Men linked to Mexican drug cartel behead 13-year-old special needs girl, murder grandmother

Dh6-g3AU8AEvRvzTwo men are accused of beheading a teenager with special needs and her grandmother. (Image source: WAAY-TV screenshot)

 

Two men loosely associated with a brutal Mexican cartel, one of whom is an illegal immigrant, are responsible for beheading a 13-year-old girl with special needs and murdering her grandmother, Alabama law enforcement allege.

What are the details?

Authorities say Yoni Aguilar and Israel Gonzalez Palomino murdered Oralia Mendoza and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez, because they didn’t trust Mendoza after she exhibited suspicious activity during a recent drug running trip to a small town in northeast Atlanta.

Authorities say the group ran drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel, the largest organized crime syndicate in the world. Police say it was Mendoza who had deep connections to the cartel.

According to AL.com, authorities believe something went wrong during their trip, spurring Palomino to believe he was being setup. Upon returning to Huntsville, Palomino discovered Mendoza had removed the SIM card from her cellphone. He also discovered text messages to an unknown woman during the drug run. Police say Mendoza texted a woman asking her to secure Lopez, who was staying with Palomino’s wife, because she feared for their lives, WAAY-TV reported.

After discovering the messages, Aguilar and Palomino allegedly awoke Mendoza in the middle of the night on June 4. They told her they were taking her and Lopez to a safe location.

Instead, the two men took their captives to a cemetery. Police say there was an altercation between Palomino and Mendoza. After it escalated, police say Palomino pulled a knife and stabbed Mendoza, leaving her to die in the cemetery.

The men then drove about 2 miles down the road, where police say Palomino forced Aguilar to kill Lopez by beheading her. Law enforcement said Palomino decided Lopez needed to die because she was a witness to her grandmother’s murder.

Police began investigating the murders on June 7 after a local boy discovered Lopez’s body. After police released a description of the girl, a woman came forward claiming to be Lopez’s mother and Mendoza’s daughter, AL.com reported. Authorities were then able to positively identify Lopez’s body.

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After Lopez was identified, Aguilar and Palomino were quickly identified as suspects. Police took the men into custody, and after being interviewed separately, investigators gathered enough evidence to charge them with Lopez’s murder.

According to AL.com, Aguilar confessed to the crimes, which helped investigators finally locate Mendoza’s body at the cemetery on June 15.

Police have charged the men with capital murder. They are being held without bond.

What evidence do investigators have against the men?

In addition to Aguilar’s confession, which he again made in court last Thursday, authorities have a wealth of physical evidence against the two men.

AL.com reported:

Aguilar and Palomino’s cellphones pinged in the area during the time of the killings, Rutherford testified. Investigators also recovered two knives, believed to be the murder weapons. One was found under Aguilar’s mattress; the other was under Palomino’s mattress, Rutherford told the judge. Additionally, blood was found inside Palomino’s car, the investigator testified.

What are the suspect’s immigration statuses?

Authorities said Aguilar is an illegal immigrant, while Palomino is in the U.S. on a green card, according to WAAY. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal they had placed a detainer on Aguilar.

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It’s now legal for your meat to have trace amounts of fecal matter, doctor’s group says

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This product “may contain feces.”

That’s the label that one consumer rights advocacy group wants for the government to require meat distributors put on the food they send out to grocery stores.

The recommendation is tongue-in-cheek, Deborah Press, an attorney for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, tells CNN. The group represents 12,000 physicians whose mission includes promoting plant-based diets and ethical scientific research.

But it gets at real concerns the PCRM has about the US Department of Agriculture’s food safety inspection system.

The US Department of Agriculture has a “zero tolerance policy for fecal material on meat and poultry,” a spokeswoman told CNN.

USDA said it sends inspectors out to facilities who look at a “statistically valid sample of carcasses randomly selected throughout the production shift.”

If inspectors find fecal material on an animal carcass, they ensure that contaminated meat can’t enter the food supply, USDA said. And if inspectors observe repeat infractions, the FSIS uses “progressive enforcement actions” against the meat company.

But Press says USDA’s current inspection policy isn’t good enough because it only applies to fecal matter that’s “visible” on the production line.

And the USDA has relaxed its rules on the speed at which poultry companies can process birds. The requirement used to be 140 birds per minute, but has since been raised to 175 birds per minute.

That would mean those working on the line are scanning about three birds per second. They’re whizzing by at a rate that’s hard for the naked eye to comprehend.

Doctors are looking for answers

For at least six years, the PCRM has been asking questions about fecal matter contained in the birds we eat on a daily basis.

Yesterday, the group filed a lawsuit in a federal district court based in Washington, DC.

The question matters, first of all, for the obvious gross factor. “Nobody wants to eat feces,” Press says. But it gets more dire quickly: harmful microbes like E. coli are found in fecal matter.

Despite their questions and follow-ups, they say they’re not getting straight answers from the government about its food inspection procedures.

In 2013, PCRM sent a petition to USDA asking for it to change its rules regarding fecal contamination, and to remove the word “wholesome” from the way it labels and categorizes food that’s past inspection.

Press said the term misleads the public.

The PCRM tested chicken products, and found 48% tested positive fecal contamination. And the petition cited a Consumer Reports study that corroborated their evidence, finding “more than half of the packages of raw ground meat and patties tested positive for fecal bacteria.”

The USDA didn’t respond to the petition.

In 2017, the PCRM filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for “records regarding the number of USDA poultry inspectors, detection rates for visible fecal contamination in poultry, average poultry line speed, USDA poultry inspection rates, and inspection training.”

Their lawsuit this week says the USDA violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to respond to that FOIA request about fecal contamination rates. Federal law requires that agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days of the agency receiving them, according to the Digital Media Law Project.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture told CNN that USDA can’t comment on pending litigation.

The requirement around “visible” fecal contamination belies what’s going on in the bowels of those chickens, the PCRM says.

In its legal complaint, the group cites an unnamed federal inspector who spoke to them:

“We often see birds going down the line with intestines still attached, which are full of fecal contamination,” that inspector told them. “If there is no fecal contamination on the bird’s skin, however, we can do nothing to stop that bird from going down that line.”

From there, the bird would get into a large vat of water called the chill tank, where fecal matter in the bowels can easily wash out and settle on other bird carcasses in the tank. The inspector cited in PCRM’s legal complaint said this is sometimes called “fecal soup.”

Hope for reform

Press said the complaint faces an uphill battle in court. But she was optimistic that reform is possible.

“‘The Jungle’ came out in 1904,” she said. “At that time, there was no federal oversight” of food manufacturing. But Theodore Roosevelt, the President at the time, read the muckraking novel that detailed the horrors of the meatpacking industry. He demanded action.

In 1906, Congress put the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act on Roosevelt’s desk for his signature.

Press is hoping that, by detailing the industry’s flaws today, PCRM can push for improvements in food safety.

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Bat-wielding trio of naked women spark police chase in Florida

Jeniyah Mcleod (left) and Oasis Mcleod.       Cecilia Young

Three naked teenage women led Florida police on a wild car chase that ended with them tased and in cuffs after they allegedly tried to attack the officers with their vehicle and a metal bat, according to report.

The revealing incident occurred after Florida Highway Patrol troopers received a call about three women in the buff at a rest stop on northbound Interstate 75 around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, CBS affiliate WTSP reported.

“There’s three women standing in the nude putting on suntan lotion,” a trooper can be heard radioing to a dispatcher, according to the news outlet.

When the trooper confronted the women — identified as Oasis Mcleod, 18, Jeniyah Mcleod, 19, and Cecilia Young, 19 — they said they were simply “air drying” after showering before they hopped back into their white 2009 Nissan Sentra and drove off.

The trooper initially pursued the vehicle on the highway, but backed off because the chase did not fit Florida Highway Patrol protocol, the news site reported.

Shortly after, police went after the Nissan when another motorist called cops to report a “reckless vehicle” on the road.

Authorities then tracked down the Sentra, which they found parked and empty at a convenience store parking lot at State Road 52 and Curley Road in Pasco County.

As a trooper tried to take one of the women into custody as she exited the store, another of the women attempted to drive the car at the trooper, police said.

Then another woman emerged from the vehicle with a metal bat and tried to strike the trooper after he jumped out of the way of the moving vehicle.

An officer in a patrol car purposely crashed into the suspects’ vehicle before all three women managed to flee in their vehicle.

The Dade City Police Department also responded to the chase and used spike strips to deflate the Sentra’s tires.

While in the car, the brazen women interlocked arms in an attempt to avoid arrest after authorities smashed the windows of the vehicle.

Cops used a Taser on the women before they were taken into custody and booked at the Pasco County Jail, authorities said.

They face charges of fleeing to elude, three counts of resisting arrest, two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of lewd behavior, according to WTSP.

Several troopers suffered minor injuries in the fiasco.

 

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Morehouse College Will Admit Transgender Male Students In 2020 — But The Policy Excludes Trans Women

“Morehouse is missing a crucial opportunity to become more inclusive by purposefully excluding trans female students,” Tatiana Rafael, a current student who identifies as a transsexual woman, told BuzzFeed News.

Morehouse graduate Jamal Lewis returns for Homecoming, from a 2015 BuzzFeed News feature.

Morehouse College, the only all-male historically black college in the US, announced that it would begin admitting transgender men next year in a new policy that the college’s board of trustees approved on Saturday. While non-binary and gender non-conforming students will be eligible for admission, trans women will not be, and students who transition or begin to self-identify as female during their tenure at Morehouse will not be eligible to receive a degree from the college.

“Once admitted to the College, all students are expected to self-identify as men throughout their education at Morehouse,” the new policy states. And in an FAQ about the policy, the school confirmed that non-binary and gender non-conforming students are also eligible for admission.

“We are a place that’s been around for the last 152 years doing nothing but educating the minds of young men, and we are not stopping that now,” Terrence Dixon, Morehouse’s vice president for enrollment management, told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “We’ve never shied away from social issues, and it’s a time for us to be the leaders that we are … to address gender identity in our rapidly changing world.”

Morehouse, in Atlanta, George, is a college with a rich history and distinguished alumni — among them, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Its president, David Thomas, refers to it as “the West Point of black male development.”

The college’s announcement is the latest in the trend of single-gender schools revisiting admissions policies for transgender students. Mills College in Oakland, California was the first women’s college to admit transgender women in 2014. Spelman College, the all-female HBCU that shares an affiliation with Morehouse, adopted a new gender identity policy for students in 2017, and the first transgender woman graduated in 2018. But the road to colleges reversing their positions on admissions policies for trans students has rarely been smooth. Smith College, in Massachusetts, drew national attention and sparked student protests when it refused to admit a transgender woman in 2013, before finally agreeing to admit transgender women in 2015.

Among all-male schools, Morehouse is the first in the country to adopt a transgender policy. Still, some students and alumni say the school’s policy is not as progressive as it first looks.

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Titi Naomi Tukes, a former Morehouse college student who graduated in 2017 and now works as a management consultant, told BuzzFeed News that they “unequivocally disapprove of” the new policy.

“It appears to be half-baked,” said Tukes, the former co-chair of Morehouse College Safe Space, the school’s alliance for gender and sexual diversities. “And at worst, it is violent and a clear target against trans femmes which includes women and nonbinary femmes.”

In Tukes’ view, the policy would create a hostile environment that implicitly tells certain students that they are not welcome there. “Trans women will be antagonized and expunged from the college,” they said.

Tukes added that to their knowledge, the school did not seek input from trans members of the community before implementing the policy.

Dixon disputed this, saying the policy was in development for 15 months and had “a large swath of community engagement” from members of Morehouse College.

Asked whether the school had any trans women as students, Dixon said he was aware of one, but added that the policy would not have an impact until the fall of 2020.

“This is all very new to the entire community,” Dixon said. “This is not something that’s going to change overnight or for the next year. We will form another group that will talk about how this will all play out for us operationally in implementation.”

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Tatiana Rafael, a current student at Morehouse College who identifies as a transsexual woman, told BuzzFeed News she believes the policy is discriminatory against trans women students. She said she believed the policy would not affect her ability to graduate because she was “grandfathered in” before the policy would be fully implemented. “[I will] make history as the first fully transitioned woman in the school’s 152-year history and the first female on the student record since the 1930s to earn a degree,” she said.

At the same time, Rafael said she feels it is unfortunate for the trans women who come after her at Morehouse College, who won’t be allowed to matriculate. “Morehouse is missing a crucial opportunity to become more inclusive by purposefully excluding trans female students,” she said.

This is not the first time Morehouse College has faced challenges around LGBT or gender identity issues. In 2002, a 19-year-old student was accused of beating a fellow student with a bat when he mistook the actions of the latter as a sexual advance. In November 2015, BuzzFeed News published a story about Jamal Lewis, a Morehouse student who struggled with how to conduct himself/herself as an individual that identified himself/herself outside of the gender binary.

For Tukes, the bottom line is that a student’s gender identity, especially in the crucial formative years of college, is a journey for each person. “In my opinion, a private institution, which offers a social and public good, should not have the right to tell private citizens that they do not have the right to be at a college after they’ve been admitted,” they told BuzzFeed News.

 

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Ilhan Omar Arrested in 2013 For Trespassing, Booked At Hennepin County Jail

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State Rep. Ilhan Omar was arrested in 2013 for trespassing and booked at Hennepin County Jail “to prevent further criminal conduct,” according to a newly uncovered police report.

The incident took place on January 18, 2013 following an event at the Minneapolis Convention Center featuring former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The Somali president was set to stay the night at the Hotel Ivy, causing large groups of Somalis to follow the presidential convoy to the hotel, including Omar.

According to the police report, hotel staff requested police assistance in clearing the lobby, saying that anyone without a hotel room key was not welcome on the premises and needed to leave immediately. The officer handling the incident said the majority of people who were asked to leave were compliant. However, Omar, when approached, was “argumentative” and refused to leave.

“As she stood her ground and refused to leave I took hold of her left elbow to escort her from the lobby. Omar then pulled away from me stating, ‘Don’t put your hands on me!’ Others in her group complied and began walking toward the front entry/exit door as I ordered and I managed to coax Omar out with them,” the police report reads.

Ten minutes after the original encounter, the officer reports finding Omar seated in a different area of the lobby. According to the officer’s account, Omar “remained defiant” as he informed her that she would be arrested for trespassing if she didn’t leave.

Since she refused to comply with orders, the officer arrested Omar. The officer reached for Omar’s left arm to get her to stand so she could be handcuffed, but she pulled away. The officer handcuffed her while she stayed seated in the hotel lobby chair.

“Omar was booked at [Hennepin County Jail] as I felt it was likely that she would fail to respond to a citation and she also demonstrated that she was going to continue her criminal behavior,” the officer wrote.

View the police report below:

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Gigantic Rattlesnakes Caught in Oklahoma

Apparently the rattlesnakes in Oklahoma’s southern foothills are taking steroids during hibernation.

Oklahoma radio station 92.9 NIN recently shared a video that shows some massive rattlesnakes hunters have recently caught.  Now that it’s springtime, the snakes are leaving their dens feeling hungry and frisky.

According to the station, these snakes were found in the Slick Hills south of Carnegie, Okla. The hunters captured the rattlers for the Apache Rattlesnake Festival, an annual Oklahoma event that draws thousands of visitors.

Average rattlesnakes are usually between 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 feet long, but they can grow more than seven feet. Some of these snakes appear to be more than seven feet long, but it’s tough to say because the hunters admitted they couldn’t get the wily reptiles to hold still against a measuring tape. Also, if you’ve ever taken a fishing photo, you know that the farther you extend your arm while holding the fish, the bigger it looks on camera.

That being said, it’s safe to say these rattlesnakes are well above average size.

 

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Police arrest suspect in ‘suspicious’ fires that burned 3 black churches in southern Louisiana

Authorities in southern Louisiana on Wednesday arrested a suspect in a spate of fires that have burned three black churches in St. Landry Parish since last month, according to federal prosecutors.

Holden Matthews, 21, has been identified and arrested in connection to the burning of three historically black churches in Louisiana. He was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of simple arson of a religious building. Courtesy of St. Landry Parish Jail

 

“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody,” said U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.”

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, which has led the investigation into the blazes, declined to comment on the arrest. Multiple local media outlets in Louisiana have identified the suspect as a 21-year-old man who is the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy. Authorities plan to release more information on Thursday morning.

Local leaders praised the arrest for bringing an end to several frightening weeks for residents as hundreds of investigators worked with federal authorities to determine who had ignited the fires.

“I’m very proud of the investigative effort that has lead to this arrest. I’m prayerful that we can close this horrific chapter and begin to heal,” Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said in a statement sent to KATC.

When Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, caught fire on April 4, consuming the church’s interior, it was the third predominantly black church to burn down in St. Landry Parish in the span of 10 days, setting local residents on edge. On March 26, flames reduced St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre to just a few walls and piles of rubble. And on April 2, a blaze struck the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas.

Authorities still have not determined a motive and have declined to tell residents whether they believe race was a factor in the crimes, according to The Advocate. On Sunday, State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning told worshipers at Mount Pleasant that about 200 state investigators were working the case alongside officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.

“There is clearly something happening in this community,” Browning said in a statement last week. “That’s why it’s imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”

A fourth fire on March 31 was reported more than 200 miles away at the predominantly white Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, but authorities have not established a link to the St. Landry incidents.

For some, the recent fires recall a dark history of attacks and threats against black churches in the South. During Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, black churches were targeted with fires, bombings and threats.

In 2015, a white-supremacist gunman opened fire on a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black people. Nearly 200 years before, Emanuel AME’s predecessor had been burned down in 1822 by Charleston’s white leaders, who feared an insurrection by the city’s enslaved residents.

An African-American man in Mississippi pleaded guilty to arson last month for setting fire to a black church in 2016. He had attempted to disguise the arson as a hate crime.

As authorities investigated the St. Landry fires, churches’ leaders were resilient, though baffled by the attacks.

“My church has a lot of history,” the Rev. Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church told The Daily Advertiser, noting that it was more than 140 years old. “I don’t understand it. What could make a person do that to a church?”

Greater Union had served worshipers for more than 100 years, according to Pastor Harry Richard, whose grandfather helped found the church.

“He left a legacy for me and I was trying to fulfill that to the best of my ability,” he told CBS News.

Toussaint told ABC News that “the church is not that building. The church is the people.”

“If we stay together as a congregation, the church is alive and well,” he said. “We can rebuild the building as long as we stay together.”

 

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