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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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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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.

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‘Sextortion’ is an online ‘epidemic’ against children

The number of complaints of online enticement of children is climbing. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies fight online child pornography, reports that the number of complaints to its 61 offices nationwide has grown from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013.(Photo: Sam Ward)

The number of complaints of online enticement of children is climbing. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies fight online child pornography, reports that the number of complaints to its 61 offices nationwide has grown from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013. (Photo: Sam Ward)

Unemployed high school dropout Tremain Hutchinson spent a lot of time talking to young girls on Tagged.com, a teen chat site.

Sometimes he was “Mario,” sometimes “Quan” or “Money,” but Hutchinson, 28, always pretended to be a cute 16-year-old Georgia boy. He used a photo of a younger cousin in the profiles.

He was interested in girls 11 to 17. Race or economic background didn’t matter.

His opening line was always the same: ” What’s up? You be my freak once a month. I will spoil you, buy you a cell phone, keep your bill paid. Hair, nails done. Buy you shoes, clothes, whatever you want.”

Dozens of girls responded. One of them was a 15-year-old girl in the Atlanta area who has regretted it ever since, her father says.

Hutchinson enticed the girl to send naked photos. Then he turned vicious.

For weeks, he pressed her for more images. He threatened to post her nude photos online. He threatened to kill her and her parents and blow up her house.

Every time she begged him to leave her alone, he told her he would if she did one more thing. Then came the day he ordered her to do something so unthinkable, it led federal investigators to his door.

It is a crime of the digital age.

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No victory in war on poverty in eastern Kentucky

Fifty-year campaign shows strengths, limitations of government programs

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes the hand of one of the residents of Appalachia in 1964 as he launched his War on Poverty. (Cecil Stoughton, LBJ Library)

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes the hand of one of the residents of Appalachia in 1964 as he launched his War on Poverty. (Cecil Stoughton, LBJ Library)

INEZ, Ky. — Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson drove into this Appalachian town, Route 3 was a two-lane road that hugged the mountains in tight curves. Minzie Stanley was 6 years old, living with her parents and 17 brothers and sisters on one of the narrow gravel lanes that sprouted off the main road.

Johnson was there to shine a spotlight on families living in rural poverty, families such as Stanley’s. Minzie’s father didn’t have a steady job. The family had to grow everything they ate, or they’d go hungry. She got a pair of hand-me-down shoes once a year if she was lucky. There were few good-paying jobs. College was a distant dream.

Stanley moved up and out of poverty, thanks to a coal boom that provided her husband with steady work as a miner. But the cycle wasn’t broken. Her daughter, Jennifer Jarrell, 34, and two grandchildren live on food stamps and child support in a two-bedroom trailer that’s more than 30 years old.

“We’ve progressed in certain areas,” Jarrell says. “We do have things like indoor plumbing.”

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