Texas police kill 8th-grader carrying pellet gun

Posted Jan. 05, 2012, at 8:58 p.m.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — An eighth-grader was shot dead by police inside his South Texas school Wednesday, and his parents are demanding to know why the officers took lethal action.

Police said the boy was brandishing — and refused to drop — what appeared to be a handgun and that the officers acted correctly.

The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun that closely resembled the real thing, police said late Wednesday, several hours after 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez was repeatedly shot in a hallway at Cummings Middle School in Brownsville. No one else was injured.

“Why was so much excess force used on a minor?” the boy’s father, Jaime Gonzalez Sr., asked The Associated Press outside the family’s home Wednesday night. “Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?”

Interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said the teen was pointing the weapon at officers and “had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers’ orders, and he didn’t want to.”

The chief said his officers had every right to do what they did to protect themselves and other students even though there weren’t many others in the hallway at the time.

About 20 minutes elapsed between police receiving a call about an armed student and shots being fired, according to police and student accounts. Authorities declined to reveal what the boy said before he was shot.

The shooting happened during first period at the school in Brownsville, a city at Texas’ southern tip just across the Mexican border. Teachers locked classroom doors and turned off lights, and some frightened students dove under their desks. They could hear police charge down the hallway and shout for Gonzalez to drop the weapon, followed by several shots.

Two officers fired three shots, hitting Gonzalez at least twice, police said.

3 Air Force Academy cadets charged with rape

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Commanders on Thursday charged three Air Force Academycadets with sexual assault in separate cases that occurred over the past 15 months, a senior academy official has confirmed.

An initial release on the charges didn’t name the accused cadets.

A male cadet who was set to graduate in 2011 was charged with rape and conduct unbecoming an officer; a senior cadet was charged with rape; and a junior cadet was charged with assault, rape, attempted rape and underage drinking.

“The alleged misconduct in each of the three cases is unrelated, it occurred at different times over the last 15 months, and academy officials received victims’ reports at various times,” Col. Tamra Rank, the academy’s vice superintendent, said in an emailed statement.

The charges will be referred to a hearing officer, who will review evidence in the cases and counsel the academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, on whether courts-martial are merited.

Under military law, rape is a crime that can bring the same punishment as murder, even bringing the possibility, albeit minuscule, of the death penalty.

The charges come a week after the Pentagon reported a spike in the number of sexual assaults at the school, which had 33 reported incidents in the 2010-2011 academic year, a fourfold increase over a two-year span.

Bombing wave in Iraq ratchets up sectarian tension

BAGHDAD — A string of explosions targeting Shiite Muslim pilgrims that killed at least 71 people bore the hallmark of Sunni insurgents who have a history of trying to capitalize on tensions among Iraqi politicians to reignite the communal bloodletting that nearly tore the country apart.

The bombings Thursday in the south of Iraq and in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of the capital, Baghdad, were the second major wave of attacks since the departure of the last U.S. troops from Iraq less than three weeks ago.

Sectarian tension has escalated sharply as a political dispute threatens to unravel U.S.-backed power-sharing arrangements between the country’s Shiites, Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida frequently targeted Shiites with coordinated bombings during the violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war five years ago.

At least 25 killed in landslide in southern Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — At least 25 people were killed Thursday and up to 100 were feared missing in a landslide in a gold-rush village in the southern Philippines where small-scale mining remained rampant despite a government ban.

Sixteen people were rescued from the landslide in the village of Napnapan in Pantukan town in Compostela Valley, about 580 miles south of Manila.

The landslide occurred as the southern Philippines was still struggling to recover from floods that killed more than 1,000 people and wiped out entire villages in December.

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