Nation roundup for February 13
Senate approves anti-violence bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — By a robust bipartisan majority, the Senate voted Tuesday to renew the Violence Against Women Act with new assurances that gays and lesbians, immigrants and Native American women will have equal access to the act’s anti-domestic violence programs.
The 78-22 Senate vote to reauthorize the two-decade-old act that has shielded millions of women from abuse and helped reduce national rates of domestic violence turns the focus to the House, where Republican leaders are working to come up with their own version.
“Over 160 million women across the country are watching and waiting to see if the House will act on this bill and finally provide them the protections from violence they deserve,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The act expired in 2011, putting efforts to improve its many federal programs on hold. Last year both the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed renewal bills, but they were unable to reach a compromise.
Delaware court gunman identified
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A 68-year-old man whose son was engaged in a bitter custody battle was identified Tuesday as the gunman who opened fire in a Delaware courthouse lobby, killing his former daughter-in-law and another woman. The gunman also died after exchanging fire with officers.
Delaware State Police said Thomas Matusiewicz of Edcouch, Texas, shot 39-year-old Christine Belford and her 47-year-old friend Laura Mulford on Monday.
Two police hit by gunfire were protected by their armored vests.
Investigators were awaiting autopsy results Tuesday to determine whether Matusiewicz was killed by police or shot himself with his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Former Navy SEAL saluted in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — After a 200-mile journey, former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle was buried Tuesday in Austin as his family members and fellow SEALS looked on amid the sounds of drums and bagpipes.
A giant Texas flag flew at half-staff over the Texas State Cemetery as Kyle was laid to rest. Kyle, considered to be the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, was killed along with a friend earlier this month while at a North Texas gun range.
A white hearse carrying Kyle’s flag-draped coffin was among 200 vehicles in a procession that left Tuesday morning from Kyle’s hometown of Midlothian, about 25 miles southwest of Dallas, to travel to Austin. Many motorists pulled to the side of roads to watch the procession that included motorcycles, motor coaches, police cruisers and other vehicles.
Suspects in girl’s death denied bail
CHICAGO (AP) — Two men charged in the death of a 15-year-old Chicago honor student were ordered held without bail Tuesday at a hearing where prosecutors contended the shooting happened while they were hunting for members of a rival gang.
Hadiya Pendleton died after being shot in a park about a mile from the Chicago home of President Barack Obama on Jan. 29, just days after she performed during Obama’s inauguration festivities in Washington.
Her death was among dozens of homicides in Chicago last month, though her background and ties to Obama thrust her death into the national headlines.
Cook County Judge Israel Desierto ordered Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, held without bail after prosecutors told the judge in chilling detail what happened the day Pendleton died.
Prosecutors said Ward and Williams were in a vehicle circling the park when they spotted Pendleton’s group and thought they were rival gang members. Williams handed Ward a gun, and Ward snuck up on the group and opened fire, shooting at least six times, prosecutors said.
“She was able to make it outside of the park and then collapsed on the street,” Assistant Cook County state’s attorney Jennifer Sexton said. Pendleton died later that day. Police have not recovered the firearm.
Sexton said prosecutors have cellphone records placing Williams near the park on the day of the shooting.
“Ward admitted he snuck up on the group and they didn’t see him coming,” Sexton said.
Police say Ward and Williams belong to the SUWU gang, and the shooting stemmed from a long war between it and the 4-6 Terror gang. Ward told police the gangs had been shooting at each other since 2010, prosecutors said, and Ward was still upset the rival gang killed one of his friends.
Williams’ attorney, Matthew McQuaid, denied that Williams is a gang member. He said his client has no record and works at a Chicago airport.
Ward and Williams were charged Monday with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. Both were taken into custody late Saturday while on their way to a strip club — and just hours after first lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries attended Pendleton’s funeral.
Ward’s attorney, Jeff Granich, said Ward was denied his right to see a lawyer even though he requested one for 48 hours.
Not only did the first lady attend the teen’s funeral, but the girl’s parents were set to sit with Michelle Obama during the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Obama is scheduled to return to Chicago three days later to discuss gun violence.
Pendleton, a popular high school majorette, was with a group of friends who took cover during a rainstorm under a canopy in a park about a mile from the Obama home on the city’s South Side. Pendleton was struck in the back and died later that day. Two others were injured. Police said neither Pendleton nor her friends were affiliated with gangs.
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