The Latest: WVA Guardsman to be disciplined for comments

The West Virginia National Guard is pursuing disciplinary action against a guardsman who posted on social media that he would shoot at people protesting the death of George Floyd

The Latest on the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck:

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— West Virginia National Guard pursuing discipline after soldier threatened protesters.

— Los Angeles police have arrested more than 2,700 during protests.

— Minnesota files civil rights complaint against Minneapolis police.

— President Trump ordered show of force on Monday night.

———

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia National Guard is pursuing disciplinary action against a guardsman who posted on social media that he would shoot at people protesting the death of George Floyd, officials said Tuesday.

The guardsman, Noah Garcelon, has already resigned his position as an officer with the Winfield Police Department after making the comments. In a series of now-deleted posts, Garcelon wrote that he would “start firing live rounds” at protesters and “see how many I can run over before my car breaks down.”

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, who leads the state’s National Guard, said officials will be taking the appropriate disciplinary action related to Garcelon and any others “who make inflammatory comments related to protests going on across the nation.”

Winfield Police Department Chief Ron Arthur said Garcelon acknowledged that he made the comments and stressed that he wasn’t a racist before resigning.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, has urged people to remain peaceful but said he would not hesitate to call in the National Guard if demonstrations in the state became violent.

———

COLUMBIA, S.C. — About 100 people gathered in front of the state capitol building in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday afternoon as medics passed out water bottles and snacks and volunteers passed out voter registration forms.

Participants raised their fists in unison as passing commuters showed their solidarity with honks and waves.

An outreach minister emphasized the need to sustain demonstrations past the initial events over the weekend and also urged a peaceful nature in the afternoon’s demonstrations. Minister Danielle Ford told the crowd, “they’re waiting on us to give up, they’re waiting on us to get tired, they’re waiting on us to give in. We need you out here.”

A 21-year-old college student said she was protesting for justice for George Floyd as well as Joshua Ruffin, a 17-year-old shot to death by a Columbia police officer after a foot chase in April.

———

HOUSTON -- Houston rappers Bun B and Trae Tha Truth organized a march on Tuesday and told the crowd it would be peaceful.

After asking the crowd of several thousand to look for anybody who could cause trouble, Bun B then led them on a chant. He said “What’s his name?” and the crowd replied, “George Floyd.”

The crowd later got down on one knee and was silent for 30 seconds.

Among those participating was a group of about 60 people on horseback from a riding club in Houston.

———

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday more than 2,700 people have been arrested since protests and violence began in the nation’s second-largest city.

The chief told the city Police Commission that about 2,500 of those arrests were for failure to disperse or curfew violations. The remainder were for crimes including burglary, looting, assaults on police officers and other violence.

The chief gave the figures during a report to the Police Department’s civilian oversight board. Several new demonstrations in Los Angeles on Tuesday over the death of George Floyd have remained peaceful.

———

PARIS — Riot officers have fired tear gas as scattered protesters threw projectiles and set fires during an unauthorized demonstration against police violence and racial injustice.

Several thousand people had previously rallied peacefully for two hours Tuesday around the main Paris courthouse in homage to George Floyd and to Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.

Police had banned the protest because of coronavirus restrictions that forbid any gathering of more than 10 people.

As the demonstration wound down, police fired tear gas and protesters could be seen throwing projectiles. Two small fires broke out.

Tensions also erupted at a related protest Tuesday in the southern city of Marseille.

———

CHICAGO -- Authorities in a Chicago suburb where two people were fatally shot in unrest following George Floyd’s death are issuing fresh safety precautions Tuesday.

Cicero officials cautioned residents to “stay home and stay off the streets” a day after violence and destruction erupted in the town of about 84,000 west of Chicago. Police say most of Monday’s chaos stemmed from residents trying to defend businesses. Roughly 60 people were arrested, mostly for burglary and weapons violations.

Two men in their 20s were fatally shot around 6 p.m. in separate incidents related to the violent clashes.

———

TRENTON, N.J. — Citing George Floyd’s death, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday the state will update its guidelines governing the use of force by police for the first time in two decades and will move to require a statewide licensing program for all officers.

At least 43 other states require some licensing requirement for officers, Grewal said, adding he wants to bring law enforcement in line with other professions that require licensing.

The announcements also include a pilot program in a handful of cities across the state to conduct training programs aimed at promoting safe interactions between police and communities and the implementation of a statewide database to document when police use force, Grewal said.

———

MINNEAPOLIS — The state of Minnesota has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

The state says it will investigate the department’s policies and practices over the last 10 years to determine whether it has engaged in “systemic” discrimination against people of color. The complaint comes from the state Department of Human Rights, which enforces the state’s human rights act. It targets a police department that has faced decades of allegations of brutality and other discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities including within the department itself.

Critics say the department has a culture that resists change and the department has come under fresh criticism after Floyd died after a white officer knelt on his neck and ignored his cries of “I can’t breathe” until Floyd eventually stopped moving.

———

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr ordered law enforcement officials to clear Lafayette Park and push back the perimeter around the White House when he arrived there Monday evening, leading to police using tear gas to disperse protesters.

A person familiar with the matter tells The Associated Press that Barr expected the perimeter to have been extended much earlier Monday. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The person said officials had met that morning and decided the perimeter had to be moved by at least one full block after multiple fires were set in the park the night before. They said that was expected to happen by Monday afternoon.

The person said Barr was surprised it hadn’t been done when he arrived in the early evening and directed action to be taken. They said he assumed police would use “typical crowd control measures” against protesters who resisted commands to clear the area.

———

MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors are delaying the case against a man who drove his semitrailer into a crowd of protesters on a closed Minneapolis freeway.

The 35-year-old man drove his tanker truck into the midst of thousands of people who had gathered on Interstate 35W near downtown Minneapolis on Sunday. Authorities said it appeared no one was hurt and the man was arrested.

Gov. Tim Walz said the man became confused and somehow got on the freeway before traffic officials closed it.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday that the case against the man has been deferred pending further investigation and he’ll be released from jail. Freeman said investigators are working to gather additional information to help in making a charging decision.

———

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ordered military aircraft to fly above the nation’s capital Monday night as a “show of force” against demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd, according to two Department of Defense officials.

Show-of-force missions are designed to intimidate and, in combat zones, warn opposing forces of potential military action if provoked. The officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing operations publicly, did not say how many or what type of aircraft had been mobilized.

Videos and photographs posted on social media showed helicopters flying low over buildings and hovering just above groups who were on the street despite a district-wide curfew.

On Tuesday, roughly 700 members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division had arrived at two military bases near Washington. Another 1,400 soldiers are ready to be mobilized within an hour, the two Pentagon officials said. The soldiers are armed and have riot gear as well as bayonets.

The officials said the mission has been named “Operation Themis.” In Greek mythology, Themis was a titaness of divine law and order, whose symbols are the scales of justice.

-- Reporting by James LaPorta

———

RICHMOND, Va. — An angry crowd shouted down Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Tuesday after police lobbed tear gas at a group of peaceful demonstrators during a protest over the death of George Floyd.

Several hundred people gathered outside City Hall chanted “Fire Them!” and repeatedly drowned out Stoney as he apologized and promised that the officers involved will face disciplinary action.

Video posted to social media of the Monday night incident shows a line of police launching tear gas toward a group of protesters who appeared to be yards away from the officers and peacefully gathered on the grass near a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Police Chief William Smith also apologized and took a knee briefly after being invited to do so by a woman in the crowd.

The tear gas was used on a group of protesters during a fourth night of protests over the killing of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes as he pleaded for air.

The Richmond Police Department initially defended its use of tear gas but later retreated from that position after Smith reviewed video of the incident.

Stoney also apologized on Twitter and invited protesters to the meeting outside City Hall on Tuesday.

———

PHOENIX — The Arizona National Guard is assessing a request from President Donald Trump to provide troops to other states, Guard spokesman Maj. Aaron Thacker said Tuesday.

The Guard already has about 900 military police and other troops on duty after Gov. Doug Ducey ordered them to help back up state and local law enforcement dealing with weekend protests that at times turned violent.

Thacker said the Guard isn’t yet ready to send troops to other states.

———

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio hopes the NFL and its owners will use their platform to promote “love” and racial equality in the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd.

“People listen, kids listen,” Bitonio said Tuesday. “You start the younger generation and you teach them to love each other and to have that compassion and empathy for other people. That’s where it grows in this country, and so I hope players and ownership and the NFL as a whole uses the platform to really promote that love.”

Bitonio, who is white, said he has always appreciated the struggles some of his black teammates have endured in “really tough situations with law enforcement, or just in general.

A six-year veteran, Bitonio said it’s more vital than ever to show empathy because “people are hurting." He said new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski spoke with his team on Monday about the situation.

———

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration floated the idea of taking over the police force in the nation’s capital after days of violent demonstrations that led to fires and vandalism.

Officials with the District of Columbia mayor’s office said Tuesday that the White House raised the possibility of taking control of the Metropolitan Police Department. The officials said they told the White House they strongly objected and would challenge any attempt to do so in court.

The revelation comes a day after President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr told governors they needed to get tougher with violent protesters and to deploy the National Guard.

———