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Crimes That Dominated Headlines In 2017

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There were plenty of high-profile criminal cases in 2017. We saw the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, the deadliest shooting in Texas history and the capture of a man suspected to be the serial killer who was terrorizing a Florida neighborhood.

Read on to learn about those and other infamous crimes HuffPost covered this year:

Las Vegas Shooting

  1. Denise Truscello via Getty Images

    Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, brought an arsenal of weapons into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas before opening fire on a crowd at a country music festival on Oct. 1.

    According to Las Vegas police, Paddock began shooting at about 10 p.m., as an estimated 22,000 people attended the festival, which was headlined by country music star Jason Aldean. Mandalay Bay Resort is adjacent to the concert venue.

    Paddock was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when police breached his room on the 32nd floor. His motives remain unclear.

    The 58 deaths and nearly 600 injuries make the attack the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

    New York City Truck Attack
    Handout / Reuters

    Authorities in New York City identified 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov as the man responsible for a deadly truck attack that left eight people dead and nearly a dozen injured.

    According to police, on Oct. 31, Saipov drove a rented pickup truck onto the Hudson River Park’s bike path in lower Manhattan and intentionally steered the vehicle into cyclists and runners.

    After traveling about a mile, the truck crashed into a school bus. Police say Saipov was shot in the abdomen when he exited the vehicle wielding what were later determined to be a paintball gun and a pellet gun. Authorities allegedly found evidence in the truck indicating his allegiance to terrorist groups.

    Saipov, who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, pleaded not guilty in November to numerous criminal charges, including eight counts of murder. He is awaiting trial.

    Charlottesville Vehicle Attack

    On Aug. 12, James Fields Jr. plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring multiple people, police said.

    At the time of her death, Heyer was among a large group of anti-racist demonstrators who were gathered to protest a white supremacist rally in the city.

    “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” reads Heyer’s last public post on Facebook.

    Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told HuffPost that her daughter attended the rally because she “was about bringing an end to injustice.” Heyer “was not about hate,” she said. “Heather was about stopping hatred.”

    Fields, 20, was reportedly known to hold racist and anti-Semitic views.

    The suspect has been charged with second-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

    Texas Church Shooting

    On Nov. 5, Devin Patrick Kelley committed the deadliest shooting in Texas history when he attacked a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.

    A pregnant woman and several children ― including the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy ― were among the dead. The ages of the wounded and dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years.

    An armed citizen halted the attack when he shot Kelley in the leg and torso, causing the 26-year-old gunman to flee in his car.

    The suspect was later found dead in nearby Guadalupe County. Authorities said that in addition to the injuries Kelley sustained when he was shot at the church, he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

    “We have the freedom to choose, and rather than choose darkness like the young man did that day, we choose the light,” Pomeroy said during a Sunday service held one week after the tragedy.

    Daniel Shaver Police Shooting

    In December, an Arizona jury chose not to convict former Mesa police Officer Philip Brailsford in the fatal shooting of Daniel Shaver.

    On Jan. 18, 2016, Brailsford and several other officers had responded to the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Mesa to investigate a report that someone had pointed a gun out a fifth-floor window. They suspected Shaver was involved.

    Shaver, a 26-year-old father of two, can be heard crying and appears confused in video recorded by Brailsford’s body camera. In the footage, he says “Please do not shoot me” as he obeys a command to crawl toward the officers.

    As he inched forward, Shaver reached toward his waistband, according to Brailsford, who then fired five rounds from his AR-15 rifle. Court documents obtained by HuffPost indicate the weapon was inscribed with the words “You’re fucked.” Shaver died at the scene.

    No weapon was found on or near Shaver’s body. A detective assigned to investigate the case said it appeared Shaver was attempting to pull his pants up when he was shot. Brailsford was fired from the police department and accused of second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter.

    The Maricopa County jury that sat through the six-week trial found Brailsford not guilty on Dec. 7.

    “I just don’t understand how anybody could… say, ‘not guilty,’ that this is justified, that Daniel deserved this, and that Philip Brailsford doesn’t deserve to be held accountable for his actions,” Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet, told CBS News.

    Seminole Heights Slayer’

    Howell Emmanuel Donaldson III has been identified by Florida police as the so-called “Seminole Heights Slayer” who terrorized a central Tampa neighborhood for six weeks.

    The accused serial killer, police said, killed four people — Ronald Felton, 60; Anthony Naiboa, 20; Monica Hoffa, 32; and Benjamin Mitchell, 22 – between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14. The victims were all fatally shot within one mile of each other.

    Donaldson, 24, was arrested on Nov. 28, after the manager of the Tampa McDonald’s he worked at contacted police and said Donaldson had brought a handgun to work. The caliber of the weapon matched cartridge casings found at the crime scenes, and a hoodie found in Donaldson’s car had blood on it, police said.

    The suspect has pleaded not guilty to four counts of premeditated murder. He is scheduled to return to court in January so the state can determine whether to seek the death penalty.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has made his views clear on the penalty Donaldson should face if he’s convicted.

    “If he is found guilty, he should die,” Buckhorn told The Washington Post. “It’s that simple.”

    While we reflect, let’s all hope for less violence in 2018.

    Send David Lohr an email or follow him on Facebook and Twitter

    Serial Killer Todd Kohlhepp

    In May, 46-year-old Todd Kohlhepp, a registered sex offender from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to seven counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of criminal sexual assault.

    Kohlhepp, authorities said, confessed to murdering seven people between 2003 and 2016. He was arrested after police found a missing woman chained inside a storage container on his property.

    Authorities suspect Kohlhepp, who is serving seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, is responsible for other unsolved crimes – something the serial killer alluded to in a recent letter sent to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in South Carolina.

    “Yes, there is more than seven,” Kohlhepp wrote, according to the newspaper. “I tried to tell investigators and I did tell FBI, but it was blown off.”

    He added: “At this point, I really don’t see any reason to give numbers or locations.”

    The investigation into the confessed killer is ongoing.

    Teacher Kidnapping Case

    For 38 days in 2017, former Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins, 50, managed to evade capture as he crisscrossed the country with a 15-year-old girl he kidnapped, according to police.

    Authorities issued an Amber Alert for the teen after her parents reported her missing on March 13. At that time, authorities said they suspected Cummins, a former Culleoka Unit School health science teacher, had abducted her. A witness allegedly saw him kiss the teen prior to her disappearance.

    On April 20, the teenager and Cummins were found on the other side of the country, in a remote area of Siskiyou County, California, more than 2,000 miles from where the search began.

    Cummins faces charges of taking a minor across state lines for sex, and obstruction of justice. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial date has not yet been set.

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Crime

Zainab’s father expresses concerns over JIT head

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KASUR: The mourning father of slain 7-year-old rape victim, Mohammad Naeem, on Thursday appealed the enraged protesters to remain peaceful, while demanding authorities to remove head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe into the matter. 

Addressing a press conference here, he said Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has assured strict action against the culprit(s) but he expressed lack of confidence in the head of JIT.

“We do not trust him,” he said while calling upon the protesters to remain peaceful. He also deplored the killings of two protesters in police action.

On the occasion, he also urged an exemplary action against the culprit(s).

Earlier today, he had slammed the police for its negligence in tracing out the culprits. “Police could save my daughter’s life if a prompt action would have been taken,” he said while talking to media.

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after the minor girl named Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, police said the minor has been sexually assaulted before her murder. The girl was strangled to death after being raped multiple times, police said.

The incident shook the whole country and made headlines around the world. The incident was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre, relatives informed.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Resigns After Supreme Court Ruling Disqualifies Him

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ISLAMABAD, July 28 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who resigned after the court ruled he was unfit to hold office and ordered a criminal investigation into his family over corruption allegations.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which has a majority in parliament, is expected to name a new prime minister to hold office until elections due next year.

In a surprise move, the court also dismissed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, one of Sharif’s closest allies, who has been credited with steering the economy to its fastest pace of growth in a decade.

The disqualifications plunge Pakistan into another bout of political turmoil after a period of relative stability, which coincided with improving security in the nuclear-armed nation.

The ouster of Sharif, who served as premier on three separate occasions, also raises questions about Pakistan’s fragile democracy as no prime minister has completed a full term in power since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Sharif should be disqualified after an investigative panel alleged his family could not account for its vast wealth.

“He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister,” Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said in court.

Prior to the decision, several cabinet ministers, including Sharif’s closest allies, said the ruling party would respect the Supreme Court’s verdict.

“Go, Nawaz, Go,” shouted supporters of the PTI opposition party who had gathered outside the court and jeered politicians from Sharif’s party.

Sharif’s supporters echoed the prime minister’s previous declarations of a conspiracy.

“Those who are happy and dancing will cry tomorrow,” said Abid Sher Ali, a junior minister. “They have stabbed democracy in the back.”

Analysts have warned that another bout of political turmoil would spook foreign investors, who are already reticent to invest in Pakistan, deterred by security fears and a tough business climate.

Pakistan’s benchmark stock index, which was one of the world’s best performing in 2016, has recorded major outflows during the two-month investigation into Sharif. The currency, which is part of a managed float, has largely been stable.

POOL NEW / REUTERS

Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif denies any wrongdoing in the corruption probe into his family wealth.

“DEMOCRACY A TARGET”

Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.

“This is not accountability, it is revenge,” tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict. “In an effort dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target.”

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999, but he returned from exile to win a resounding victory in general elections in 2013.

Opposition politicians rejoiced, vowing to bring an end to Sharif’s dynasty.

“Today the people of Pakistan got real justice, a new chapter has begun,” Jehangir Khan Tareen, a member of the opposition PTI, said outside the court.

Sharif’s ouster will be seen as a major victory for PTI leader Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician who led street protests to demand an investigation into Sharif.

Khan pounced on the leaking of the “Panama Papers”, which revealed Sharif’s family had bought posh London apartments through offshore companies.

The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a 2-3 verdict – but it ordered a probe by an investigative panel that included members of the military intelligence agencies.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) this month returned its findings in a 254-report that said Sharif’s family assets do not match their earnings. The panel also accused his children, including daughter Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of the London flats.

Analysts expect Sharif to push for one of his allies to form a government until elections are held next year, when his brother Shahbaz, who is the chief minister in Punjab province, may take over the party leadership.

But the Supreme Court ruling has not only imperiled the political career of Maryan, but endangers the entire dynasty.

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Smart lock maker Otto suspends operations

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Otto showed the world its digital lock in August. Four months later, the company has suspended operations. Hardware is hard. It’s a cliche for a reason.

The company made the decision just ahead of the holidays, a fact that founder and CEO Sam Jadallah recently made public with a lengthy Medium post now pinned to the top of the startup’s site. The extended survey of the Bay Area company’s short life is punctuated with the pithy title, “So Close,” a nod to the spitting distance the startup came to actually bringing a product to market.

In a conversation over the weekend, Jadallah told TechCrunch that the company’s lock made it as far as the manufacturing process, and is currently sitting in a warehouse, unable to be sold by a hardware startup that is effectively no longer operating. How does a company get so close to the finish line without being able to take that final step?

The executive lays much of that out in his own explainer — a post he considers a sort of cautionary tale for the volatility of the Valley. The long and short of it is that the company was about to be acquired by someone with a lot more resources and experience in bringing a product to market, only to have the rug apparently pulled out at the last minute.

“You’re not in charge of your own destiny, and the margin for error is a lot smaller,” Jadallah told TechCrunch. “Building a really exciting hardware product needs a ton of resources, and is probably best inside of a bigger company. Frankly, that’s part of the reason I was excited about the acquisition. I knew it would take us out of the cyclical venture capital market and put us inside a company that knew how to make and ship products.”

The executive wouldn’t name the interested party during the call, but Otto was almost certainly made hopeful by the recent acquisition of August Home by Assa Abloy, the world’s largest lock manufacturer. The big players have no doubt that there’s plenty of room to grow in the space, and the connected home category shows no apparent signs of slowing. NPD reported a 43 percent growth in smart home sales in 2017. Security is a big piece of that puzzle, but there’s still plenty to unlock on that front.

Otto thought it had found the key, though the company’s product garnered a fair amount of pushback at launch. Sure,it followed in Nest’s footsteps and brought some former Apple employees on board for the creation of what is, by all accounts one nice looking door lock. But even in the age of the $1,000 iPhone, a $699 smart lock is a tough pill to swallow. If the smart lock is still searching for its mainstream moment, was a flagship-phone-priced device really going to be the product to put it over the edge?

Jadallah certainly believed so, as apparently, did the unnamed company that came within days of acquiring Otto. And while the  buyers apparently never gave a reason for their decision to pull out, the executive says that the product’s price was never a concern.

“They knew about the price before the first meeting, and they are very smart people,” he says. “This isn’t the story of an ambitious product that didn’t have a market. I was convinced that we had priced it the right way for the product, and we knew that the technology that we had innovated was something that we could use in different ways at other price point.”

In fact, he adds in a followup email, the acquiring company was apparently convinced that it could sell the product for even more in certain markets. Of course, that’s all a bit of a moot point now. While what remains of the company is attempting to figure out what to do with all of those smart locks currently populating a warehouse somewhere, there’s currently no one around to actually sell them.

The seemingly imminent acquisition meant the company had no plan B.  “The life of the startup is a binary thing,” Jadallah says. “To go from what could be an incredible high to crushing low in a matter of hours is what we do.”

Earlier this month, the company’s Facebook page was still promoting the product with winking reference to the new Star Wars film in a video that asked users to “Unlock the dark side.” Two weeks later, another startup has, for most intents and purposes, gone dark.

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