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Dallas cop charged with 2 counts of capital murder

A Dallas police officer was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of capital murder after a witness said the officer hired him to kidnap and kill two people, then dump their bodies in a river, authorities said .

Dallas Police said the officer, Bryan Riser, who joined the department in August 2008, was charged with the murders of Albert Douglas, 61, and Liza Saenz, 31, both in 2017.

The town’s police chief, Edgardo Garcia, declined to describe the relationship between the officer and the victims, but said the murders were linked to Constable Riser’s “off-duty driving”, not to his police work.

Nonetheless, Chief Garcia said, the Dallas Police Department will turn to Firefighter Riser and review his conduct on the force and the arrests he made.

“We hire people from the human race, and when we find people like this, it’s the actions we take afterward that should be the judge of us,” said Chief Garcia. “We will hold ourselves accountable at the highest levels.”

It was not immediately clear if Agent Riser had a lawyer. The Dallas Police Association, which represents the city’s officers, declined to comment.

Ms Saenz’s body was found in the Trinity River in Dallas on March 10, 2017. She had been shot several times, police said. In September 2017, three men – Kevin Kidd, 28; Emmanuel Kilpatrick, 31, and Jermon Simmons, 35 – were arrested and charged with killing Ms Saenz, police said.

On August 12, 2019, a prosecutor told Dallas Police that one of the men – who was only identified as a “witness” in court documents – wanted to provide information about the officer’s involvement. Riser into the murder of Ms. Saenz, authorities mentioned.

Two days later, during an interview at Dallas Police Headquarters, the witness implicated Constable Riser in the murders of Ms Saenz and Mr Douglas, whose family had gone missing in February 2017, according to authorities. His body was not found, although the witness told police that Mr Douglas was shot and then dumped in the Trinity River.

The witness said he and Agent Riser had known each other for years and reconnected in 2013 when Agent Riser contacted him and asked if he was’ still doing the things they were doing when they were young, ” such as committing burglaries, the witness said. the police.

The witness said that Officer Riser initially promised to provide him with information about the drug houses if the witness and his crew stole the houses and then kept the drugs and gave the stolen money or weapons to Officer Riser. , police said.

The plan, however, never materialized, the witness said, as Constable Riser then came up with a plan for Mr. Douglas to be kidnapped and killed for $ 3,500, police said.

After discussing the plan in a donut shop and in a park, the witness said Constable Riser drove him to a location where he identified Mr. Douglas as his target, police said.

Several days later, the witness said, he and an associate stopped and handcuffed Mr Douglas, put him in a car and drove him to a location near the Trinity River, police said. Mr Douglas was shot and killed and his body thrown into the river, the witness told police.

About two weeks later, Officer Riser contacted the witness again and told him he would pay her $ 6,000 to kidnap and kill Ms. Saenz, police said. Constable Riser told the witness that she was “an informant,” police said.

Ms Saenz was shot dead and her body was thrown into the river, police said. But the witness never collected the $ 6,000 because he and his associates were arrested in unrelated murders, police said.

Credit…Dallas County Sheriff’s Department

Constable Riser was also arrested and charged on May 13, 2017 with assault of domestic violence, a misdemeanor. It was not immediately clear what had happened with this case and how, if it was all linked to the murders. At the time, Agent Riser was placed on administrative leave, pending an internal affairs investigation. Chief Garcia said he could not discuss the details of this case.

The chief admitted that the department allowed Constable Riser to remain on patrol after the witness implicated him in the murders in 2019. But he said “terminology is important.” The chief said a person does not become a “murder suspect” until there is enough information to find the probable cause of their murder.

“I think the community should know that this police department wants to be as thorough as possible because we certainly don’t want someone to fall through the cracks who have no reason to wear this uniform,” said Chief Garcia. “And so he’s a person of interest until he becomes a suspect.” And that’s what the hard work of our homicide detectives and the FBI were trying to do.

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Entering uncharted territory, the United States counts 500,000 deaths linked to Covid.

The virus has reached all corners of America, devastating dense cities and rural counties with surges that have passed through one region and then another.

In New York City, more than 28,000 people have died from the virus – that’s about one in 295 people. In Los Angeles County, the toll is about one in 500 people. In Lamb County, Texas, where 13 live 000 people scattered over a vast area of ​​1,000 square miles, the loss is one in 163 people.

The virus has torn apart nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, easily spreading among vulnerable residents: they are responsible for more than 163,000 deaths, about a third of the country’s total.

Deaths from the virus have also disproportionately affected Americans along racial lines. Overall, the death rate for black Americans with Covid-19 has been almost twice that of white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Hispanics’ death rate was 2.3 times that of white Americans. And for Native Americans, it was 2.4 times higher.

As of Monday, around 1,900 Covid deaths were reported, on average, almost every day, compared to more than 3,300 at peaks in January. The slowdown has been a relief, but scientists said the variants made it difficult to project the future of the pandemic, and historians have warned against hijacking the scale of the country’s losses.

“There will be a real willingness to say, ‘Look how we’re doing,'” said Nancy Bristow, director of the history department at Puget Sound University in Tacoma, Wash., And author of “American Pandemic: The Worlds lost from the 1918 flu epidemic. ”But she cautioned against inclinations now to“ rewrite this story in another story of American triumph. ”

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‘This vote counts more than anything’: Ballots are cast in high-stakes ballots

MARIETTA, Georgia – These were the makers, the voters who moved along the lines that began before dawn Tuesday and continued long after sunset, their ballots coded her in a pair of contests that determine which political party controls the US Senate.

For weeks they had been bombarded with television and radio commercials, text messages and phone calls, all highlighting the breadth of their choices.

“You always hear in every election cycle that that vote counts more than anything,” said Jasmine Knapp, 30, who voted – for whom, she wouldn’t say – at a polling station in Dalton, about 90 miles north of the city. north of Atlanta. “But it seems true this time.”

The seriousness of the high-stakes contests was reflected in the turnout: more than three million people voted early, or about 40 percent of the state’s registered voters – a staggering turnout in the second round.

Regular lines to dozens of polling sites on Tuesday reported continued enthusiasm for a contest that has implications far beyond Georgia. The direction of US policy for at least the next two years will be shaped by the outcome.

The state has been gripped in recent weeks by transformation talks, as a once-reliable Republican stronghold voted for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., the first Democratic winner in 28 years. And the second round emerged as a test of Georgia’s evolution, as Democratic challengers – Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock – forced the two sitting Republican senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – to a second round ballot. .

These circumstances strongly influenced the decisions of many voters, who said their views on President Trump and their concerns about the party controlling the Senate led them to the polls. Individual candidates mattered less, they said.

The campaigns also portrayed the races in the strictest terms, with Democratic candidates referred to as radical and socialist by their Republican opponents, and Democrats enraged by Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of a fraudulent general election, insisting on the fact that nothing less than democracy was at stake.

This intensity fueled participation.

“We’re tired of this,” said Sony Tiggs, an account executive who moved from Chicago to suburban Atlanta two years ago and voted for the Democrats.

In Dalton, a rural area where Mr. Trump held a rally on Monday to mobilize support for Republican candidates, Tories knew their task was to overcome a high Democratic turnout in early and mail-in votes.

“The turnout is high, you can tell, because there is never a line,” said Lane Lewis, 44, who waited until election day to vote because he was more confident than his ballot would be counted.

In the affluent Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, which has been at the heart of Georgia’s political development, many voters have spoken of finding a balance. Some voted for Mr Biden in the general election, but then voted for Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler, citing concerns that the Democrats have too strong a grip on power.

“It’s essential,” Carol Farrish, a teacher who said she voted for Republicans, said of her vote. “We need a balance of power so that one side cannot roll the other.”

Tyler Applonie, 37, said he voted for Mr Trump in November but was not terribly disheartened when Mr Biden won. While claiming to support Mr. Trump’s policies, he was wary of the sense of chaos Mr. Trump had created in the country.

On Tuesday, Mr Applonie said he voted for the Republican candidates mainly because he feared the Democrats were gaining too much power. He said he also believes the country benefits from the momentum and attraction of the negotiations.

“It’s almost radical to be in the center,” said Mr. Applonie, who works in sales for a tech company. “My hope is a compromise. The risk is that there may be a complete blockage. “

But that’s precisely what Joy Phenix wanted.

“They need support,” Ms. Phenix said of Democrats, adding that as a libertarian her goal was to try to hinder government excessiveness. She voted for Mr. Biden and the Republican senators; she said if Mr. Trump had won, she would have voted for the Democrats.

A newly formed political action committee called Georgia Balance spent $ 2.5 million to target those who voted for Mr. Biden but feared full Democratic control of Congress.

The group posted an online video ad in which a woman in a well-equipped kitchen identifies herself as Georgian, mother of three – and voter of Biden. “In the second round of the Senate, I vote for David and Kelly,” said the woman. “We just need to breathe. America needs balance. With Joe, Kelly and David, we’ll get it.

Tuesday’s vote went smoothly, with voting rights groups, political parties and campaigns all reporting no major issues. State election officials said the average statewide wait time was five minutes.

Across the state, a steady stream of people voted. In some places, one-hour queues stretched outside polling stations. In others, it was barely a trickle. Atlanta-based entertainment mogul Tyler Perry returned from Wyoming after his mail-in ballot never arrived. “Too important to miss it,” he said on Twitter. “Too important to miss!”

In western Atlanta, Whitney Leonard, 24, said she was not beholden to the Democratic Party, but believed Democratic Senate control was essential to repairing the damage she had caused by Mr. Trump.

She cast her very first ballot in the general election. She had been incarcerated and had completed her probation last year. “You don’t know how privileged it is to vote,” Ms. Leonard said, “until it’s taken from you.”

Outside a church in Norcross, Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta, Rosie Ramirez attempted to take a selfie with a “Vote Aquí” banner floating behind her. The peach sticker on her sweater stated that she had voted.

She was also concerned about health care as she needed a liver transplant. “It’s very, very expensive,” she says. “I need good insurance.”

But standing in the choppy wind on a chilly afternoon, she was enveloped in enthusiasm.

“It’s my country!” Ms Ramirez said after voting. “I came here to express my voice!”

Richard Fausset and Sean keenan contributed reporting from Atlanta, and Astead W. Herndon from Dalton, Ga.