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My Dogsitter, the ATX Shooter

Photo: Larry Steve McQuilliams – Facebook

Most people know Larry Steven McQuilliams from his Thanksgiving night shooting spree in downtown Austin. Around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 28, he fired more than 100 rounds at the Mexican consulate, the federal courthouse and the Austin Police Department headquarters before police shot and killed him.

Two hours later I awoke to someone pounding on the door of my apartment at 1117 Hollow Creek. The policeman at my door said there had been an officer-involved shooting and everyone had to leave the building while police checked the deceased suspect’s apartment for explosives. A police helicopter thrummed overhead. The officer wouldn’t give us details, but said we’d learn all about it on the news. I went with my neighbor to his mother’s house nearby, where we flipped through news channels and listened to an online feed of Travis County law enforcement scanners, trying to figure out who the shooter was. We knew almost everyone at South Creek, our 23-unit apartment complex.

The next day, I went back to my apartment building to try to retrieve my car key, but was still not permitted to enter my room. I also got on Twitter and started sharing what I knew with the press. As a freelance writer I knew information from citizen-journalists could be valuable. While I didn’t know the shooter well, he was my neighbor and occasional dogsitter, and I was also more comfortable speaking with the media than most of the neighbors who knew him better.

I’ve had three weeks to reflect on the ATX shooter, to talk with my neighbors who best knew Steve (the name he went by with us). We’ve wrestled with the fact that the man we knew scarcely resembled the figure who shot up downtown and who was described by police and the media as a terrorist and extremist. We thought the Steve we knew was the full Steve, the real Steve.

The weekend before last I sat for several hours with six other South Creek residents and ex-residents in our courtyard, drinking and talking about him. Those who had known Steve as a friend were at once disbelieving, dazed, frustrated and sad. The rest of us tried to make sense of the actions of a fixture of our community.

Linda knew Steve best. (I’ve used pseudonyms for all the neighbors because they didn’t want their real names mentioned.) I asked her what he disliked about the government.

“He didn’t like Obamacare,” Linda said. “And he didn’t agree with the thing about the amnesty.”

She revealed Steve hadn’t trusted banks, either; he’d converted his savings to silver bars and coins.

“He said, ‘You should take all your money and get silver.’ I’m going, ‘Steve, I don’t know about that.’”

I asked why she thought he’d targeted the police department.

“He didn’t like the police because they were belligerent to people. Like when he was at the park [they’d] strut around. He didn’t like it when he’s at the park people are trying to have a nice time… [He wondered] why can’t the police just leave people alone.”……….read more here.

by Katie Matlack

Border Patrol apprehensions in the El Paso sector increased 11.5 percent

Photo: Facebook

Border Patrol apprehensions in the El Paso sector increased 11.5 percent in the most recent fiscal year compared with the previous fiscal year, statistics show.

During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, agents who patrol the border in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties and in New Mexico apprehended 12,339 undocumented immigrants in fiscal year 2013-14 compared with 11,154 in fiscal year 2012-13.

In fiscal year 2011-12, there were 9,678 apprehensions; in 2010-11, there were 10,345 apprehensions; and in 2009-10, there were 12,251 apprehensions.

Throughout the U.S.-Mexico border, a total of 479,371 undocumented immigrants were apprehended in fiscal year 2013-2014. It also represents an 11.5 percent increase over the 414,397 apprehensions in fiscal year 2012-2103.

Ramiro Cordero, the El Paso’s sector acting assistant chief Border Patrol agent, said on Friday that the Border Patrol continues to operate successfully and credits the work of agents in part to the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT), a collaborative that includes federal and local law enforcement agencies.

“What we are doing is working, and we will continue to be innovative in our approaches to patrolling the border,” Cordero said. “We have great working relationships with the community, and as far as I know, we had zero incidents over the past year involving our agents.

“On apprehensions, we’re way down on the numbers from what we used to have,” Cordero said. “The word does get out that El Paso is very good at catching (unauthorized immigrants), and people will head over to other paths of less resistance.”

In 2005, agents in the El Paso sector apprehended more than 120,000 immigrants.

The Border Patrol’s statistics for El Paso for this year do not include undocumented immigrants who were part of the Central American immigrant surge in South Texas that surrendered to border officials at ports of entry and were transported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to El Paso and other communities for further processing.

Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House, a faith-based organization that provides temporary shelter to immigrants that pass through El Paso or that federal officials send to its shelters pending enforcement or asylum actions, said he noticed an increase in immigrants in the area.

“Over the summer, we had about 2,500 migrants (adults with children) sent to us from South Texas, and about 85 to 90 percent were from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras,” Garcia said. “We had not seen this kind of influx of Central Americans since the 1980s, when they had civil wars in those countries.”

Border Patrol statistics show that 14,833 families (adults with one or more children) from El Salvador were apprehended at the Southwest border, 12,006 were from Guatemala, 34,495 were from Honduras and 5,639 from Mexico.

According to statistics for children that were not accompanied by parents or guardians when they were apprehended, the biggest number came from Honduras (18,244), the next larger group of unaccompanied minors were from Guatemala (17,057), followed by El Salvador (16,404) and Mexico (15,634).

Garcia said the immigrant shelters continue to see an influx of people from the violence-ravaged states of Michoacán and Guerrero.

“We are getting an average of 100 people a……..read more.

By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times

La Posada shelters families seeking asylum

Saba with her children: 11-year-old Sarah, 5-year-old Rohama, and 7-month-old Gabriel at La Posada Providencia in San Benito.

SAN BENITO — All Saba wanted for herself and her three children was freedom.

Facing civil unrest in her home country of Ethiopia, she said, that dream had seemed almost unattainable.

Her husband, an outspoken civil rights advocate, had been jailed, she said. Fearing for the safety of her family, she said, she left her home and came to the United States.

As asylum seekers, Saba, who did not want her last name used, now lives with her children at La Posada Providencia in San Benito.

“I’m free. I can say what I want, and I am not scared anymore,” Saba said.

Founded in 1989 by the Sisters of Divine Providence, La Posada offers shelter for immigrants, asylum seekers and asylees recently processed by United States immigration authorities.

In August the shelter welcomed its 8,000th client during a surge of immigrants arriving in the Rio Grande Valley, many of them from Central America. Since its opening almost 26 years ago, the shelter has served clients from more than 70 countries.

Earlier this year the shelter saw a spike in clients as more families in Central America began fleeing from increasing violence.

“These families are fleeing from violent gangs who threaten their lives and the takeover of their homes,” Sister Zita Telkamp, the shelter’s program director, said of the influx from Central America. “Trying to find a safe place for their children, they abandon families, friends and everything they love and know to embark on perilous journeys to seek refuge in the United States.”

La Posada Providencia is one of 15 organizations benefiting from AIM Media Texas Charities’ inaugural campaign to raise funds for the hungry, homeless and those in need of basic essentials in the Valley. AIM Media Texas is the parent company of the Valley Morning Star, Brownsville Herald and Monitor.

The shelter is where Saba and her family found refuge and help adjusting to a new life away from their home.

She says her journey began because of civil unrest in her country. At the time of her husband’s arrest, she said, she was pregnant. She said that she and her two daughters, Sarah, 11, and Rohama, 5, were chastised and intimidated by Ethiopian government officials.

Saba said she feared that she could be jailed or killed at any time. So she took her daughters and fled the country with the little money she had.

In October, the family, now including 7-month-old Gabriel, arrived at the Texas-Mexico border, where they were detained by border officials who then handed them over to the care of the San Benito-based shelter.

At La Posada they do more than provide safe shelter; they help ensure their….read more.

By KAYLEIGH SOMMER | STAFF WRITER

Local GOP activists hope to oust House Speaker Joe Straus

Photo: ERIC GAY ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Deep in one of the reddest parts of Texas, a group of conservatives is working to spark a Republican rebellion.

The local grassroots Republicans hope to pull off what many say is an impossible coup — ousting House Speaker Joe Straus, who they believe isn’t conservative enough to help lead the state.

Top Texas Republicans say supporting his GOP challenger, state Rep.Scott Turner of Frisco, is wasted effort because Straus already has the support of more than three-fourths of the 150 members.

That’s not slowing down dozens of precinct chairs and others in Tarrant County who are trying to make 100,000 calls to state lawmakers, hoping to sway their votes.

“He’s a disgrace to Texas,” said Don Shipe, a local precinct chairman and former Tarrant County GOP vice chairman who is spearheading this effort. “There is a grave concern in Tarrant County that Joe Straus is not conservative enough.”

Many House members, including several from Tarrant County, disagree and have publicly expressed their support for Straus. An informal tally has long shown he has more than the 76 votes needed to win another term as speaker.

Asked about the grassroots opposition, Straus’ office responded with a written comment.

“The Texas House has balanced the budget, cut taxes, reformed education and taken steps to address our water crisis,” Straus’ spokesman Jason Embry said. “Speaker Straus is proud of this record and grateful for the overwhelming support of his Republican and Democratic colleagues.”

But for the first time in decades, the House appears poised to take a formal vote on the speaker when lawmakers head back to work Jan. 13. Generally, challengers for the speaker’s post have withdrawn their bid once they realized they didn’t have the votes.

“They are wasting their time,” state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a chief lieutenant of Straus, said of the grassroots effort. “Joe Straus will be the next speaker of the Texas House.”

Shipe said he and local grassroots workers will not give up.

“They are so overconfident,” he said. “I say we are going to be successful. This is grassroots at its finest.”

In the beginning…

Shipe said he and others have had a problem with Straus since he was first chosen for House speaker in 2009.

That was the year about a dozen members known as the “Anybody But Craddick” Republicans met privately to determine the best way to oust Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who had ruled the House with an iron fist for three sessions.

They united behind one candidate, Straus, and teamed up with a number of House Democrats, who then held nearly half of the chamber’s 150 seats. Craddick knew he didn’t have the votes to win and dropped out of the race.

Straus “is not conservative enough and it was a catastrophe the way he was chosen and has been chosen,” Shipe said. “He gets everybody into a room and says he’s already got the votes.

“We will never forgive him for the backdoor, smoke-filled, Obama-like rude decision,” Shipe said, adding that he believes that Geren plays a key role in guiding the House.

Some of the state’s grassroots opposition to Straus is so vehement that state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said he couldn’t vote for Straus even if he wanted to.

“This was a major issue in my campaign: grassroots against the establishment,” Stickland said. “I will support Scott Turner. He’s the most conservative option.”

Stickland said he realizes that the chances of Turner, who has just finished his first term in office, being successful are slim.

“He has a chance,” Stickland said. “But it certainly is an uphill battle at this point.”

Some local Democrats say they appreciate the way Straus guides the lower chamber, giving members of both parties a chance to move legislation forward.

“The speaker has reached out to the Democratic Party and Democratic leadership,” said state Rep.-elect Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth. “He has been very supportive of us in a tough environment and he is someone who can walk with both parties.”

In last month’s freshman orientation, Romero said, he believes that the theme — “get out of campaign mode and get into governing mode” — was dictated by Straus.

“It’s time to get down to business and working against the speaker isn’t wise,” he said.

Keep fighting

Cathie Adams said it’s important to continue the fight no matter what people say.

“We have not gotten conservative legislation through with the current speaker,” said Adams, a conservative political activist, head of the Texas Eagle Forum and former state GOP chairwoman. “That is the biggest problem.”

She, too, said she doesn’t like how he was first chosen — with the support of Democrats.

“He’s more beholden to Democrats than Republicans, which explains why we have not gotten a lot through,” she said. “When we have a conservative governor and lieutenant governor, and the speaker is set in place as a roadblock, whose work is he doing? The people who elected Republicans? Or the people who elected Democrats?

“He is not conservative at all.”

Shipe, who calculates the Tarrant County Conservative Index, said he has the numbers to prove that.

Based on Turner’s votes taken last session, and Straus’ votes taken when he last was a House member, Turner’s conservative index is at 97 percent. Straus is at 42, Shipe said.

The Tarrant County Republican Party’s resolutions committee plans to meet in early January to consider a resolution weighing in on the speaker’s race, said Jen Hall, who heads the party.

Shipe isn’t waiting. He has sent an email to about a thousand like-minded Republicans, after a vote of precinct chairpersons on the speaker’s race was 24-0 against Straus, urging supporters to call lawmakers and ask them to support Turner for speaker.

Adams said anything could happen to change the race, just as it did when Straus was first elected.

“The night before Joe Straus was elected, Tom Craddick had the votes,” she said. “This can change very quickly. Once the dominoes fall in the direction of Scott Turner, he could win this.”

‘There is no race’

Many political observers and lawmakers say Adams and Shipe are in the minority and Straus will handily be re-elected as House speaker Jan. 13.

“There is no race for the speaker,” said state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. “Scott Turner has no chance and there’s a lot of reasons.

“First, he’s not qualified. He came in as a………..Read more here.

ATINSLEY@STAR-TELEGRAM.COM

Grand Jury Clears Two Former Jasper Cops Who Beat Woman in Jail

Photo: Surveillance camera footage from May 5, 2013, shows Jasper Police officers Ryan Cunningham and Ricky Grissom’s brutal treatment of a woman inside the city jail.

Two former Jasper police officers won’t face criminal charges for assaulting a woman in their custody last year, the last chapter in an incident that became a flashpoint for racial tension in the East Texas town.

The Beaumont Enterprise reported in November that a grand jury had cleared officers Ricky Grissom and Ryan Cunningham, who are white, for a violent encounter with a black woman named Keyarika Diggles inside the Jasper City Jail. Overhead cameras caught the officers grabbing Diggles by the hair, slamming her face onto a counter and pinning her to the floor, before dragging Diggles, by the feet, into a holding cell. According to her lawyers, Diggles spent hours in the dark “detox” cell before being strip-searched by police dispatcher Lindsey Davenport.

Along with the damning video footage, the case was troubling because Cunningham and Grissom had arrested Diggles at home that morning for nothing more than an unpaid traffic ticket. And the ticket wasn’t quite unpaid—the single mother of two had been paying down her debt in monthly installments. Even after those payments, she still owed $100 at the time Grissom and Cunningham knocked on her door—but it’s still not clear why they’d chosen to arrest her that day.

It was already a touchy time for Jasper’s police. The city’s first black police chief, Rodney Pearson, had been removed in 2012 by a City Council stacked with new members who ran, in part, on a pledge to replace Pearson with a chief they deemed more qualified; all the serious candidates they considered were white. It wasn’t until October 2013 that the council hired the current chief, Bob MacDonald, who spoke freely about the need to reach out to the city’s black community and build trust. One of his first initiatives was to buy body cameras for the city’s police force.

Former Jasper Police officers Ricky Grissom and Ryan Cunningham
Former Jasper Police officers Ricky Grissom and Ryan Cunningham

Diggles settled a civil rights lawsuit against the city and the officers last December for $75,000. And less than a month after the incident, Jasper’s city council voted to fire Cunningham and Grissom. That alone was a stronger response than many allegations of police brutality get, and Jasper Mayor Mike Lout said the council would work with the district attorney to consider criminal charges against the officers. Lout and other city leaders stressed that the Diggles case wasn’t a sign of some deeper racial divide in the city, but an isolated incident with the perpetrators swiftly punished.

“The law is the law for everyone, and just because you have a badge on doesn’t mean you have the right to break the law, or do something wrong,” Lout said at the time.

These days, in the week since the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury cleared Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, that hasn’t exactly been the prevailing sentiment. We’ve been reminded of how easily prosecutors can secure indictments when they want, and how rarely police officers are indicted for shootings and other allegations of misconduct. Emily DePrang’s Observer series on impunity in the Houston Police Department detailed those same problems last year.

The Jasper grand jury’s decision, coming so long after Diggles’ beating, but a few days before Darren Wilson was no-billed in Ferguson, is at least another marker of just how wrong it is to suggest that “the law is the law for everyone.”

In September 2014, after losing his city police job……read more here.

by Patrick Michels

Jason Villalba refuses to debate Speaker’s Race

Photo: acahnman.blogspot.com

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:13

Press Release from Matt Rinaldi:

MATT RINALDI CALLS OUT REPRESENTATIVE JASON VILLALBA ON REFUSAL TO DEBATE

Irving, TX–Rep.-Elect Matt Rinaldi called out Rep. Jason Villalba Saturday night for his refusal to debate about the upcoming Texas Speaker’s race on radio. Talk show host Debbie Georgatos invited Rinaldi and Villalba to debate on Dallas radio station 660AM Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. Villalba refused to debate and refused to go on air prior to Rinaldi to vocalize his support for Joe Straus.

Commenting on Villalba’s actions, Rinaldi said, “It’s unfortunate………read more.

By Adam Cahnman

Cornyn, Cruz allowed to file court briefs in immigration suit

Photo: TXGOP.org

A federal judge will allow U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and several others to file court briefs in support of a lawsuit by Texas and 23 other states against President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

In addition, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, and several U.S. House members, along with the American Center for Law & Justice and the Committee to Defend the Separation of Powers, will be allowed to appear as “friends of the court” in the lawsuit and to file a brief in support of the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen has scheduled a hearing Jan. 9 in federal court in Brownsville.

The plaintiffs claim Obama’s executive actions are unconstitutional and unprecedented, and that the Constitution vested in Congress the exclusive authority to make law and set immigration policies.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 3 by Texas and 23 other…..read more here.

By EMMA PEREZ-TREVINO | The Monitor STAFF WRITER

BROKEN BORDERS, BROKEN SYSTEM

Photo: 

A MULTI-PART SERIES OF EDITORIALS AND COLUMNS REGARDING THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION REFORM.

When a surge of Central Americans descended on the Rio Grande Valley to cross into this country illegally this past year, the cries to ‘Seal our border,’ and ‘Reform immigration’ reverberated across the country. The Monitor quickly determined that, beyond the rhetoric, many of those screaming the loudest had few specific policy recommendations to fix the problem. The Monitor editorial board began talking to law enforcement, policymakers, human rights activists, local readers and the immigrants themselves in search of answers. This series represents the culmination of at least six months of research and interviews with scores of people. It is presented on these pages in the hopes of spurring discourse about one of the most significant public policy debates to visit our country and our region in decades……..read these editorials here.

By: 

‘Ethics’ Chair Admits: Attacking Conservatives to Appease Straus Team

Photo : empowertexans.com

In a letter to incoming conservative state senators, the chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission said his agency is implementing IRS-style attack-rules at the behest of House Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team.

Legislative attempts to implement Obama Administration IRS-style attacks on conservative groups were stopped by Gov. Rick Perry last year. He described legislation by liberal State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo as having a chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and association.

Jim Clancy
TEC chairman Jim Clancy… admits his agency is creating unconstitutional powers at the behest of Straus committee chairman

In response, the TEC voted to implement rules doing the same thing despite lacking legislative or constitutional authority to do so. A group of six conservative incoming state senators this month penned a letter to “strongly discourage” the agency from attempting to “supersede both the role of the Legislature and the Governor’s clear veto”.

Clancy has now replied to them, telling the senators his action was taken because the Straus team had “requested that the Commission write rules” allowing state resources to be used in attacking critics of establishment politicians. Under his rules, citizens would lose their right to private donations to non-profit organizations that occasionally speak out against the political establishment.

The action last week by Houston’s liberal mayor, Annise Parker, using subpoenas to attack pastors who have criticized her LGBT agenda would fall in line with the powers Clancy and the TEC are attempting to give themselves……….read more.

By Michael Quinn Sullivan 

Speaker Race Politics has changed in Texas~ We actually know the truth~ Scott Turner is a Leader

Photo: www.voicesempower.com

Today I was forwarded an e-mail that was apparently sent to precinct chairs across the state, insinuating Rep. Scott Turner who is a candidate for Speaker of the House, is a moderate, union loving, community organizer who got his start in liberal California.

Well, my initial thought was, this race is far from over. Obviously Straus’ consultants, whose job it is to keep state reps. in line are worried. For this kind of desperate piece to go out, they are nervous. And they should be. The problem for Joe Straus is, his own record, that Texans like me, know very well. You see, the game film on Straus has been rolling for awhile. You may recall when Women On The Wall exposed corruption in Texas politics with the pledge card system. Joe Straus, has, is, and was clearly  intimidating and buying off  representatives. We are not stupid. We know how the games are played, and we know how to do the research to prove it.

My next thought was, get a hold of Scott Turner and find out about his days in California. I sent Scott an e-mail and he responded personally.

You know, I do not know of one, everyday kind of Texan, who Joe Straus has contacted or responded to, in order to earn their support. I know 100′s and 100′s who Scott Turner has reached out to. The difference is actually quite startling.

1. Did Scott Turner change his name? No, Eric is the name on his birth certificate. Scott has never gone by Eric, and to claim he changed his name is ridiculous. It shows from the get go the intention of the e-mail was not an honest assessment of Scott Turner’s record. Even the link they provided shows when Scott was in California everyone knew him as Scott Turner.

2. Now let’s look at why Scott Turner was not elected in California. He was clearly to Conservative for California. Ha, when you have guys like one of my favorites, former Congressman Duncan Hunter, YES, from California, by your side, you are running with the good guys in CA. Check out this endorsement of Scott Turner from Former Congressman Duncan Hunter, who I agree with on his assessment of Scott Turner. ………read more here!

By Alice Linahan