Prosecutor clears 2 St. Louis officers in fatal shooting

Jun 2, 2016 137

The prosecutor for St. Louis said Thursday she won’t be charging two officers in the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old last year, concluding that no evidence disproves claims by police that it was self-defense.

Calling Mansur Ball-Bey’s August 2015 death “a tragedy in every aspect of the word,” Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said the officers and a witness reported that an armed Ball-Bey ran from a home during a drug and gun raid. Both officers, who are white, have said they fired at Ball-Bey at the same time after he pointed a gun at one of them, though one officer missed, according to Joyce.

Joyce, whose office investigated the shooting separately from an internal police probe, said Ball-Bey’s loaded gun was found at the scene, with his palm print on the ammunition clip.

A local medical examiner concluded that Ball-Bey sustained a severed spinal cord, and a bullet pierced his heart.

“One of the biggest challenges we face in this case is that there is no independent, credible witness we can put in front of a grand jury or regular jury who contradicts police statements,” Joyce said in a statement. “None of the other witnesses had a clear view at the moment when Ball-Bey was shot.”

She noted that the officers declined to speak to prosecutors.

An attorney for Ball-Bey’s family, Jermaine Wooten, has questioned the police account that Ball-Bey was armed. Wooten said Thursday before Joyce’s announcement that he anticipated the officers would not be prosecuted, saying he has “been down this road before” with area police being cleared in fatal shootings involving blacks.

Wooten did not immediately return messages left on his cellphone after the announcement.

Ball-Bey’s death came a little more than a year after a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s August 2014 shooting sparked waves of protests, including some that turned violent, and was a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement and debate over police treatment of minorities.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice ultimately cleared Wilson, who resigned in November 2014.

Ball-Bey’s death led to an outcry as well, with protests leading to arrests and damaged property.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Thursday he was confident Joyce made her decision after “a comprehensive review.” He said his department plans to assess possible tactical lessons that could be learned.

“I have pledged transparency to the citizens of St. Louis and will continue to uphold this promise,” Dotson said in a statement.

The law gives police officers latitude to use deadly force when they feel physically endangered. The Supreme Court held in a 1989 case that the appropriateness of use of force by officers “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene,” rather than evaluated through 20/20 hindsight.

That standard is designed to take into account that police officers frequently must make split-second decisions during fast-evolving confrontations, and should not be subject to overly harsh second-guessing. The Justice Department cited that legal threshold last year when clearing Wilson in Brown’s shooting.

Last November, Joyce cleared two St. Louis police officers in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, who in August 2014 was armed with a steak knife as he approached the officers and urged them to shoot him. The white officers fired 12 times, killing Powell, who was black, while the region already was on edge over Brown’s death 10 days earlier.

But last month, Joyce charged former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley with first-degree murder in a 2011 shooting of a 24-year-old black man. Joyce said Stockley, who is white, was on duty when police say he witnessed a drug deal involving Anthony Lamar Smith. She said after a chase with speeds exceeding 80 mph, Stockley approached the car that was being pursued and fired five times into its driver’s side, striking Smith with each round.

Stockley’s attorneys have said he fired in self-defense.

3 dead, 6 missing after flood sweeps away Army tactical vehicle

Jun 2, 2016 29

Three soldiers were killed, three others injured and six were missing after a US Army truck was swept from a low-water crossing and overturned in a swollen creek at Fort Hood, Texas on Thursday.

It was the third tragic incident of the day for the US military, after a Blue Angels fighter pilot was killed in a crash in Tennessee and the pilot of an Air Force jet participating in a Colorado graduation ceremony’s flyover was slightly injured after he ejected before the craft crashed in a field.

The Texas soldiers involved are from the Army’s famed 1st Cavalry Division, which is based at Fort Hood.

The accident happened around 11:30 a.m. in an area near Cold Springs and Owl Creek, Fort Hood said in a statement.

The bodies of the three deceased soldiers were recovered from the water downstream.

Three other soldiers were rescued from the swift water and were listed in stable condition at Coryell Memorial Healthcare System in Gatesville, Texas.

They had been riding in a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at the time of the incident.

Army aircraft, canine search teams, swift-water rescue watercraft and heavy trucks were being used in the search for the six missing soldiers. 

The three soldiers who were killed have not yet been identified, pending notification of next of kin.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the soldiers their families and the Fort Hood community,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement late Thursday.

“The brave men and women stationed at Fort Hood put their life on the line every day, be it through rescue operations or on the battlefield. Texas will forever remain grateful for their sacrifices,” Abbott said.

Fort Hood spokesman John Miller said the low-water crossing of the creek was flooded by two days of intermittent heavy rains when the swift water swept the truck from the road.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Why the PR Industry Must Become More Data Focused

Jun 2, 2016 137

I have worked in PR my whole career. In college, I held a position at Ogilvy PR, and after graduating, I formed my own firm. So I have spent considerable time in the industry on both the business development and account management sides.

Related: Without Good Analysis, Big Data Is Just a Big Trash Dump

And along the way, the biggest pain point I’ve observed plaguing public relations is the dearth of KPIs, metrics and analytics to drive campaigns and inform smart decision-making and iteration. The development of the Barcelona Principles is a good starting point, but traditional PR must become more data focused to yield better results and compete against other marketing disciplines.

Marketing as a whole is data-driven

With the explosion of digital marketing this past decade, chief marketing officers have become exposed to tremendous troves of data and are taking advantage of the information available to them.

Between Google Analytics and hundreds of other marketing intelligence and analytics dashboards, companies can now get tremendously drilled-down valuable insights as to where their dollars are most effective, which demographics are most interested and more.

Obtaining customers via digital marketing is a dollars-and-cents (sense) science. Anyone can easily tie marketing events to outcomes and shift efforts toward what is working best.

The traditional PR discipline, on the other hand is much more qualitatively driven. It might be considered more of an art than a science, and it lacks quantitative ROI measurement. While there is a “magic factor” to getting a cover story in the New York Times or Forbes — which can change the trajectory of a business and is hard to quantify in terms of exact impact — PR professionals can and must think of creative ways to measure outcomes in a more quantitative way.

Learn from past PR outcomes to predict future ones

I believe it’s irresponsible for a PR professional to try to quantitatively measure ROI from a great story or collection of stories secured in the days, weeks or even months following a publication date (or dates). Why? Even a year, or even two or three years, after a great Wall Street Journal story published about company X, a potential customer, investor, hire or other stakeholder might come across that article, be impressed and take action. This could lead to a positive outcome long after the article actually appeared.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Look Beyond Big Data

I believe the solution is to look at past outcomes in the aggregate, which can inform what may be expected as a result of the specific PR activities performed.

Those expectations should be communicated to the client so that when a decision is made regarding whether to spend on traditional PR versus SEO or digital ads, data is available that makes an argument for why dollars should go toward the former.

Leverage other data sources

Additional data sources, such as clients’ site traffic, should be leveraged in order to paint a broader picture of business outcomes resulting from specific PR activities.

Related: Phone Analytics Are Changing the Future of Marketing

Bringing quantitative measurement and prediction of outcomes to traditional PR will grow transparency and trust between agencies and clients, and inform better decision-making and, ultimately, results. To compete in today’s data-driven world, the traditional PR industry must move forward in its ability to measure and analyze outcomes as a result of PR.

3 dead, 3 injured, 6 missing after flood sweeps Army truck

Jun 2, 2016 30

Fort Hood says three soldiers are dead and six are missing after an Army troop truck was washed from a low-water crossing and overturned in a rain-swollen creek at Fort Hood in Central Texas.

A statement from the Texas Army post says the accident happened about 11:30 a.m. Thursday in an area near Cold Springs and Owl Creek.

Three soldiers were rescued from the swift water. They’re in stable condition at Coryell Memorial Healthcare System in Gatesville.

Army aircraft, canine search teams, swift-water rescue watercraft and heavy trucks are being used in the search for the six missing soldiers. The names of the dead are being withheld until their relatives can be notified.

Coast Guard: Boat that sank with kids was in prohibited area

Jun 2, 2016 129
  • In this June 1, 2016 aerial photo released by the Maryland State Police, a charter boat belonging to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lies in the Chesapeake Bay after sinking near Wingate, Md. A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after the vessel sank Wednesday evening, authorities said. (Maryland State Police via AP)

    In this June 1, 2016 aerial photo released by the Maryland State Police, a charter boat belonging to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lies in the Chesapeake Bay after sinking near Wingate, Md. A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after the vessel sank Wednesday evening, authorities said. (Maryland State Police via AP) (The Associated Press)

  • In this June 1, 2016 aerial photo released by the Maryland State Police, a charter boat belonging to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lies in the Chesapeake Bay after sinking near Wingate, Md. A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after the vessel sank Wednesday evening, authorities said. (Maryland State Police via AP)

    In this June 1, 2016 aerial photo released by the Maryland State Police, a charter boat belonging to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lies in the Chesapeake Bay after sinking near Wingate, Md. A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after the vessel sank Wednesday evening, authorities said. (Maryland State Police via AP) (The Associated Press)

A boat that hit something under water and dropped a group of fourth graders into Chesapeake Bay had ventured into a prohibited area, a U.S. Coast Guard official said Thursday. The U.S. Navy warns of unexploded bombs in the vicinity.

Everyone on board was rescued after the 40-foot Chesapeake Bay Foundation vessel sank near the mouth of the bay Wednesday evening, in water about 10 feet deep, just west of Bloodworth Island.

Foundation President William Baker said the Coast Guard informed him Thursday that the experienced captain won’t lose his license to operate under Coast Guard authority. The Coast Guard declined to comment on the specifics of its investigation.

The area is marked marked off-limits on nautical maps because of underwater obstructions, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class David Marin said.

Hitting those obstructions could have explosive consequences.

The Navy used the Bloodsworth Island Range for live-ordinance training from 1942 to 1995, according to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, which warns against trespassing too close to shore.

A Coast Guard investigation may determine just what the vessel hit.

Baker said the foundation has led trips into the general area for years because it provides a sense of what the bay was like before the nation’s largest estuary became seriously polluted.

“It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the Chesapeake Bay,” Baker said.

The foundation said 23 people including 14 students were picked up by local boatsmen. All wore life jackets, and sat on top of the vessel’s submerged canopy while they waited for help.

Five people suffered bumps and bruises, and all were taken to hospitals as a precaution before being discharged, the foundation said.

Baker said students he spoke to at the hospital told him “things were fine, and all of a sudden the boat stopped.”

The Coast Guard received an alert with a GPS locator and a distress call: “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the motor vessel Karen N. We have sunk off of Bloodsworth Island.” Then communications were lost.

“People responded from everywhere, but it’s hard to get to Bloodsworth Island,” said Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said.

A nearby commercial fisherman, Jeremy Shockley, arrived at the scene before the Coast Guard boat and helicopter crews. He took them all aboard the Lady Ka Kee and brought them to shore in Wingate, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Shockley told WBAL-AM that it looked like they were “sitting on top of the water.” He marveled at how calm the children were as his crew helped them off the canopy.

“It was unreal how the kids acted,” Shockley said. “They all had life jackets on.”

Shockley believes the boat hit something the military sunk in the area, and said he was worried his boat might strike something as well.

The students from Kent School in Chestertown, Maryland, were on an annual science trip, said the school’s admissions director, Tricia Cammerzell.

Baker told The Associated Press at the foundation’s Annapolis headquarters that the boat’s captain, Shawn Ridgely, is Coast Guard certified and has a “stellar reputation,” with an unblemished record during 10 years of foundation trips.

The boat was well below its passenger limit of 32 people, he added.


Associated Press writer Sarah Brumfield contributed to this report.

Design With a Purpose in 8 Easy Steps

Jun 2, 2016 124

What does it mean to design with a purpose? It really means you need to sit back and evaluate the story you want to tell about your business, what you represent as well as the present clients you have and those you would like to attract.

Your office is not your home but you and your employees spend more time in the office then in your home.

Regardless of the size of your office, big budget or small, here are the following questions you need to ask yourself and eight tips to start you on your way.

Start out by asking yourself what is my brand message? What story do I want my clients to have about my office? Color, is it bold and bright or peaceful? Style, is it Modern, contemporary, classic, Chic? Who are my clients? Designing your office is the just as important as you creating a logo for your brand.

1. Be clear on what your office says to others.

If you are a creative agency and you look like a doctor’s office something is off. Before you begin designing your space pull items from magazines that you like and even ideas you don’t like. If you are designing the office yourself or working with a designer, knowing what you like and don’t like helps the research process.

Who are your clients and what services are you offering? How do you want your clients to feel when they enter? Those are the main questions to understanding how you should think about designing your space.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Designing Your Office

2. How does it or will it translate into design?

I’ve had law firms say we must appear trustworthy and reliable. That’s great but is the only way to convey that is with mahogany (everything)?

Copper, brass, marble and chrome also speaks of trust and reliability. Don’t try to be who you are not just because “that other “office was featured in a magazine. Be true to who you are and stretch your wings with outside of the norm so that the design represents the personalities of the owners.

3. Colors and how you use them.

Accent items (vases, desk accessories, lamps and rugs) even throw pillows are a great way to add dashes of color into a space without having to commit to painting. Yes a throw pillow or two outside of the waiting area will work. A throw pillow in any seat in any office for guest including the boardroom is a nice touch.

4. Artwork also speaks of your brand.

Just because the last tenant left it and it fits in the spot doesn’t makes it right for your brand. Use step one to enhance step four.

Related: Design Your Office to Fulfill Employees’ Most Basic Needs

5. Photos, certificates and awards.

Instead of just hanging the above on random walls how about selecting a space in each room on various walls throughout the office. Your waiting area may be filled with you and recognizable faces if you are in the entertainment or creative field. Awards if you are a business and certificates in unique frames if you are in the medical field. What’s important to your clients again go back to step one. (What do you want them to know about you on entry)?

6. Photo and award showrooms.

If you have the space and want to make several showrooms special how about calling each showroom what it is. Photo showroom is filled with fun photos whether it is of your staff, clients or events the company have created or attended.

Same for the certificates showroom, keep in mind do not hang them all in one line select different size frames as well as colors (select a color scheme and work with that)

Award showroom, pending on the space use standing slim shelving to feature the awards and then add floating shelves on the wall of various sizes. Using floating shelves in various sizes will give a modern feel to the showroom without feeling overcrowded.

Related: What Your Office Design Says About You As a Leader (And It Isn’t Pretty)

If your showroom does not have a modern feel you can still use floating selves in various sizes just stagger them down the wall so the awards aren’t cramped on a shelf.

7. I want my office in the press.

If you are looking to have your office featured in the press then what makes it different? Having a bunch of cool things in a space is just that a bunch of cool things in a space. The items you have in your office needs to tell the story of your business and the work that you do. We all can’t have several floors and showrooms to design. If that’s the case then select one “creative room, motivational room or whatever you call it in your industry and design that room so that it stands out (you only need one unique piece to make it stand out and design around that piece) but still works with your branded story.

8. Don’t forget the break room/lunch room.

I know it’s just the break room, or a kitchenette but it should still be designed. I walk into so many well-designed spaces and pass the open kitchenette area and it’s just there, no color, no style no nothing. The break room needs to have its own personality as well. Select a color and use it in the stools, chairs and table. The containers holding items should match and the appliances should also match.

I’ve given you eight easy steps to design and brand your office space to make it uniquely yours. I would love to hear how you have designed your space outside of your home office. Ready, set, design.

Elderly man sentenced in wide-ranging Jamaican lottery scam

Jun 2, 2016 147

An elderly man from Kentucky who decided to participate in a Jamaican lottery scam after he was victimized was sentenced on Thursday to time served and ordered to help pay back more than $5 million in losses to other victims.

North Dakota authorities say James Simpson, 74, opened individual bank accounts, deposited money and transferred funds on orders from scam leader Lavrick Willocks. Simpson deposited and withdrew more than $200,000 in cash from one bank account in three months, according to court documents.

Simpson’s lawyer, Jackie Stebbins, said her client is a “good and honest man” who was persuaded by scammers to engage in criminal activity. Simpson is confined to a hospital bed and wheelchair in Kentucky and did not attend the sentencing hearing in Bismarck.

“My client was not the predator, he was the victim,” Stebbins said. “To end up being charged as a federal felon, it just reeks.”

Jamaican lottery scams have been happening for years, but few cases of this magnitude have been prosecuted. The case began after a North Dakota woman told authorities she was scammed out of $300,000 after someone called and told her she had won $19 million and a new car, and needed only to pay taxes and fees. The investigation led authorities to others that had been scammed, many of whom lost their retirement savings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter, the lead prosecutor, said Simpson had “relatively low culpability,” but helped the scammers become successful.

“Scammers and those who knowingly help them need to know their conduct will not be tolerated, wherever it occurs,” Hochhalter said. “We need to raise awareness among family members and friends.”

Stebbins said she appreciates that Hochhalter and North Dakota FBI Special Agent Frank Gasper are going after the scammers and called the resolution to Simpson’s case a just result.

“We might disagree if my client should have been charged. I think he was a victim first and any role in the criminal conspiracy came second,” Stebbins said. “It’s a sad case. But these guys at the top, they prey on vulnerable people.”

More than two dozen people have been charged in the case. Willocks, the alleged ringleader, is one of six fugitives who has not appeared in court. Eight other defendants are in custody in Jamaica awaiting extradition, Hochhalter said.

Cuban migrant lawyers say Keys lighthouse equals US arrival

Jun 2, 2016 125

Lawyers for Cuban migrants who climbed onto a lighthouse off the shores of the Florida Keys are telling a judge that means they arrived on U.S. territory and should get to stay.

Attorneys for the federal government, however, said at a hearing in Miami federal court Thursday that the 136-year-old American Shoal lighthouse is U.S. property but not equal to dry land. The judge said he would issue a ruling within a few weeks.

At issue is whether the lighthouse located about 7 miles from Sugarloaf Key qualifies as U.S. territory under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Under that policy, Cubans who reach U.S. shores are usually allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea are generally returned home.

The migrants are currently on a Coast Guard cutter.

Man who put Yellowstone bison calf in SUV pleads guilty

Jun 2, 2016 146
Visitors cited for touching wildlife and fined $110 at Yellowstone National Park


A federal magistrate has imposed $735 in fines, fees and compensation on a Canadian man who loaded a bison calf he came across in Yellowstone National Park into his SUV because he thought it was cold.

The calf later had to be euthanized because it couldn’t be reunited with its herd.

KTWO radio in Casper reports that court records show Shamash Kassam of Quebec entered a guilty plea over the telephone on Thursday to a wildlife violation.

U.S. Magistrate Mark L. Carman ordered the penalties, which include a $200 fine and a $500 payment to the Yellowstone Park Foundation Wildlife Protection Fund.

A criminal complaint states that Kassam came across the bison calf on May 9 and put it in his vehicle out of concern for its welfare.

Why Established Companies Are Embracing an Amazon-Like Culture

Jun 2, 2016 103

In today’s fast paced, highly connected world, consumers are accustomed to hailing a cab with the tap of a finger, or receiving goods delivered to their door with the press of a button. As a result, we are putting new pressure on older, dare-I-say “legacy” companies to keep up with newer brands that have prioritized and redefined the customer experience from day one.

Related: How Startups and Legacy Companies Can Both Cash In on Market Trends

While you don’t have to be the next Amazon, Zappos or Airbnb, you do have to deliver on customer expectations. And in today’s world, that requires providing intuitive and frictionless customer experiences.

That may seem simple in theory, but in practice it requires a complete overhaul of company culture. The brands that are on the cutting edge of customer service live and breathe customer service. Theirs is more than a business model, it’s a full consumer-centric culture.

If you haven’t already, then, you should adopt that culture. It’s time.

Here’s what you can learn from those businesses, both new and old, that are redefining company culture in order to provide best-in-breed experiences that keep up with shifting expectations.

Create a culture of ‘customer.’

How do you take a 100-plus-year-old company and influence its culture to become customer-centric? The task may seem daunting, but it’s not unlike the shift in focus to re-engineering for profit in the 1980s, or the zeroing-in on revenues and soaring stock prices in the 2000s. There have been a number of shifts in business dynamics over the years and the transition toward a customer-centric culture is one that’s here to stay.

Start by ensuring your employees know their role in customer experience and encouraging them to go above and beyond. Build your culture around customers by empowering employees with the information and tools they need to serve customers — share metrics, trends and feedback. Put share-of-voice data in charts and back up that data with true stories, then empower your employees to act and react.

One of the largest energy companies in the U.K., E.On, uses data to bring customer experience to life. Every strategic move it makes is backed by a story of how that service impacted a customer. Then that story is supported by data on the number of customers who shared that same experience. This method allows employees to better understand customer experiences and the impact of their work — inspiring a culture of caring and commitment.

Related: Customer Care Is Your Best Marketing Strategy

Meanwhile, a top bank in Montreal encourages employees to prioritize customer experience through an initiative called 1,000 Acts of Kindness. This project challenges and rewards employees for delighting customers with service that reflect the company’s commitment to quality customer experiences. Since instituting 1,000 Acts of Kindness, and several other company-wide customer service initiatives, the bank’s personal-relationship net promoter score (NPS) is up 43 percent and small-business relationship NPS is up 25 percent.

Let customers decide your future.

In order to meet customer needs, you have to know what makes them tick. The good news is, your customers are more forthcoming with this information than ever before. Introspection about this data allows you to shape your business accordingly, so that you can delight those customers and adjust your strategy as consumer needs and wants change.

Take Amazon, for example. Amazon is widely recognized for its ability to predict what customers might want to put into their virtual shopping carts next. Algorithms and customer analytics drive business, but it doesn’t stop there. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, states that, “The customer-centric way is at this point a defining element of our culture.”

In other words, it’s a strategy that has shaped important company decisions. For example, Amazon carefully monitors customer sentiment for Kindle — keeping an eye on products, services and offers by analyzing voice-of-customer data to inform product improvements, packaging updates and even the content used to support customer self-service.

Similarly, GE Healthcare listens to doctors, nurses and patients, to drive its engineering road map for the medical devices it’s continually improving. Most notably, this strategy has made it possible for GE Healthcare to improve the accuracy of its MRI machine by dissecting doctors’ usage notes.

Adjust methods of communication by audience.

Last, but not least, at the heart of every customer-centric culture is communication. Customers expect constant communication, but they want it through the channel they prefer. It’s the 21st century — snail mail may still suit some of your customers, but it won’t work for everyone.

According to a 2015 TSAI study, millennials strongly prefer self-services and social support over direct connection with your business, while baby boomers still prefer direct email and calls, and Gen X members take varying approaches depending on their current situations.

That’s why public utility company Con Edison recently partnered with Opower to better assess residential energy use and improve communications with customers through digital channels. It’s a move that allows this company, founded in 1823, to stay on the cutting edge and compete with new companies born in the digital era.

These days, every company has its own unique culture. From ping pong in the break room to trivia nights on Tuesdays, each business environment has its own vibe, and that’s a great thing.

Related: Technology Trends That Will Radically Change The Face Of Customer Care

Still, no matter what your own culture looks like on the outside, it should be grounded in care and compassion for your customers. That’s a big secret to success.