• DALLAS COP INDICTED FOR SHOOTING MENTALLY ILL MAN: DALLAS (AP) — Two Dallas police officers have been indicted in the last two weeks for shooting and wounding residents in incidents where the initial police accounts were later contradicted by video.
Cardan Spencer and Amy Wilburn were both charged with aggravated assault by a public servant.
Spencer was indicted last week after shooting a 52-year-old man standing several feet away from him. A police report filed in the case initially claimed the man, Bobby Bennett, lunged at Spencer with a knife.
A neighbor’s surveillance video camera captured a recording that showed Bennett was several feet from the officers and didn’t appear to move toward them before gunfire caused him to crumple to the ground. Bennett was hospitalized for several weeks following the October incident.
Bennett’s mother, Joyce Jackson, said last year that her son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that he was off his medication at the time of the shooting.
Spencer’s indictment last week followed the indictment of former officer Amy Wilburn, who was charged after shooting a 19-year-old suspected carjacker.
Dallas police fired both officers shortly after the separate incidents. Police Chief David Brown has suggested an expansion of the use of body cameras to avoid relying solely on officers’ statements in disputed situations, and the department reiterated that its use of force policy gave police officers “a responsibility to use only the degree of force necessary to protect and preserve life.”
• SMALL PLANE BLOWN OFF COURSE, GETS STUCK IN TREES: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska State Troopers say a pilot is fine after strong winds pushed his small plane off course, and it ended up stuck in some trees about 50 feet off the ground.
Troopers say 58-year-old Edward Merren of Wasilla had just taken off in a Taylorcraft airplane Sunday afternoon on a grass airstrip in the Wasilla area. A sudden gust of crosswind then caused the plane to strike trees on the side of the airstrip.
The aircraft became wedged in the trees about 50 feet above the ground.
Responders used a boom truck to rescue Merren, who was not injured.
• CAPE COD SHARK SAFETY FLIER SPARKS CONCERNS: BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) — A new brochure being distributed on Cape Cod warning people about the possibility of sharks has some people wondering if it might do more harm than good.
The 415,000 brochures were printed and distributed by consortium of harbormasters and other local officials in Massachusetts with $22,500 from a state program to raise awareness of sharks and educate the public about what to do if they see one.
There’s some good information in the brochure, said Richard Delaney, president of the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, but he was concerned about the cover, which said reminded him of the movie “Jaws.”
“The cover has an extra-mean, toothy picture of a shark,” he said. “It’s one more example of how we, as a society, have this general myth that these guys are big, nasty creatures.”
Shark sightings have become more common in Cape waters recently, drawn by a booming seal population, and one man was even bitten two summers ago.
Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said she had concerns.
“The reality is, we have sharks, and there has to be some public information campaign,” she said. “On the flip side, there’s concern that sharks will be sensationalized or people will want to go on shark hunts.”
• COURT REVIVES VICTIM LAWSUIT IN MISTAKEN SHOOTING: HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reinstated a lawsuit filed by a former major league baseball player’s son who was shot on the porch of his family home by a Houston-area police officer.
The justices ordered the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case of Robert Tolan, son of former major leaguer Bobby Tolan.
The younger Tolan was shot on New Year’s Eve 2008 outside his parents’ home in the Houston enclave of Bellaire. Police mistakenly believed he was armed and had stolen a vehicle.
He and his family filed a lawsuit against a Bellaire police officer and city officials, alleging unconstitutional excessive force was used when the unarmed Tolan was shot. The suit also accused Bellaire and police of a racial profiling, false arrests and racial harassment.
The Tolan family is black. The officer who fired, Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton, is white.
• HIGH COURT NIXES NJ APPEAL ON GUN RIGHTS IN PUBLIC: NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday let stand New Jersey’s requirement that gun owners demonstrate a justifiable need in order to carry firearms in public, turning away another case over whether Americans have a constitutional right to be armed outside the home.
Several residents claimed the law was unconstitutional, but in refusing to take their case, the high court left in a place a ruling last fall from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Philadelphia-based appeals court upheld New Jersey’s requirement that gun owners demonstrate “specific threats or previous attacks demonstrating a special danger to applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by other means.”
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Sussex County resident John Drake, said he needed to carry a gun because of his job restocking ATM machines. Other plaintiffs included a reserve sheriff’s deputy, a civilian FBI employee and a victim of an interstate kidnapping, all of whom were initially denied gun permits. In New Jersey, permit applications have to be approved by local police and then a state Superior Court judge.
Two gun groups, the Second Amendment Foundation and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, joined the lawsuit. The effort was backed by 19 states.