‘It can be fearful:’ Police feeling under siege

This story is how I ended a very busy, news-filled 2014:

In his 21 years on the Marion, Ohio, police department, Jay McDonald has run into burning buildings, been shot at and rushed into houses with a SWAT team to serve warrants on armed suspects.
And one thing is certain: He doesn’t want any of his three children to follow in his professional footsteps — especially now, as anti-police sentiment sweeps the country following several high-profile cases of unarmed black men killed by white officers.

“It’s a very frustrating profession,” McDonald says. “I’ve dedicated my professional life to this community. … You’re in danger at any time. And now you’re in danger of being called a racist and have your integrity attacked. It is stressful.”

McDonald, like many of his rank-and-file brethren in police departments nationwide, says police feel under siege and demoralized by the bias against them from a public that they believe doesn’t understand the dangers they face.

Growing Pains: Multicultural explosion rattles residents

Take a good look at the scope and breadth of the ethnic and racial diversity in Northern Virginia, where students from up to 200 countries populate local schools.

Your community — and your schools — will look a lot like this within the next three decades.

The three fast-growing Virginia counties nestled near the nation’s capital — Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William — are at the leading edge of a diversity explosion sweeping the USA. Hundreds of thousands of Hispanics and Asians have moved to the area since the 1990s and account for 32% of the 1.8 million people in the three counties, triple the number in 1990. Blacks account for another 12%, and multirace residents, 1%.

But this rapid growth in diversity hasn’t arrived without consequences or controversy. Residents have been grappling with everything from a controversial policy to stop illegal immigration in Prince William to a housing squeeze that has pushed thousands of minority families out of Arlington. Fairfax wrestles with finding the funds to teach ever more students who are poorer and need added language training.

“People were not ready and did not know how to handle the change,” says Qian Cai, director of the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia. “But you have to know change is coming, so be prepared and plan for it. … As the white population ages, the younger generation will be multicultural, multiracial. That is just a demographic fact.”

On the plus side, multiethnic families are boosting the regional economy by buying homes, opening businesses and shopping locally. They bring a richness of language, tradition and food that are evident in local shopping centers where African fufu — pounded yams, cassava or plaintains — can be had alongside Salvadoran pupusas —corn or rice tortillas stuffed with cheese, meat and beans — and Vietnamese pho, a noodle soup.


For veterans of war, the moments are what matter

Doc Spresser, with his wife Marian, remembers his fellow soldiers on Veterans Day. Marisol Bello

Doc Spresser, with his wife Marian, remembers his fellow soldiers on Veterans Day. Marisol Bello

For those who served in battle, Veteran’s Day is defined by a series of moments.

For Jim Williams, it begins on May 5, 1965, when his platoon in the 173rd Airborne Brigade lands in Tan Son Nhut Air Base outside Saigon. It was the first U.S. Army ground combat unit in Vietnam.

For William “Chuck” Rollins, it was the day of the funeral of his cousin, William Brown, in February 1969. Brown had been killed in combat in Vietnam. Rollins was on his way to a second tour.

For Mike “Doc” Spresser, it was Jan. 14, 1970, the day one of his best friends, Charlie Turner, died in his arms.


When parents kill: FBI data reveal disturbing patterns


Kristi Hooper lost her twin 3-year-old daughters, Caroline, left, and Madison, when her estranged husband killed them and then committed suicide. Photo: Family

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Kristi Hooper called her husband’s cellphone on a mild January morning eager to hear her 3-year-old twins squeal with laughter as they gave her a rundown of their morning with their dad.

It was the Saturday morning routine that she and the girls, Caroline and Madison, and her estranged husband established after the couple separated four months earlier.

This time, he didn’t answer.

She called what seemed like a hundred times in between waiting tables at a restaurant.

No answer.

After work, she drove to her husband’s home. The blinds were drawn. His cars were in the driveway.

As she got to the front door, she could hear an incessant high-pitched beep that sounded like an alarm. She ran to the side door and saw her husband’s van running with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe.

In that moment, even before she followed the hose through the mudroom, up the stairs and into her daughters’ bedroom, she knew what he’d done.

“I always thought he might kidnap the girls,” she says. “I never thought he’d hurt them.”

When a parent deliberately kills a child, the crime — called filicide — captures the attention of a public horrified and fascinated by the violation of a central edict of parenthood: to keep a child from harm.

The issue is back in the news with several recent incidents.

South Carolina dad Timothy Ray Jones has been charged with murdering his five children in September. Police say he confessed to killing them and burying them on a country road in Alabama.

A Georgia father, Justin Ross Harris, waived his arraignment this week, pleading not guilty to murder charges that he intentionally left his 22-month-old son, Cooper, strapped in his car seat for nearly seven hours in a hot SUV in June.

Annually about 450 children are intentionally murdered by a parent.

More than three decades of FBI homicide data shows patterns stand out when parents kill their children: Three out of four child victims are younger than 5. In 56% of all cases, fathers are the killers. In murders with multiple victims, fathers are the culprit 70% of the time.


Guest editor column: Celebrating two worlds

Fall, 2014 issue of USA TODAY's Hispanic Living

Fall, 2014 issue of USA TODAY’s Hispanic Living

When I was growing up in the Bronx with parents from the Dominican Republic, my bedtime stories didn’t include Goodnight Moon or The Cat in the Hat, considered by some to be mandatory for the mainstream American-childhood experience. Instead, we sang Los Pollitos Dicen and Arroz con Leche.

Growing up, I didn’t know who Frank Sinatra was or that he had blue eyes; I never watched M.A.S.H., and I had no idea what cranberry sauce was or that it was a Thanksgiving Day staple.

Instead, I could sing – and dance – along with Johnny Ventura; could tell you the comings and goings on the telenovela Esmeralda; and would be the first in line for concon, the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pot, or the cuerito, the crunchy skin on a roast pork.

As I grew older, I came to love The Police and Depeche Mode. And if I was ever deserted on an island, French fries and all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be at the top of the list of things I’d take with me.

This theme of living in two cultures is visited again and again throughout this issue of USA TODAY’s Hispanic Living.

One article examines the idea of what it really means to be Hispanic. The article addresses stereotypes of how Latinos are supposed to look and explores biases that are sometimes attached to being dark skinned.

There is a first-person account from a writer on her struggle to choose between her Peruvian heritage and becoming a U.S. citizen.

We also look at the strides and successes of Latinos who have become players in every facet of American life, from education to business to entertainment.

Our cover story profiles the two Latino actors – Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero – in leading roles on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine Nine sitcom; they talk about the successes and the power of having  more Latinas on TV.

In a salute to the evolution of the lowrider car culture, we introduce Latinas who have embraced the once all-male community and are proud to be behind the wheels of their hydraulic-hopping autos.

Continue turning pages and you will find great stories on travel, food, fashion and beauty.

You wll see throughout the pages that it is possible, not just to exist, but to thrive with your feet in both cultures.

As for me, I’m sharing both of my cultures with my son. We are reading Goodnight Moon and The Cat in the Hat. Only we read them as Buenas Noches, Luna y El Gato en el Sombrero.

I am guest editor in this year’s issue of Hispanic Living. Pick up a copy on your newstands this month.


Parents who do the unthinkable — kill their children

In South Carolina, a 32-year-old father faces murder charges after he led police to the bodies of his five children, ages 1 to 8, who were dumped on the side of an Alabama road.

In Georgia, a 33-year-old father is charged with intentionally leaving his toddler son to die in a hot SUV, strapped in his car seat for seven hours.

In Utah, a 39-year-old mother is charged with strangling or suffocating six of her newborns from 1996 to 2006 because, police say, she was addicted to drugs and could not care for them.

Three parents accused of crimes that society considers among the most heinous. All three high-profile incidents occurred this year, raising again the terrible question: What kind of parents intentionally kill their offspring?

A USA TODAY examination of more than three decades of FBI homicide data shows that on average, 450 children are killed every year by their parents. Northeastern University criminologists applied statistical models to the records. USA TODAY analyzed the database for a detailed look at who kills, who is killed and how. Several patterns emerge.