Dayton, Ohio shooting becomes second mass shooting in 24-hour period

Year
2019
Month Day
August 04

A mass shooting takes place early in the morning in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, 2019. The killing of nine people and the injuries of 27 was significant in its own right, but this mass shooting was particularly notable for being America’s second in less than 24 hours. Just one day before, a shooter opened fire at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring 24. 

The Dayton shooting, the prior shooting in El Paso, and the nation’s shock at seeing two such events in such close proximity renewed calls for gun control in the United States, but ultimately the double massacres did not bring about such changes.

The Ohio gunman had been aware of the El Paso shooting, in which a white nationalist believed to be targeting Latinos attacked a crowded Wal-Mart. The Ohio shooter had liked social media posts calling the Texas shooter a white supremacist and calling for gun control, but an investigation later revealed that he had harbored violent tendencies for years and been disciplined in high school for planning a mass shooting. 

He was seen leaving a bar in the Oregon Historic District of Dayton roughly 12 hours after the El Paso shooting, but returned less than an hour later, around 1 am, and opened fire on the crowd with a modified AR-15. Police who had already been on the scene killed him within 32 seconds of his first shot. Authorities later confirmed that the police had also shot two people, and that the gunman’s sister was among the dead.

Mass shootings were nothing new in the United States. Nonetheless, the back-to-back massacres managed to shock the nation, renewing calls for gun control and momentarily bringing the nascent Democratic presidential primary race to a halt. 

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Charleston church shooting

Year
2015
Month Day
June 17

On the evening of June 17, 2015, a mass shooter took the lives of nine African American people at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The massacre at a historic black church deeply shook a nation already jaded by frequent gun violence and heralded the return of violent white nationalism in America.

Among the victims was the activist and state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s senior pastor. Carrying on Emanuel AME’s legacy as a center of civil rights organizing, Pinckney was a vocal advocate for police accountability who had made national headlines for his response to the murder of Walter Scott by a police officer in North Charleston the previous April. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, joined Pinckney and members of his congregation for a Bible study session on the night of June 17, before drawing a gun, telling the others that African Americans were “taking over the country,” and opening fire. According to one survivor, Roof tried to shoot himself but had run out of ammunition and fled instead. He was arrested the following morning in North Carolina and, after an investigation and trial that brought to light his radicalization and intense white supremacist beliefs, sentenced to death.

Mass shootings were common in the United States by 2015, but the Charleston massacre was a clear act of white supremacist violence that came as the nation slowly realized its racism problem was getting worse, not better. Then-president Barack Obama, who knew Pinckney, delivered the eulogy at his funeral, leading the assembly in the singing of “Amazing Grace.”

The next several years would be marked by more horrific white nationalist violence in America, including the murder of Heather Heyer during a right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and a 2018 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that claimed eleven lives.

READ MORE: Charleston’s Emanuel 9 Memorial: Balancing Education With Healing

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A former postal worker commits mass murder

Year
1991
Month Day
October 10

Former U.S. postal worker Joseph Harris shoots two former co-workers to death at the post office in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The night before, Harris had killed his former supervisor, Carol Ott, with a three-foot samurai sword, and shot her fiance, Cornelius Kasten, in their home. After a four-hour standoff with police at the post office, Harris was arrested. His violent outburst was one of several high-profile attacks by postal workers that resulted in the addition of the phrase “going postal” to the American lexicon.

Harris, who was born in prison and had a lifetime of psychiatric problems, was fired from his job in April 1990. Harboring a grudge against his ex-employer, he began to stockpile automatic weapons, grenades, and ninja swords. Two years later, he learned that he had lost as much as $10,000 by investing it with broker Roy Edwards. Dressed in a black ninja costume, Harris entered Edwards’ Montville, New Jersey, home and handcuffed the family. After sexually assaulting Edwards’ wife and two daughters, he shot Edwards to death. Since hundreds of investors had lost money while dealing with Edwards, police never even considered Harris a suspect in his death until after the mass slaying on October 10.

Arguing that he was insane, Harris’ lawyers said that he had told psychiatrists that he was driven by the “ninja spirit” to commit the crimes. In 1992, Harris was convicted of both the Montville and Ridgewood attacks and was sent to death row. But in September 1996,two daysbefore a New Jersey State Supreme Court battle to overturn its death-penalty law was to start, he died of natural causes.

From 1983 to 1993, there were 11 murderous rampages in U.S. post offices. On August 20, 1986, the worst of these incidents took place in Edmond, Oklahoma. Pat Sherrill, who was about to be fired, killed 14 mail workers, wounded another five, and then shot himself to death as the SWAT team arrived.

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Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” tops the charts

Year
1987
Month Day
October 10

On October 10, 1987, the song “Here I Go Again” by English hard-rock group Whitesnake tops the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States. Today, what most people remember about the song is its saucy video: The actress Tawny Kitaen spends a great deal of it in a white negligee, writhing and cartwheeling across the hoods of two Jaguars parked next to one another. It is one of the most iconic music videos of the 1980s, and it features two of the most famous cars in pop-culture history.

Whitesnake first released “Here I Go Again” in 1982, on the album “Saints and Sinners.”  That early version didn’t crack the charts–so, five years later, the band re-recorded the song and included the new, more amped-up version on their album “Whitesnake.”  While they were working on the record, the band’s lead singer David Coverdale started dating a young woman named Tawny Kitaen, who had recently starred opposite Tom Hanks in the movie “BachelorParty.”  When director Marty Callner met Kitaen, he was smitten too–and he cast her immediately in the video for “Here I Go Again.”  “I knew I wanted to have a sexy woman in it,” Callner told a reporter. “Sex is a part of rock ‘n’ roll and the song was about sex.”

The video was mostly unchoreographed: Coverdale and Callner simply parked their Jaguars side by side in the middle of the set, blasted the song and ran the cameras as Kitaen improvised. After “Here I Go Again” became such a massive hit, however, directors and record companies deduced that fast cars and scantily clad women were a winning combination, and they scrambled to include them in their videos whenever they could.

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US Navy fighter jets intercept Italian cruise ship hijackers

Year
1985
Month Day
October 10

The hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro reaches a dramatic climax when U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercept an Egyptian airliner attempting to fly the Palestinian hijackers to freedom and force the jet to land at a NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily. American and Italian troops surrounded the plane, and the terrorists were taken into Italian custody.

On October 7, four heavily armed Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Some 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers were taken hostage. Hundreds of other passengers had disembarked the cruise ship earlier that day to visit Cairo and tour the Egyptian pyramids. Identifying themselves as members of the Palestine Liberation Front–a Palestinian splinter group–the gunmen demanded the release of 50 Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel. If their demands were not met, they threatened to blow up the ship and kill the 11 Americans on board. The next morning, they also threatened to kill the British passengers.

The Achille Lauro traveled to the Syrian port of Tartus, where the terrorists demanded negotiations on October 8. Syria refused to permit the ship to anchor in its waters, which prompted more threats from the hijackers. That afternoon, they shot and killed Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American who was confined to a wheelchair as the result of a stroke. His body was then pushed overboard in the wheelchair.

Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) condemned the hijacking, and PLO officials joined with Egyptian authorities in attempting to resolve the crisis. On the recommendation of the negotiators, the cruise ship traveled to Port Said. On October 9, the hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities and freed the hostages in exchange for a pledge of safe passage to an undisclosed destination.

The next day–October 10–the four hijackers boarded an EgyptAir Boeing 737 airliner, along with Mohammed Abbas, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front who had participated in the negotiations; a PLO official; and several Egyptians. The 737 took off from Cairo at 4:15 p.m. EST and headed for Tunisia. President Ronald Reagan gave his final order approving the plan to intercept the aircraft, and at 5:30 p.m. EST, F-14 Tomcat fighters located the airliner 80 miles south of Crete. Without announcing themselves, the F-14s trailed the airliner as it sought and was denied permission to land at Tunis. After a request to land at the Athens airport was likewise refused, the F-14s turned on their lights and flew wing-to-wing with the airliner. The aircraft was ordered to land at a NATO air base in Sicily, and the pilot complied, touching down at 6:45 p.m. The hijackers were arrested soon after. Abbas and the other Palestinian were released, prompting criticism from the United States, which wanted to investigate their possible involvement in the hijacking.

On July 10, 1986, an Italian court later convicted three of the terrorists and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 to 30 years. Three others, including Mohammed Abbas, were convicted in absentia for masterminding the hijacking and sentenced to life in prison. They received harsher penalties because, unlike the hijackers, who the court found were acting for “patriotic motives,” Abbas and the others conceived the hijacking as a “selfish political act” designed “to weaken the leadership of Yasir Arafat.” The fourth hijacker was a minor who was tried and convicted separately.

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Infamous drug lord “El Chapo” is captured by Mexican authorities


Publish date:
Year
2016
Month Day
January 08

In the early hours of January 8, 2016, Mexican authorities apprehend the drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. It was the third time that the law caught up to El Chapo, a figure whose crimes, influence and mystique rival those of Pablo Escobar.

Guzmán became involved in the drug trade as a child, dealing in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines. He became the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the wealthiest and most powerful cartel in Mexico. After his arrest in Guatemala in 1993, Guzmán was extradited to Mexico and sentenced to over 20 years in prison. While incarcerated, he continued to run the cartel and lived comfortably, having bribed much of the staff. In 2001, when a Mexican Supreme Court ruling increased the likelihood that he would be extradited to the United States, Guzmán escaped by hiding in a laundry cart – over 70 people, including the director of the prison, have been implicated in his escape.

Guzmán remained at large for over a decade, leading the cartel through a vicious series of conflicts with the government and rival cartels. One of the central conflicts revolved around Guzmán’s bloody and ultimately successful bid for control over the Ciudad Juárez routes that transport drugs into the United States. Guzmán became infamous for his cartel’s extreme violence and its extensive network of tunnels and distribution cells on both sides of the border. It was widely known that the Sinaloa Cartel had a number of informants and agents within the Mexican government, and many in Mexico believed that the government’s war on drugs was actually being waged to eliminate Sinaloa’s rivals.

During this time, Guzmán was understood to be living in the mountainous and sparsely populated Sierra Madre region. He was arrested for a second time in February of 2014 when the Mexican Navy raided a seaside hotel where he had been visiting family. He was placed in a maximum security prison to await trial, but escaped in July of 2015 via an elaborate tunnel nearly one mile long, estimated to have taken over a year and $1 million to build. His escape was a major embarrassment for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, and his recapture became a top priority.

Finally, nearly six months later, an operation involving every law enforcement agency in Mexico resulted in a raid of a house in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. Guzmán escaped the house— again through a tunnel—and stole a car, but was captured near the town of Juan José Ríos. It was later revealed that the Mexican government had consulted with the Colombian and American law enforcement agents who tracked down and killed Escobar during the manhunt. In a tacit acknowledgement of its prior missteps, the Mexican government expedited Guzmán to the United States in 2017. He was convicted on a slew of charges and sentenced to life in prison.

Guzmán is currently held at ADX Florence, said to be the most secure prison in the federal penitentiary system, in Colorado. The Mexican Drug War continues, with rivalries within the Sinaloa Cartel and the rise of new cartels contributing to an atmosphere of violence and terror that has persisted even in the absence of the country’s most storied drug lord.

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Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics, is sentenced to prison for sexual assault


Larry Nassar, a former doctor at Michigan State and for USA Gymnastics, is sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault on January 24, 2018. Nassar was found guilty of using his position in sports medicine to abuse hundreds of women and girls in one of the most high-profile cases to arise from the #MeToo movement. The scandal resulted not only in his imprisonment, likely for the rest of his life, but also criticism of the institutions that failed to detect and respond to his behavior. In the wake of the revelations, the president of Michigan State and the entire board of USAG resigned, while Nassar’s accusers, which number over 260, received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Nassar began working in sports medicine at a young age and began working as a trainer for the U.S. national gymnastics team in 1986. He later received his doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Michigan State and went on to work at the school’s College of Medicine as well as at the Karolyi Ranch, the Texas training center of the US gymnastics team. It was there that he sexually assaulted gymnast Maggie Nichols during a medical exam during a national team training camp in 2015. After a coach heard Nichols and another athlete discussing Nassar’s examinations, she reported the doctor to USAG. USAG contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation but did not take immediate action against Nassar or notify his university.

Later that year, USAG cut ties with Nassar. A year later, in September 2016, the Indianapolis Star broke the news that two other gymnasts had accused him of sexual abuse, resulting in his firing from Michigan State. In November, Nassar was indicted on the charge of repeatedly abusing an unidentified child, beginning in 1998 when the child was six years old.

From there, the allegations snowballed. Three more athletes went public with their accusations on 60 Minutes in 2017, calling out the “emotionally abusive environment” at national team training camps. More came forward in subsequent interviews or using #MeToo on Twitter. Among the wave of accusers were several who had become household names for winning gold during the Rio 2016 Olympics, including McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles. The involvement of athletes who had so recently been celebrated in the media further boosted the visibility of the Nassar case. All told, over 260 women have alleged that Nassar abused them, in many cases while they were still minors. An FBI raid found more than 37,000 images of child pornography in Nassar’s possession; he pleaded guilty to the possession charge in July of 2017.

The trials for Nassar’s other charges featured multiple days of testimony from his victims. He pled guilty to multiple allegations in Michigan state court, receiving a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison, but will first serve a sentence of 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.

In addition to Nassar’s convictions, the investigation brought scrutiny on the institutions that employed him. Reporting by the Star and other outlets found that USAG failed to adequately monitor its coaches and had knowingly refused to act on multiple allegations of abuse. At Michigan State, too, the problem proved to extend beyond Nassar. After allegations of repeated failure to investigate claims of assault against members of the football team, three players pled guilty to a lesser charge in a sexual assault case in 2018. The dean of the university’s school of osteopathic medicine, who oversaw Nassar’s clinic, was also charged with groping and possessing nude photos of a student. 

A 2019 congressional report concluded that USAG, the university, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and even the FBI had all dragged their feet, allowing Nassar to continue to see patients as they slowly investigated and coordinated their response to the predicted public outcry. The university reached a settlement of $500 million with Nassar’s victims, the largest ever settlement of its kind, and former president Lou Anna Simon faces felony charges for lying to or misleading law enforcement regarding her knowledge of accusations against Nassar.

The Nassar case made international headlines. Nassar’s behavior and the failure of multiple institutions to protect his victims echoed many similar cases of serial abuse, such as Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University or the decades of abuses committed by film producer Harvey Weinstein. The rapid expansion of the case from a few allegations to literally hundreds of women over multiple decades was a prime example of the power of the #MeToo movement. As with other cases brought to light in the #MeToo era, the Nassar case was both a sorely overdue reckoning with institutional abuse and a reminder that even the most prolific abusers can escape justice for decades.

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World-renowned primatologist Dian Fossey is found murdered in Rwanda


Updated:
Original:
Year
1985
Month Day
December 26

On December 26, 1985, primatologist and conservationist Dr. Dian Fossey is found murdered in her cabin at Karisoke, a research site in the mountains of Rwanda. It is widely believed that she was killed in connection with her lifelong crusade against poaching.

An animal lover from a young age, Fossey began her career as an occupational therapist. She would later credit her work with children for helping her earn the trust of the mountain gorillas she studied. In 1963, she borrowed money in order to finance an extended trip to Africa. Her travels brought her into contact with the archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey and wildlife photographers Alan and Joan Root and introduced her to the work of primatologist Jane Goodall. She published several articles about her travels and returned to the United States, but in 1966 the Leakeys helped her secure funding to study gorillas in the Congo.

Political unrest in the Congo led Fossey to flee the country and set up her camp, Karisoke, in the Rwandan foothills of the Virunga Mountains. There, she studied and interacted extensively with the native gorillas. Fossey eventually received a Ph.D. in zoology from Cambridge University and lectured for several years at Cornell. Her research on gorilla societies greatly enhanced mankind’s understanding of one of its closes evolutionary relatives. Fossey is best known, however, as a fierce opponent of poaching. Park rangers were known to accept bribes, allowing poachers to set up traps and routinely kill gorillas in the national park where Fossey worked. After poachers brutally killed her favorite gorilla, Digit, in 1977, Fossey launched a public and somewhat obsessive crusade to protect gorillas and punish poachers. Fossey destroyed traps and was even known to detain poachers, sometimes physically beating them. She cultivated a reputation among the locals as a practitioner of dark magic in an effort to keep people from harming her gorilla friends.

Her efforts garnered worldwide attention to the anti-poaching cause, but may have led to her death. Though an allegedly jealous fellow researcher was convicted in absentia for her murder in Rwanda, many believe that her killing was revenge for her treatment of poachers. She was buried in a cemetery at Karisoke, alongside Digit and other gorillas killed by poachers. Though she had become reclusive and bitter toward the end of her life, the final entry in her journal was a hopeful one: “When you realize the value of all life, you learn to dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.” The fund she founded, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, carries on her efforts to protect gorillas to this day.

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Former Liberian president Charles Taylor found guilty of war crimes

Year
2012
Month Day
April 26

On April 26, 2012, former Liberian president Charles Taylor is found guilty of abetting horrific war crimes, including rape and mutilation in Sierra Leone.

His conviction was the first for war crimes by a former head of state in an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II. Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting a notoriously brutal rebel force who murdered, raped, forced sexual slavery, built a child army and mined diamonds to pay for guns.

Taylor’s road to war crimes started after he escaped a U.S. jail, where he was waiting to be extradited for embezzlement. Taylor made it from his jail cell to Libya, where he started the militia group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). With his newly formed militia, he overthrew the regime of Samuel Doe in 1989. The upheaval plunged the country into a 14-year bloody civil war. By the end, 200,000 were killed in the fighting and more than half of the population became refugees.

After a peace deal was made to end the civil war, Taylor was elected Liberia’s president until he was forced out in 2003. During his reign, Taylor is said to have meddled in another civil war raging in Sierra Leone. Witnesses said he sold guns to, and arranged attacks for, rebel groups in exchange for blood diamonds. However, Taylor wasn’t just aiding a rebellion. He was also perpetuating horrific brutality. Over 50,000 were killed, and thousands more were mutilated in the more than a decade long civil war. The rebels were known to amputate limbs, rape women, enslave survivors of their attacks and force boys into child armies.

Taylor denied the accusations, but once put on trial in 2006, 115 witnesses, including victims of rape and mutilation, testified against him. Radio and telephone intercepts used in the case also revealed direct communication between him and the rebels.

Taylor is serving out his 50-year sentence in a prison in the United Kingdom.

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Dr. Conrad Murray receives four-year sentence in Michael Jackson’s death

Year
2011
Month Day
November 29

On November 29, 2011, Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of singer Michael Jackson, is sentenced in a Los Angeles County courtroom to four years behind bars. The iconic pop star died at age 50 at his California home after suffering cardiac arrest while under the influence of propofol, a surgical anesthetic given to him by Murray as a sleep aid.

Jackson, who was born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana, rose to fame performing as a boy with his older brothers in a music group called the Jackson 5. With his 1982 solo album “Thriller,” Jackson achieved international superstardom. However, by the 1990s, he became known for increasingly eccentric and reclusive behavior, and his physical appearance was radically altered through multiple plastic surgeries. In 2005, amidst intense media coverage, Jackson was tried and acquitted on child molestation charges.

In March 2009, after a lengthy time away from the public spotlight, Jackson announced he would perform a series of comeback concerts in London starting in July. That spring, Murray, a cardiologist raised in Trinidad, was hired at a monthly salary of $150,000 to serve as Jackson’s personal physician while the singer rehearsed for his upcoming shows. Late in the morning on June 25, Jackson was found unconscious in bed in his mansion in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles by Murray, who tried unsuccessfully to revive him. The legendary entertainer was pronounced dead at 2:26 that afternoon at nearby Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

READ MORE: The Final Days of Michael Jackson

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office ruled the performer’s death a homicide after lethal levels of the powerful sedative propofol, as well other drugs, were found in his system. In February 2010, Murray, who had given Jackson propofol as a sleep aid almost every night for two months prior to his death, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty. During his trial, which began in September 2011, Murray was portrayed by the prosecution as an incompetent, greedy opportunist who recklessly gave Jackson propofol in an unmonitored setting (the drug typically is administered only in a hospital) and kept no records, among other serious medical errors. Prosecutors said Murray set aside sound medical judgment by relenting when Jackson, one of the world’s most famous men, regularly begged him for propofol in order to sleep. Additionally, Murray was accused of belatedly calling 911 after discovering Jackson had stopped breathing, and with lying to paramedics and emergency-room doctors. The defense argued that Jackson, who was plagued by insomnia, self-administered the fatal dose of the drug.

On November 7, after deliberating for less than two days, a Los Angeles County jury found Murray guilty. Three weeks later, on November 29, the trial judge sentenced the 58-year-old to a four-year jail term, the maximum punishment allowed under law. The judge, in announcing his decision, criticized Murray for his lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility for his role in Jackson’s death, and said the doctor became involved in “a cycle of horrible medicine” in his dealings with the pop star.

Murray was released on parole on October 28, 2013. 

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