Headlines August 7, 2020

Headlines August 7, 2020

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Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has launched an investigation into an August 2 incident where police officers drew guns on a Black family who were in their car in an Aurora parking lot.

The police also had the girls in the family, ages 6 through 17, lie on their stomachs on the ground. The police were investigating a stolen motorbike that had a similar license plate to the family’s car.

Police later apologized for the incident which drew international outcry.

Aurora has just appointed a new police chief Vanessa Wilson who tweeted an apology about the incident and said an internal investigation would be conducted.

In a statement today DA Brauchler said that if the investigation determines that the officers involved committed a crime, he will not hesitate to file charges and prosecute them.

Police chief Wilson said that she welcomes the DA’s investigation and is fully cooperating with the DA’s office.

Aurora police have come under increasing criticism in recent weeks of their handling of the recent protests over the death last August of Elijah McClain.

The 23-year-old Black man died days after officers stopped him on his way home from a convenience store and placed him in a now-banned chokehold and injected him with ketamine.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser opened a new investigation to evaluate the possibility of criminal charges against officers involved in that incident earlier this summer.

The Regional Transportation District has named three women as finalists to lead the transit agency.

The Denver Post reports Debra Johnson, the deputy CEO of Long Beach Transit in California; Tina Quigley, former  CEO of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, and Adelee Le Grand, who has worked as vice president at Transdev North America, a private transit operator are the three finalists.

RTD says it will post video presentations by each finalist on its website later this month. The presentations will be available Aug. 19-23, along with an online survey for the public to provide feedback.

More than 37 percent of Coloradans currently are struggling to afford food, compared with 11 percent during the Great Recession, and nutrition advocates are calling on Congress to extend food assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Ellie Agar with Hunger Free Colorado says families and people of color have taken the biggest hit from the health emergency’s economic fallout.

“Statewide we’ve seen about 20% of families are having to skip or cut back on meals. And even harder hit are Black and Hispanic and indigenous households. Some of those rates are more than double what we’re seeing across the state,” she said.

Four in ten Colorado parents say they’ve had to skip meals because there wasn’t enough money for food, according to a new survey conducted by Kupersmit Research. Nearly a quarter of parents reported that they also had to cut back on their children’s meals. Early aid packages passed by Congress temporarily increased SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, for some families. But Agar says those benefits could expire unless Congress acts.

 

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The entire state of Colorado is dealing with drought or abnormally dry conditions.

On Thursday federal officials released a map of the state showing the southern part of the state and the eastern plains suffering from extreme or severe drought. The northern part of the state is abnormally dry or suffering moderate drought.

The Denver Post reports that this is the first time in 8 years that 100% of the state is suffering from such dry conditions.

In June Gov. Jared Polis ordered a task force to assess initial damage and recommend mitigation measures for severe drought conditions affecting much of the state. The order also activated a state agricultural task force to determine the impact of the drought on crops and cattle.

The state has seen dwindling mountain snowpack, a warmer-than-average spring and far less precipitation than normal.

This spring a study showed that the southwestern US is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years.

A megadrought is broadly defined as a severe drought that occurs across a broad region for a long duration, typically multiple decades.

The report published in the Journal Science said the conditions are a result of burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

The state has already had several wildfires this summer. The Denver Post reports that a wildfire in rough terrain near Grand Junction has grown to nearly 12,000 acres. Officials fear the Pine Gulch Fire could spread quickly in the next few days because of heavy dry vegetation paired with wind and hot temperatures.

A new report from Colorado State University says that firefighting camps may provide an ideal setting for the transmission of COVID-19.

9News reports that the model the researchers developed demonstrates that a transient, high-density workforce of firefighters and volunteers battling wildfires adds to the spread of COVID-19 at the camps.

Researchers applied their model to firefighter population data from three recent wildfires. They feel that intervention strategies can help minimize disease spread and reduce the risk to the firefighting community. The researchers said the model is meant to provide insight into the relative benefits of two strategies to reduce risk: screening and social distancing measures at the camps.

Aggressive screening of firefighters arriving to camp could reduce initial COVID-19 cases, but those benefits diminish the longer the fire continues. They report that applying social distancing measures for long term wildfires would be more effective than screening.

Housing rights activists protested in front of the entrance to the Webb Municipal Building in Denver Thursday morning, demanding an end to evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Denver Post reports that about 25 activists linked arms to form a human chain before a large group of law enforcement, including two officers on horseback and about 20 officers in SWAT gear, arrived to break up the crowd.

The activists chose the Web Municipal Building as that is where landlords file eviction notices with the city.

Housing rights groups have been calling for more protections for people facing economic hardship during the pandemic.

Gov. Jared Polis approved a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures but he allowed that to expire June 14 with a provision that landlords give tenants 30 days notice rather than the usual 10-day warning before asking a judge to evict them.

Denver was one of the first cities in the state to stop evictions when on March 14 city leaders ordered deputies to stop removals. On July 1 Denver Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson signed an order to allow law enforcement in Denver to resume evictions.

According to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project more than 29 million Americans in 13 million households could be at risk of eviction by the end of the year if conditions do not change.