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Archive for June, 2021

Drug Cartels Are Smuggling Alarming Amounts of Fentanyl into the U.S.

Fentanyl found stuffed inside burritos in April. Photo: CBP.

By Steve Neavling

Fentanyl is becoming the drug of choice for cartels. 

In the past three years, fentanyl seizures have risen an astounding 4,000%, Border Patrol agents tell NBC News.

But most of the fentanyl isn’t turning up at ports of entry, where seizures are typically made. It’s found in the desert, where smugglers are taking advantage of limited federal resources.

Between 2018 and 2020, 12 pounds of fentanyl were found outside of ports of entry. By contrast, agents seized 41 pounds outside of ports of entry during 2021 fiscal year alone. 

To put that into perspective, a lethal dose of fentanyl is two milligrams. A single kilogram can kill up to 500,000 people. 

Because of its potency, a small amount of fentanyl can go a long way, making it easier to smuggle into the U.S., and it’s very profitable. 

“For the first time, we’re starting to see these tactics where fentanyl is being smuggled between ports of entry,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez told NBC News. “Cartels are very creative. They find ways to intimidate migrants and find ways to illegally have them transport that narcotic into the United States.”

Deputy U.S. Marshal Won’t Be Charged for Fatally Shooting Suspect in North Carolina

By Steve Neavling

A deputy U.S. Marshal who fatally shot a man at a Charlotte, N.C., gas station in March won’t be charged, a district attorney said Tuesday. 

Eric Tillman, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, was trying to serve multiple warrants at a gas station when he fired three rounds at Frankie Jennings, The Charlotte Observer reports.

In a letter to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather III said a struggle had ensued between Tillman and Jennings at the driver’s side door of Jennings’ black Mercedes. After Jennings put the car in gear, causing the vehicle to move forward, Jennings’ “hands reaching toward a gun in the center console cupholder,” prompting Tillman to fire three shots at him. 

Jennings died at the scene, and a loaded handgun was found in his car’s center console, Merriweather wrote. 

“Given the corroborated evidence that Senior Inspector Tillman was reasonable in his belief that he and other officers faced an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death, the evidence in this case would be insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Senior Inspector Tillman did not act in defense of himself or another,” Merriweather wrote.

“Consequently, I will not be seeking charges related to the death of Frankie Jennings.”

Jennings had a total of 16 warrants from three different cities. 

FBI Offers $50,000 Reward for Suspect Accused of Shooting Agent in Mississippi

Demario Lamar Cotton

By Steve Neavling

The hunt is on for a 38-year-old man accused of shooting an FBI agent during a traffic stop over the weekend in Jackson, Mississippi.

The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Demario Lamar Cotton. A U.S. magistrate judge with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Mississippi issued a warrant for Cotton’s arrest on Monday.

The agent, who is with the FBI’s Jackson Field Office, was grazed by a bullet Saturday night and was released from the hospital Sunday, WAPT reports.

According to police, Cotton opened fire on the agent and other law enforcement officers before fleeing in a 2003 GMC Yukon, which police have since located. 

Cotton faces a charge of assaulting a federal law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of official duties by use of a deadly weapon. 

Ex-FBI Attorney Clinesmith Agrees to 1-Year Suspension of Law License

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who was sentenced to probation earlier this year for altering an email in connection with the surveillance of former Trump aide Carter Page, has agreed to a one-year suspension of his law license, Reuters reports.

The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility is scheduled to consider the proposed suspension at a public hearing on July 19. 

Clinesmith signed the negotiated discipline on June 11.

Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service on Jan. 29 for altering an email used to seek the continued surveillance of Page. The email suggested that Page was not a source for the CIA, even though he had a relationship with the agency.

Clinesmith admitted he was guilty but said he believed at the time that his statement about Page was true.

Trump Conspiracy Theory Could Fuel Violence, Homeland Security Warns

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security officials are worried that the conspiracy theory claiming Donald Trump will be reinstated as president could fuel violence. 

John Cohen, the agency’s top counterterrorism official, discussed the concerns with members of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, POLITICO reports.

Cohen told members of Congress that the agency is monitoring extremist communities on social media.   

Among the concerns is that the conspiracy theory falsely suggests the election was rigged. 

The conspiracy theory has been promoted by Mike Lindell, the pillow magnate and Trump devotee. Reporters for The New York Times and National Review also indicated Trump believed the conspiracy theory.

After the POLITICO story was published, a DHS spokesperson said, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is focused on the nexus between violence and extremist ideologies, as well as hateful and false narratives. DHS is enhancing its ability to prevent acts of violence inspired by disinformation, conspiracy theories, and extremist narratives spread through social media and other online platforms.”

FBI Agent Shot During Traffic Stop in Mississippi, Expected to Survive

By Steve Neavling

An FBI agent was shot in Mississippi on Saturday night and is expected to survive. 

Authorities were still looking for the shooting suspect Sunday night, The Mississippi Clarion Ledge reports.

The agent with the FBI’s Jackson Field Office was helping Jackson police officers at a traffic stop around 11 p.m. when the suspect opened fire. 

The agent’s injuries were not life-threatening, Brett Carr, a spokesman for the Jackson Field Office, said. 

“While assisting JPD, an FBI special agent sustained a non-life threatening injury from a gunshot and has been released from the hospital,” Carr said. “The FBI Jackson Field Office is committed to assisting the Jackson Police Department with reducing violent crime.”

The suspect was identified as Demario Cotton, and he was driving a dark-colored Yukon. 

Biden’s Nominee to Head ATF Advances After Split Senate Panel Vote

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was deadlocked on whether to advance the nomination of David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF. 

With a 10-10 vote, the committee was split along party lines. But in the event of a tie, the nomination still moves to the floor. 

Republicans are expected to continue opposing the nomination of Chipman, who has advocated for firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons such as AR-15s. 

“David Chipman is a partisan gun control zealot who is advocating for restricting Americans’ Second Amendment rights in calling for a ban on the most popular rifle in America – to include those already in our homes,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement.

Chipman is a gun owner and former ATF agent. 

In April, the NRA announced its plans to oppose Chipman’s nomination as part of a $2 million campaign to fight gun-control measures.

Biden has faced pressure by gun control groups to pick someone to head the ATF, which has been without a permanent director since 2015 as the nation continues to grapple with mass shootings. 

As vice president, Biden recommended in 2013 that President Obama pick a Senate-confirmed ATF director. Obama followed through with the confirmation of B. Todd Jones in 2013, but Jones resigned in 2015, and the agency has been without a permanent director since. 

Whether Biden can muster the 51 votes required to confirm a permanent leader is an open question. Republicans have blocked ATF candidates who were far friendlier to the pro-gun base. 

Federal Law Enforcement Agencies ‘Unprepared’ for Body Cameras, IG Says

Body cams, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

Federal law enforcement agencies are “generally unprepared “ to adopt the widespread use of body cameras, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

The report comes after the Justice Department said earlier this month that it would begin requiring federal agents to wear body cameras while executing raids and serving arrest warrants.

In the last decade, the Justice Department issued $150 million in grants for camera programs, but none of that money went to the ATF, FBI, DEA, or U.S. Marshals Service. 

“Given the demonstrated benefits of BWC programs, their widespread use by law enforcement agencies across the country, the Components’ substantial involvement in street-level enforcement activity, the public’s increasing expectation that objective video evidence be available in law enforcement interactions with the public—especially those involving use of force—and recent legislation introduced by Congress that would require federal LEOs to use BWCs, we believe that the DOJ should carefully reassess its lack of BWC programs for DOJ LEOs and pursue the actions necessary to prepare for program implementation,” the report says.

In March, the U.S. House approved the Federal Police Camera and Accountability Act, which requires federal law enforcement to wear body cameras.