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  • Closing arguments set in trial of University of Arizona grad student accused of killing a professor
    on May 19, 2024 at 10:18 pm

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in the trial of a former University of Arizona graduate student accused of killing a professor on campus two years ago. Murad Dervish, 48, faces seven felony charges including first degree murder in the death of Thomas Meixner, 52, who was shot nine times near his office and was pronounced dead at a Tucson hospital. Defense attorney Leo Masursky told jurors that the killing wasn’t premeditated and that Dervish is “guilty except insane to second-degree murder,” an insanity defense. Pima County prosecutors said Dervish planned the shooting and knew what he was doing. Meixner headed the university’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and was an expert on desert water issues. Dervish was in the master’s degree program in atmospheric sciences, which is within the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. Authorities said Dervish was banned from the school in January 2022 and later expelled for ongoing issues with professors after he received a bad grade. According to a criminal complaint, a flyer with a photograph of Dervish had been circulated to university staff in February 2022 with instructions to call 911 if he ever entered the John W. Harshbarger Building, which houses the hydrology department. The complaint also said Dervish was barred from being on school property and he had been the subject of several reports of harassment and threats to staff members working at Harshbarger. Witnesses said Dervish was wearing a surgical mask and baseball cap as a disguise when he showed up outside Meixner’s office on the afternoon of Oct. 5, 2022, and shot the professor. Dervish was arrested after Arizona state troopers stopped his car on a highway more than 120 miles (193 kilometers) northwest of Tucson. Authorities said a loaded 9 mm handgun was found in the vehicle and that the ammunition was consistent with the shell casings found at the shooting scene. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • San Diego deputy who pleaded guilty to manslaughter now faces federal charges
    on May 19, 2024 at 9:18 pm

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former San Diego sheriff’s deputy who already pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the 2020 fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect has been indicted on two federal charges that could bring a life sentence, federal prosecutors said. A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment Friday charging Aaron Russell with depriving Nicholas Bils of his right to be free from officers using excessive force and with discharging a firearm in a violent crime, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. Bils, 36, was arrested in May 2020 at Old Town State Park in San Diego where he had been pitching balls to his off-leash dog. He brandished a golf club at a ranger before running away and was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. Bils was in a State Parks patrol car heading to the downtown jail when he managed to slip out of his handcuffs, reached out a window to open the car door, then jumped out and ran. Aaron Russell, a jail deputy with 18 months on the force, chased Bils and shot him four times, including once in the back. Surveillance video captured the shooting. Russell was charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation. If convicted of the federal charges, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, the Justice Department said. Contact information for Russell could not be found Sunday. He resigned from the sheriff’s department shortly after the shooting. Bils’ mother, Kathleen Bils, told NBC 7 her son was a paranoid schizophrenic who was afraid of law enforcement, which may have played a role in his flight. The shooting led to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bils’ relatives, which was settled in 2022 with San Diego County agreeing to pay the family $8.1 million. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • 6 people killed, 10 others injured in Idaho when pickup crashes into passenger van
    on May 19, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Six people were killed Saturday in Idaho in a two-car accident that included a large passenger van, authorities said. Ten others were injured in the crash on U.S. Highway 20 in Idaho Falls and taken to local hospitals, Idaho State Police said in a statement. An eastbound pickup crossed the centerline about 5:30 a.m. and hit a westbound passenger van, police said. The van’s driver and five passengers died from their injuries at the scene. Nine other passengers in the van and the pickup’s driver were hospitalized, according to police. Police have not released other details of the accident, including where the 15 people in the van were from or where they were headed. Idaho State Police, which is handling the investigation, did not immediately return phones messages or emails Saturday to The Associated Press. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Child is among 3 dead after Amtrak train hits a pickup truck in upstate New York
    on May 19, 2024 at 7:18 pm

    NEW YORK (AP) — A child was among the three victims killed when a passenger train hit a pickup truck, officials said. The northbound Amtrak train hit a Dodge truck Friday evening in North Tonawanda, New York, a small town along the Niagara River between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, police said. The victims included a 6-year-old boy, a 66-year-old woman, and a 69-year-old man, North Tonawanda Police Department Captain Daryl Truty said in a statement posted on Saturday. The names of the victims had not been released as of Sunday morning. None of the Amtrak crew or its 21 passengers were injured in the crash, Amtrak spokesperson Olivia Irvin said in a statement. The train was on its way from New York City to Niagara Falls when the accident happened. The pickup was so severely damaged that heavy equipment was required to reach the victims, the North Tonawanda firefighter’s union said in a statement. All three victims died at the scene. Further details, including the location of the vehicle at the time of the crash, were not released. Local television and print media citing eyewitnesses reported that the pickup had become trapped between railroad gates at a rail crossing. The reports from WIVB and The Buffalo News say there was a disabled vehicle and police vehicles near the crossing before the crash. Messages seeking comment were left Sunday with the North Tonawanda police and mayoral officials. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • US troops, equipment will depart from Niger by mid-September, the Pentagon says
    on May 19, 2024 at 5:18 pm

    WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. troops ordered out of Niger by the West African country’s ruling junta will complete their withdrawal by the middle of September, the Pentagon and Nigerien defense officials said Sunday. The timeline was the product of four days of talks between the countries’ defense officials in the capital city of Niamey, according to a joint statement. Niger’s decision to kick out American forces dealt a blow to U.S. military operations in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara desert where groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group operate. U.S. troops and some gear already have begun leaving the country, a senior military official and a senior defense official who briefed reporters on a call Sunday said. The plan is to remove all lethal, hazardous or classified equipment before the last U.S. troops depart, but items that are determined to be too expensive to fly out could be left for the Nigerien military to use instead, the officials said. The U.S. also will leave behind infrastructure it has built over the years to support the approximately 1,000 troops who have been based there to conduct counterterrorism missions, the officials said. Fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops are still in Niger, mostly on an airbase near Agadez, some 920 kilometers (550 miles) away from the capital. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details of the withdrawal. The officials called Niger an “anchor” in U.S. counterrorism efforts over the last decade, and they are still looking at options on how to fill that gap. The officials said that their hope is to continue to work with the Nigerien military on counterterrorism work in the future, even if U.S. troops are not based there on the ground. The rupture in military cooperation followed last July’s ouster of the country’s democratically elected president by mutinous soldiers. A few months later, the ruling junta asked French forces to leave and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance. The officials said they did not have indications that the Wagner group may end up increasing its influence over the Nigerien military in the absence of U.S. personnel, In October, Washington officially designated the military takeover as a coup, which triggered U.S. laws restricting the military support and aid that it can provide to Niger. Until recently, Washington considered Niger a key partner and ally in a region swept by coups in recent years, investing millions of dollars in the Agadez base, which has been critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. The United States also has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013. The Pentagon has also said the U.S. will relocate most of the approximately 100 forces it has deployed in neighboring Chad for now. But talks are expected to resume next month about revising an agreement that allows U.S. troops to be based in Chad. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com