Denver

20 years after Columbine, a debate on razing the school

Two decades after the name “Columbine” became synonymous with a school shooting, the suburban Denver community surrounding the school is debating whether it’s time to tear down a building that also became a beacon for people obsessed with the killings.

School officials said the number of people trying to get close to or even inside the school reached record levels this year, the 20th anniversary of the 1999 attack that killed 13 people. People try to peek into the windows of the school library, mistaking it for the long-demolished room where most of the victims died, or ask people on campus how to take a tour.

The buses full of tourists have mostly stopped over the years, but not the visitors. This year alone, security staff contacted more than 2,400 “unauthorized” people on Columbine’s campus.

Then, a few days before the anniversary, a young woman described as obsessed with the attack flew to Colorado and bought a shotgun, killing only herself yet sparking lockdowns and new fears. School security has intercepted others with a similar infatuation with the crime and its teen perpetrators — so-called Columbiners.

District security chief John McDonald can rattle off some of the most frightening instances of people who came to the campus: An Ohio couple later charged with planning a domestic terror attack; a Utah teen later arrested for a bombing plot against his school; and a Texas man apprehended at the school after he said he was filled by one of shooter’s spirits and intended to “complete his mission.”

“These people, they want the building,” McDonald said. “They want to experience it, to walk the halls ... The only way we can stop that interest in the building is to move it. Otherwise they’re not going to stop coming.”

Beaufort, S.C.

O’Rourke: Whites don’t know full story of slavery

Beto O’Rourke took a path somewhat less traveled on Friday, meeting with a small group representing a community of slave descendants in South Carolina as he strives to make connections with the black voters who will play a dominant role in next year’s Southern presidential primaries.

In a Baptist church in Beaufort, the Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman met with leaders of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, a culture of coastal slave descendants whose separation from the mainland allowed them to retain much of their African heritage, including a unique dialect and skills such as cast-net fishing and basket weaving.

O’Rourke, addressing questions on topics including health care, housing affordability and education, acknowledged what he identified as his own struggle with not knowing enough about the history of slavery in the United States and its ongoing ramifications.

“White Americans do not know this story,” O’Rourke said, noting that until a tour of the church’s grounds, he hadn’t known anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman had lived in the area.

O’Rourke has addressed issues concerning white privilege before, telling a crowd at a historically black college in South Carolina earlier this year that he might not know their struggles but wanted to try to help them. In Iowa, he said he didn’t think being a white man in a historically diverse field of candidates put him at a disadvantage because his sex and race have given him inherent advantages for years.

Providence, R.I.

Naval War College getting first female president

A helicopter pilot who heads a military command in Guam will be the first female leader of the U.S. Naval War College, the Navy announced Friday, days after removing the college president who came under investigation over questionable behavior.

Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield will be the new president, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in a statement released after the school’s graduation ceremony, calling her a “historic choice.”

Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley was removed as the college’s president Monday after The Associated Press reported he was under investigation and more than a year after the initial complaint was filed.

Spencer was at the post-graduate institution in Newport, Rhode Island, on Friday for graduation. About 550 students crossed the stage, and about 1,000 students graduated from the distance learning program. Spencer challenged them to be innovative and act with urgency.

Shortly afterward, he released the announcement about the school’s new leadership.

Paris

Small donors, not tycoons, help fund Notre Dame work

The billionaire French donors who publicly proclaimed they would give hundreds of millions to rebuild Notre Dame have not yet paid a penny toward the restoration of the French national monument, according to church and business officials.

Instead, it’s mainly American and French individuals, via Notre Dame charitable foundations, who are behind the first donations paying the bills and salaries for up to 150 workers employed by the cathedral since the April 15 fire that devastated its roof and caused its masterpiece spire to collapse. This month they are handing over the first private payment for the cathedral’s reconstruction of $4 million.

“The big donors haven’t paid. Not a cent,” said Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame. “They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees’ salaries.”

Almost $1 billion was promised by some of France’s richest and most powerful families and companies, some of whom sought to outbid each other, in the hours and days after the inferno. It prompted criticism that the donations were as much about the vanity of the donors wishing to be immortalized in the edifice’s fabled stones than the preservation of France’s church heritage.

Francois Pinault of Artemis, the parent company of Kering that owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, promised 100 million euros ($112 million), while Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French energy company Total, said his firm would match that figure. Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury giant LVMH that owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, pledged 200 million euros ($224 million), as did the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oréal fortune.

Phoenix

$10M claim says Phoenix police violated family’s rights

A $10 million legal claim was filed against the city of Phoenix that says police officers committed civil rights violations by pointing guns and profanely yelling commands at the father and pregnant mother of two young daughters because one of the children, unbeknownst to the parents, had shoplifted a doll at a store.

Parents Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper said an officer injured their 1-year-old daughter last month by pulling on one of her arms after the mother refused a command to put the child down. The mother said the girl couldn’t walk and the pavement was hot.

The notice of claim filed Wednesday also said Ames was injured by police who erroneously claimed he wasn’t complying with their commands after Ames exited the vehicle that the family was traveling in.

An officer is accused of throwing Ames against a vehicle, kicking his leg so hard that Ames collapsed and punching him for no reason. The claim said one of the officers profanely told Ames in front of his children that he was going to shoot him in the face.

“No threat, no resistance,” said Tom Horne, an attorney representing the family. “It was completely unjustified.”

— The Associated Press

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