News Roundup

The week began with tragedy. Four law enforcement officers were killed Monday afternoon in Charlotte when they attempted to serve arrest warrants on 39-year-old Terry Clark Hughes, Jr., who shot at the officers when they arrived at his East Charlotte home. Officers returned fire, and Hughes was eventually shot and killed.

The slain officers are Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks, CMPD Officer Joshua Eyer, and Sam Poloche and Alden Elliott of the Department of Adult Correction. Four other CMPD Officers were injured, but are expected to make a full recovery.

Two women, one of whom is 17, were in the home during the shooting. They were taken into custody, but neither has been charged with a crime, and it is unclear whether more than one person fired shots. An AR-15 rifle and a .40 caliber handgun were recovered from the scene. The Charlotte Observer has the story here.

Campus unrest. Tuesday morning began with news of law enforcement officers forcibly dispersing pro-Palestinian protesters from a tent encampment they had set up on Polk Place at the heart of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. The News and Observer reports that 36 people who refused to leave were detained. Thirty people (including ten UNC students) were cited and released. Six were arrested. Later that afternoon, protesters who had returned to Polk Place took down an American flag and raised a Palestinian flag in its place. Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts, UNC Police Chief Brian James, and other officers then made their way to the flagpole and put an American flag back in place. Police officers then began to pepper spray the crowd. You can read a full report from WRAL here and the Daily Tar Heel here.

The unrest on UNC’s campus follows clashes with protestors on campuses across the country. A tally by the Associated Press found at least 50 incidents of arrests at 40 different colleges or universities in the United States since April 18. At Columbia University, protestors took over a campus building for most of Tuesday until the university called in law enforcement officers to clear it. More than 100 people were arrested. According to a New York Times analysis, most, but not all, of those arrested were affiliated with the school. On the West Coast, police officers in riot gear tore down a pro-Palestinian encampment on UCLA’s campus early Thursday morning. The New York Times reports that about 200 people were arrested after a standoff with authorities. Most were charged with misdemeanors. The dismantling of the encampment followed a violent overnight brawl earlier in the week between those in the encampment and counterprotestors.

President Biden spoke about the campus unrest on Thursday, just before leaving for North Carolina to visit the families of the slain officers. The president acknowledged the right to protest, but said there was no right to cause chaos, stating that “[p]eople have the right to get an education, the right to get a degree, the right to walk across campus safely without fear of being attacked.”

Reclassification of marijuana. The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will seek to reclassify marijuana, currently a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, as a Schedule III drug. The reclassification would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and that the substance has less potential for abuse that other more dangerous drugs. The proposal must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget before it may be proposed as an agency rule and submitted for public comment. While the potential reclassification has been heralded as the agency’s biggest policy change in 50 years and certainly would signal a shift in drug enforcement priority, it would not legalize all marijuana possession and sale as cannabis would remain a controlled substance subject to federal rules and regulations.

Wheels of justice. CNN reports that the family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves expressed frustration Thursday with delays associated with the prosecution of Bryan Kohberger, who is charged with fatally stabbing Goncalves and three others on November 13, 2022. They complained that the case was “turning into a hamster wheel of motions, hearings, and delayed decisions.” On Thursday, the Idaho judge overseeing the quadruple murder trial ruled that an upcoming evidentiary hearing about certain evidence and witnesses would be closed to the public. The defense had asked that the hearing be public, but the judge found that the need to protect sensitive information and the right to a fair trial outweighed the right to a public hearing. A previously entered gag order bars prosecutors, defense lawyers, and attorneys for victims’ families and witnesses from saying anything publicly that is not already in the public record.

Kohlberger pled not guilty last May. Last month, following several deadline extensions, Kohberger filed an alibi defense, alleging that he was out driving the night of the killings “as he often did to hike and run and/or see the moon and stars.” The defense plans to offer a cell phone tower and radio frequency expert to partially corroborate this account. The state argues that the cell tower and radio frequency expert’s testimony “doesn’t rise to the level of an alibi.”

It has been a heavy week.  Hold close those whom you love dear.  I wish you all a safe and peaceful weekend.