Blog Posts by Jason Sickles, Yahoo

  • Officer stares down Colorado theater shooter James Holmes during trial

    “It shows the passion and the pain the Aurora Police Department has had over this guy,” says victim’s dad

    Aurora Police Officer Jason Oviatt stared at defendant James Holmes for a full minute during a break in his testimony on Thursday. (Colorado Judicial Department)Aurora Police Officer Jason Oviatt stared at defendant James Holmes for a full minute during a break in his testimony on Thursday. (Colorado Judicial Department)
    CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Aurora police Officer Jason Oviatt’s stare — it was a telling moment in a week marked by tense and often tearful testimony.

    The patrolman who arrested murder defendant James Holmes was wrapping up his testimony in the Colorado movie theater shooting trial Thursday when the judge called attorneys for both sides to the bench.

    Oviatt had already glared at Holmes at least 20 times during his hourlong testimony on the witness stand. The bench conference brought a pause in the proceedings — and an opportunity.

    From his seat about 10 feet away, Oviatt turned to Holmes and began to stare. For a full minute, the dark-eyed, square-jawed officer locked in on the admitted gunman and didn’t flinch.

    Aurora police Officer Jason Oviatt in 2013. (AP file)Aurora police Officer Jason Oviatt in 2013. (AP file)Holmes swiveled slightly in his chair, as he often has during this first week of his capital murder trial. If he reacted to Oviatt in any other way, it wasn’t visible to those seated in the courtroom gallery. At the defense table, Holmes is tethered to the floor by a harness and

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  • Texas state trooper punished for Snoop Dogg Instagram photo

    Decision to pose with rapper ‘reflects poorly on the Agency’

    Snoop Dogg and Texas state trooper Billy Spears in Austin in March. (Instagram)Snoop Dogg and Texas state trooper Billy Spears in Austin in March. (Instagram)

    It’s been a big week for marijuana busts in Texas.

    On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that a trooper seized a staggering $24 million worth of marijuana during a recent traffic stop along the Mexico border.

    But a cannabis crackdown of a different kind is making even larger headlines in the Lone Star State.

    Texas Trooper Billy Spears and Snoop Dogg. (Instagram)Texas Trooper Billy Spears and Snoop Dogg. (Instagram)

    That’s because the state police snagged one of its own officers. The offense? Posing for a photo with rap star Snoop Dogg — who’s been very public about his affinity for pot.

    The snapshot, taken at Snoop’s request, shows veteran Trooper Billy Spears — wearing the department’s iconic uniform and cowboy hat — standing backstage with the rapper during Austin’s recent South by Southwest music festival.

    Snoop later published the photo on Instagram with the caption, “Me n my deputy dogg.”

    When the state police top brass caught wind of the photo, they informed Spears that he should have declined the photo op, given Snoop’s admitted indulgence in the illegal drug.

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  • Ferguson police Chief Tom Jackson has reportedly resigned

    Mayor: ‘We are continuing to find out where the breakdown was’

    Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson answers questions from the media about his office's handling of the release of information following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in this August 15, 2014 file photo. Missouri authorities are drawing up contingency plans and seeking intelligence from U.S. police departments on out-of-state agitators, fearing that fresh riots could erupt if a grand jury does not indict a white officer for killing a black teen. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS)Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson answers questions from the media about his office's handling of the release of information following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in this August 15, 2014 file photo. Missouri authorities are drawing up contingency plans and seeking intelligence from U.S. police departments on out-of-state agitators, fearing that fresh riots could erupt if a grand jury does not indict a white officer for killing a black teen. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS)

    Thomas Jackson, the embattled police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, has reportedly resigned from the beleaguered department.

    Cable news outlets, citing unidentified sources, first reported that his stepping down was imminent. Then a St. Louis Post-Dispatch crime reporter tweeted: “Chief Thomas Jackson has confirmed to me that he resigned at 2:45 p.m.”

    A news conference is reportedly planned for 3:30 p.m. CT.

    News of Jackson’s departure comes a week after a Justice Department investigation revealed racial bias and profiling within his department.

    Yahoo News emailed Jackson early Wednesday, but has not received a reply. Small said the chief is out of the office this week for scheduled time off.

    Jackson, who marked his fifth year as Ferguson's chief last week, has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years.

    [This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.]

    Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

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  • State Dept. rewards ‘Ebola plane’ company with multimillion dollar raise

    Deal worth up to $25 million also calls for private firm to educate the government on preparedness

    Phoenix Air lands near Atlanta on Aug. 5 with Nancy Writebol aboard in an isolation chamber. (AP/Todd Kirkland)Phoenix Air lands near Atlanta on Aug. 5 with Nancy Writebol aboard in an isolation chamber. (AP/Todd Kirkland)
    On an unusually cold morning in northwest Georgia last month, Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol pulled up to the private aviation company Phoenix Air with five dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

    Her mission: to meet and thank the people who accomplished her elaborate air medical rescue from West Africa last summer — a feat that helped save the aid worker’s life.

    “Their care and evacuation was an important part,” Writebol, 59, told Yahoo News. “It’s important to express gratitude. I’m just thankful for people who have been involved in the situation.”

    Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, touring the jet that rescued her from West Africa (Photo: Courtesy of the Writebol family)Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, touring the jet that rescued her from West Africa (Photo: Courtesy of the Writebol family)She is one of 25 people, who were either stricken with Ebola or exposed to the deadly virus, who Phoenix Air has transported — to the U.S. or other countries — at the State Department’s request since early August.

    Writebol showed her appreciation with sweets and hugs. The State Department, however, is rewarding the flight company’s heroics with a raise.

    The new deal worth $12.5 to $25 million begins Saturday and puts Phoenix Air on 24/7 standby for

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  • Cost of Colorado theater shooting case exceeds $5 million months before opening statements

    Lawyer salaries and security top expenditures, records reveal

    Top attorneys in the State of Colorado v. James Holmes. (L-R) Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson, Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Daniel King and Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Tamara Brady. (Getty Images)Top attorneys in the State of Colorado v. James Holmes. (L-R) Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson, Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Daniel King and Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Tamara Brady. (Getty Images)

    The criminal court case against Colorado theater gunman James Holmes has already absorbed at least $5.5 million in public monies, according to records obtained by Yahoo News.

    That’s $2 million more than the estimated average cost of a completed Colorado death penalty trial — and the contentious Holmes proceeding is still months away from opening arguments.

    “Keep adding it up, this isn't ending anytime soon,” said Justin Marceau, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who has studied the costs of capital murder trials.

    Holmes first appeared in court on July 23, 2012, three days after police say he assailed a packed suburban Denver movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 70, as they were watching a midnight showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

    In the two and a half years since that initial court appearance, primary personnel involved with the case — prosecutors, defense attorneys, the judge, court reporter, trial investigators and victims’

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  • Jury selection begins in long-awaited Colorado theater shooting case

    A clean-cut James Holmes appears in court

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. — An almost unrecognizable James Holmes appeared in court on Tuesday in the death penalty case in which he is accused of a murderous rampage at a Colorado movie theater.

    Holmes — who since his July 2012 arrest has sported wild orange hair and later, mutton-chop sideburns — is now clean-cut, and he appeared in civilian clothes during an introductory hearing before jury selection, which was to begin Tuesday afternoon.

    Several courtroom observers did a double take before they realized it was Holmes sitting at the defense table. His dark hair was neatly trimmed and was wearing pleated khaki pants, a striped button-down blue shirt, a charcoal sports jacket and tortoiseshell glasses. It was the first time Holmes has appeared in court in something other than a jail jumpsuit. He wore no cuffs on his wrists, but a hidden cable kept him tethered to the floor.

    No cameras were allowed in the courtroom, but a sketch artist was present. Those images are expected later.

    Before the

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  • In Darren Wilson's words: Grand jury testimony gives first look at officer's fear before Michael Brown shooting

    Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson at the hospital hours after the shooting of Michael Brown. (Click image for more photos.) Officer Darren Wilson at the hospital hours after the shooting of Michael Brown.CLAYTON, Mo. — Michael Brown had the “crazy” look of a “demon” as he barreled toward Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the final moments of his life.

    “He turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person,” Wilson told detectives the morning after he fatally shot the unarmed 18-year-old.

    This is a first look at Wilson’s account of what happened in the Aug. 9 shooting, detailed in more than 100 pages of testimony revealed Monday after a grand jury did not indict the officer in Brown’s death.

    Brown never put his hands up in surrender, the officer told grand jurors investigating the case.

    Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (Facebook)Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (Facebook)But he did make a fist with his left hand — and reached under his shirt to his waistband with his right — while rushing at Wilson, according to the officer.

    “I shoot a series of shots,” Wilson said. “I don't know how many I shot; I just know I shot it.”

    But Brown kept coming, he said.

    “It looked like he was almost bulking up to run

    Read More »from In Darren Wilson's words: Grand jury testimony gives first look at officer's fear before Michael Brown shooting
  • No indictment: Grand jury decides Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in Michael Brown shooting death

    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made plea for 'respect' and 'restraint' ahead of announcement

    FERGUSON, Mo. — Police Officer Darren Wilson — the suburban St. Louis patrolman who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in early August - will not face criminal charges in the controversial shooting death, a grand jury has decided.

    Wilson, who is white, became a national figure after he shot the black 18-year-old multiple times in broad daylight on a residential street. The grand jury deliberated for months and Ferguson was rocked by violent protests in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

    The decision was announced by prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch, who discussed the lengthy deliberation period of the grand jury citing consideration of differing witness reports as a one reason for the unusually long session.

    Ahead of Monday's announcement, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made a plea for peace.

    "Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint," he said.



    Meanwhile, officials in Clayton stepped up

    Read More »from No indictment: Grand jury decides Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in Michael Brown shooting death
  • Grand jury reaches decision on Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson; will be announced at 8p.m. CT

    Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. (Getty/Facebook)Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. (Getty/Facebook)
    CLAYTON, Mo. — A St. Louis County grand jury has finally reached a decision on whether to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., several media outlets reported Monday.

    The panel’s ruling is expected to be revealed during a press conference at the courthouse in Clayton later today.

    Anxiety over the decision has kept the St. Louis region on edge, as the public waits to see whether the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer will result in an indictment.

    The grand jury convened Aug. 20 to hear evidence and testimony. The 12-member group was asked to decide if there was probable cause to charge Wilson with a crime and what that charge should be. Options range from second-degree involuntary manslaughter to second-degree murder. Wilson, 28, could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

    Protesters march in the streets Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Canada)Protesters march in the streets Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Canada)

    But the panel may find that probable cause does not exist and dismiss the state’s case, without charging Wilson.

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  • Nurse Amber Vinson free of Ebola virus, family says

    More than 100 Texans still being monitored for symptoms

    Amber Vinson is helped on to an air ambulance in Dallas last week. (Reuters/KXAS-TV) Amber Vinson is helped on to an air ambulance in Dallas last week. (Reuters/KXAS-TV)

    DALLAS — Barely a week after being diagnosed with Ebola, Texas nurse Amber Vinson is free of the deadly virus, her family said on Wednesday night.

    “We are overjoyed to announce that, as of [Tuesday] evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body,” read a statement from a family spokesperson.

    Nurse Amber Vinson sitting at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. (AP Canada)Nurse Amber Vinson sitting at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. (AP Canada)

    Debra Berry, the nurse's mother, is in Dallas under a self-imposed quarantine, because she had recently spent time with Vinson. But Berry spoke with her daughter by phone on Wednesday night, according to the statement.

    “Amber and our family are ecstatic to receive this latest report on her condition,” Berry said in the statement. “We all know that further treatment will be necessary as Amber continues to regain strength, but these latest developments have truly answered prayers and bring our family one step closer to reuniting with her at home.”

    Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesperson, told Yahoo News late Wednesday

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Pagination

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