Good morning, Bulletin readers. Senators are calling for a federal investigation into National Rifle Association campaign spending practices. A Michigan man was convicted of a felony for shooting at a black teenager asking for directions. And a new study indicates that the prevalence of guns in public spaces may leave police officers quicker to pull the trigger. Those stories and more, below.
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NEW from THE TRACE: Nine senators are calling for an investigation into the NRA’s apparent use of a shell company for campaign spending. In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic senators, led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, urged its commissioners to act on complaints filed by a watchdog group in response to investigative reporting by The Trace’s Mike Spies. Mike’s digging has established substantial overlap between Starboard Strategic, a firm that exclusively services the NRA and appears to exist mostly on paper, and OnMessage, a prominent campaign shop paid by Republican campaigns in the same races. The firms have repeatedly declined to provide evidence of the firewalls required to prevent illegal coordination; it’s also against the law to list a pass-through as the ultimate recipient of campaign spending. In key 2018 midterm contests, the NRA has continued to use Starboard in campaigns where Republican contenders have tapped OnMessage.
People are more likely to be killed by police in states with looser gun laws. That’s according to a new study from public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Based on state gun ownership estimates and incidents recorded in The Washington Post’s police shootings database from 2015 to 2017, the authors found that deadly police shootings were 40 percent more likely to happen in states with more guns, like Georgia, Louisiana, and Missouri.
The U.S. attorney general is sending five federal prosecutors to Chicago to help with violent crime cases — and says the city’s consent decree is to blame for a wave of fatal shootings. In a memo, Jeff Sessions blamed the city’s 2016 homicide spike on the consent decree — which came after accusations of police misconduct in the shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 — and said the agreement would cause “micromanagement” of the Police Department. The prosecutors will join dozens of others already working on gun crimes in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
A Michigan man was convicted of felony assault for shooting at a black teenager who was asking for directions. The incident went viral in April, after 14-year-old Brennan Walker was knocking on doors in a residential neighborhood to get directions after he missed his school bus. One woman opened her door and began berating Walker; her husband, Jeff Zeigler, joined her with a shotgun. Walker fled before Zeigler discharged the gun and was not injured. Zeigler, who was initially charged with attempted murder, faces up to 12 years in prison. It wasn’t Zeigler’s first run-in with gun laws: He was arrested for a road rage shooting on a highway in 2004.
A new trove of witness statements reveals that the Stoneman Douglas gunman trespassed on school property six months before his rampage. Nikolas Cruz had been forced out of the school but returned to campus on the first day of instruction in August 2017. Sandra Rennie, a computer science teacher, saw him and said hello, but learned from a school administrator that he was not re-enrolling. Other details revealed in the new releases include the gunman’s violent Instagram messages to another teenager whose girlfriend he had a crush on.
Four men were killed at a toddler’s birthday party in South Texas on Saturday. According to police, 62-year-old Juan Espinoza Sr. and his three grandsons, who were all in their 20s, were found dead in the backyard of a home in Taft, north of Corpus Christi. Another partygoer was shot and is in critical condition. Police have arrested a 20-year-old suspect and are searching for his father. The two families were close, according to relatives, and witnesses said the shooting began with “an argument over something real small.”
A school police officer in Texas drew his gun on two students playing the role of active shooters during a lockdown drill last week. After the scheduled exercise commenced over the intercom, two high school theater students patrolled the halls with fake wooden guns. The officer, unaware of the drill, saw the actors and briefly drew his own (real) gun.