member Marc Tanguay said the changes would result in a “secularism police.”

Watch: These Quebecers say Bill 21 won’t change what they wear. Story continues below.  


Just before the final vote, the bill’s sponsor, Simon Jolin-Barrette, minister of immigration, diversity and inclusiveness, asked all legislators to “convey the principles of state secularism with calm and respect.”

The legislation includes wording that preemptively invokes Section 33 of the Canadian Constitution, also known as the notwithstanding clause. As a consequence, no citizen will be able to challenge the bill on grounds it violates fundamental freedoms granted by law.

A Section 33 declaration, however, needs to be renewed every five years. Legault told reporters earlier in the day his government was closing a door that no one would choose to reopen.

“My prediction,” he said, “is that neither the Liberals, nor the Parti Quebecois — I don’t think they’ll be in power in five years — would want to change this law.”

Liberal Helene David quickly contradicted him. The Opposition critic for secularism told reporters a Liberal government would not renew Section 33. “We will see in five years what we will do,” she said. “There are strong chances we will want to repeal (the law).”

Bill 21 fulfills a major campaign promise by Legault’s party. The premier has often said the legislation is a “compromise” because his party decided against including daycare workers or private school teachers in the bill. The legislation also grants certain public sector workers such as teachers an acquired right to continue wearing religious symbols if they were hired before the law took effect.

Bill 21 also forbids anyone giving or receiving a state service with their face covered — largely seen as a measure targeting full-face Islamic veils.

The Liberals offered an amendment that would have let university students studying to become state employees affected by the law, such as teachers or lawyers, to have an acquired right to continue wearing religious symbols.

Jolin-Barette, said no. The so-called grandfather clause “would only to apply to those already working.”

Despite criticism from across the country by federal and provincial politicians, human rights advocates and many other groups, Legault’s government has stayed united in its drive to adopt the legislation.

Mr. Premier, we will remember you for this.Pierre Arcand, interim Quebec Liberal leader

Legault and his ministers have proclaimed that the bill will go down in history alongside other major pieces of legislation affirming the Quebecois nation’s values and way of life, such as the 1977 Charter of the French Language, known as Bill 101.

The premier said Friday the bill has allowed many Quebecers to regain a sense of pride. But Pierre Arcand, interim Liberal leader, said Sunday Legault’s legacy will be “this botched bill, that can’t be applied, that violates the rights of minorities. Mr. Premier, we will remember you for this.”

Bill 21 was the second law debated and passed over the weekend. In a 62 to 42 vote, the government used its majority around 4 a.m. Sunday to push through Bill 9, which reforms the province’s immigration system.

Jolin-Barrette’s bill gives the province more authority over who receives permanent residency in the province. The government says the new selection criteria will permit it to fast-track newcomers who better meet the needs of employers. Applicants in the old system were selected on a first-come, first-served basis.

The bill is controversial because it creates a legal framework that allows the government to force newly arrived immigrants to pass a French-language and so-called values test before becoming eligible for permanent residency.

While specific wording on the two proposed tests isn’t included in the bill, the legislation permits the province to institute the tests by way of regulation.

Immigration applications cancelled

Also contentious is the provision in Bill 9 permitting the government to cancel roughly 18,000 immigration applications — some from people who have waited in limbo for years as their files languished under the old system. Those applicants will have to start the process over again.

Including the applicants’ families, the fates of some 50,000 people wishing to immigrate to Quebec were at stake.

Opponents to the bill, including the provincial Liberals, said the Coalition Avenir Quebec government has provided “no credible explanation” to eliminate the applications.

The federation of Quebec’s chambers of commerce saluted the bill’s passing early Sunday.

“The concerted efforts of the government will lead to a better link between the skills of immigrants and those required for positions to fill in Quebec companies,” the federation’s president, Stephane Forget, said in a statement.

“These changes will have a very important impact to facilitate the recruitment of future employees … and therefore, better integration of immigrants.”

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Fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt dead at 95

Gloria Vanderbilt, the “poor little rich girl” heiress at the center of a scandalous custody battle of the 1930s and the designer jeans queen of the 1970s and ’80s, died on Monday at 95, according to her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces.

The news was announced via a CNN report voiced by Cooper. CNN reported that she died at her home and was suffering from advanced stomach cancer.

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