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These days, it’s impossible for an American citizen fortunate enough to have been born with a functioning mind not to worry about guns and the men who love them—and the innocent victims some of those gun-lovers kill. 

National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre, who tends to blame school shootings on rap music, has accused the government, aided by the press, of attempting to discredit firearms enthusiasts by issuing propaganda worthy of the Nazis. Then there’s Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theorist host of Infowars, ranting to his radio followers that the Sandy Hook school shooting of 26 people, 20 of them first-graders, was “a giant hoax. … The whole thing was fake.” Jones is now being sued by some of the bereaved families for claiming that the massacre was staged, using actors hired by the government—all part of a plot to set the stage for seizing our guns.

LaPierre strikes me a brazen profiteer—he made more than $5 million in compensation from the NRA in 2015—and Jones is either deranged or evil, or both. Because of such men, too many of us who long for rational gun laws have given up hope, concluding that the legions of gullible citizens influenced by people like LaPierre and Jones carry so much political weight that meaningful legislation has become impossible.

I thought that, too, until a man I’d done a professional favor for invited me to hunt turkeys on a ranch in west Texas.

There were six of us in the hunting party, and on our first morning, we were up well before first light. We ate steak-and-egg breakfasts, and set out, two to a pickup truck, to hunt. My partner was Robert, the man who had invited me. As we bounced along a dirt road bordering the Concho River, he told me the particulars of his brand new full-choke, 12-gauge Remington and the super-magnum shells it fired. Then he asked about my gun, and complimented my sense of family loyalty for choosing to use my grandfather’s 12-gauge Ithaca side-by-side.

“Isn’t this it?” Robert said. 

“What?” I asked.

“Turkey hunting! Guns! The most damn fun it’s possible for a human being to have!”

That morning, we did have fun. I bagged a gobbler. Robert called it in, and at a range of 30 yards, the kill was clean. Two or three miles away and another hour later, Robert called in a pair of gobblers and killed the larger one, a bird well more than 20 pounds and sporting a 10-inch beard.

We were the first pickup back to the ranch house. The second vehicle arrived a half-hour later; one of the hunters had killed a gobbler, while the other had missed a difficult shot. The third truck soon came in; nobody in it had seen or heard a turkey.

In mid-morning, after the three bagged birds had been dressed and plucked, two six-packs of beer came out of the ranch house, along with six .22 rifles. For three hours, behind a large barn, we shot at paper targets fastened to bales of straw.

After lunch, we drove in two trucks to the river, with five revolvers and plenty of ammunition. We parked on a streamside meadow where the Concho ran deep and slow, and the afternoon routine was simple: One man at a time was stationed upstream to throw sticks of driftwood into the water while the rest sat in the shade of cottonwoods, blazing away at the sticks as they floated by, cheering hits and scoffing at misses. From a distance, it must have sounded like a war zone.

I spent three days and nights at the ranch and talked at length with my companions about ethical hunting, politics, spectator sports, law, medicine and, of course, guns. We spent many hours shooting at paper targets, drift wood and empty cans, using up at least as much ammunition as all the Clint Eastwood movies ever made. Yet none of these gun-lovers had a single positive word to say about either the NRA or self-serving demagogues like LaPierre and Jones. They were intelligent, articulate and not afraid of stating their views—and there have to be tens of thousands of people like them in the West.

A week later, a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, ended with eight students and two teachers dead. Unlike the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, public outrage seemed almost muted. Then on May 25, it happened again, this time in Indiana: A middle-school student shot two people, including the teacher who bravely tackled him before he could shoot more.

Please, fellow hunters: Summon the courage to speak up. Make yourselves known. If enough of you do, common sense might just stand a chance.

Michael Baughman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He writes in Oregon.

Published in Community Voices

On this week's FBI-rated weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World talks guns with a glib sociopath; Jen Sorenson looks at what's fueling our demise; The K Chronicles celebrates a band called Death; Red Meat gets some surprise dental work; and Apoca Clips ponders Syria.

Published in Comics

On this week's trade-war-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles honors the March for Our Lives; This Modern World discovers a disconcerting black hole; Jen Sorenson discovers a technology without any privacy issues; Apoca Clips queries Trumpy about Stormy; and Red Meat deals with a bird in the house.

Published in Comics

Around 10 a.m. this morning, a crowd—estimated by local Palm Springs Police Sgt. Mike Villegas—of “about 2,000 people” joined together to memorialize the lives and untimely deaths of students victimized by gun violence, including the 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students killed by a gunman on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla.

As the crowd stood in silence, high school students held aloft portraits of the slain Florida victims, as brief biographies were read for each of them. Then, as planned, the memorial transitioned into a demonstration march through Palm Springs, with at least 3,000 participants. After the front line of marchers stepped off from the corner of Farrell Drive and Baristo Road, it took a full 10 minutes for the entire line to pass that point.

The demonstrators—a mix of locals ranging from tiny toddlers (with parents in tow), to striding teenage students and supportive seniors--were upbeat and determined to have their voices heard as part of the national chorus of Americans calling for an end to gun violence of all types.

See a selection of photos from the march below.

Published in Snapshot

As the West’s elected officials wrestle with how to protect us from gun violence in the aftermath of the Las Vegas nightmare and the Texas church shooting, a truth comes to mind: These leaders are not actually wrestling with the issue of how to protect us from gun violence. If they were, the solution would be as clear as a mountain stream: Treat people more like fish.

Here in the West, fish get far more protection than people. If you’re an adult, you need a license to fish. In Colorado and other states, that license limits you to two fishing rods at a time. Keeping fish is often forbidden, and barbless hooks are often required to boost the odds that your catch-and-release gem lives to see another day.

Live bait is frequently illegal, and hook size and the fishing season itself are often limited. There are restrictions on the size of kept fish and “bag limits” on how many a caster can keep. All of these rules are in place for one true-West reason: “Fish deserve a fighting chance.”

The safeguards don’t stop there. Heard of the zebra mussel? Our states spend a fortune to fight the threat a tiny invasive mollusk presents to the safety of our finned friends. In California, you can’t possess a gaffe, a spear or even a long-handled net within 100 yards of a body of water

To prove they’re serious about enforcing piscine protections, hard-working government employees walk shores to make sure you and I are giving brookies and bluegills their fair shot. Good things, these measures. They’re very reasonable and welcomed by sportsmen and women across the West. Even our political leaders praise these common-sense policies that “protect a valuable resource” and wisely maintain a treasured part of life.

Better still, any U.S. senators who give a crap about crappies are unlikely to face a political backlash or high-dollar effort to drive them from office. No politicians have lost their seats for being pro-Power Bait or anti-nightcrawler. We don’t rant on Twitter about jackboots and slippery slopes caused by fishing licenses. No well-funded politically charged campaign declares: “Spinning Rods Don’t Kill Fish. People Do.”

More astounding: Westerners don’t fear these restrictions, even when their right to bear fishing poles isn’t secured for eternity in the Constitution. But when it comes to the right to bear arms, the reasonable limitations of fishing are swept downstream with sanity. Uncle Sam doesn't require a license to buy a deadly weapon. At some gun stores, he’s fine with you buying a 500-rounds-a-minute semi-automatic weapon.

In the West, you can possess a militia-sized arsenal well within 100 yards of a body of people, along with the deadliest ammunition, in any size and amount. Many politicians refuse to limit this dangerous status quo “in any fashion” … while holding anglers to just two rods and artificial bait.

Meanwhile, it’s open season on humans, and there’s no effort to reduce the bag limit or limit places where our loved ones get taken out. We stop large-caliper hooks, but do nothing about large-caliber weapons. Schools of fish get hearty government backup. Schools of children and teachers do not.

Come on, folks: Let’s act rationally and fix this. Please, no more talk of prying guns out of people’s “cold, dead hands.” There were 58 pairs of those hands in Las Vegas. They belonged to brave cops, EMTs, security guards and everyday heroes who risked their lives to help bleeding strangers. They belonged to fathers, mothers, siblings, sons, daughters and friends who paid the worst price for simply going out to have a good time.

Those people; their families; the 500-plus others who were injured; and the thousands of others who escaped physical injury but live with terrible memories of the trauma deserved way more protection than we provided. In a real game of war, on people, the odds were stacked against them.

Isn’t a human life as valuable as that of a trout?

Marty Jones is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He writes in Denver.

Published in Community Voices

It’s been more than four years since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., yet the bone-chilling horror of what happened should never be forgotten. We can never know what those lives might have contributed to America in the future, and we can only imagine the agony of their families.

I was overcome with emotion when I walked into the main hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rancho Mirage and saw the chairs on the stage, each with a T-shirt draped over it, bearing the name and age of a victim. Only one shirt was an adult size honoring one of the teachers killed; the rest were small—almost all of them showing age 6.

The event, marking the four-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, was co-sponsored by Moms Demand Action Coachella Valley, the local group affiliated with the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Presenters included the Rev. Leisa Huyck of the Unitarian Universalist Church, attorney Frank Riela of Cathedral City, Lisa Middleton of Palm Springs, Joni Padduck of Indio, and Dori Smith of Palm Desert. It included a showing of the movie, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA.

Similar events are being held around the country, sponsored by the Not One More Project. Children’s tees are brightly colored with names and ages. Adults, such as the teachers and administrators killed at Sandy Hook, are represented by white tees. Shooters/suicides get a black shirt with no name—the group believes even those lives should be counted as the loss of yet other human beings to gun violence.

What’s perhaps even more disturbing than the killings is what has happened to the families of those killed. A Feb. 3 report by Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times documented the harassment families have received from conspiracy theorists and their followers, who call themselves “Sandy Hook truthers.” Perhaps the worst is the infamous Alex Jones, whose “Infowars” programs claim the Sandy Hook killings were staged, using child actors, as a means of overturning Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.

Noah Pozner’s father received death threats and was harassed with phone calls, including ethnic and racial slurs and profanities; he spent more than a year just trying to remove an online video that featured pictures of his son over a soundtrack of a porno film.

At a memorial in 2015 for Victoria Soto, one of the teachers slain, a man was arrested after demanding to know whether she had actually been killed, while shoving a picture at her younger sister.

The medical examiner who signed the coroner reports for Sandy Hook victims was bombarded with harassing phone calls to his home and office.

A man was convicted of stealing memorial signs put up in playgrounds that honored the dead children; he later called grieving parents and claimed their children had never even existed.

Most of the families connected with Sandy Hook have had to remove their social media accounts and unlist their telephone numbers. Many have moved to recover some sense of privacy and allow time to grieve.

Others connected to Sandy Hook have also been harassed: police, photographers, neighbors, government officials, witnesses and teachers who survived the horrific event.

According to Demick’s article, perhaps the worst conspiracy theorist is a 70-year-old Florida man who has spent his pension and more than $100,000 he raised online to “expose” the conspiracy which he claims includes 500-700 people, including President Obama. He believes President Trump’s election will bring a full investigation to expose what happened, since Trump has willingly accepted support from Alex Jones.

Meanwhile, Congress recently passed a bill that will allow guns to be purchased by people considered by the Social Security Administration as too mentally unstable to handle their own affairs. This would overturn a policy put in place by President Obama that allowed sharing background-check information to limit the ability of such individuals to purchase guns. ProPublica cites a study in Connecticut that found that adding more mental health records to the background-check system created a 53 percent drop in the likelihood of a person who had ever been involuntarily committed of later carrying out a violent gun-related crime. Meanwhile, the cost to American society of gun violence, including accidents and suicides, in public-health terms, is more than $5 billion each year.

Moms Demand Action works to prevent access to guns by children, calling for guns to be locked and kept separate from ammunition. They caution that children know where parents hide things and have an amazing ability to access even safes and codes. They also suggest never sending a child to someone else’s home without asking whether they have firearms, and how they are stored. Better safe than sorry.

According to Maggie Downs of Moms Demand Action Coachella Valley (paraphrasing Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times), “In the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America. … In that same period guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents.”

The families of Sandy Hook and the local activists working to raise awareness want us to remember: Noah 6, Charlotte 6, Jack 6, Olivia 6, Dylan 6, Catherine 6, Avielle 6, Jessica 6, James 6, Josephine 7, Caroline 6, Benjamin 6, Chase 7, Ana 6, Jesse 6, Daniel 7, Grace 7, Emilie 6, Madeleine 6, Allison 6.

We should all say not one more.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

The numbers of police-related deaths in the United States, as documented by Fatal Encounters, have been eerily similar in recent years.

2015: 1,356.

2014: 1,323.

2013: 1,330.

However, this statistical fluke is not what’s newsworthy: What is newsworthy is the fact that we now actually have a database of police-related deaths.

That’s right: Before Fatal Encounters came along, there was not a comprehensive database of all of the people in the United States who died during encounters with law enforcement.

By the time the Fatal Encounters effort is complete, it will include a database going back to the year 2000. As of this writing, the Fatal Encounters team has already “finished” 27 states—including California, which was finished in May. Data for the last 3 1/2 years is complete nationwide

The numbers and details contained in the Fatal Encounters database can be chilling. In 2015, of the 1,356 people who died during law-enforcement encounters in the nation, 263 of them were in the state of California. Going back to 2000, at least 48 people have died during law-enforcement efforts in the Coachella Valley alone. (See the list at the bottom of this article.)

Fatal Encounters is the brainchild of D. Brian Burghart, the longtime editor of the Reno News & Review, the alternative newsweekly in Reno, Nev. (Burghart has been a friend and colleague of mine for 20 years—going all the way back to my internship at the News & Review during the summer of 1996.)

At FatalEncounters.org, Burghart explained how the project came to be.

“May 18, 2012: I was on my way home from work when I noticed a bunch of cop cars down by the Truckee River,” Burghart writes. “… It turned out the police had pulled over a stolen car, and they’d shot and killed the driver. (Jace Herndon, 41, we found out later.) Honestly—and not because I’m one of those hard-boiled, cynical types—I wasn’t particularly surprised or offended. Criminals often come to a bad end.

“But again, I’m an editor, so I noticed when a gaping hole appeared in every single news story I read about the incident. There was no context. I kept looking for a sentence that said something like, ‘This was x person killed by police in Washoe County this year.’

“But it was never there.”

It was never there, Burghart learned, because no such database exists. Therefore, Burghart (who stepped down from the Reno News & Review earlier this year) decided to create one—using Google, news coverage, existing databases and public-records requests—going all the way back to the start of the century.

It’s safe to say Burghart had no idea what he was getting into. However, after a grant or two, a successful crowd-sourcing funding effort, tons of media coverage and a whole lot of work by Burghart and his volunteer-and-paid team, Burghart’s goal is in sight.

“When we say (a state or year) is complete, we’ve exhausted all the means at our disposal—but there are always lawsuits that will bring one that never made the press,” Burghart told me.

“Even when we get everything that we can find, I know we’re still missing stuff,” Burghart said. “… It’s just because of the peculiar ways the media choose to report this stuff. You’d think that they would say, ‘An officer shot and killed somebody’—something simple—but instead, they say, ‘An officer-involved shooting occurred. It’s crazy.”

Still, Burghart said, he’s happy with how accurate and comprehensive the database seems to be.

“I have yet to have a journalist … point out one we missed,” he said. “We’ve had grad students, not members of our team, who did an analysis using public-records requests and found that we were at 100 percent. While I know it’s not true (that we’re at 100 percent), that’s what they found.”

Burghart said his team has faced a lot of challenges finding information, especially the older info.

“We think of the Internet in 2000 as a mature thing,” he said. “But until 2005 to 2006, a lot of stuff—basically, until the advent of the cloud storage—just got purged from files. People regularly purged their older stuff, because data storage was expensive.”

Fatal Encounters—due to the extra attention given to police-related killings in places like Ferguson, Mo., in recent years—has received a lot of media coverage. This attention helped attract people like Carla DeCeros to the Fatal Encounters effort. She’s the person who is responsible for compiling a lion’s share of the California database.

“I was already researching this topic before linking up with Fatal Encounters,” DeCeros said via email. “My reasons for doing so were probably similar to those of Brian and others who’ve done this sort of work. Mainly, I wanted answers, but they just didn’t exist.

“To get answers, I realized I’d have to take several steps back and do a lot of info-gathering. Fortunately, there were others—past and present—who’d done at least some of the work already. What I was doing was building on these earlier efforts, connecting them and filling in the blanks.”

All of this, however, leads to a big question: Why hadn’t someone, like the government, been keeping track of these fatal encounters? Burghart said he has several theories.

“It’s usually just incompetence, to be honest,” he said. “Many people that I’ve talked to over the years want to find a conspiracy, but I really believe that it’s mostly government incompetence.”

California’s government has done better than most at gathering data. The state Office of the Attorney General’s “Open Justice” website offers data on deaths in custody and arrest-related deaths between 2005 and 2014. Over that period, the state database includes about 1,200 arrest-related deaths.

Over that same time period, Burghart said, Fatal Encounters has counted twice the number of deaths.

“The government tracks everything that it thinks matters. That suggests to me that the government does not believe that these deaths matter,” he said. “If a low-tech guy like me could do this, then the FBI—with millions of dollars to apply to it and super high-tech knowledge—could do it in an hour.”


Now that there is a comprehensive database of police-involved killings that is available to all, the real work can begin: People can examine the details, crunch the numbers and figure out how to perhaps decrease the alarming number of deaths.

That’s where Nick Selby comes in. He’s a law-enforcement officer as well as a consultant, writer and speaker on law-enforcement data and technology. He’s also the CEO and co-founder of StreetCred Software, Inc.

“Fatal Encounters is quite simply the database that is the most complete, the most accurate, and the most contextually complete,” Selby said. “By that, what I mean is in addition to things like name, and time, and gender, we also get some indication of what the person was doing at the time the police showed up, which is really important.”

Using Fatal Encounters data, Selby has come to some conclusions that may have major public-policy implications. He looked at a subset of fatal encounters cases—specifically, unarmed people who were killed in 2015.

“What we found was that about 7 percent were unjustified,” he said. “… If I tell you that there are 153 people who were killed by police, and they were unarmed, how many would you think would be unjustified? (Law enforcement officers) would probably tell you two or three. If you ask an activist the same thing, they’d probably tell you 30 or 40. They’re both wrong. That’s important. I thank (Fatal Encounters) for the ability to actually do that analysis.

“The biggest predictor (of fatal encounters with police) is poverty, not race—but the biggest predictor of poverty turns out to be race,” Selby said. “That’s not a police problem; that’s an American societal problem. That’s a federal, state and local policy problem.”

Selby has uncovered some fascinating trends using data: “If you take a look at just people who are suffering from mental illness—either diagnosed or apparent—disability, and drug addiction, or some combination of those three, that’s 52 percent of the people who died last year” during encounters with law enforcement.

Thanks to this information, Selby pointed to several programs that he thinks should be emulated around the country.

“No one is bringing attention to the fact that Richmond, Calif., and Albany, N.Y., and Chicago are doing these wonderful intervention-based programs on gun violence, where they identify—through social networks and other means—people at risk of being involved in gun violence, and speak to them and ask them to attend meetings. They’re cutting down their murder rate, and they’re cutting down their gun-violence rate.”

Selby also said society needs to do a better job of dealing with mental illness. Some Fatal Encounters data analyses have indicated that 25 to 30 percent of people who are killed by law enforcement are suffering from mental illness.

“Why are we not moving to do better intervention-based programs instead of waiting until there’s a mental-health crisis?” Selby asked.


In the months and years to come, Fatal Encounters’ data, once complete, will no doubt lead to other conclusions that could help inform public policy. Burghart said that he had been hoping to finish the databases of the other 23 states by the end of the year.

“Well, that was the plan earlier this year, before the whole Guardian and Washington Post thing happened,” he said.

Burghart is referring to the fact that both the Guardian and the Washington Post have created their own databases of law-enforcement-related deaths. In fact, the Post earlier this year won a Pulitzer Prize for its database—after getting the idea from Fatal Encounters, a fact that Burghart documented in an excellent piece at Gawker.com on April 26. (While the Post tipped its figurative hat to Fatal Encounters when it started its efforts, credit was nowhere to be found when the Pulitzer was awarded. In fact, both the Post and the Pulitzer citation made claims about the Post’s database being the “first” and “only” one to accomplish certain things that Fatal Encounters had accomplished well before.)

Neither the Guardian nor Post databases are going back in time to collect anywhere near 17 years of data like Fatal Encounters is, and Burghart said it’s been harder to attract help to Fatal Encounters since the Post won the award.

“It undermines the idea that this is needed, because people now believe that the media’s on top of it—although I can tell you by looking that they’re not,” Burghart said

When Fatal Encounters is complete, most likely next year, the database will include details on more well more than 20,000 police-related deaths. What’s next?

“When we have a comprehensive database going back to Jan. 1, 2000—I’ll make a decision then,” he said. “We’ve actually been asked by people in other countries to help them set up something.

“I have a lot of ideas. There are a lot of databases that should exist in this country to show the numbers behind things. There should be a database of people who die in prison and in jail. That doesn’t exist. … It’s mind-boggling that these aren’t tracked.”


Coachella Valley’s Fatal Encounters Since 2000

Stephan McEwan, 33, April 13, 2000, Palm Springs. McEwan was killed after his motorcycle crashed into a van while leading police on a brief pursuit.

Jesus-Pena “Jesse” Herrara, 32, Feb. 1, 2002, Indio. District Attorney Investigator Dan Riter shot Herrara in the head at close range.

Raymond Deleon, 36, Dec. 26, 2002, Desert Hot Springs. Two officers shot and killed Deleon; officers said Deleon tried to hit them with his car and wouldn’t show his hands.

Antonio Gastelum Sanchez, 34, Jan. 23, 2003, La Quinta. Sanchez died shortly after struggling with deputies.

Kevin W. Diabo, 24, May 13, 2003, La Quinta. Deputy Robert Burbach shot and killed Diabo after Diabo killed Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Lee and swung a baton at Burbach.

Name withheld by police, June 16, 2003, Thousand Palms. A female passenger in an uninvolved car was killed by a car fleeing deputies.

Michael Sanchez, 26, and Delonn Arenas, Nov. 21, 2003, Desert Hot Springs. Arenas died after a car fleeing deputies struck the Honda in which Arenas was riding. The passenger in the fleeing car, Sanchez, reportedly died of cardiac arrest after a foot chase and struggle with deputies.

Omar Mendiola, 22, Feb. 17, 2004, Thermal. A California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed Mendiola after an altercation on the Torres-Martinez Indian Reservation.

Lawrence Christopher Phillips, 26, Sept. 2, 2004, Palm Springs. Officer Don Benstead shot Phillips when he pulled a gun on the officer’s partner.

Scott R. Neth, 35, Jan. 16, 2005, Thousand Palms. Neth died when he crashed his car while fleeing the CHP.

Rodolfo Inzunza-Sanchez, 23, March 5, 2005, Thousand Palms. Deputies shot Inzunza-Sanchez when he allegedly refused to drop a handgun and a knife.

Israel Ruiz Hernandez, 30, June 10, 2005, La Quinta. Two deputies shot and killed Hernandez when he allegedly pointed a gun after they confronted him behind Big 5 Sporting Goods.

Julio Cesar Prado-Franco, 18, June 12, 2005, Indio. Prado-Franco was killed when he lost control of his SUV and slammed into a pole while fleeing police.

Joel Soto Campaña, 35, Aug. 11, 2005, Indio. An officer shot and killed Campaña when he allegedly physically confronted the officer, who was responding to a report of a domestic disturbance.

Fred Ray Bradley Jr., 29, Nov. 15, 2005, Palm Springs. Bradley was killed in a car crash during a brief police chase.

Merle Vernon Houston, 40, Jan. 5, 2006, Palm Springs. Police shot Houston when he grabbed an officer’s gun during a confrontation in front of Walmart.

Carlos Romero-Avena, 34, March 24, 2006, Coachella. A CHP officer shot and killed Romero-Avena when he took the officer’s baton after a pursuit.

Leonel Lopez Ramirez, 35, Aug. 1, 2006, Indio/Coachella. Deputies shot Ramirez when he threatened them with a replica firearm and a paintball gun.

Thomas Sharp, 49, Nov. 4, 2006, Cathedral City. Sharp reportedly shot himself during a police standoff.

Jorge Alberto Martinez, 64, March 19, 2007, Thermal. Martinez was killed in a head-on collision with Deputy Manuel Viegas, who was also killed.

Roberto Perez, 25, April 11, 2007, Indio. Two officers shot Perez after they responded to a family dispute in Indio.

Sergio “Checko” Lopez, 48, Oct. 2, 2007, Desert Hot Springs. Sgt. Robert Ritchie shot Lopez, who residents of a nearby homeless camp said was known as “Checko,” four times when Lopez continued to come toward the officer.

Nino Joseph Garcia Jr., 24, Jan. 15, 2008, Palm Springs. Police shot and killed Garcia when he pulled a weapon on officers.

Alexis Melendrez-Acosta, 18, May 30, 2008, Desert Hot Springs. CHP officers shot Melendrez-Acosta when he shot at them during a pursuit.

Gregory Fisher, 56, June 3, 2009, Rancho Mirage. Fisher was a passenger killed in a crash during a high-speed chase.

Robert Albert Appel, 48, May 14, 2010, Palm Desert. Appel died after struggling with deputies Martin Alfaro, Robert Garcia, Sean Dusek and Edward Chacon while he was in the midst of a delusional episode inside a gated community.

Jesus Juan “Chapo” Hernandez-Cazares, 21, Sept. 19, 2010, Cathedral City. An officer shot Hernandez-Cazares twice during a confrontation.

John Howe Jr., 57, Dec. 27, 2010, Desert Hot Springs. Howe, a pedestrian, was struck and killed by a police car.

Francisco Gabriel Durazo, 31, April 17, 2011, Palm Springs. Police had been chasing Durazo for a parole violation; police said he also led them on a chase March 18 in a stolen vehicle. Police and Durazo exchanged shots, and officers unleashed police dog Ike on Durazo, but he shot the dog to death before being killed himself.

Ricardo Avila, 37, June 11, 2011, Indio. Avila was a passenger who died on June 20 from injuries sustained when he jumped from a stolen sedan during a pursuit.

William Scott Routh, 47, Aug. 20, 2011, Cathedral City. Routh began experiencing labored breathing and later died after he struggled with officers.

Pascual Manuel Mata, 59, Oct. 21, 2011, Coachella. SWAT officer Gustavo “Gus” Araiza shot Mata when he opened fire on officers during a 25-hour standoff.

Frank Tanuvasa, 20, Feb. 23, 2012, Palm Desert. Tanuvasa was seen running away from an apartment complex where a burglary was reported. Tanuvasa was shot following a fight with a sheriff’s deputy.

Robert Shirar, 32, May 21, 2012, Indio. After crashing his vehicle on Interstate 10, Shirar threatened investigating CHP officers. They shot and killed him.

Karl Watson, 47, June 25, 2012, Indio. Police shot and killed Watson as he reportedly beat an officer who arrived at the scene after Watson murdered his ex-girlfriend.

Joshua Sznaider, 27, Oct. 6, 2012, Palm Springs. Police were called out at 7 a.m. as Sznaider created a neighborhood disturbance. He was Tasered twice and put in a chokehold as he resisted arrest. He died four days later of cardiac arrest.

Allan DeVillena II, 22, Nov. 10, 2012, Palm Springs. Officers fatally shot DeVillena after the unarmed Marine allegedly drunkenly drove his car at the officers. Despite conflicting witness statements, the district attorney declined to file charges against the officers.

Alejandro Rendon, 23, Feb. 14, 2013, Indio. Rendon, 23 was shot by Indio Officer Alex Franco after he and his partner attempted to stop the suspect while he was riding his bicycle. Franco claimed the suspect was facing him down over the hood of the police vehicle and could have been armed. Experts later testified that Rendon’s wounds showed he was shot from behind and below. The family of Rendon was awarded $1.9 million.

Ernest Foster, 37, July 4, 2013, Indio. Foster was shot and killed by an Indio police officer; authorities said he was armed, and when police confronted him, he ran away. A pursuit on foot led to a confrontation, when the officer opened fire.

Eulizez Rodriguez, 24, Aug. 22, 2013, Desert Hot Springs. Rodriguez was killed after officers pursued him for driving a stolen car. After a short foot chase, an officer shot Rodriguez after he pulled out a gun.

Luis Morin, 39, Jan. 27, 2014, Coachella. Morin, wanted on two nonviolent felony warrants, was visiting relatives. When Morin and his relatives returned home from dinner, a deputy attempted to arrest the unarmed Morin; a scuffle ensued, ending with the deputy shooting and killing Morin. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against Riverside County.

Jesus Zuriel Orduno Luviano, 20, Nov. 2, 2014, Indio. The California Highway Patrol attempted to pull over a drunk driver. When the suspect didn’t stop, Indio police joined the chase. Luviano exited the vehicle, allegedly with a shotgun, and was shot.

Omar Rodriguez, 35, Dec. 25, 2014, Coachella. A deputy was in the area responding to a report of a “suspicious person.” Rodriguez allegedly tried to take the deputy’s baton, and was shot and killed.

Dario Colin, 33, Feb. 6, 2015, Palm Desert. Colin was killed in a crash while fleeing the CHP.

Samuel Villarreal, 18, Oct. 14, 2015, Indio. Officers were investigating an auto theft and attempted to stop Villarreal after he drove a stolen car into a parking lot. Police opened fire after Villarreal allegedly backed his car into a police cruiser.

Dominic Hutchinson, 30, Oct. 24, 2015, Cathedral City. Hutchinson was shot by officers responding to a domestic disturbance.

Juan Perez, 38, Dec. 5, 2015, Indio. Police, investigating a stolen golf cart, approached Perez, and shots were exchanged. Perez was shot and killed.

Source: Fatal Encounters

Published in Features

Gun safety is, and has always been, an LGBT-rights issue.

Granted, some of the most prominent cases of anti-LGBT hate crimes have not involved guns; the deaths of Matthew Shepard and Sakia Gunn were not due to firearms. Even so, the LGBT community is plagued by gun violence.

On May 13, 1988, Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner were shot while hiking the Appalachian Trail, because their murderer was enraged by their lesbianism. Wight died from her wounds.

On Oct. 15, 1999, Sissy “Charles” Boden was shot dead in Savannah, Ga., for being gay.

On July 23, 2003, Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman were shot to death in Indianapolis after their assailant learned Nireah was transgender.

On Feb. 12, 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot twice by a classmate in Oxnard because of his sexual orientation. He later died.

Gun safety has always been an issue with the LGBT community. According to FBI data, nearly 21 percent of all hate crimes reported in the U.S. have been due to the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation. However, our major LGBT organizations historically have not taken a significant stand on the controversial issue of gun violence.

But on June 12, 2016, 49 individuals died because of their sexual orientation, or because of their support of the LGBT community, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. This was a pivotal moment: A community has had enough—a community that is well-organized due to decades of fighting for civil and human rights. Our right to live without fear of dying at the hands of gun violence is now being fully embraced and is considered of paramount importance. Make no mistake: These are not special rights. These are not gay rights. These are human rights—and now this is our fight.

On Saturday, June 18, Equality California (EQCA) launched its new #SafeAndEqual campaign, not only to raise awareness that gun violence is an LGBT issue, but to declare that gun safety is an LGBT right and now a major policy priority. EQCA has signed on to numerous statewide bills and is proud to join other organizations, like the Human Rights Campaign, on federal efforts that will prohibit military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines; close gun-show and Internet-sales loopholes on background checks; and strengthen background checks and waiting periods to keep guns out of dangerous hands. EQCA will bring the full force of our lobbying efforts to pass them.

This is deeply personal. Pulse nightclub could easily have been Hunters or Chill Bar on Arenas, or Micky’s in West Hollywood. Those 49 people are sons and daughters, siblings, parents and young people with what should have been very bright futures. Most of them were LGBT people. They could have been me and you and 47 people we know here in the Coachella Valley. It’s difficult to remember in such an affirming community as Palm Springs, but the more visible we are as an LGBT community, the more vulnerable to violence and hatred we become.

As EQCA’s executive director, Rick Zbur, said: “Ending gun violence is also an LGBT issue, because LGBT people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Transgender women face epidemic rates of murder and violent crime. Hate crimes are on the rise throughout the United States, and members of communities of color suffer the highest rates of gun violence. In the weeks and months ahead, Equality California will relentlessly work in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, and mobilize our 800,000 members and the LGBT community to support legislation to keep our community—and everyone—safe.”

We all cope with tragedies differently. After the Orlando shooting, some of us attended vigils that doubled as rallies. Many of us were angry or sad. Many of us cried … a lot. I am a person of faith, and I’ve prayed for those who have passed and hold them in my thoughts every day. However, my tears and prayers alone will not change the culture in which we live. They will not bring 49 dear souls back to us. They will not remove killing machines from the hands of dangerous people.

However, 800,000 Californians, organized in lockstep with millions of others across this country pushing for real reform, will make a difference. It will require all of us to do our part and work together, but we can and will become #SafeAndEqual. I encourage you to start by adding your name at eqca.org/safe.

Darrell L. Tucci is a Palm Springs resident and a board member of Equality California.

Published in Community Voices

On this week's zesty and zingy Independent comics page: The K Chronicles pays tribute to Muhammad Ali; Jen Sorenson compares Donald Trump and a Muslim cleric; This Modern World ponders toddlers killed by guns and bathrooms; and Red Meat claims it does not know where that smell is coming from.

Published in Comics

On this week's uniquely 2016 Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at The Awesome World of the Future; Jen Sorenson wonders whether those people occupying that building in Oregon are patriots or Owl Qaeda; The K Chronicles smokes some crack with God; and Red Meat hopes today is a better day.

Published in Comics

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