In 2.5 seconds, police shooting ruins lives

Danielle Willard was shot and killed by former West Valley City police detective Shaun Cowley in November 2012. The shooting left her family devastated, Cowley unemployed and the police department reeling.
(Photo: Family photo)

All it took was 2.5 seconds.

Two-and-a-half seconds for West Valley City, Utah, police detective Shaun Cowley to assess what he perceived as a threat, pull his 9mm Glock pistol from his holster and fire two shots.

Two-and-a-half seconds for one of the bullets to pierce a driver’s side car window and enter the left side of Danielle Willard’s skull.

Two-and-a-half seconds to take Willard’s life.

Two-and-a-half seconds that changed Cowley’s life.

“The shooting cost me everything,” Cowley says. “You make a split-second decision about whether you go home that day and someone else does not. That’s a heavy burden.”

In the national conversation over police use of deadly force, prompted by fatal shootings of unarmed people, the impact on officers who have killed in the line of duty and the people connected to those who have died is haunting. For them, the issue goes beyond protests, social media outrage and hours of news coverage.

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Schools becoming the ‘last frontier’ for hungry kids

Seventh-grader Luken Kuntz, 12, eats a meatball sandwich, part of an after-school dinner at the Lyman C. Hunt Middle School in Burlington, Vt. (Photo: Glenn Russell, Burlington Free Press)

America’s schools are no longer just a place for students to learn their ABCs.

They are also increasingly where children eat their three squares.

The classroom has become a dining room as more children attending public schools live in poverty. More than half of students in public schools — 51% — were in low-income families in 2013, according to a study by the Southern Education Foundation.

The number of low-income children in public schools has been persistent and steadily rising over the past several decades. In 1989, 32% of children in public schools lived in poverty, the foundation says.

Such a stark trend has meant more schools are feeding children when they can’t get enough to eat at home. More schools provide not just breakfast and lunch but dinner, too. Others are opening food pantries in converted classrooms or closets. It’s common for teachers and counselors to keep crackers, granola bars and other goodies in their desks for hungry students.

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As seniors climb from poverty, the young fall in

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. – Living in rural North Carolina, Linda Sue Jones doesn’t see her teenage son as the archetype of a national trend.

But 15-year-old Josh, as a boy who lives in the South in a household headed by a single woman, is characteristic of the exploding numbers of children in the USA living in poverty — numbers exacerbated by the recession that has pushed many families into poverty for the first time.

Twenty miles away, Kenneth Moody, 70, and his wife, Margie, 65, say they, too, are struggling, especially because of high out-of-pocket medical bills. They stay off the poverty rolls because of the $2,000 they receive from Social Security every month. They pay more than $300 a month for prescription drugs but say their medical costs would be even higher if they didn’t have Medicare.

“It’s life,” says Margie Moody. “That pays our bills, buys our food, pays for the doctor.”

The two families highlight a national trend over the past three decades as child poverty steadily rises and poverty among seniors, aided by social programs, steadily drops.

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Sex traffickers are among ICE’s most wanted

For a decade, federal authorities say Paulino Ramirez-Granados and Raul Granados-Rendon were known for their skill at professing love to young, lonely women.

Then they smuggled the women into the U.S. from Mexico and forced them to work as prostitutes.

Today, they are known as something else: fugitives.

The men have been on the lam since they were indicted in 2011 for their part in leading a family ring of sex traffickers from Tenancingo, Mexico, who took dozens of women to Queens, N.Y., and made them turn tricks for $30 to $35 per quarter-hour.

The duo have made the Immigration and Customs Enforcement list of the 10 most wanted fugitives indicted for human trafficking, the agency announced Tuesday.

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Sex traffickers make up most of ICE's most wanted indicted for human trafficking. Top row, from left: Raul Granados-Rendon, Rustamjon Shukurov, Sandjar Agzamov, Saul Romero-Rugerio, Severiano Martinez-Rojas. Bottom row, from left,: Nodir Yunusov, Jamal Moore, Eugenio Hernandez-Prieto, Jose Isidro Gutierrez-Marez, Paulino Ramirez-Granados (Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs)

Sex traffickers make up most of ICE’s most wanted indicted for human trafficking. Top row, from left: Raul Granados-Rendon, Rustamjon Shukurov, Sandjar Agzamov, Saul Romero-Rugerio, Severiano Martinez-Rojas. Bottom row, from left,: Nodir Yunusov, Jamal Moore, Eugenio Hernandez-Prieto, Jose Isidro Gutierrez-Marez, Paulino Ramirez-Granados
(Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs)

Parents of Haiti quake victim realize her final wish

Five years after I was in Haiti covering one of the most devastating events in my career, the family of one of the American victims made good on their promise to honor her last wish:

Every day since their daughter Britney died in a catastrophic earthquake while on a missionary trip to Haiti, Len and Cherylann Genglel have been driven by the final words she sent them in a text message:

“They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”

Those words fortified them as they waited 33 days after the Jan. 12, 2010, quake before Britney’s body was found under the rubble of the Hotel Montana, a popular hotel for Americans and Europeans visiting or working in Haiti.

The words guided them through their grief as they decided to honor her last wish and build an orphanage in the impoverished nation.

And the words strengthened them as they navigated the cultural, bureaucratic, financial and language hurdles of building in a developing country that was devastated by the 7.0 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, injured another 300,000 and left 1.3 million homeless.

Now, on the fifth-year anniversary of the deadly earthquake, the Gengels’ efforts are complete in a brick-and-mortar tribute to their oldest child and only daughter. The Be Like Brit orphanage is a 19,000-square-foot building in the shape of a B high on the mountainside of Grand Goave, a town about an hour west of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince.

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This photo released by Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., shows Britney Gengel who is among the four students and two Lynn University faculty members missing in Haiti, after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the capitol city of Port-Au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010. (Handout)

This photo released by Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., shows Britney Gengel who is among the four students and two Lynn University faculty members missing in Haiti, after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the capitol city of Port-Au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010. (Handout)

‘It can be fearful:’ Police feeling under siege

This story is how I ended a very busy, news-filled 2014. Here’s to hoping for more peace in 2015:

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.
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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.

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