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SportsPulse: The sports world rallied around Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his garage at Talladega Motor Speedway this past weekend. Now NASCAR is looking to bring the hammer down on whoever is responsible.

USA TODAY

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called George Floyd’s death a “murder” on Tuesday, saying fired officer Derek Chauvin knew what he was doing when he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25.

Meanwhile, outside of President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix at a megachurch, local authorities declared an “unlawful assembly due to criminal activity and a current danger to our community,” the Phoenix Police Department said on Twitter.

And more statues were coming down. Protesters at the Wisconsin State Capitol tore down two statues, though one was of an abolitionist, on Tuesday night, and crews in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday were taking down a statue of former vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from a downtown square after city officials approved its removal.

A closer look at some recent developments:

  • Louisville officer Brett Hankison, who was involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor on March 13, was fired Tuesday. Interim Chief Robert Schroeder accused Hankison of “blindly” firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, creating a substantial danger of death and serious injury. 
  • A Virginia school board voted Tuesday to change the name of a high school in Springfield named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee. 
  • The FBI concluded its investigation into a noose found in the garage stall of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. at Talladega Superspeedway. The agency said the rope had been in the stall since at least October 2019 and was not a hate crime. Wallace is the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR’s elite Cup series. 

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Wisconsin protesters tear down Capitol statues, attack state Senator

Fury exploded outside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday night as protesters smashed windows, attacked a state senator, and tore down two statues – including one of an abolitionist who died trying to end slavery during the Civil War.

The unrest began earlier Tuesday in Madison after a Black man was arrested after bringing a megaphone and a baseball bat into a Capitol square restaurant.

During the melee Tuesday, Democratic state Sen. Tim Carpenter was assaulted after taking a photo of protesters. “I don’t know what happened … all I did was stop and take a picture … and the next thing I’m getting five, six punches, getting kicked in the head,” Carpenter said.

Statues of Lady Forward and Col. Christian Heg were also dragged away from their spots guarding the statehouse. Heg fought and died for the Union during the U.S. Civil War; his sculpture was thrown into a lake by protesters. 

The original Forward statue was first placed in front of the Capitol in 1895. Forward is “an allegory of devotion and progress,” according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. 

– Molly Beck and Lawrence Andrea, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Calls for justice renewed in death of Elijah McClain

As protests continue around the nation demanding action to address systematic racism and police brutality, renewed calls for justice have arisen in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old from Colorado who died after police held him by his neck and paramedics injected him with ketamine. More than 2.1 million people have signed a change.org petition, demanding the officers be held accountable. 

McClain’s family said he was walking home from a convenience store last August while wearing a ski mask to stay warm because he had anemia.

Police received a call about a “suspicious person” and, when they arrived, police say McClain did not immediately comply with their order to stop walking. Naomi McClain, Elijah’s sister, told Denver7 that her brother was wearing headphone and may not have heard the officers.

Officers with the Aurora Police Department took McClain to the ground and subdued him with a hold around his neck. Paramedics used the ketamine to subdue him, the Denver Post reported. McClain suffered from cardiac arrest and died several days later. According to the Post, the officers involved in the incident were cleared of criminal wrongdoing and internal policy violations. There have been increased calls in recent weeks for an independent investigation into the case, the newspaper reported.

Minneapolis police chief says George Floyd’s death was ‘murder

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says the death of George Floyd was ‘murder’ and the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck knew what he was doing because he had been trained on the dangers of positional asphyxia.

According to the Associated Press, Arradondo’s comments Tuesday may have been the first in which he used the term, “murder,” to describe the incident.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 while he was handcuffed and face-down on pavement, with Officer Derek Chauvin pressing a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The homicide, captured on video, set off nationwide protests over police abuses — especially against African Americans.

In an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Arradondo issued a statement Monday: “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training…The officers knew what was happening – one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder…”

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder; three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting.

Dennis Wagner

Phoenix police declare protest outside of Trump rally an ‘unlawful assembly’

Outside of President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix at a megachurch Tuesday, local authorities declared an “unlawful assembly due to criminal activity and a current danger to our community,” the Phoenix Police Department said on Twitter.

Police also shot projectiles into the crowd, reported the Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. Phoenix police later said that it was deemed an unlawful assembly because protesters entered an area intended for the presidential motorcade and two protesters hit two officers.

Khiry Wilson, a leader with local protest group W.E. Rising Project, told the Arizona Republic the protests outside Dream City Church were nonviolent. “We gave them that benefit of the doubt and we backed up, and they kept coming to us closer, and the next thing they did was back up so close to us that they pushed a riot shield into one of our nonviolent protesters’ face and it was assault from the Phoenix PD,” Wilson said. “It was assault plain and simple.”

Trump visited the Arizona-Mexico border Tuesday and later held a rally in Phoenix where he gave a 90-minute speech urging young people to vote in November.

Associate of Rayshard Brooks arrested for alleged arson at Wendy’s in Atlanta

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 29-year-old woman in connection with an arson fire at the Atlanta restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police, and the suspect reportedly knew Brooks before his death.

In Twitter posts Tuesday, a sheriff’s spokesperson said deputies had “just apprehended Wendy’s arson suspect Natalie White,” and that she was “in custody at the Fulton County Jail.”

White’s attorney, Drew Findling, told CNN his client was associated with Brooks, but declined to elaborate. Findling said White did not start the June 13 fire.

Brooks was shot in the Wendy’s parking lot June 12 after he scuffled with officers, grabbed one of their Tasers and tried to run away.

Video of the shooting added to nationwide outrage over police use of force against Blacks, prompting demonstrations at the restaurant which was torched the next evening.

Joel Shannon

A South Carolina city votes to remove statue of former vice president, slavery advocate John C. Calhoun

Amid calls to remove Confederate monuments and statues, the city of Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a statue of former U.S. vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from downtown Marion Square. 

City officials said the statue will be placed in “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.” The vote comes after Mayor John Tecklenburg’s announcement last week that the statue will be removed.

Early Wednesday, people were gathering in the square to watch as crews worked to bring the statue down.

Seattle mayor seeks $20M budget cut from police to help city budget amid coronavirus shortfall

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durken is proposing to cut $20 million from the police budget to recover the city’s economic shortfall of nearly $400 million caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor’s plan would cut about 5% of the Seattle Police budget and freeze officer hiring until a new plan “reflecting community priorities for public safety” is developed, The Seattle Times reported. Demonstrators in the past weeks have demanded a 50% cut to the police budget.

Durken’s proposal comes after three shootings occurred in the city’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone where protesters have occupied since June 8. The mayor said the city will dismantle the protesting zone. 

Fact check: Police killed more unarmed Black men in 2019 than conservative activist claimed

In response to the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd, Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of the conservative group Turning Point USA, posted a statement on Facebook.

Kirk claimed in a video posted to Facebook during the Blackout Tuesday campaign that, according to the Washington Post’s database of police shootings, police killed eight unarmed Black men in 2019. Other Facebook pages have reposted the video, adding to its viewership.

Kirk’s claim that police killed eight unarmed Black men in 2019 is incorrect for several reasons. Here’s what the data shows.

– Molly Stellino

Tucson mayor decries video of person killed in police custody

The mayor of Tucson, Arizona, canceled a City Council meeting and expressed outrage Tuesday after being shown video of a civilian death in police custody.

In a written statement quoted by the Arizona Daily Star, Mayor Regina Romero said she was “anguished and deeply troubled” by the incident, which was so disturbing it would be improper to carry on business as usual.

Tucson police are expected to hold a press briefing Wednesday on the incident, which had not previously been disclosed; Romero declined to identify the victim out of respect for the family’s wishes.

The internal investigation comes amid nationwide protests over police brutality and misconduct, especially against minorities. Romero vowed to impose reforms.

– Dennis Wagner

Louisville police chief fires officer in Breonna Taylor death

A Louisville Metro Police officer involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor officially has been fired.

Officer Brett Hankison is accused of “blindly” shooting 10 rounds into an apartment on March 13 as he and others were executing a no-knock search warrant. Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was killed while her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, exchanged fire with police thinking they were home invaders.

In a letter to Hankison on Friday, interim Chief Robert Schroeder said the officer displayed “extreme indifference to the value of human life” adding, “I find your conduct a shock to the conscience.”

Hankison may appeal the decision to the Police Merit Board in writing within 10 days.

Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family, said Hankison’s termination is “another good, small step,” but there will be no satisfaction until all responsible for her death are charged criminally.

Darcy Costello and Tessa Duvall, Courier-Journal 

FBI: Noose found in Bubba Wallace’s stall was not a crime, just old rope

The noose found Sunday in motorsports celebrity Bubba Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway was not a race-baiting symbol aimed at NASCAR’s only Black driver, but just a knotted rope that had been in the stall for months.

That was the finding of an FBI investigation by 15 agents who, after reviewing video and conducting interviews, concluded no federal hate crime had occurred.

Instead, agents and federal prosecutors said the noose — used to pull down a garage door — had been in place at least since October 2019, and Wallace was only given that stall a week ago. They determined that no one could have known in advance of the assignment.

Wallace’s outspoken activism about racial justice recently led NASCAR to ban confederate flags at its races, prompting a backlash from some fans and concerns that Wallace was a target of retaliation when the knotted rope was found.

Michelle R. Martinelli and Dennis Wagner

More on protests

A Virginia high school named after Robert E. Lee will change its name

The Fairfax County School Board voted Tuesday to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. The board will vote on a new name on July 23 after a month of public comment.

“Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community. I have seen the pain and hurt that these names have inflicted on friends, colleagues, and community members. Our schools need to be places where all students, staff, and members of the community feel safe and supported,” Fairfax County School Board vice-chair Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who initiated the name change, said in a news release.

Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand recommended six names to consider changing it to, which include prominent figures like U.S. Congressman John Lewis, former President Barack Obama, and civil rights acvitists Mildred Loving and Cesar Chavez. The school board will meet with community members on July 15 to get their feedback on the recommended names.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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